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Rider Journal: What it’s like to attend boarding school with cycling heroes

In her first journal, Ivy Audrain describes the unique lodging at Tour Down Under — was it an Australian version of Harry Potter's Hogwarts?

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Editor’s note: Ivy Audrain is a pro cyclist for the Hagens Berman – Supermint team, and she’ll be writing regular rider journals throughout the season. 

The Santos Women’s Tour: a collection of some of the world’s best cyclists, featuring four stages on the most beautiful roads Western Australia has to offer. Going toe-to-toe with the riders I have looked up to throughout my career was a definite highlight, but the stellar accommodations arranged by the race promotors meant going ‘boarding school’ with these world-class athletes was just as exciting.

That’s right, our accommodations were literally in a boarding school, and it has been some of the most restful and convenient stays at a race I’ve ever had. It’s my second year as a professional with Hagens Berman – Supermint Pro Cycling, so I’m still getting a hang of traveling internationally, and certainly still getting the hang of racing at this level. A visualization of me moving through the field on day one:

The Santos Women’s Tour put us up at Scotch College, which has dorm-style boarding for students, complete with individual dorm rooms, a game room, and cafeteria. It even slightly resembled Hogwarts, but my Harry Potter jokes where hit-or-miss with my teammates. My dork levels exceed most other professional athletes’, it would seem.

Here’s what I learned about staying in close quarters with your cycling heroes:

1. Don’t let your competitors see you get excited about the dorm’s game bin.

For some reason, being wildly enthusiastic about the frisbees and hacky-sacks at our boarding school means you might not be taken seriously later? No kidding though, owning your space and earning a position in the front 20-or-so wheels of an international peloton of this caliber was NOT easy. The first road race had some very decisive splits throughout the field on some challenging climbs in the last 14km, and the stages that followed were no different. What felt like certain death at any moment by wiggling my way through the field on the first day felt comfortable and natural by the last stage, mostly thanks to my experienced teammates showing me the ropes of moving up without being a pushy jerk or wasting a ton of energy.

2. Be early to the cafeteria for meals.

I considered the Santos Women’s Tour ‘baptism by fire’ for more than one reason. First: Such an intense effort in January feels like the most rude shock-to-the-system imaginable, especially coming from a particularly harsh Pacific Northwest winter. Second: The heat made it actually feel like baptism by fire. Temperatures were well into the 40s (Celsius, 104 Fahrenheit), which meant that we were doing our best to stay on top of nutrition. Constantly feeling drained results in constant need for refueling. The catering at Scotch College hit home run after home run with our meals, so you definitely had to hustle to the cafeteria early if you wanted to try a bit of everything available. Tour Down Under rule to live by: Always go for vegemite toast if you don’t get your first pick. Salty, bizarre, and delicious.

3. Your cycling heroes are just like you.

Living in close quarters with cycling superstars humanized them in a ways I didn’t expect. It made me realize that they aren’t invincible and have lives and personalities totally separate from cycling, just like me. Like, “Oh! This world-class sprinter also watches ‘Friends’ and walks around in pajamas until noon?!” Just like us! If we are comparing our accommodations to Hogwarts, it can be concluded that some boarders, or cycling heroes, are refreshingly more like the charming and bright Hermione Granger. Some might be aloof and loyal like Ron Weasley. Alternatively, some might resemble Draco Malfoy and take themselves a bit too seriously, but have a soft side, deep down. I’ve been chipping away at cycling’s “Malfoy” since day one … Most greetings are received with an eye-roll, but I got one smile so far. Maybe we’ll squash our differences over a quidditch match … Sorry I’m done.

The Hagens Berman – Supermint Pro Cycling squad will stay in beautiful Adelaide at Hogwa— I mean, Scotch College, until we head south for Cadel’s Great Ocean Race, a one-day UCI race along the coast near Geelong. Until then! (Next time I promise to keep nerd references to a minimum.)