From 2005 until 2007, Rebecca “Bec” Wiasak worked as a sports reporter with the Canberra Times newspaper, and spent her days interviewing athletes.
A lifelong runner and basketball player, Wiasak dreamed of one day becoming a pro athlete herself.
“I wrote about elite athletes when I desperately wanted to be one,” Wiasak told VeloNews.
Twelve years later, Wiasak is one of the best cyclists in the world, with two rainbow jerseys hanging on her wall—Wiasak won the UCI world track championships in the 3000m individual Pursuit in 2015 and 2016. She also won the Commonwealth Games in 2018 in the event.
Wiasak is racing the Colorado Classic this week on the Fearless Femme team, a squad comprised of women who have come to cycling after holding down various professions in life. Wiasak joined the squad in 2017, and credits its owner, Arounkone Sananikone, for helping her thrive in pro racing.
“Arounkone has created a team of strong, fierce, and inspirational women who represent the team and our sponsors fearlessly around the country – and internationally,” Wiasak said. “It’s more than just a cycling team, it’s a movement. Women can be doctors, journalists, mothers, academics, and badass cyclists. We’ve had them all at Fearless Femme.”
Wiasak comes to Colorado hoping to repeat her performance from a year ago. Last August, Wiasak won the opening stage of the Colorado Classic, sprinting for the victory in downtown Vail. This year, Wiasak comes into the Colorado race after a five-week mountainous training camp in Slovenia, which could make her a favorite to repeat her stage win from last year.
The race heads to Vail on Friday for stage 2, and the new route includes a sizable climb, which could break up the peloton. Wiasak is a talented sprinter and pursuit rider, however she has spent the last five weeks at a training camp in Slovenia alongside her fiancé and coach, pro rider Ben Hill, climbing steep roads in the Julian Alps.
Wiasak hopes the altitude camp helps her excel in the Colorado race.
“It was nice to follow his wheel around Slovenia and get some good road kms in ahead of the Colorado Classic,” she said.
Wiasak’s journey from reporter to world champion took a huge stride forward in 2013, when she was able to become a full-time athlete for the first time. That year she left her job working in a communications role for the Australian government. Fortunately, she says, she was then invited to be a part of Australia’s High Performance Unit (HPU) as a track cyclist.
Run by governing body Cycling Australia with funding from the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), the High Performance Unit was a hub for elite track, road, BMX and para-cycling riders in Australia. The program is now simply called the Australian Cycling Team, and Wiasak credits her time there with alleviating many of the stressors that plague other female riders.
“Early on (after leaving her job), it was tough financially, but being part of the HPU we had most of our expenses covered and received grants based on performance,” Wiasak said. “I can’t imagine there would be too many female cyclists living comfortably.”
With her background in sports writing and communications, Wiasak believes that media attention can have a positive impact on women’s cycling. Wiasak says the Colorado Classic’s media efforts—primarily on social media—have impressed her.
“They’re producing some great content on social media, and I hope it translates to good attendance and a successful event,” Wiasak. said.