Road

Sarah Roy on her first national title: ‘It’s not just the result, it’s how I did it’

The newly-crowned Aussie champ begins her 2021 season with a bang and has high hopes for the Classics and beyond.

Sarah Roy did all the right things, but she still wasn’t sure if she was ready for the Australian national championship road race.

“I made sure I did all the little things right like sleep and nutrition, thoughts and training/recovery plus planning to race to my strengths,” Roy said. “I believed I was capable of pushing myself hard enough to be very useful for the team, but I didn’t think I was in winning form because the road work just hadn’t been done.”

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After securing the Australian national road title in Buninyong on Sunday, Roy admits to feeling happy she was wrong.

Furthermore, the 34-year Team BikeExchange rider said that targeting nationals was not actually in the plan for the Aussie squad; after the Tour Down Under, they stepped up the training in preparation for Europe and didn’t ease up until the Wednesday before racing started. Roy herself added some high intensity and volume in those final days so didn’t think she’d be quite recovered for the road race. When she felt surprisingly good in the national criterium two days before the road race, her spirits lifted a bit.

Winning the national title represents victory on multiple levels for Roy, who one year ago underwent reconstructive surgery for iliac artery endofibrosis, a condition that accounts for up to 20 percent of all overuse leg injuries in professional cyclists. Roy said that not only is she still recovering from the surgery, but had also struggled with a popular opinion that the national championships course wasn’t up her alley.

“It [the road title] means a lot,” she said. “In a way, it validates a lot as well. I have been told many a time that this course is not for me but I’ve always believed I’m a versatile rider and that one day I could win on it. This road title is a long-time dream come true for me.”

The women’s Aussie contingent is strong in the pro ranks, especially on Roy’s own Team BikeExchange team. Roy’s win ahead of seasoned riders Lucy Kennedy and Grace Brown, as well as talented youngsters Sarah Gigante and Neve Bradbury, makes the victory even sweeter.

With new green and gold accents on her jersey, Roy will soon make the trip to Europe where she hopes to pick up where she left off at the end of 2020: with a strong showing at the Classics. She says that while the national title has given her confidence to start the season, it’s also served as a nice mental reset after the topsy turvy first year of the coronavirus pandemic.

“After this and the results of the Classics last year, I don’t think I’m superwoman but I do have more confidence in my body post-surgery and confidence in my training program and recovery, and nutrition strategies as well as confidence in my decision making and mental toughness,” she said. “After such a long time of stressful uncertainties, it’s a really nice way to be heading to Europe.”

Roy admits that it feels strange to be heading to Europe, where the coronavirus pandemic is alive and well unlike in Australia where severe restrictions have tamped the virus’ spread. However, she says that she feels confident with how the team monitors the riders and communicates information regarding safety measures. In fact, Roy said, it’s the abrupt change in seasons traveling from the south to the north that will likely be more jarring in the beginning.

Nevertheless, Roy is ready to ride the waves of weather. And although it’s quite a ways out, she’s hoping to ride them all the way through to September’s worlds in Belgium.

“If I could win one more race for the year,” she said, “I’d want to win the world championships.”