Victoria Veitch is the manager of the local Mercedes-Benz Adelaide Blackchrome team, and has been five years, taking over the team when they were still the Clipsal Cycling Team (essentially a men’s team).
Victoria had a vision for the team, a pretty unique one.
The first thing she did was begin a program for vision impaired cyclists, sourcing pilots from the team, as well as bringing on some younger trainee pilots. (Tandem Project)
The women’s team began two years later, and was evolved from a domestic team to a NRS team with riders contracted from across Australia.
As a day job she’s a vestibular and Neurophysiotherapist in private practise, meaning she deal with disorders of the peripheral and central balance system (vertigo, dizziness, imbalance) and ALL things neurological (brain injury, stroke, neuro-degenerative conditions, complex and chronic pain – the list goes on and on).
Her husband Simon and her are on a growing list of people not having kids ( saving the planet 9000 tonnes of carbon), she’s not shy of her opinion on kids and is very happy without them. They adopt rescue dogs instead.
If you follow them on Facebook, you’ll see they are very active in promoting animal support and dog adoptions.
This is Victoria’s storey.
- How long have you been cycling?
About 8 years – a typical late comer to the sport
- What got you started in cycling?
I hated running – more to the point I hated my husband outrunning me – I have these stupid short legs, and Simon has very long ones, so when we would run together, we’d get to the last km and Simon would just effortlessly put down the accelerator and leave me gasping in his wake. I needed to find a sport to put my vertically challenged legs to good use.
That was the reason I started riding, and the fact that I saw a pink bike at Norwood Parade Cycles. The guys working for Phil Mittiga were so nice to me. Not patronising, not dismissive, and they invited me along to their shop ride. I did turn up – first female EVER apparently. I spent nine months training so that I wouldn’t embarrass myself, then turned up in my black bike shorts and sleeveless running top – in retrospect it’s a surprise they even talked to me. The Mittiga crew turned out to be long-term friends and mentors from that point forward.
- How many bikes do you own and what is your main go to bike?
4 bikes: Training bike is a Daccordi Grinta – same as Simon. I race a De Rosa 888 – only De Rosa in the NRS peloton. I also have a Daccordi tandem, and Cervelo TT bike.
- What bike do you covet?
I don’t covet bikes – I’m terribly out of the loop. I still couldn’t tell you what crank length I have, what gears I ride. I’m generally the only NRS rider on the start line without a Garmin – mostly because I don’t use one to train, and have often forgotten to charge it or put it on my bike the night before.
I don’t care though – I just keep asking the riders around me how far we have to go. Like the final 20km of the first road stage of the Tour of Margaret River 2016. I had broken away at the start line on the 100km road stage, and stayed away until Holden’s Erin Kinnealy came galloping through and worked with me for the last 20km – I was so far into a pain cave by then that I was practically asking her how far to go every km until the finish – I’m sure this didn’t annoy her at all!
- Can you summarise some of your achievements in your cycling life so far?
- Started the Tandem Project
- Team co-manager for five years
- Began the domestic and NRS elite women’s division of the team
- Three years of NRS riding despite being a super old chick.
- 2016 strongest season and my last at Elite level:
- Elite State RR champion, Winter Series equal winner, Skinny Lattes Series winner, Tour of Margaret River QOM and GC leader, second in the Super Series with two stage wins, five most aggressive jerseys, Masters Jersey and QOM Jersey
- You’ve ridden in the WTdU, can you tell us a little about that step up and what it as like riding with some of the best women riders in the world?
The 2017 TDU was always going to be my last Nationals/TDU – the amount of training when working full time and managing the team was taking its toll and just wasn’t going to be sustainable as I approach late 30’s.
I’ve never enjoyed NRS or TDU racing – I have always found it incredibly stressful and have felt completely out of my element and confidence zone. I only had crack to see if I could make the cut despite the late start. Having said that, the jump up in quality in the 2017 TDU resulting from the 10 World UCI teams made the racing technically easier. The peloton was so smooth and confident. But I wasn’t used to seeing so many riders in front of me! I had previously finished the TDU within the top 30 in previous years, but this year I was mid pack, and probably pretty lucky to be there.
- Whats changed with womans cycling since your involvement, and what are some of tits challenges moving forward?
The TDU made incredible advancements in quality and organisation over the three years. Crowd sizes were also much better this year. Locally there are some very passionate people pushing to increase participation in women’s sport, but at the NRS level – the situation has been pretty underwhelming. Event cancellations and a pedestrian approach to releasing the racing schedule for the year makes planning very difficult.
The lack of any PR for the women’s events has also made it a hard sell to get sponsorship. The recent reports of Cycling Australia defunding development opportunities for women, and the selection of only five riders for the World Championships, accompanied by incoherent misogynistic rationale, leaves me thinking that I’m pretty much done. I’m not the only rider of my team who will likely not renew my CA license next year. I just can’t justify my nearly $400 going to an organisation with no transparency and a seemingly ‘who gives a fuck’ attitude for women’s participation and development.
- Who has been the main influence on your cycling career?
Being able to beat my husband is really the only consistent motivation I have. In all seriousness – I don’t have a cycling career. I have a career, and I just happen to cycle. I actually don’t take my cycling all that seriously, but I have a natural aptitude for training hard.
It doesn’t upset me to walk away. And I don’t really have a choice to step down anyway. I’ve been crushed by adrenal fatigue this year with a total breakdown after the Santos Tour. Overnight I went from being able to produce 340Watts for four minutes across five intervals, to not being able to produce 200watts for two minutes.
After five months off the bike, I’m no-where near the rider I used to be. I still struggle with lacklustre power and limited threshold endurance – the line in the sand between being unfit and having lost power is very difficult to differentiate from the warning signs of fatigue. The tip-off is generally mental instability accompanying the weakness. My husband can attest to this. I basically go bat-shit crazy at the slightest provocation and there’s nothing I can do about it. It’s like having an out-of-body experience where you can see yourself acting like a total banshee, but you are powerless to rationalise your way out of it.
I’m slowly getting my resilience back, but 2018 will be a back-to-basics year. I’ve had to rush my body back to some form for the Super Series and I’m already getting red flags, so what racing I do in 2018 will be pretty limited, and probably only on a Veterans licence.
- You are quite active in the Adelaide cycling scene, what keeps you busy?
People couldn’t fathom what has to be done to run a team. Some of my work days are 12 hours straight. On top of that I maintain a training load to keep me in respectable racing condition. The team needs sponsors courted and kept, regular race report presentations sent out to all sponsors (these can take three hours to put together) – these are loaded onto a website and then cross referenced to our team Facebook site as well as the visitor post section of all of our sponsor’s Facebook pages.
NRS documentation and registration, logistics, accommodation bookings, nominations and payments. During an NRS round, the schedule for each day is prepared the day before, with race reporting done at the end of each tour – all of which is very hard to do when you are looking after riders and racing yourself.
The Tandem Project took three years and $65,000 to set up with equipment purchase and a major shed storage overhaul. Pilot allocation and training session occur on a weekly basis – this is the first year that we determined to use winter as an off season. In previous years, our pilot (including myself) would pilot week-in and week-out. My fatigue gave me the first insight in five years on what it is like to have a few hours each week just to read, or to be completely up-to-date with my clinical correspondence.
- Can you talk a little about the Tandem Project, what your involvement is and what the project is about?
The Tandem Project is a program which develops vision impaired riders from beginner level, right through to international-class athletes. We started with three old tandems and now have a stable of 15 tandems – the purchase of new equipment and the total rebuild on our existing equipment cost a fortune. We train both the pilots and the vision impaired cyclists, and then provide a network of pilots to get our VI riders out every week across Spring and Summer.
This program is often the first encounter our athletes have where they are completely integrated into an able-bodied team, rather than competing in sport that has been engineered as vision-impaired specific. It’s an incredible experience to be a part of, and as my participation in the elite women’s competition steps back, I can expand my time on the tandems again.
- What do you love about cycling?
Riding in the hills with my husband or my women team members – I love the beauty of the Adelaide hills and I love the comradery of my friends. Mind you I love the solitude as well if I need it. Even when I was fatigued and I couldn’t get up Norton unless I was in granny-gear, once I put the crushing frustration aside, returning to the simple enjoyment of riding my bike kept me sane during my recovery.
- If you could have dinner with 3 people, who would they be, why and where would you take them to eat?
This is very un-cycling – I just don’t really care about cycling personalities. I couldn’t think of anything more awkward than imposing my company as a cycling no-body onto anyone of any importance in the cycling world. I’d take my husband and my friends however to The Edinburgh or anywhere that has sweet potato fries. More recently though, I would probably like to shout Chloe Hosking or Rachael Neylan to a dinner to congratulate them on standing up to CA in what can only be described as an appalling slap-in-the-face for Australian women’s cycling after their original non-selection for the World Championships.
- What are your fondest cycling memories?
Simon and I had a cycling trip to Italy and France. I cannot explain what this trip meant to us. We had just been through 12 months from hell. Simon’s mum Helen had had a horrendous 12 month battle with motor neuron disease. To call it a battle probably isn’t the right description. It’s not a battle really – just relentless, heartbreaking defeat and the crushing of an entire family. Our trip was several months after Helen passed away, and for Simon and I, it was the first time for 12 months that we could breath and just support each other.
- Have you had any nasty crashes? If so how did the worst occur and what were the consequences?
Worst crash was a tandem crash with Kieran Modra – three months before he went on to win another rainbow jersey for the pursuit. Tandems crash really hard, and when you’re a pilot, you’re responsible. To think i could have broken Modra’s collar bone and cost him a championship still leaves me cold. We both lost a lot of skin.
- What is your favourite post ride coffee/tea spot, and what would you normally buy as a treat?
Nannos with the tandem crew. Fruit salad is a treat. But with my fatigue, heading straight home for a sleep is my preference.
- What is the biggest cycling lie you have told your partner (Simon doesn’t read this, so your safe)?
No lies between us really. Simon knows how hopeless my riding is right now so no point making stuff up.
- What cycling related thing would you like for your next birthday?
If Simon buys me anything bike-related for my birthday, he knows the foul look he’ll receive!! Simon buys me a new ‘Camilla’ for my birthday……or else! (Eds note – if you don’t know what Camilla is – you really must lift your game – Camilla is a high-end clothing brand. Victoria is obsessed with them and would never sacrifice money to bike stuff when her wardrobe comes first)! That is her modelling a Camilla in an earlier photo.
- Is there a local cycling outfit/company/cycling club/cycling group/person that you would like to plug?
The most brilliant company to work with – Blackchrome who produces our kit. Absolutely fabulous people and so supportive of our whole team, but worked with us tirelessly to produce a women’s kit that fits brilliantly.
- What is your non-cycling go-to place when Interstaters come to your town?
Anywhere in the hills – they’re so beautiful and so close.
- Have you read any cycling books that you’d recommend? I don’t watch cycling and I don’t read about cycling. Like I said – I’m just not a bike-person.
Thanks Victoria, you lead a very busy and fulfilling life. I wish you all the best in your future endeavours with the Tandem project and the team as you wind back from the elite women’s competition.
Anyone wanting to support the Tandems project or enquire about piloting/stoking, Victoria would be pleased to contact her by email on