Extended Interview: Newly Crowned Australian Road Race Champions Roy and Meyer

After a dream day at the Australian Road Race Championships on Sunday, where Sarah Roy soloed to her first Australian Road title and Cameron Meyer claimed a second consecutive title victory in the event, we caught up with the two.

Here’s what the newly crowned champions had to say after spending time digesting their achievements and reflecting on that very special day:

Sarah Roy – 2021 Australian Road Race Champion
It is fair to say that 2021 has started off really well for you, did you feel confident in your form after Santos Festival of Cycling race coming into the national championships? 

“2021 has started very well for me and the entire BikeExchange Team. I think the two road race wins, and Grace (Brown’s) time trial result (second place) can give us all, the managers and riders, a positive mindset for the year. I didn’t feel that my form was in a good enough place to win this year but I still gave myself every opportunity to have a good day. 

“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. 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. I am happy to be wrong though.

“We had a different plan for the year that didn’t actually involve targeting nationals. After TDU we stepped up the training in preparation for Europe, all hat went all the way to Wednesday, just two-days before racing started. I did a few high intensity sessions and some more volume as well, so not planning on being overly recovered for the racing. That brought me up a bit and I felt surprisingly good in the national criterium two days before the road race, so I felt I could have a good race on Sunday.

How important is this first Australian road race title for you?
“This road title is a long-time dream come true for me. It means a lot. 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. I wasn’t able to race last year because of the artery condition and the reconstructive surgery that I was still recovering from, so to turn around and win this year seems like a bit of a fairy tale. 

“It’s not just the result either, it’s how I did it. I made the race my own, I took a chance, I was gutsy (some may say crazy), but I knew I was on a good day and I won in a hard and smart way. I was never in the red and measured myself well. I’m so proud of myself and grateful for my teammates Grace Brown, Jess Allen and Lucy Kennedy who covered things from behind and backed me in for the win once the break was formed. And also, Amanda Spratt, who was a very strong mental support from Europe with great advice pre-race. The whole thing gives me goosebumps.”

What does it do to your confidence levels after winning the title but also following on from your strong results in Belgium at the end of 2020? 
“Winning any race is a sure way to boost a rider’s confidence so to win the nationals of all races has definitely given me a good mentality going into the Classics season soon. 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. After such a long time of stressful uncertainties it’s a really nice way to be heading to Europe.

“I’m really proud of the way I won this race, physically and tactically, and emotionally with all I’ve overcome to so I think every time I put the Australian championship jersey on to race, I will remember the day and all those things which will set my mind up in a strong and positive frame to race well. It could give me an edge. I can’t wait to race in it.”

How did you celebrate your win; did you do anything special in the evening or the days following?
“After bawling my eyes out on the finish line with my super soigneur Bruce, the family and the team, the first thing I did was call my coach! It was so fun to chat! We’ve been through a lot together and it was a big win for her too, she’s the best! I was thinking of her and all she’s done for me as I rode the last few km’s hence the smile and wave to the camera knowing she’d be watching. 

“I watched the men’s race afterwards and I’ve never been so anxious watching a bike race but to witness what those guys did was incredible. We all celebrated together with team owner Gerry Ryan at the Prince hotel in St Kilda, Melbourne. It was a great evening of beautiful food and wine which may have kicked on to the early hours of the morning. This team sure knows how to have a good time and it’s been great for us to spend more time as one team this summer. 

“I rode in the jersey the next morning of course, it still smelled like champagne, but I didn’t care. Then on Tuesday it was a perfect sunny day, Gerry Ryan choppered us to Nagambie for lunch at Mitchelton Wines. It was my first time in a helicopter and I absolutely love it out there by The Goulbern River surrounded by gum trees. We continued our champagne ways on the boat down the river for some wine tasting and back to Mitchelton to sample some Ministry of Chocolate which is one of my favs. We choppered back to Melbourne like the A-list celebrities we are and were then dropped at the airport to get our season underway in Europe. I couldn’t have asked for a better day to go out on.”

If you could win only one (more) race in 2021 what would it be?
“If I could win one more race for the year, I would want to win the world championships!”

In Europe, you will find a very different climate from the Aussie summer, without forgetting that the COVID-19 pandemic still affects everyday life a lot with social distancing and obligatory masks wearing. What do you expect and how do you plan to face such a different reality?
“Heading to Europe now during the pandemic can seem a little crazy especially coming from Australia which is very safe. I experienced the restrictions throughout Europe last year, so I know what I’m getting into and we have a huge amount of support, ongoing monitoring and communication of information via our team doctors. I will continue to be responsible and expect that things will remain uncertain for a while longer. 

“The change in weather from Australia to Europe is another challenge to plan for but not a new one for me. I tend to adapt quite well to the sudden change in seasons and am looking forward to being back with the team, meeting my new teammates and preparing for the 2021 Classics.”

Cameron Meyer – 2021 Australian Road Race Champion

A few days have passed since your fabulous victory; what does it taste like now?“It’s hard to explain the taste of this victory still. It was such a shock and unexpected with the way the race was playing out. I can say that putting they green and gold jersey back on after only one day having it off feels great.”

You’ve won the last two editions of the Australian Championships; what differences and what similarities do you find in these two successes?
“The only similarity between my two Australian Road Race Championship wins was that they were both extremely hard races. Last year unfolded exactly to how I wanted it to and was won the way I had dreamed. This year was the polar opposite.”

How much did you spend on drinks for your teammates? Did you do anything special to celebrate? 
“To be honest I didn’t get to shout the drinks because our fantastic team owner Gerry Ryan who also has his own wine brand Mitchelton had a generous dinner organised for our entire team. I still owe the guys a great deal for their commitment to me in the race and will sort them out with those drinks when we get to Europe.”

When will you fly to Europe and what will your debut race be?
“I fly to Europe in March. I still have some National Team track commitments to attend here in Australia so I’m heading over a little later than the others. My first race to debut the jersey will likely be at the end of March, possibly Coppi Bartali in Italy.”

What is your biggest seasonal goal? What do you think about the Olympics?
“My two big season goals this year will be the Giro d’Italia and Tokyo Olympics if all goes to plan. I really hope to be a part of a winning team at the Giro and then to finish my track career with an Olympic medal would be very special.”

Last year was not an easy season and again this year, the start is not easy. What do you expect? What has changed in your preparation and on a mental level?
“Is certainly has not been easy with professional sport during this pandemic. I learnt last year to take each day as it comes and not to plan so far in the future. 

“Things change very quickly at the moment and it can really be hard mentally to see events cancelled. I will work to enjoy being healthy and riding my bike whilst making small goals each week.”

You didn’t have the chance to wear the Australian Champion’s jersey too much during 2020 due to the shortened season. Winning the jersey again this year is special for the team and for you, to showcase the Australian stripes, so hopefully 2021 you will have many more opportunities to race. Which race are you most looking forward to?
“I certainly didn’t get to race in the Australian Champions jersey as much as I would have liked. I can’t wait to return to Europe and hopefully to the Giro and finish the three-week event this year. Every Grand Tour is special and to ride-in on the 21st stage with the green and gold on my back would be a dream come true. If as a team, we have the pink jersey then that would be even better.”

(Photo by Con Chronis/AusCycling)