FEATURE: Roy’s resilient rise to the top

Fri 15 Sep 2017

31-year-old Australian Sarah Roy has had one of her best seasons to date claiming her first WorldTour victory and a WorldTour podium for ORICA-SCOTT.

The OVO Women’s Tour of Britain stage winner is known more for her sprinting abilities, however, this season she surprised herself and her peers with a third place at the hilly WorldTour race, GP Plouay and has gone from strength to strength throughout the season. 

As for many athletes, success doesn’t come overnight and Roy has displayed great determination and resilience over the years to continuously grow all areas to become a WorldTour winner. 

“This season didn’t start off well for me,” Roy explained. “I was consistently sick during the pre-season and I couldn’t get the training in that I needed. I left Australia scared and uncertain about life in Europe. I had barely ridden my bike in the weeks leading up to my departure but my coach and I had a plan and I completely trusted it."

“I set off in February for an altitude training block, mostly alone, in Tenerife. I had a little moment where I was unnecessarily worried about things and thinking a little too deeply but my coach Nat and a few close friends helped me to clarify things and focus on what I really want from this life and that is joy.

“I got really fit and raced well at first but then quickly bonked and had a less than ideal classics campaign. Because I had already nailed my approach for the year, a bad classics season didn’t break me. 

“I had so much fun with my team and took on the domestique role instead and gave everything I had to our leaders in every race I started in. The effort I put in to keep trudging along happily and not lose sight of my personal goals paid off later as my legs finally joined the party and I was given opportunities to perform again.

“I implemented some pre-race focus techniques and I have been proactive about my health and nutrition. I’ve also worked consistently with my strength and conditioning coach, and my housemate and I have set up the apartment so we have more of a home. It’s an accumulation of all of these things as well as persistence over the years that contribute to a good season. 

“Personally, the rocky start played a significant role because it resulted in a big positive shift for me. I now communicate better with my coach and all those around me. I am more myself, more relaxed and don’t sweat the small stuff and now I’m really enjoying myself and sharing that joy with the people that matter.”

After this difficult start to the season, Roy continued to work hard and focus on her goals and soon after achieved her first WorldTour victory and the first WorldTour win for ORICA-SCOTT in 2017. 

The former Australian criterium champion enjoyed a lot of attention from the British victory but not the kind she may have hoped for, after crossing the finish line, arms in the air celebrating, Roy the lost control of her bike on the cobbled road and fell to the ground to the shock of the hundreds of fans lining the streets. 

“At the beginning of stage four in the OVO Tour of Britain I felt awful,” Roy said. “I was dropped on both the first and second climbs, I saw my team mate Gracie Elvin and we each said she felt bad too. We chased back on, and I saw a moment to bridge across to a rider who was bridging across to a solo leader on the road. We made the catch and thankfully my legs switched on and I felt great for the next 100km of the race. 

“In the end, I managed to find a small gap with 300m to go and beat Christine Majerus (Boels-Dolmans) to the line.

“I was so shocked and elated to win a big race, I didn’t think logically and I just celebrated. I threw my arms up in the air as I crossed the line on the wet cobbles and abruptly wiped myself out. I bounced up almost as quickly as I hit the ground but then had to be pushed along on my semi-broken bike to get around the corner. The win and the crash together just left me stunned and overwhelmingly mortified. 

“My initial thoughts were at least it happened after the line, I still won and nobody else was hurt. With this in mind, I was able to laugh right away and let my people laugh at me.”

Following on from her eventful victory, the ORICA-SCOTT rider was ready to taste more success. Thanks to the help and confidence from her teammates, Roy continued to impress, this time in an event that wasn’t particularly suited to her strengths.

“The podium in GP Plouay would have to be my best result to date so it makes me really happy,” Roy continued. “To get a good result on a lumpy course like that feels so great obviously because I’ve worked hard for it, but also because there have been lots of doubters over the years on my ability to ride around on such a course.”

“The nicest part about it though, is the team effort and cohesion that went into the race. We had a number of riders who could have genuinely got a result which was both a fantastic and delicate position for our team to be in. We came up with a plan that we all believed in and rode like a unit. It was only in those last kilometres that two riders jumped away without us but to nail the bunch kick the way we did was awesome.”

After taking a step up and performing consistently, the New South Wales riders achievements have been recognised and she has recently been selected to compete at the coming UCI Road World championships for Australia.

“I am really proud to be selected for the Bergen World Championships,” Roy continued. “It’s a tough course and has been a tough team to make this year. Our Australian women have moved up to third in the world rankings which is our best season in almost ten years and I think this shows the high quality of our riders.”

“Bergen has been a goal of mine for some time and my coach and I have worked hard to be here. For this, I am extremely proud to look back and appreciate what we’ve done together and it’s nice to take a second to realise I am achieving things that I only dreamed of as a kid and perhaps it’s time to reassess my outlook which is exciting.”

The seven-rider Australian women’s line-up is made up of five ORICA-SCOTT riders. 

“ORICA-SCOTT is currently ranked the third in the world, as is our nation and given ORICA-SCOTT is an Australian professional team we have predominantly Australian riders so a large pool of the worlds team contenders come from ORICA-SCOTT,” Roy explained. “The team has remained relatively the same for a few years and I think that has benefited us.”

“Every year we get better and better and it's so cool to look back and see how far we've come individually and together so I am excited to race the world championships with the women who have influenced my career so heavily.”

We wish Roy the best of luck at the championships and have enjoyed seeing her grow as a rider within the Australian outfit.

Photo courtesy of TDWsport