At 33 years old, Jenny McPherson, – Prime Estate Women’s Road Cycling Team has two Victorian Road Race titles 1999 and 2009, and two Victorian State Criterium titles, as well as long list of other State, National and International results. McPherson has shown what it takes to be at the top level of cycling in Australia. What drives this still young and competitive racer?
Jenny McPherson has had many winning performances throughout her career. her two Victorian Road Race titles stand out in her impressive lists of results. RC of Bicycles Network Australia (BNA) speaks to Jenny McPherson.
BNA: Can you introduce yourself?
McPherson: Hi, I’m Jenny McPherson. I live in Melbourne and I’m 33yrs old. I bought my first road bike in 1997, it was a red ‘Kennedy’, made by John Kennedy in Black Rock, Melbourne. I started riding as cross-training for rowing and after winning my first road race in 1999, I was hooked!
In 2004 I went to the Athens 2004 Paralympics as a tandom pilot, which lead to becoming a member of the Australian Women’s Road Cycling Team from 2005 until 2007. Since returning to full time work as Event Coordinator for Bicycle Victoria at the end of 2007, I have continued to race at a National level with locally sponsored women’s teams, and currently riding with the Prime Estate Women’s road cycling team.
BNA: What kind of rider is Jenny Macpherson?
McPherson: I love to sprint! Criteriums are definitely my favoured event. I don’t mind the hills, as long as they are not more than 4% gradient or more than 2km long!
BNA: How long have you been competing in the sport of cycling?
McPherson: I have been racing since 1999. I have raced in all states of Australia, except Northern Territory. I’ve also raced in New Zealand (Wellington), USA (Pennsylvania), France, Holland, England, Wales, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Belgium, Austria, and San Marino
BNA: What inspired you to get into the sport of cycling?
McPherson: As like many cyclists, I came from another sport. I was a rower for six years and we did a little cycling as cross training (I was National U19 champion in the Women’s Youth Eight). I found I could easily keep up with the guys when on bunch rides, and always tested well on bike fitness tests. I loved the fact that you could be out exercising, travelling out and around some beautiful regions and enjoy a chat and a coffee at the beginning, during and/or at the end of the ride! Secretly, the fact that I could beat some of the boys was thoroughly enjoyable!!
BNA: Some women may find cycling and racing daunting….not you?
McPherson: I did at the beginning for sure! It took me two years to get the courage and confidence to race. But once I realised that there were plenty others out there giving it a go and with less fitness and skills than me, there was no stopping me. The more I raced, the more I learnt about what I could and couldn’t do physically and mentally.
Then when I went and raced in Europe for the first time, it was like I was learning to race all over again. It is a whole different culture and the depth of experience of these women had was extremely intimidating. Even after three seasons of racing there, I never really felt that comfortable racing on such narrow roads in a bunch of 150 women fighting to get to the front!
BNA: Congratulations on some great results over the last few years including the Victorian Open Road Championships.
McPherson: Thank you! Winning the Criterium title for the 2nd year running was a proud moment for me. I don’t consider myself in ‘training’ anymore and to still be competitive at a National level is a sweet reward for all those thousands of roads I’ve ridden and raced over the past 12 years.
BNA: Your career as a professional cyclist has taken you to the peaks of cycling in Australia. What are some of your favourite races?
McPherson: Being a crit fan, obviously the Jayco Bay Criterium series is the highlight of the summer season in Australia each year. In 2011, it will be my 10th appearance in the event. Winning a stage in 2005, is one of my career highlights.
I’ve raced the Women’s Giro de Donne in Italy, allowing me to see lots of interesting parts of Italy, the same for the Tour de L’Aude in South East of France. Racing on roads previously used in the Tour de France (the painted names still on the roads) was a huge buzz.
Back on home soil, some local favourites are the Melbourne to Ballarat Handicap, Preston Mountain Classic, and they used to have a women’s criterium series as part of the Tour Down Under and was guttered when it got dropped from the calendar as a result of the men’s event getting Pro Tour status. Especially because I had won it three times in a row!
BNA: What races would you like to race in Europe if given the opportunity?
McPherson: I never got to race any of the big USA/Canada races, especially because there is such a popular criterium culture there.
BNA: How do you look back on your career, low lights and highlights?
McPherson: Highlights are the places I’ve travelled to, enjoying the Italian way of life whilst being with the Aussie cycling team, winning my first Victorian Road Race title in 1999 then having a 10 year drought before winning it again in 2009 and competing at the Athens 2004 Paralympics.
Representing Australia had been my dream since primary school. When I pulled on the Australian jersey for the first time, I was so proud. I’d made many sacrifices in making my dream come true and it will be a treasured memory for the rest of my life.
Low lights would have been when I made the long team for the World Road Cycling championships in 2006 and I turned down the opportunity. I knew that I was so over-cooked by training and racing, that I wouldn’t have been any use to the team.
Also the tragic accident involving my team mates in Germany, causing the death of Amy Gillett. I was injured at the time and therefore wasn’t with the team that fateful day. I felt relieved that I wasn’t there, but guilty about it at the same time. It was a very sad time in Australian cycling history.
BNA: What performance/achievement you are the most proud of?
McPherson: 5th place at the Wellington World Cup in 2005, finishing with some of the worlds best sprinters was surreal. It also resulted in me being awarded a scholarship with the Australian Institute of Sport, and launching pad to racing in Europe.
BNA: You’re racing the Lake Tapuo Cycling Challenge in New Zealand with the Prime Estate Women’s team, who’s in the team?
McPherson: Nicole Whitburn, Irene Digenis, Rebecca Loche and Naomi Williams
BNA: What’s your role on the team?
McPherson: Sprinter and/or lead out rider for Nicole. We both try and help each other out.
BNA: Have you looked at the profile of the route, with quite a few climbs, what do you think of the route and what sort of rider do you think it will suit?
McPherson: I haven’t looked at the race route yet, but I rode the 160km Cycle Challenge in 2008. So from what I remember, yes it was quite hilly except for the last bit ! If a small group gets away on the climb and work well together, I can see them stealing the win.
BNA: With a strong international field, what do you think of your chances of taking the race out?
McPherson: We have a strong team, so we will look to always have one of the Prime Estate girls in the move or making the move. The team had pretty good success last year, so we will be keen to continue these results!
BNA: How much training do you get -What is your average training week like? Is it all on the bike or do you spend time in the gym?
McPherson: I’ll ride to and from work which is about 25km round trip. During the week I’ll do 2 maybe 3 bunch rides which are usually 1 -2hrs long, and then a longer ride or race 2-3hrs on a Saturday and/or Sunday.
I don’t do any other training, I used to do a lot of stretching and yoga, but I’m too lazy to do that now!
BNA: Speaking of the technical side of riding, what are your strengths?
McPherson: Sprinting.. I’m 178cm tall and 70kg, so I have a big advantage when it comes to powering down on the pedals!
BNA: How does your racing schedule looks like for the rest of the season?
McPherson: I don’t really look too far ahead these days. I just try and fit in a race or two when I can. I’m definitely looking forward to the warmer weather and the crit’s starting up again.
BNA: Women’s Cycling gets the most coverage when run jointly with men’s races – what do you think needs to happen within cycling to increase the attention in women’s racing?
McPherson: Reduce the barriers of having to race with intimidating, powerful and aggressive men!
Just the fact that there is a women’s category will help. If the event organisers can support women at a club level, then this will help grow the depth and numbers of women cycling.
BNA: Sometimes the depth of talent in women’s cycling is questioned – what’s your take on it?
McPherson: I agree, there isn’t much depth in women’s cycling if that’s what you mean? There are less women racing, so the competition level doesn’t progress or improve as much as it does for the men.
BNA: Often cyclists, we don’t like talking about crashes but I have to ask, have you had any crashes in your career?
McPherson: Yes, I’ve had my fair share of stacks. I’ve had plenty of skin taken off and stitches, but luckily nothing broken. Touch wood!
BNA: Tell us about your interests and pursuits outside of competitive cycling….
McPherson: I enjoy going to the movies, catching up with friends for coffee, reading, I studied sports journalism when I was a full-time cyclist and next year I plan to do extra study in marketing.
I love going camping and holidays without the bike!
Thank you very much for your time and good luck in New Zealand.