You might recall the news from a few weeks back about the Australian women’s racing team that was made possible thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign. Well, this week we’ve learned that that team will be part of the long-heralded Team BridgeLane organization, making it the first women’s team in the setup’s history.
On Monday afternoon Australian time, BridgeLane posted on social media announcing the new Continental women’s team for the 2023 season and beyond.
“For many years, a goal of ours and our major partners has been to play a more significant role in supporting women’s cycling here in Australia, and the moment has finally arrived,” the team wrote.
It was not initially clear from the BridgeLane post that this women’s team was the same crowdfunded project that former domestic racer (and former team member) Pat Shaw had pulled together. But a series of social posts from Shaw, referencing the BridgeLane announcement, made the connection clear.
Shaw explained his thought process after the pivotal moment when an anonymous supporter donated $100,000, instantly ensuring the project would meet its funding goal.
“I knew if we were doing this 100% then there was only one person I could think of to do it with: Andrew Christie-Johnston, my long-time boss and a man I hold in the highest regard,” Shaw wrote. Many in Australian cycling regard Christie-Johnston as one of the country’s greatest-ever sports directors and team managers.
“Andrew had already been working hard to start a women’s cycling team and so together we believed we could make it happen,” Shaw continued.
Shaw and Christie-Johnston then set about trying to find sponsors and staff.
“Enter Donna Rae-Szalinski, the most experienced person in women’s cycling in this country,” Shaw wrote. Currently director of pathways at AusCycling, Rae-Szalinksi has a long history as a coach and sports director, including with the Wiggle High5 women’s team and various Australian national teams.
“Having Donna involved was huge,” Shaw added. “With her knowledge of the riders and global knowledge of the sport […] to have her involved was a huge success in itself.”
The history of Team BridgeLane can be traced back more than two decades to the year 2000 when the Praties team was created by Christie-Johnston and Steve Price. From 2000 through to 2018 the team raced under several names – including Praties, Genesys Wealth Advisers, Avanti IsoWhey and Bennelong SwissWellness. It was frequently the top team in Australia’s National Road Series (NRS), and built a reputation for helping Australian talents reach the WorldTour; riders like Richie Porte, Will Clarke, Chris Harper and Nathan Haas.
Shaw raced with the team in 2011 and 2012, before returning for the final three years of his career: 2014 to 2016.
In 2019 the team merged with another NRS outfit, the Tom Petty-led Mobius BridgeLane, to form Team BridgeLane. With Petty and Christie-Johnston both at the helm, the team has raced as BridgeLane since 2019.
Despite BridgeLane’s long and storied history, and its considerable success in domestic and Asian racing, the setup has never had a women’s team until now.
Shaw wrote on social media that the team already has several riders signed for 2023; riders from the U19, U23, and elite ranks. The recruitment process continues.
“We are now taking expressions of interest from female riders to be a part of Team BridgeLane in 2023 through our website,” the team posted on social media.
The BridgeLane women’s Continental team will make its debut in early January, presumably at the Bay Crits and then the Australian Road National Championships.