Transitioning from track to road racing on a bike is one of the more challenging things a competitive cyclist can do. The jump from the velodrome to the open spaces of road racing has forever held a mystique and challenge that champion riders such as Brad McGee, Stuart O’Grady, Rohan Dennis, Amanda Spratt and Chloe Hosking have successfully navigated and conquered.
Federation University student Tylah Meunier is using the 2021 Federation University AusCycling National Championships as his first step into racing at national title level away from the confines of a velodrome.
A former Victorian Institute of Sport scholarship holder and Australian national Team Sprint champion coached by cycling legends such as Hilton Clarke and Shane Kelly, Tylah’s inspiration to enter the Road Race and Criterium events that are a part of the 2021 edition of the event came from a place he would never have imagined.
“I think secretly I have always had my eyes set on road racing, and as all my VIS coaching staff knew, I always struggled to keep my mind totally focussed on racing on the track but the pandemic impact on racing and movement in 2020 confirmed my decision that 2020 was as good a time as any to take the plunge and try my legs on the open road. I had never really done any road racing or training before so initially it was a big learning curve and a jump into the deep end. Luckily I have had many awesome people around me both guiding and mentoring me through this new form of bike racing.”
Tylah’s main goal in his new venture into road racing is to nail a top 10 finish in the 2021 Road Nats criterium and successfully navigate his way around the course during the men’s road race. “I think that if I could manage a top 10 in the crits it would mean that I’ve made a solid transition from the track to the road in under 10 months. The criterium is a fast, quick loop that will be chaotic. I will need to stay in the top half of the group to have a fighting chance as the corners will make for an interesting race.”
A rekindled passion for being outdoors on his bike to race criteriums and road races has not only influenced Tylah’s recent cycling career choices but also influenced the course he chose to study at Federation University – a Bachelor of Wildlife and Conservation Science at the Berwick campus.
“One of the reasons cycling stood out to me as a kid riding around Warragul was that it allowed me to spend hours and hours outside. I love being outside walking, running and riding. I have always been interested in environments and conserving those unique environments which are what I now get to study within my university course,” he said.
Tylah was the inaugural Federation University Elite Athlete scholarship recipient, an accolade that has helped balance his cycling and study commitments in pursuit of his degree.
“It helped an unbelievable amount. It took money stress out of riding a bike and meant that I could both focus on cycling and Uni instead of needing to work hours in-between the two commitments. I have recently bought myself a new bike and this was mainly due to the help that the scholarship gave me. Without the scholarship the transition to road would have been a lot trickier than it already was,” he said.
Tylah will likely race in the Federation University rider jersey while competing in the criterium and road race in his quest to join some of the legends that have successfully navigated the transition from being a national track champion to accomplished road rider. Look out for the rider in the navy blue and white jersey with a smile on his face enjoying a taste of what makes him happy – riding a bike quickly in the great Australian outdoors.
By Oscar Owens, Exercise and Sports Science Lecturer, Federation University