Erin Kinnealy talks about ambition, opportunity and experience at the launch of the Cycling Development Foundation in October and reflects on a season racing at the highest level in Europe.

There were four of us fortunate to have been given the opportunity to race in Europe for the best part of the 2016 season, myself and 

  • Elissa Wundersitz
  • Sofia Erhard
  • Sarah Duffield

Each one of us had unique objectives in approaching this opportunity. My objective was to gain experience, strength, knowledge and networks to progress into a UCI registered team, secure a professional contract and race at the highest level – the Women’s World Tour.


Some amazing highlights were:

  • racing at UCI level
  • having the world champion’s stripes move through the bunch around me
  • observing Marianne Vos part the peloton like Moses parts the ocean – then everyone fighting for her wheel
  • racing the spring classics including Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, up iconic cobbled climbs like Oude de Kwaremont and the Paterberg
  • travelling and racing in the neighbouring countries of, Belgium and Germany, as well as in our base country, Holland.

And the absolute pinnacle of my European Racing season was being selected to race with the Australian National Development Team as a guest rider on four occasions, notably the Gent-Wevelgem race which is part of the Women’s World Tour.


Sofia Erhard racing in Europe in 2016


Learning from then DS Donna Rae-Szalinski whom is now the DS of the biggest professional womens world tour team – Wiggle High 5. Also the opportunity to listen and learn from the best in Martin Barras who is Senior Coach for Cycling Australia. He coached and directed the Australian womens Olympic team and the Australian World Championship team in Doha.

This experience, combined with a team of like-minded ambitious go-getters, was instrumental in my development. Two riders from this years Aus Development Team have now secured professional contracts with Orica AIS – Janelle Crooks and our local Jessica Allen.

Building strength

I will never forget the opportunity I had in facilitating Rachel Neylan to victory at GP Plumelec in France. My role may have only meant to one per cent, but that was one per cent less that another team mate needed to do. Additionally it meant 110% value in my development!

Race at the highest level

The racing in Europe is on a completely different level to that of Australian racing. It is the best racing in the world, against the best cyclists in the world and to add to this, 2016 was of course Olympic year.

It was cut throat and extremely tough to get results let alone finishing some races! Here are some statistics from my season:

  • DNF’d (Did Not Finish) 7 times
  • Crashed 9 times
  • Had 16 punctures
  • Raced in 53 races during the 29 weeks; which was an average of about 2 races a week
  • Ploughed through 10 peanut butter jars.


The Cycling Development Foundation Opportunity is the only pathway outside of the Australian Institute of Sport for Western Australian women to gain access and racing experience within the European professional peloton.

Without the Cycling Development Foundation, there is no way I could have gained the experiences I’ve had during the 7 months in Europe – I simply do not have the resources!

AND The thing is, I’m not a genetically gifted person, I was never identified through any sport institutions in my younger years. I am an average 32 years old woman whom started cycling 3 years ago when fundraising for the Ride to Conquer Cancer.

I’d previously never physically pushed myself to extreme depths before, the demands of this sport was completely new to me and my story is not unique – there are a lot of women whom have a similar background.

And the Cycling Development Foundation is here to foster the development women, just like me! Cycling has providing me a fantastic physical challenge as well as the opportunity to race for Australia. Who would have thought – I couldn’t even finish a C Grade women’s race at tech park just over 2 years ago! So thank you to the Cycling Development Foundation, more notably, Melissa Robinson and Brad Hall as well as my ever-supportive fiancé, Joel.

Sarah Duffield and Erin Kinnealy at the launch of the Cycling Development Foundation in October.