Jessica Mundy: This Young Rider is Only Getting Better
Some riders have been making headlines and racing in the United States for so long that we start to think of them as veterans in the peloton even though they’re just at the beginning of their development curve. One of those riders is Aussie cyclist Jessica Mundy, who raced for The Meteor/Intelligentsia this past year in the USA CRITS Series and USA Cycling’s Pro Road Tour (PRT). Just 24-years-old, Jess has been a constant presence in the American cycling scene over the last three years following a stint racing for Wiggle Honda. During those seasons, Jess has proved herself to be one of the most promising criterium (crit) racers in the women’s peloton and regularly goes head-to-head with some of the best riders in the United States. A Cyclist in a Strange Land recently had a chance to talk with Jess from her home in Adelaide, Australia as she settled into the off season.
Nathan (N): Hi Jess, thanks for meeting with me. As I was preparing for this interview, I was looking at some of your racing statistics and I was surprised that you were still an under-25 rider! You’ve been racing in the US for quite a few years and already have a very full resume having raced with famous teams like Wiggle Honda and Colavita Bianchi, not to mention your current team The Meteor/Intelligentsia.
Jessica Mundy (JM): I started cycling when I was 11-years-old in South Australia. One of my first big breaks came when I received a scholarship from the Amy Gillett Foundation to race in Europe for the Australian Development Team. From there, that led to me doing a stint with the Wiggle Honda Team during the summer racing series in Australia. After that season, I was wondering what I was going to do the following year. My coach at the time suggested that I think about going over to the US which lead to me racing with the Fearless Femme team. I had such a great time racing in America during that first season, everyone made me feel so welcome. There are always such great crowds at the events and the racing is always intense with high-caliber fields.
N: You made a big splash in the US in 2016 with Fearless Femme. It was a race-winning season that was capped off by a winning the overall Young Riders Jersey in the USA CRITS Series.
JM: It was a great feeling being able to take home the USA CRITS young rider jersey in my first year racing in the United States. I had wanted to try something different race-wise and being able to achieve the jersey was a great way to start.
N: In 2018, you were once again challenging for the young rider title in USA CRITS. With a couple races remaining in the series, you were sitting in second place, within striking distance of the overall title, but then you had to head back to Australia which seemed to guarantee the title for Caroline Baur of ISCorp Pro Cycling.
JM: Caroline Baur is a strong rider and it was exciting getting to try and bridge the points gap and get closer to the jersey. The USA CRITS events always prove to be exciting with multiple jerseys changing leaders throughout the whole series. Caroline was a deserving winner at the end of the series.
N: Very true! Caroline and the entire ISCorp team were firing on all cylinders this season! Still, it’s a shame that visas can restrict the amount of time that riders can race in the US every year, how do you manage that?
JM: Scheduling with visas can be pretty difficult; I try to figure out how to maximize my race schedule every year around the visas. A lot of the Australian riders try to be strategic with their schedules to make sure that they can be in the US for the main block of racing. We also have our national championships very early compared to other countries – it’s in January – which can make scheduling more complex.
N: Will we be seeing you back in the US next year? Do you want to focus on the USA CRITS Series again or is it possible that you’ll switch your focus?
JM: I hope to be coming back to the US. I still need to figure out some of the details for next season, but I definitely enjoy racing in the United States’ criteriums and road races. In 2017, when I was racing for Colavita Bianchi, I had the opportunity to race the Spring Classics in Europe. I really enjoyed doing the Classics as a lead-in to the USA CRITS series. I do like that mix. It would be cool to do some European racing alongside my American racing calendar next year.
N: Earlier this year, you joined The Meteor/Intelligentsia team. Can you tell me a little bit about that transition?
JM: I think it was a bit of a learning curve for me because I had never been in the position of trying to figure out what I’d be doing the following year. I was super happy when I found The Meteor/Intelligentsia team. I remember talking to BrittLee Bowman over the phone and she seemed like a great person. And, everything that she told me about the team appealed to me. They have a really nice environment; I was definitely happy when I found out that they wanted me to be part of their team!
N: How do you rate your season? I know that you had a chance to lead the team during some of the races, but never managed to get the top results that your performances deserved.
JM: This season there were definitely some things that I was really happy about and then there were races that I wished I had done better at. We started the season strong by winning the sprinters jersey at the Chico Stage Race. I was really happy to get top-10s in the USA CRITs Series. But, I never actually got on the podium this year even though I was so close with fourth and fifth place finishes.
N: You guys were animating races all season long. When I was reporting from Intelligentsia Cup and Tour of America’s Dairyland (ToAD), you and the team were always riding at the front of the field and controlling the race, but bad luck seemed to strike every time and the top results you were shooting for didn’t materialize. I was really disappointed for the team; it was clear that you all deserved better results.
JM: I think that we had good team cohesion. Throughout the season, we tried to implement different strategies within the races to mix things up and, like you say, try to animate the races. Doing things like lead outs takes a while to develop so it was great to see how we synced our lead outs by the end of the season. Even though it never paid off with a podium, it feels great when you’ve figured it out since that means results will come eventually.
N: It’s been a great team to watch over the last year as you all slowly took steps forward. It’ll be interesting to see the team’s performance in 2019. And, if you do re-join the team next year, it’ll be great seeing how you’ll play a part in that momentum.
JM: Yes, it’ll definitely interesting to see; I hope they keep progressing and who knows what next year will bring!
N: Your season wrapped up at the Intelligentsia Cup which is a pretty good race for you to end your season at since it’s in the backyard of one of the team’s title sponsors, Intelligentsia Coffee. What was that experience like for you?
JM: I’d raced the Intelligentsia Cup once before and I remember it being scorching hot so this year was nice in that it was a bit cooler. It’s always special when you have your sponsors at the races cheering you on. Plus, Intelligentsia had other sponsored racers in the Masters category and some of the other categories throughout the week too.
N: Yeah, I had no idea how many teams and riders Intelligentsia sponsored until that week! I, of course, knew that The Meteor/Intelligentsia was at the top of their sponsored teams, but it seemed like every category had a handful of riders sponsored by them.
JM: It’s definitely great that they’re out there supporting cycling teams and putting money into the sport. Hopefully they get a good return on their investment.
N: I hope so too, it’s a great American brand. Hopefully cycling fans buy Intelligentsia coffee and tea and let the company know how thankful they are for their investment in the sport.
N: As the weather gets colder in the United States, you headed back to Australia. Will you be doing any special riding – cyclocross, mountain biking, etc. – during the off season or are you just focused resting and training for next year’s road season?
JM: When I got back to Australia, I had a bit of time off and then some easy riding on my road bike. Then I started off doing some races in the National Road Series season here in Australia where I’m racing for the Holden Team Gusto. That has all of the domestic races for us.
N: How can people follow your racing in the National Road Series?
N: Steaming video has certainly revolutionized bike racing over the last couple of years!
JM: The live streaming of races that USACRITS.tv has been doing this year has been revolutionary. It has been great to be able to give my family and friends a link to the website so they can watch and understand what I’m doing over in America. It’s a lot of fun for them to try to pick me out during the races!
N: I’m sure it’s wonderful for your family to be able to watch the races from Australia without having to constantly be checking a Twitter feed!
JM: They definitely like streaming it to their TV over constantly checking a Twitter feed since Twitter can go quiet at the most exciting parts of a race, particularly at the finishes!
N: USACRITS.tv has been a wonderful development. It can be difficult to follow cycling in the United States – that’s actually one of the reasons for creating A Cyclist in a Strange Land. There are so many great stories out there, but there aren’t enough people telling them.
N: Thanks again for making time to meet with me Jess. We’ll look forward to your return to the United States in early 2019; I’m excited to see what partnerships develops between now and then!