8 April 2022

Canberra cycling champ finds new stage to give back to her beloved sport

| Tim Gavel
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Gracie Elvin upon completion of her Bachelor of Science degree. Photo: Supplied.

Gracie Elvin: proud to complete her Bachelor of Science degree. Photo: Supplied.

Every sport needs a Gracie Elvin; an athlete prepared to go out on a limb to become a voice for their sport. And she’s blasted through plenty of barriers along the way.

Her appointment to the AusCycling Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Group comes on top of several other roles. She co-founded the Cyclists’ Alliance, pushing for equality in the sport, and is also an AIS Thrive with Pride Ambassador.

Gracie says she’s excited to play her part in the advisory group’s aims to involve more people from diverse communities in cycling.

“I always hoped to give back to my sport,” she says. “At times I was just trying to find ways to do so.

“I haven’t met any prejudice in my life but I know it hasn’t been the case for many others. I want to use my privilege and freedoms to help those who aren’t as fortunate.”

That privilege involved incredible support from her parents and cycling supporters, such as team owner Gerry Ryan.

READ ALSO Canberra cycling start-up ‘Today’s Plan’ extends its global reach

“My whole life my parents have always been there,” Gracie says.

Born and raised in Canberra, she started cycling on her mother’s old bike at age 12 before taking up club training.

“I wasn’t particularly successful at the sport to start with. I finished last in the juniors. I wasn’t fazed though. I just enjoyed the challenge of improving every time I raced.

“It wasn’t until my late teens that my results started matching my expectations.”

Gracie set for the Rio Olympics in 2016. Photo: Supplied.

Gracie prepares for the Rio Olympics in 2016. Photo: Supplied.

Gracie made her name as an Olympian and two-time Commonwealth Games representative on the road, and became the first Australian to stand on the podium at the Tour of Flanders for Women.

But mountain biking was her life for a number of years.

“I started with road cycling and when I was 17 tried mountain bikes. I travelled the world competing in mountain bike events and that was my introduction to pro cycling. I learnt to look after myself.”

There were hurdles to overcome though, including a time when she was forced to pay her own way in the sport.

In 2012 she switched back to road cycling after coming through a gruelling selection camp to snare an AIS scholarship.

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After nine years as a professional road cyclist, Gracie retired in 2020.

But retirement simply heralded more adventures as she transferred her riding experiences to other avenues in her chosen sport.

Armed with a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Canberra, Gracie works with cycling app Today’s Plan.

“I studied part-time and it took me 12 years to complete. UC were really fantastic with the support they provided to get me through the course. I’m really glad I chose to study through UC.”

Not content with multiple roles post-retirement, Gracie has become a leading voice for cycling as a commentator on SBS.

Gracie Elvin staying active during lockdown post her retirement. Photo: Supplied.

Gracie stays active during lockdown after her retirement. Photo: Supplied.

“When I was cycling I enjoyed the tactical side. Commentary allows me to talk about a sport I’m passionate about as well as providing insights from the time I had as a professional cyclist. I really enjoy it, but it wasn’t a pathway I had envisaged.”

Similar to her time in the saddle, Gracie backs herself and copes with the ups-and-downs of cycling’s passionate media audience. “I do cop criticism but there are plenty of positives,” she says with her trademark enthusiasm.

Gracie’s appointment in the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Group, alongside fellow former cyclists Adam Phelan and Carole Cooke, will utilise her many life experiences in and beyond the sport to help entice people from all backgrounds and abilities to hit the pedals.

At 33 years of age, Gracie has already made a difference. But the ride’s far from over.

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