• Brodie Chapman. (Con Chronis/Getty)Source: Con Chronis/Getty
After a strong World Tour debut in 2018 for late-blooming Brodie Chapman, the 27-year-old is looking forward to a second season at cycling’s top table. She spoke to Cycling Central about her rapid rise.
Kieran Pender

Cycling Central
14 Nov 2018 - 12:41 PM 

Before the penultimate day of January this year, only the most avid followers of Australia’s domestic cycling scene had heard of Brodie Chapman.

Her mixed focus on road and mountain biking, a full-time job and several unfortunate injuries meant that Chapman’s progression in the sport had been sporadic. But on the first stage of the Herald Sun Tour, the Queenslander instantly gained a reputation.

In the hills of Healesville, Chapman twice launched daring solo attacks. She ultimately spent over 20 kilometres away by herself to take the win, holding off a stoic chase from time trial world champion Annemiek van Vleuten. Chapman retained the leader’s jersey the following day to go down in history as the first-ever winner of the women’s Herald Sun Tour.

“I was just stoked to be part of that KordaMentha national team,” she reflects 10 months later. “My team-mates had raced in the professional peloton, represented Australia at the Olympics. So I could definitely play the dark horse card.

“The plan was to make the climb hard and set it up for Kat Garfoot. But then I stayed away and knew I could bomb the descent pretty well. I didn’t even know Annemiek was the one chasing.”

The rest, as they say, is history. Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank rider Shannon Malseed asked Chapman – who was at the time working in digital media for BikeExchange and Cycling Tips – if she might be interested in joining the team. Just weeks after claiming her maiden victory, Chapman had signed a professional contract and was bound for Europe to contest the women’s World Tour. “I was thrown in the deep-end,” she admits.

It’s been quite the journey for Chapman, who started riding at 17 after getting a job with a bike shop. “I wanted to buy a BMX and thought that if I worked at the shop I would get it cheaper,” she laughs. “From there I got into downhill racing and eventually my boss suggested I buy a road bike to get around.”

Chapman was selected to play AFL at the 2013 University Games, but after injuring her ribs she decided to try the road racing instead. “That was my first road race and I did pretty well – I was on the podium,” she recalls.

After recovering from being hit by a car in 2014, Chapman started racing on the Brisbane criterium scene in 2015 and even contested the men’s Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic. She then moved to Melbourne, hoping to race the 2016 Victorian Road Series and “learn the ropes”, only to tear her anterior cruciate ligament.

2017 promised more road racing, before Chapman was again hit by a car. “Once I came back from those injuries, I decided to just do all the racing I could,” she remembers. “Crits three times a week, bunch rides, commuting an hour each way to work. When you have an injury you want to come back stronger, and that is pretty much what happened.”

Chapman showed her form with a sixth-placed finish at the Road National Championships in early January. Barely a week later she working from the Tour Down Under media centre for her day job when national team coach Brad McGee called, offering Chapman a Herald Sun Tour ride. McGee’s gamble was ultimately rewarded when his surprise selection won the inaugural women’s edition of the historic race.

“To some it might appear as if I came out of nowhere, that I just stumbled into road racing and found out I was good at it,” she reflects. “But the truth is – like any success – there is heaps of hard work behind the scenes. I had been setting goals for years: do a race, make it to A grade, make it to the National Road Series. I had clear goals but with flexible methods – I couldn’t control much. I was working full-time, I wasn’t being consistently coached.

“I thought I could make something of this someday, I just didn’t know how or when,” Chapman continues. “Say yes to everything and you don’t know where it will lead.” Her optimism ultimately led to the European professional scene, where she contested races in 2018 including La Course and the World Championships.

Chapman will remain with Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank in 2019. But before she begins planning for her sophomore World Tour season, mountain biking is on Chapman’s mind – with participation at the recent Hellfire Cup in Tasmania and the forthcoming Pioneer Race in New Zealand.

“That should set me up well for the Road Nationals and the Tour Down Under,” she says. “Plus I just love mountain biking. It keeps you real.”

Chapman is hoping the domestic summer of cycling and this year’s experiences will prepare her for a strong second attempt at the World Tour.

“I am looking forward to heading overseas with a better idea of what to expect,” she explains. “This year was all about learning. Next year I can start to target races that I have discovered suit me.”

It may only be her second season at cycling’s highest level, but Chapman is not afraid to set bold targets. After a remarkable 2018, could 2019 be even bigger for Australia’s new hot talent?

“You don’t want to set your expectations too high,” Chapman reflects. “But considering the results I got at La Course, Tour of California, the Ardennes – I look back and think that if I tweak a few things I might have a shot at the podium.

“I have not been in the sport for a long time but I also don’t have a long career ahead, so I can’t just passively learn,” she adds. “I will do everything I can to get results. The world champs next year look punchy, and Tokyo 2020 is on the radar. They are big goals to say out loud but, like the rest of the peloton, these objectives will be my driving ambitions in every training session.”

Now that Chapman has made a name for herself, she does not intend to be forgotten any time soon.

“I intend to win races next year.”