She is probably one of Australia’s hardest working coaches and arguably the most pivotal in growing the nations talent pool of cyclists.

Her hard work is most visible in the momentum of female cycling in this country over the past 20 years where she personally experienced the pathways of being an elite cyclist through to delivering of state and national programs.

Women’s cycling in Australia at a recreational and elite level is at an all time participation high and I have no doubt that women like Donna have helped play an integral role in this.

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We hope you enjoy our video and this interview, and find out more about this generous hearted woman and most importantly I do hope you can inspiration and motivation to be as awesome as you can be and get swept away by Donna’s enthusiasm for life!

Donna, since asking you to be a feature on Ride Like A Girl, I have been racking my brains on how I came to start attending your Ergo classes back in 2006 but I am glad I did.

It is often quoted that we don't think our small actions can make a difference to this world, but as I have gotten to know you over the many years of great highs and great lows, I feel this quote describes best how you live your life,

“It's the action, not the fruit of the action, that's important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there'll be any fruit. But that doesn't mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.”

― Mahatma Gandhi

You are definitely one of the worlds 'givers' in everything you do and it really is Gods gift you are living out as a coach...but there is much history to understand first. (finish intro)

tour medals

Lets get stuck into some of the nuts and bolts history Donna.

Where were you born?

Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

...and if you don't mind us asking, when? June 3, 1959 (OUCH!)

How would you describe your childhood?

I grew up in a loving family environment – we had a summer cottage at the beach and my younger years were filled with amazing times spent with family.

What sort of mischief did you get up to?

As the youngest of 4 kids I watched how far my older siblings went before they got into trouble with my parents. I then applied that principle to my behaviour so I could push the boundaries without stepping over them. It didn’t work all the time but it did work often enough.

How many brothers/sisters do you have?

My oldest sister Gail passed away 10 years ago (she was 10 years older than me). My sister Karen (8 years older) and brother Danny (2 years older) both live in Canada.

How about school life?

Spent 6 years @ Dalhousie University (Bachelor of Physical Education and Master of Science)

What were your dreams and ambitions?

I always knew I wanted to be a PE teacher – just finessed it into coaching later in life.

Now I really have no idea how you came to live in Australia...would you share with us the story of how you came to be here and not Canada?

I came to Australia to do my Ph D with someone at Qld Uni.

Just how did you find cycling as 'your thing' and how would you describe your rise to become one of the first female cyclists from Australia to race in Europe?

I was a runner but swapped to cycling when rehabbing from stress fractures in my feet (after doing Gold Coast marathon). Loved cycling so much I stuck with it.

How did the opportunity arise for you to race the women’s Tour de France in 1986?

I was named in the Australian team – here were no trade teams or pro teams back then – all teams were representing their country.

Crazy groundbreaking times, women racing a trimmed down version of the mens Tour de France.

I'd love to hear how you remember this experience, all the elements, from excitement through to sheer exhaustion.  Donna it must have been sooo amazing!  How do you remember it?


Amazing – the crowds for the mountain stages were just out of this world. Racing on the Champs Elysee was unbelievable. As tired as you were every day was like a dream come true.

You didn't retire from pro cycling until 1992, when you reflect back, can you recall the experiences that totally made you and shaped you into the motivating and knowledgeable coach you are today?

I have always coached even in my high school days (started in grade 10) – one of the driving factors is helping cyclists/athletes learn and grown, to reach their potential. My PE teacher in junior high school (grades 7-9) inspired me greatly – he was such a motivator that I dreamed of doing the same.

What are the events, results, experiences you are most proud of?

I find that hard to answer in that I get as much satisfaction from helping someone win a state title or NRS race as helping someone win a world title – it is the journey that counts.

I know you like to understate your achievements, and of course, you are just one person in the team that works towards goals and achieves them, but if you could indulge for a moment or two, we would love to hear about your coaching highlights.

The answer lies in the journey – it is such a buzz to set a plan in place then watch the plan be executed. That could be for a season plan or for a single race – just so cool to share the joy of the journey. To help athletes realise what they can do, what they can achieve. Having said that there are times when a plan doesn’t pan out and you need to change things mid race or mid season. My coaching philosophy is to educate athletes so they can make vital decisions in the heat of battle so to speak – know what tactics to employ, know when they need a rest day instead of a hard training day.

donna memories

Donna, you are truly generous and have been so even in 2011, the unthinkable occurred when you lost your son Jono.
Its at a time in your life where your business in booming, coaching is full throttle and you are kicking goals.
The reality check time bomb pops up in our lives without warning and can be cruel and yet here you are today, living proof that you can survive.

Is it possible to share, even briefly, how you are coping today, 4 years onwards.

It is very hard to share my feelings on Jono, it is something that hurts so badly that I keep it private. That is what works for me. I would give my life to allow him to be alive still. The hole in my heart will never heal. I live each day to honour his memory. I am so fortunate to be able to work in an environment which surrounds me with positive and motivated people. I cannot change what happened but I can control how I go forward – to stop living would not honour Jono. He would be so disappointed in me. So I choose to devote myself to helping people in their journey as an athlete and as a person. Hopefully that helps them and it certainly helps me keep going.

jess and donna

Donna, I can only but imagine the pain from losing Jono at such a young age, and yet, you continue to keep giving.  There is such energy and light in you and still so much to give.

Its 2015, right now you are most probably Australia's most inspirational cycling coach.
You told me once when working with people that,

"a coach may have many athletes but an athlete may only ever have one coach."

I read this as meaning that in life when we hold positions of power, we must be very sensitive to the needs of those who are seeking our guidance for our influence may ruin them and their aspirations forever.

Thanks Donna for sharing your inner thoughts and experiences with us.

On a lighthearted note …Now that you are all mature and knowledgeable with your life experience building up more and more each year, what do you want to do when you grow up?

We had a family saying ... “you’ll be silly when you grow up Donna...but don’t worry cuz you’ll never grown up!’ I plan to stick with that philosophy.

Watch the whole extended interview.