We caught up with her at the Halfords Bike Show in London and asked her for some tips on how women can get the most of the sport…
Invest in some good kit
“You want to be able to focus on the effort rather than how comfortable you feel, so invest in some good shorts for training in to start with! I’m not sure how you triathletes do it with the thinner shorts but if you are spending hours out training definitely get comfortable and invest in some good kit.
In the winter especially, a good windproof jacket that fits well can make a big difference, as your not going to enjoy your ride if you feel cold or uncomfortable from having poor fitting kit.
In my career probably one of the biggest things that changed was the improvement in technology with kit, it actually works now and does either keep you cool or warm. My mum actually used to make my cycling shorts for me as they didn’t make them in the right size at the time for teenage girls, and I used to borrow my dad’s woolly socks and pull them up over my knees!
Rope your pals in
Cycling is a social sport, obviously if you need to do a specific effort then you sometimes have to go it alone, but going out with a group of pals or getting involved with a cycling club can make all the difference.
You’ll improve your bike handling skills and you won’t get bored, plus it’s great to ride with people who are better than you –even if you can’t sit at the front you can go in the slipstream and just get a bit more out of yourself that you would on your own.
When you bonk it’s horrible!
It’s so important that you’re prepared nutritionally for the distance you’re riding, and a lot of people wait too long before they eat which can make the end of your ride unpleasant. When you hit the wall it is horrible, a can of coke and a chocolate bar from the service station will get you home but it’s not ideal, so it’s essential to prepare some snacks before you go out.
Having a strategy and planning is important, so making your own snacks or even preparing what you would eat in a race is always useful, because you shouldn’t try anything new for the first time when you’re racing. And keep an eye on your watch or computer, so you know when you need to eat or drink something according to what strategy you’ve set out for yourself.
Being disciplined and remembering to take on fuel at scheduled times will make your training so much more enjoyable and manageable – if you’re uncomfortable and hit a wall it’s hideous!
My dad always said…
…when you start cycle training it takes around 12 months to actually get proper enjoyment out of it. That first 12 months is a bit of a battle because you’re still learning the sport and building your skills. But when you get there it’s so great, you’re comfortable with the distances and the pace you’re doing and have that feeling of flying along, that’s when it becomes absolutely addictive!
It sounds a bit strange to start a sport knowing full well that it’s going to be hard and you will hate it sometimes, but you just have to strive towards that feeling of floating along, and you’ll never want to give up then!
My experience of seeing people out on the roads…
…has changed dramatically since I started training at the elite level, I think I see ten times as many people out training on the roads at the weekend nowadays – and lots of ladies as well! I remember when I used to go out with my dad it was a really special day if I saw another woman out cycling, I’d point it out and be totally surprised!
I had to race with the boys because there wasn’t enough women to create our own races. When I started out on the GB sprint team I was one of the only women, now it’s pretty much a 50/50 split which is awesome.