How did you get into cycling? and when did you decide you wanted to go pro?
I got into cycling way back when I was 13 at school. British Cycling Talent Team came to my school to do some testing, and I did it because I was a sporty girl and wanted to miss maths…. I got through all the testing and made it onto the Talent Team, and from there I haven’t looked back. I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m a pro – I mean I’m still juggling uni and a part time job and my training, but I knew I wanted to put all my effort into my racing when I moved to Horizon Fitness last year. I finally was the happiest I’ve ever been on the bike and really now want continue feeling that way.
What are you studying at university? And how does it work, juggling all those parts of your life?
I am at Northumbria University in Newcastle, studying Sport, Exercise and Nutrition.
I’ve always been used to juggling school and training. Sometimes I’d definitely like a few more hours in my days, and a times you have to maybe put training on the back seat for a bit to get up to speed with studies…. but I’m doing my best and that’s all I can do I suppose. I think if I was full time I’d get too bored, I like to have something else to do.
So you rode with Horizon last season – what was your most memorable moment?
Last year was a massive learning year for me, it was my first full season of just road racing, as all the previous years I’ve done mountain biking. It was all memorable but probably my most memorable moment was my ride on stage 3 of the tour of Limousin. With all my trouble with knee injury last year, this was the first race I really showed what I could do and on one of the toughest stages and stayed with the front of the race until around 20k before the finish…. this doesn’t sound much, but for me it was such an amazing feeling and showed me what level I can be at.
What are your hopes for 2011?
I’ve never been great at setting goals for myself, as I hate to disappoint people and myself… but I just want to keep progressing and moving forward in road racing, to have every day like that stage 3 of the Tour of Limousin would be a massive hope. I want people to look at me and think “uh oh, Annie Simpson’s here” instead of just being another rider making up numbers.
Do you think you’ll stay with road, or go back to Mountain Bike? What do you like about both kinds of riding?
I do love the mud and technical side of mtbing – you can’t beat just being alone in a forest on some twisty single track, and at times yes, I miss it, but there weren’t many races and my time as a mtber I felt a lot of pressure from the Olympic Development Programme and myself, and ultimately my love for it just disappeared.
I love road because it’s fast and furious, especially abroad, and I have my team around me, not all eyes are on you and if your having a bad day you can still contribute. I’m thinking a happy medium for me would be cyclocross, but we shall see.
So for training, do you ride MTB or just road? What would be your favourite training day?
Well, with all the snow we had recently I did dust off my beautiful pride of joy that is my mountain bike and that was so fun… but mostly its just road for me. Favourite training day would definitely be meeting all the guys at home in Yorkshire, doing a long hilly ride in the Dales and ending up in a cafe. I’m lucky I have a lot of great people to train with at home, they push me to train hard but look after me too. Think its because I’m usually the only girl!
Do you use that to your advantage? eg, do you make them fix your punctures, & then destroy them on the climbs?
They are all very good riders, some riding the Premier Calendar events in the UK, so I’m not able to do any destroying on climbs unfortunately….. but fixing punctures YES! I’d take too long anyway, and they get impatient!
What’s your favourite kind of racing? And if you could win any race, which would it be?
I’m still unsure what my favourite type of racing is…. probably a race with large laps or point to point like in a tour…. Lap boards with loads of laps on tend to crack me! I do love hills when I’m feeling fit, and the descents after I love too, as I like to think of my self as a fearless descender.
If I could win any race, I’m going to say women’s Tour of Flanders – I love it! The cobbles are insanely hard but that’s one race I would love to win!
What’s your favourite bit of cycling kit/stuff/equipment?
My favourite bit of cycling kit, is still my mountain bike, the whole thing is just carbon, and colour co-ordinated, and it has amazing white Mavic wheels. I think I just like to look flash if I’m honest, so I care more about the kit I wear…. I like to look shiny!! Look good to be good and all that!
So is it all shiny sunnies and clean white socks?
Yes haha, I’m afraid that’s what happens when you get sponsored by Oakley and Sidi! To be honest I’ve been very lucky, I have always had some sort of sponsorship ever since I started, which I’m beyond grateful for, because cycling is an expensive sport and there is no way my student loan could pay for the stuff I need. But you still can’t beat the feeling of getting new goodies each year, I still get all excited and parade up and down in it for Sandie (my mum)
What’s been the most stupid/embarrassing thing that’s happened to you on the bike?
One memorable time for me was when I was on a mountain bike training camp in the Peak District one year, and the guys dared me to ride this home-made northshore section. Me being me, I was like “yeah bring it on” and I completely fell off it and face planted it, and it was a good metre high! I was the centre of jokes for the remainder of the camp. My pride was well and truly dented! Along with my head
I hear you had a dramatic trip to Oudenaarde last year…
I’m not great on trains! So going from Newcastle to Oudenaarde was a big ask! I got on the wrong train from Newcastle for starts which was an epic fail…. then the drama occurred when I got to Brussels knowing I only had 8 minutes to find my connecting train! It was middle of night, so there was no one to ask, and I got completely lost! I panicked, broke down into tear and rang my Belgian friend Stef who I had met in summer, and he quickly got on the internet and found the platform I needed to be on… he was my hero!!! And I made it just as the train was pulling up.
Then I get to Oudenaarde and Stef and Helen just laughed at me! I’d rather drive to Belgium any day!
So, turning the tables… what’s the truth about Helen and Stef? How was it, being part of their Belgian family?
A summer with them was ‘interesting’. Lived with them for most of the summer then went to the Alps with them for 2 weeks. As much as I’d love to embarrass them and dish some real dirt, I have none. They really are the loveliest most supportive Belgian family I could ask for. I always look forward to staying with them, they make me so welcome and the banter is pretty good too! I think its them putting up with me that’s the struggle! But they seem to do its so well, or are bloody good actors!
You make cycling sound lots of fun – could you do it without that kind of sociable side?
Banter helps a lot! I’m definitely one for messing around with the lads having a joke, it just makes training fun! And why do it if it’s not fun? It’s not like women are being paid bundles to do it. I train much better when I’m in the company of great people and I’m happy! Its not all about the social side of it but it definitely helps a lot!
What makes you angry?
Lots of things really, normally inconsiderate people, selfish people, and people that complain about things but have not wish to change things. I also get pretty angry at myself when I don’t do things to the best of my ability. Training always calms me down though.
How would your team-mates describe you?
I don’t really know! I’d say I’m good for keeping morale high, the ‘joker’ maybe.
If you could be on tv, what programme would you be in?
Probably Friends, because they all so happy and funny. or 90210, because they live on that amazing beach and I’d quite like a ‘surfer boy’ boyfriend
What sort of character would you be in 90210? It’s all a bit high drama – would you have mad storylines, or be someone standing around (with your hot surfer boyf) laughing at it all?
No, I don’t like drama at all! Yeah, just a hot surfer boyf really, and the partying, and the tan! I’d definitely like to be an extra in the background
Do you have any guilty pleasures? Apart from awful tv, of course!
I do love a good cry at a sad film. I have my list of films that can make me cry at the thought of them… don’t like to admit it though, not the sort of person who likes to show weakness! And yeah, awful tv is right up there, Americas Next Top Model, The Hills, Teen Mom, all that MTV crap, I love it!
Do you support any charities – and if so, which, and why?
I don’t support any one particular charity, but I enjoy taking part in any charity bike rides I can get to. A few months ago me and my uni friends rode the Chemo Colomba classic in North Yorkshire, such a savage ride for such a great cause, and I’m hoping to do a similar ride for Cyclist with Cancer in May
If you only had £20 left in the world, what would you spend it on?
Cake, Chocolate and Sweets! Stef will cringe at this, as my addiction for all things bad for me really needs controlling at times, but I really do love cake! Id bake it too, I love attempting baking even if it usually goes kind of pear shaped!
Me and my friends at uni love to bake, and usually when we in the middle of revising or an assignment we attempt to bake cookies, but with only things we have in the house (as it would be far to much effort to walk to a shop) These always turn out horrendously, especially when you burn them to the baking tray and can’t get them off so have to throw away they tray too. We are usually pretty good though! We do love making a nice healthy meal…was salmon last night
What inspires you – on and off the bike?
Inspiration is always a hard question, but Im inspired by the people I know, like Lizzie Armistead and my Belgian mum Helen, just normal, down to earth friends of mine that completely rule on a bike but without letting it go to their heads. I respect that, and that’s how I want to be. And off the bike I have no real inspiration, just got to see where life takes me and as I always say ‘What will be, will be’