How did you start cycling, and when did you realise you could go pro?
I started riding when I was very little. My dad loved cycling, so I was shoved on the back of a tandem and made to pedal, but I did love it and carried on. When I was 14 years old I started racing, and the rest is history. I didn’t really know I could be a pro until I was really – you just take every race as it comes, and when you start to get results consistently you get more opportunities for exciting things – and before you know it you’ve been a pro for years!!
You’re primarily a Cyclocrosser, but why did you get involved with Horizon? or did you not have a choice, with Stef being the DS?
I used to race on the road too for 3 seasons. I rode all the World Cups and major stage races, I won the King of the Mountains jersey in Tour de Bretagne for 2 years and had consistently top 10 results in point 2 races and top 20s in point 1 races, but when it came to World Cups, even when I was flying, I struggled to get that break-through result, so I reduced the road and concentrated solely on cross.
Horizon is a great chance for me to drop in and out of the road racing to suit the team and my training and racing needs. I can bring some experience to the team having ridden pretty much every race on the calendar, and I know how to help the team to get the best result we can. Plus road is prefect preparation for the winter
A couple of the other riders have described your role either as a surrogate mother, or taking the micky out of them a lot – but what would you say your role will be this year?
Is that not what mothers do? Pretty much the same I would imagine, and I reckon I could name the riders that said I take the piss too!!
I will bury myself for the team leader, and I hope people respect that, and in turn would learn to do the same for other people on the team. There’s a lot of talent on the team and they are all young, so for them the learning curve is steep – but with guidance is so much easier
So you’ll take the mick when they’re having a good time (or need to be cheered up), and work your backside off for them when they need it?
Ha ha, yeah I think so!! I hope I don’t offend any of them – equally I can take my fair share of abuse too, and I don’t think they are scared to give it back
If readers are the new to the team, can you give us mini descriptions of some of the riders? Who should we watch out for?
Well currently there’s some big talk going around but we shall see on the Mpire training camp in April!! Having said that Simo [Annie Simpson] has had a solid winter of training, so I’m expecting her to step it up another level this season, Sarah is always on fire and Jess was an incredible talent when she was racing a couple of years ago so I don’t see why she cannot be better this season, with the strength you naturally gain with age.
Having said that all the girls are good and it’s difficult to pick out the extra ones. It’s like hmm, Jo – World Champion; Sarah – World and Olympic champion; Dani – multiple national champion; Claire – hard core training monster; Jess – quality young talent, already had good results in UCI races; Penny – super climber;Simo – legend!
Ella – great result in Ster Zeeland TT win 2years ago; Britt Jochems – without illness was pegged to be the next Marianne Vos in cross; Nancy – 48kg Mexican climber, I expect a lot; Hannah – Welsh champion;Ruby – again junior national champion
If the team can get them selves together as a team, then watch out! I think we showed in Stoke that our team work was perfect and we dominated the race. If we can ride that well together in the next level up, it will be an exciting year for the team.
What was your most memorable moment, riding with Horizon last season?
For me it was Stoke, I killed myself and the whole team just functioned, Stef told us before the race to be at the front and work together, we didn’t communicate further in the race, but we were at the front, a rider attacked we got them back and straight away Dani attacked, then together we all marked the moves, it just went like clockwork
And it showed in the results!
Yeah, everyone in the race can say, hand on heart, Dani won because they played their part in the race to ensure she stayed away, and Dani put her heart and soul into staying away. It’s the kind of team tactics Cervélo could play in the UCI races
Did you learn from the other riders last year yourself?
Yeah, of course, you always learn stuff, when you stop taking in stuff around you, you stop progressing as a rider, there is no one in the world that can’t improve themselves in some way. Maybe Nelson Mandela, or Mother Teresa, but she doesn’t count, she’s dead
So what’s the biggest thing you learned – and from who?
One big lesson – never train alone with Sarah “I ride every where even in the Pyrenees at 30kph minimum speed” Storey!!
Never to underestimate someone as people will rise to a challenge and out perform themselves when you least expect it, ie Penny on the last day of Albstadt – amazing ride.
When Simo goes through a strop it’s ok to gently rib her, ‘cause she’s not really angry, just expressing herself, ha ha ha!!
I don’t know if it’s a lesson, but Sarah is pretty inspirational, especially her performance in Tour de Limousin, then Simo was also amazing on the last day too. I was walking back from dinner one night and [Belgian cyclist] Liesbet de Vocht stopped me and said “the girl in the World Champs jersey, what is she World Champion for?” And I said she is Paracycling pursuit, road and TT champ and multiple Olympic champ in cycling and swimming. She looked at the other Belgian national team girls and said “what’s wrong with her?” I said she only has one hand
Again they looked at each other, and all said they hadn’t noticed, followed by holy shit how does she ride all the dodgy descents in this race, that’s crazy I couldn’t do that!! ha ha
I think the next day she got a lot more respect and a little less peloton bullying from them at least!
Looking at your own riding, what’s been your best result in your career? Which are you proudest of?
Koppenberg [cyclocross race that includes the famous Koppenberg climb on each lap]
Does your cobble trophy still make you smile when you look at it?
Yeah, I cleaned the sitting room today and dusted it smiling!
What are your long-term cycling ambitions?
It’s got to be win cross Worlds. It’s a tough ambition and every year I get better, and so do five other people around me, but if I don’t aim that high, there is no point in racing
Non-cycling no idea. Do people have goals in life? Or isn’t it just a journey? My goal is to enjoy the journey!!
What helps you enjoy it? It’s a hard life, being a cyclist, especially doing cross, without the support of British Cycling etc. What makes your life easier/more fun?
We survive! But you don’t need money to be happy and enjoy life. I get to train in amazing places, in great and rubbish weather, but every day I train in the sun or warmth, or get a new peak power record, or just get a buzz from that tired nailed feeling you get after a great training ride, it’s worth it. Plus it’s not a bad life, when in January I went from Portugal to England to France to Holland to Belgium to Germany and back to Belgium in the same month.
Plus how many people who have been married for 7 years can say they get to spend nearly 24 hours a day with their spouse and still love them?
What’s the best & worst things abut being married to your DS?
Well, best thing is I have a race calendar in my bedroom ,and if I need anything, I know who to ask….ie…Stef haha!
Worst thing is you end up being a bit piggy in the middle occasionally, as I see all sides to races – equally, having said that, it’s also quite a good thing. Because I see both sides, I get the biggest picture and understand racing better because of it
What’s your favourite bit of cycling kit or equipment?
My Kona Major Jake. [cyclocross bike]….. mmmm, lovely! Oh and my CNP products, my Prendas kit. my power tap, my Challenge tyres, Dura brakes, and special SleepAthlete pillows to help me sleep!
Do you support any charities – and if so, which, and why?
World Bicycle Relief, our night at Look Mum No Hands! on the 3rd March has a charity auction/raffle with the proceeds going there. Only 134 dollars buys a bike for someone in Africa – that’s cool
How would your best friends/family describe you?
Ian [Field] said dull, boring, uninspiring and smelly. I’d like to think more along the lines of friendly and happy! Stef said generally absent, as I’ve lived abroad for so long, haha!
If you could be on tv/in a film, what programme/film would you be in?
Oh, it would be all about me!! So a film about my life, starring probably someone who looks like me like, say Keira Knightly, ha ha. And I would be World Champion. Although if Keira Knightly was lead, ole Stef would insist on playing himself in the movie
Who do you think SHOULD play Stef?
Johnny Depp, although he may have to play Jamie [Burrow, who runs the Mpire Cycling Centre in Italy] as they look way too similar, it’s scary.
If you only had €20 left in the world, what would you do with it?
What do you mean “if” i only had 20euros left!!! That’s every week, haha
OK, how about if you found a €20 note, what would you do?
I would buy coffee for my friends at a nice cafe and just hang out. Probably in Italy, as cappucino is only 1.50 euros there!