Sunday 30 April 2017

52 Cycling Voices - 10: Tracy Moseley

I have interviewed a number of professional cycle racers over the years and it has been great to hear their stories. One person I had not managed to meet was champion downhill mountain-biker Tracy Moseley. I was keen to meet her, particularly as her name was regularly being mentioned by other mountain bikers who mentioned her as their inspiration to push themselves in mountain biking. And it's no surprise that people wanted to emulate Tracy. She was at the top of her game for 20 years, racing downhill and enduro mountain biking events. In 2010 she was crowned World Downhill Mountain bike champion, and subsequent to that she gained world titles in Enduro mountain biking events too. I finally got to meet this member of the downhill and enduro mountain biking royal family at the London Bike Show earlier this year, and she talked about how she would like to encourage girls into racing downhill.

Tracy Moseley, aged 38

From: Malvern, Worcestershire

4-time World MTB Champion, Downhill & Enduro & coach at TMO Racing

“I grew up on my parents’ dairy farm in Malvern, so we had that freedom of the outdoors to ride and play and make tracks in the woods.

It was my brother, Ed who inspired me to do downhill racing. He’s two years older than me and started doing cross country racing when he was about 15 or 16. So it was more about following him, and riding with his friends. 

Ed helped me out so much at the start and he was the one who said, “You know what Tracy? You need to have a go at racing. You can ride better than all the girls I’ve seen and most of the boys I ride with!” So he was the one who pushed me and encouraged me, and in the first few years he was a massive help. 

My classmates and teachers didn’t really understand what I was doing but I think they thought it was quite cool. Certainly the schools were quite encouraging of me doing something at quite a high level. Even now, I get the odd facebook message from my classmates saying “I can’t believe you’re doing this after all these years later!”

Ed still rides lots as well and we hope to do some kids’ coaching camps with my brother and my husband. So it’s going to be a family unit, which is great to still be able to share that fun on the bike with him, nearly 30 years later.

I still live in Malvern, so it feels like I haven’t actually gone very far. I’ve just been away to uni and then travelled so much with the racing. Even my brother still lives there. We’ve converted some of the old farm buildings and we’ve both got our own little place.
It’s been a great base to have. We’ve got great riding locally both on-road and off-road. I love going to our local trails and our local club, Malvern Cycle Sport has been great. At the moment I don’t see any need to go anywhere else!

Malvern doesn’t really have anything technical in terms of downhill, but we can be in Wales within an hour. We can easily get to Bristol, and London is less than two hours away. So we’re in a nice location that is central to get to places.

My first world downhill mountain bike championship title came in 2010, after many years of trying, and then after that I had a good spell of titles for the last few years of my career, with three world enduro titles too.

In a way gaining my first title was a huge amount of relief. I’d spent 10 years or more with that goal, and then I suddenly achieve it and I’m like – now what? I’d sacrificed so much for my training - lifestyle, friends, family - everything to try and achieve that goal.

So winning that title led me to carry on and try a new challenge – which is where the enduro biking came in. It was a new discipline, I had to get fitter, lose weight, and become an all-round athlete rather than just a downhill focused athlete. That gave me that next step kind of feeling of trying to achieve something else, hence the enduro titles. Then when I achieved that I wanted to try and find that next thing. I still race and challenge myself, though not at elite level.

I did the Snow Bike Festival in Gstaad at the end of January this year, and then I went straight from minus 11 degrees to plus 40 degrees, and did the Andes Pacifico, a five-day enduro in Chile.  It was a kind of adventure race where we were high, in the Andes Mountains for the first three days and then descended towards the sea. There was a lot of time on the bike, with three or four timed stages of 8-10 minutes each day.  It was really raw terrain, that wasn’t really well marked and needed a bit of navigating. It was a really good adventure.

I also took part in this year's national cyclo cross championships in Bradford. I’d been supporting a few youngsters in my local cycling club, Malvern Cycle Sport, and we went up to help in the pits and the bike washing, so I thought I might as well enter the race if I’m up there!  It was very slippery, I was super out of shape and I suffered. It hurt a lot but I just pushed hard, and I was happy with where I finished, considering.

I am always looking for the next crazy challenge. Hopefully one day I will be able to stop those desires!

When I started racing downhill I looked up to Anne Caroline Chausson, who was at that time, the 10-time world mountain bike champion. She’s always been quite introverted, but an absolutely amazing bike rider. And that, for me was always the most important thing. I didn’t want to be this huge celebrity; I wanted to be known for my riding and how good my riding was, and that was the thing I really admired about her. She could keep up with the guys, she was as stylish as the guys, and she didn’t shout about it. She just got on with it. 

Often these days you get many many characters that can talk a good bike race but actually can they do it themselves? I’ve always liked that side of making sure that your riding does the talking for you and Anne Caroline Chausson did that really well.

It’s quite cool and really nice of Rachel Atherton and Manon Carpenter to say that they looked up to me, and it makes me take account of what I have done in the past. It feels good to know that I have done something to help the next generation. Rach was someone I raced against, and racing against her kept the level high and inspired me to raise my game. 

It’s great to see what she’s gone on to achieve in the downhill world, and again hopefully she’ll be an inspiration for the next batch of racers and we will continue to have a great nation of downhill riders. But yeah, it’s certainly really nice to realise that they looked up to me and it’s helped them in their career, for sure.

I stopped racing professionally in 2015, though I am not fully retired from racing. I didn’t really want to use the word “retire” because it felt like there was a definite end. I’ve got that kind of gene, that kind of thing that makes me want to have the drive to compete so I’m still going to be racing a little bit, but just not at world series level.

This has given me more chance to do other things rather than just be focused on training for those few events that make up the World Series. So change of direction would be a way to describe it, rather than retiring – it’s not as though people aren’t going to see me out racing again.

Last year I did a couple of races, this year I’m doing a few less races and am doing more coaching, more talks, more conferences doing work with the sponsors. Yeah, it’s been nice to slowly wean myself off professional racing. I think I would have struggled to suddenly stop, given I have spent my entire life since I finished uni just racing bikes.

Nowadays I am involved in coaching and developing young riders. The good thing about that is that it still gets me to races, so I go to events with the young girls. I’ve got two girls that I sponsor in downhill and cross-country with my TMO Racing grass roots training programme, and I’ve been getting them to do some enduro. They’re also racing cyclo cross and road, so they’re doing a bit of everything. I’m a huge advocate of trying to make sure, especially when you’re young, as you definitely broaden your riding. You don’t just focus on one discipline, as I think you can gain so much from different skills in the different disciplines.

I was doing a bit of work with British Cycling and their cross-country programme, working with the girls in that squad, trying to improve their technical skills and cross-country racing. I do a little bit of work with my own cycling club, Malvern Cycle Sport, which is a really active club that has been running kids’ training camps.

I really enjoy mentoring the next generation. There are plenty of people out there coaching adults, but I really feel like we still need to keep encouraging, certainly on the mountain biking side, the next great champions of our country.It would be great if I could help bring in more kids to the sport and see where we go from that. That’s the plan.

Cross-country is the only mountain-biking discipline that gets any funding from British Cycling, as it is an Olympic sport. The disciplines that I enjoy – downhill, gravity-assisted things – are very much dependent on clubs or the parents of those kids. There’s no system for that so that’s where I really want to put my effort.

There are so many kids out there that aren’t going to make it in that very select programme that British Cycling creates and then the kids get put off racing for life, which is a shame. Basically, you don’t have to be an Olympic champion to enjoy racing your bike. And that’s the key thing for me – to make sure that kids can still have that love for cycling and they don’t get put off because they haven’t made that cut-throat world of high-level racing.

Downhill racing has been talked about as possibly becoming an Olympic sport but I don’t know if it ever would. At the moment it is a grass roots underground sport, and in many ways that’s what a lot of people like about it. If Olympic funding comes in it will become a proper structured programme, with people being selected. It would change the atmosphere of the sport a lot. And I’m not sure if it would be for the better or not.

Cycling is definitely getting more mainstream. It’s just that for mountain biking it’s always going to be a struggle when we don’t have the TV coverage. Rachel (Atherton) has been fortunate with the Red Bull sponsorship as they have put so much backing into her, and helped to push the sport and make sure the press know what’s going on. We’re probably the most dominant downhill mountain biking nation in the world, with world champions in the men, women, and junior categories, yet most people in the general public would never know, which is a shame when you consider what we’ve achieved.

Generally, when there’s a downhill race men’s and women’s races get featured equally. However, salary wise women are still falling behind  then men, but I think that comes down to the fact that there are so few girls racing downhill compared to the men, and that makes it hard for bike companies to justify paying them the same. I still feel that we get a great opportunity as females within our sport and certainly when you get to the top of your sport. 

There are only about 15 or 20 girls racing downhill at world series level, whereas there are over a hundred guys competing at those levels. So the thing for me is I’d love to see more girls taking part. If we can get our field to be equally as competitive as the men’s then we can be in a place where we can ask for equality in everything. We just need more girls doing it – we need the numbers. And that will hopefully bring more support and more opportunities.

I have made a lot of friends through cycling. I feel like I could travel the world now and pretty much be able to visit someone I have met through mountain biking almost anywhere in the world. Just that common bond of the love for riding a bike is amazing – where it takes you, the people you meet – it’s absolutely incredible. Every race I do – even the one I did in Chile – I meet new people and I get new contacts and it’s a lovely kind of extended family, seeing people I know everywhere I go.

Initially, cycling was something I was good at – I was competitive, and I liked to win. I never would have expected to still have a career in racing a mountain bike 20 years after I left school. It was never planned; it just evolved that way and it’s been amazing.

As I’ve got older my interests have changed, and cycling has now become so much more than just competing, and if I never raced again it wouldn’t matter – the fact that I could ride my bike is the more important thing

The places that cycling takes you, the feeling that you get from being free to have your own mode of transport and the achievement of getting from here to the top of a hill, looking down, and thinking, “I did that all with my own leg power” is quite cool. 

There are health benefits, it’s a sustainable way of seeing places you would never see on foot or by car, so it’s a lifestyle for me now for sure, and I think it’ll be with me forever.”

Tracy was recently interviewed on a special cycling edition of Woman's Hour on BBC Radio 4
This is the podcast to the show       Twitter: @tracy_moseley   Instagram: tracy_moseley            

Other Cycling Voices

Monday 24 April 2017

Book Review: Steadfast - Lizzie Armitstead

I've just finished reading the new autobiography of Lizzie Deignan, Steadfast, sent to me by the publishers, Blink Publishing, and have found it an interesting read.

The 284-page hardback, co-written with Guardian sports writer, William Fotheringham takes you through Lizzie's trajectory from all-round sporty schoolgirl in Otley, to World Road Race Champion living in Monaco.

Immediately you start reading, the book launches into the appeal hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport against Deignan's suspension from competing, following three "whereabouts" violations.

You get a sense of the anxiety that Deignan was suffering during that period, which was practically on the eve of the road race at the Rio Olympics. It's a wonder she was in a mental state to take the startline after she was cleared of the anti-doping rule violation.

Deignan's statement, originally posted on Twitter following her exoneration is included in the appendix. Also in the book, Deignan gives an explanation of how she arrived in the position of staring down the barrel of a ban that would lead to her missing the Rio Olympics. While there is detail to what she says, the thing that strikes me is how critical Deignan is of the whereabouts system, and how flawed she finds it. She speaks plaintively of how only a small proportion of elite women riders are regularly tested, and a system that is meant to maintain clean racing, ends up targeting those who do their utmost to race clean.

The London 2012 Olympic Silver medallist talks about a number of instances where it is clear that the women's road racing teams are not as well catered to by British Cycling as the men's squads. This was very much highlighted during 2015 World RR Championships and to a degree during the London 2012 Olympics women's time trial event. The discrepancy is quite stark, though for many, it may not be a massive revelation particularly if you have read Nicole Cooke's autobiography.

However, Deignan's love for cycling, particularly with her Boels Dolmans team-mates and other internationals in the women's peloton, plus her rides around the Alpes-Maritimes, comes through. She doesn't seem to be bitter about her experiences when racing.

I was particularly keen to know what the atmosphere really was like at the time of the 2011 World Road Race Championships in Copenhagen. My recollection at the time was that there was quite a lot of friction over how much Nicole Cooke really was willing to ride for Deignan to secure the win at Copenhagen in 2011 [in which Deignan finished seventh after being caught up in a crash, and Cooke sprinted to fourth place] or in London 2012. But there wasn't much mentioned around the story, and things are played down in the book.

One thing that Deignan does clarify though, is the 2011 National Road Race Championships in which Cooke accused Deignan and her then Garmin-Cervelo team-mates of deliberately working together against her to help Deignan win.

I've only mentioned but a few of the aspects of Lizzie Deignan's story in Steadfast. Needless to say, it is a page-turner, which gives the reader an insight into the personality of the 2015 World Road Race Champion, and her determination to do things her way to achieve her goals. She is clearly driven, like all elite athletes.

But I like the fact that Deignan is well grounded and regularly refers to her Yorkshire girl roots and her penchant for a white Magnum ice cream - things that show underneath it all, Lizzie Deignan is just a down-to-earth girl telling her inspirational story.

Steadfast: My Story
Lizzie Armitstead
Published by: Bonnier Books/Blink Publishing
Hardback: £16.99

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Monday 17 April 2017

52 Cycling Voices - 9: Geraldine Glowinski

Geraldine is one quarter of a family that lives and breathes cycling (in between structural engineering, snowboarding, and surfing)! I got to known Geraldine when I started club cycling in 2002, and saw her at road races. Little did I know that she had only recently started cycling herself, back then! Yet Geraldine was always very welcoming and offered biking tips and advice. She's also been very helpful in assisting people who want to develop their cycling - be it accompanying youngsters from the local cycling club to races around the UK and beyond, or hosting the Rwandan Cycling team in her home. "Mummy G" has been an impressive figure in the London cycling community, getting out and encouraging others, even after her terrible road traffic accident, which could have put many people off cycling for good.

Geraldine Glowinski, aged 58

Lives: Sanderstead, Surrey

Accounts Director

I started cycling at the age of 36 after responding to a notice in a local paper to join a riding group for beginner women. I had never ridden a bike before. As a child, my brother being the only boy was given a bike, but I didn't get the same opportunity. 

Since my husband, Marek and two children Philip and Anna were besotted by cycling I felt I needed to see what the sport was all about. It was a case of ‘can't beat them so join them’, particularly as Philip and Anna were urging me to start cycling. Maybe if I didn't ride I would have become a bike widow.

My first outing was a seven-mile ride, stopping for tea and a Kit-Kat. My balance was terrible and I was very nervous of the traffic, but John Turnbull the ride organiser was so patient and amusing. I went home on a high. It was life-changing for me.

After some time, I started doing long rides with a group called the ‘Over The Hill Gang’, which goes out during the week in the lanes around Surrey and Kent. I met an inspiring woman, Ann Bath, who encouraged me to compete in a 10-mile hilly time trial. It was great. 

Then I did road racing, which was really tough. In my first race I couldn't breathe properly and suffered. I was so happy to have finished and to have been encouraged by other riders, that I repeated the experience and slowly improved and gained confidence. 

As well as that, I did a few track omniums and mountain bike races. I loved the skill, speed and reactions in racing, particularly on the track.

Cycling really is my sport. It's my means to escape from life's normal problems. It keeps me fit and active as well as having a like-minded community to call on. For me, cycling provides a social life, and an appreciation for the simple enjoyment of being outdoors.

As far as my family is concerned I know it has kept us close as we are interested in what each other is doing in the cycling world. We know many of the same people, talk the same talk - it’s great.
I must also highlight that we do have a life outside cycling, as we run a structural engineering consultancy and sometimes get involved with personal building projects. Both Philip and Marek are structural engineers, and I work in the company too.

It was Marek who encouraged the children to ride and race, as initially I didn’t know much about the sport. When watching them race it was always heart-stopping when I didn't see them go past at the moment I was expecting to see them. I would be thinking ‘What's happened to them?’ Even now, I hate watching the final sprint in a road race and always feel delighted they have finished an event without incident. Having said that, I had always wanted Philip and Anna to lead active outdoor lives, so it’s a case of ‘Be careful what you wish for!’

I feel I am an extremely lucky woman, because in 2005 I was knocked off my bike by a speeding car on a fast dual carriageway, the A217 in Surrey. I went over the bonnet and smashed the windscreen and missed a wooden stake by inches. My right leg was shattered, but the surgeons were fantastic and saved my leg by putting a titanium pin in.

After I recovered it took me six months to get back on a mountain bike as I didn't initially want to ride on the road. Thankfully I was protected, and helped by the cycling fraternity to get back into cycling again.

Climbing over the Galibier

Nowadays I tend to do long, challenging road and mountain bike cyclosportives, which give me so much satisfaction and allow me to go to different places and countries. One of my favourite places to ride is Mallorca. The roads, climbs, cafes, sun and company make for superb riding and fun.  I usually go there in May and am a Ride Leader on the Legros Training Camp.

My favourite bikes are my Argon 18 carbon road bike and my Trek Procaliber. When I ride the Argon it feels like I'm flying. The Procaliber is a fantastic bike to experience the challenges of mountain biking now that I'm in my fifties, and it makes me want to improve and up my game.

When I go out cycling I am never without my phone. As well as having it for emergencies, I use it to take photos to remind myself of the wonderful views, people and experiences I have on my rides.

Cycling has given me some unforgettable experiences. For instance, I did a nine-day cycling trip from Geneva to Nice (La Route des Grandes Alpes). The weather was atrocious, which made each day a challenge both climbing and descending the Alps. Three of us experienced climbing over a fresh avalanche on the Col du Galibier and lived to tell the tale.

Our family has also been supporting African cycling projects. The Africa Rising Racing team was instigated after the Rwanda Genocide to show that the various factions could work, train and live together, giving hope of re-uniting all the Rwandans after the most horrendous war crimes.

Cycling trip to Rwanda
We went to an auction to help raise funds for the team, and ended up bidding and winning a trip to Rwanda to cycle with some of the team riders. Marek and I went on the trip in January this year.

Also we were asked by Anna one evening, after we’d had a few gin and tonics, if we would host for two weeks four riders from the current team and their coach, so that they could race here. It was a great time and we were happy to be involved in helping these unspoilt lads gain their dreams of getting onto international sponsored teams.

Hosting Team Rwanda 
There are still cycling adventures I would like to have. It would be great to take a bike and a bivvy sleeping bag to cycle and sleep in the open air frequently. I would also like to hire an Italian castle for a month, invite cyclist friends to join us for rides, eating, and drinking - simple!

I would like to inspire other people to ride and enjoy cycling no matter what age they are. For anyone wanting to get into cycling, particularly an adult who may not know how to ride a bike, my advice is to be patient with yourself. Learn to walk before you can run. Join a cycling club that does beginner rides, listen to the advice they give, and enjoy the fellowship and tea-stops. 

Also, don't buy the cheapest bike as you'll have to upgrade very quickly!”

Sunday 9 April 2017

A jaunt around the White Rose County

I had said I would do it this year, and I managed to do so a couple of weeks ago - that is, to get up to Yorkshire. And it didn't rain!

The first part of my weekend was spent in the North York Moors, where I did some course reconnaissance of the route for the Yorkshire Lass Charity sportive, which takes place in August. I was keen to ride the full 103-mile route, as opposed to the 30-mile and 60-mile options, particularly as this recon will be for an article I'm writing for Cycling Weekly magazine. It was a nice ride, though I must say I did it over a couple of days as I didn't think I would be fit enough to do the whole thing before sunset!

Byland Abbey
In any case, riding the actual 103-mile sportive in one day is the to be saved for the day itself when you spin through the lanes against the clock with a group of other lycra-clad keenies haring down the road. A recon should be taken at a laid back pace, so you have time to enjoy the landscape and sample the local fare during a cafe stop or even at a pub lunch. That's my excuse for riding slowly, and I'm sticking to it!

So, I was treated to some of the best sights that North Yorkshire has to offer - Byland Abbey, the picturesque villages of Boroughbridge, Bishops Monkton and Topcliffe, lovely views of purple heather moorland, and the iconic White Horse Bank. With a gradient of 25% to get up the bank, I had no intention of riding up it - so I dutifully and thankfully followed the direction to ride around it. However, I still had to get up a couple of "easier" 16% options on Beacon Bank and Jerry Carr Bank later on!

White Horse Bank
Historically, the North York Moors have not tended to be visited by cyclists as much as other parts of Yorkshire, like the Dales and the Peak District. But in recent times, since the staging of the international Tour de Yorkshire stage race the profile of this area has been raised.

This year will be no exception when the race once again traces a route up through the Moors as it heads up to Scarborough from Bridlington with a detour up to Whitby and Robin Hood's Bay.

I hope to return to this area again to recce the Tour de Yorkshire route, and hopefully by the time the Yorkshire Lass sportive comes round, I will have been toughened up a little and will have lost some of my Southern softy ways!

The Strava recorded routes from the Yorkshire Lass Sportive

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

On the same weekend that I reconned the Yorkshire Lass Charity sportive I also met up with the good folks from Hull Thursday Club and went on a ride with them. This will also be a feature in a future issue of Cycling Weekly magazine.

Andy, snapping the lads from Hull Thursday Club
The photographer for the day, Andy Jones, and myself met with the guys and one lady at Skidby Windmill. Without much ado we did a spin through the lanes of the Yorkshire Wolds, with the main climbs being around the Nunburnholme area.

Initially I felt happy in the bunch with the guys and was able to hold my own. But just like with the professional cyclists in Wiggle High5, as soon as the road went uphill I got unceremoniously dropped.

They guys were friendly enough and waited for me at the top of the hill or at the junctions, but I still felt a little embarrassed by the fact, and I could feel myself turning into "fat journo who can write, but can't ride!" In fairness I was getting over a cold that had affected my lungs the previous week, but I didn't want to make any excuses. I was just slow!

The Wolds are definitely a good place to train. The hills are not particularly long like what I rode in Mallorca the previous week. Instead they are short and a little sharp, making them a little bit tougher than what you get on those long alpine climbs abroad. Hopefully I will return to the Wolds and this is something else that will make me stronger.

Cafe Velo, Beverley
Our ride was not mercilessly epic, and the lads said they were actually riding slower than usual (crikey)! So I was glad to get to the cafe stop, a very pleasant cycle cafe in Beverley, called Cafe Velo.

The place was decorated with cycling memorabilia from recently as well as from the times of the Milk Race 30 years ago. Gary, the owner had done a good job of decking out the place and making it appealing not just to cyclists, but also to non-cycling folks out in the pretty market squares of Beverley.

Andy and I were treated to some tasty sausage sandwiches and tea, which definitely hit the spot. We also heard lots of tales from the lads at Hull Thursday Club, a cycling club that has almost 110 years of history. There are no surviving members of the club from the time the club formed, but there was one 90-year old who was out on the club run and he seemed as spritely as ever, and probably faster than me up those hills! I almost wanted to check his birth certificate!

So there ended my pleasant Yorkshire weekend. I amassed quite a few good quality miles in my legs, and some interesting words for my article, which should hopefully amuse and entertain club members and other readers alike!

Strava record of the route I did with Hull Thursday Club:
Ride with Hull Thursday Club

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