Monday 8 August 2022

52 Cycling Voices - 34: Evie Richards

When speaking to mountain biker Evie Richards it's like a breath of fresh air, as I found when I interviewed her last year. Even though she is Britain's top female cross-country mountain biker she comes across as very modest and relaxed, with a well-balanced attitude to life. Having said that, when I spoke to her I found that things hadn't always been so easy-going for her, notably a few years ago when she suffered from disordered eating. Things have improved somewhat since then. She has fulfilled a dream of becoming an Olympian, when she competed in the Tokyo Olympics. She has since also become a World Champion, as well as Commonwealth Champion at the Games that took place on a course at Cannock Chase near Birmingham. Well done, Evie!

Evie Richards, aged 25

From: Great Malvern, Worcestershire

Occupation: Cross-country mountain bike racer

I always loved the Olympics. I just dreamt of being in the Olympics. It wasn’t necessarily cycling  when I was younger, that I wanted to get into. I just did every sport until I found one that I could go to the Olympics in. So for me it was the Olympians who inspired me – people like Jess Ennis, Tom Daley who were my true inspirations – or Jonny Wilkinson in rugby – we used to watch a lot of rugby, so it was …so for me it wasn’t until I started racing and I was racing world championships that ….I remember in my first world champs I sat on the side line and my friend was teaching me the names of all the riders. I never really watched cycling as a kid. So it wasn’t that I had an inspiring person in cycling. But now from me racing against different people and watching different races there are so many inspiring people. 

I got into cycling with my friends, and we used to ride around in the local hills. Local riders like Commonwealth Mountain Bike Champion Liam Killeen and World Downhill and Enduro Champion, Tracy Moseley (T-Mo Racing) would do coaching sessions.

Liam is the person who first helped me when I got into riding. He used to do efforts with me and friends on a Tuesday after school. On Thursday we would do Turbo in my friend’s garage and he would lead it for us. It’s funny because after four of five years of cycle racing I went back to him for coaching along with Matt Ellis, a GB coordinator. I also had Katy Curd as a coach. She's a retired downhill rider, and does all my technical coaching. Then there's Tracy. They are all people that I’ve grown up with, and they all live locally. So I feel lucky to have this team of people near to me. 

I feel like we’re probably freaks of nature around here in Malvern. I think from such a young age you don’t really go on the computer, you don’t really have a phone. If you do something you knock on someone’s door and you go up the hill and go adventuring or something. It’s quite cool. It’s like all the boys I went to nursery with are my best friends and if we wanted to see each other we’d just knock on the door and go on an adventure together. So I feel like we’ve always been brought up just being outside, and I feel that that’s probably had something to do with it. 

If you look at the men, like Tom (Pidcock) and Matthew (van der Poel) they can just do everything well. But for me, I prioritised the mountain bike because it was always my dream to go to the Olympics. I raced all the mountain bike races, and then I'd have a short break and use cyclocross races as training over winter. I never feel like I am going very well in the cyclocross races, but it is my favourite way to train. 

I love how crazy cyclocross racing is, and I do think I was born to do that discipline. I think for mountain biking I have to work a lot harder for it – all the skills don’t really come naturally, but I think I’m lucky that I am good in cold temperatures and I like the chaos of it, so I was pleased with my result at the World Cyclocross Championships in Oostende, where I finished 7th.

I love it so much. I think one year I would like to properly race it – be training for cross, and do loads of training on my cross bike and everything. But at the moment I can’t peak for everything like those boys do, so I focus on the mountain bike and use the cross to train through it.

I do put myself under pressure when I race. I’m a worrier and I feel like I always put pressure on myself – it’s not always from external pressure. Like I remember when I watched the Olympics when I was eight, I couldn’t watch the running, all the athletics because I wanted to be there so badly. I couldn’t watch it and I was already putting pressure on myself at the age of eight. 

I think without anyone around I put a lot of pressure on myself. As I grow older, I learn how to deal with that better. I work with an amazing psychologist and he’s taught me how important it is to work out what other people are putting on you, and how much you actually want it. I feel really lucky to have a great psychologist who helps me deal with all the pressure otherwise I’d be a nervous wreck at all the races.

In the past disordered eating and RED-S has been a problem for me. Sometimes you feel you have to grow up very quickly. When you I got into cycling and left school I just wanted to win so badly and I thought the way to do that was to be the lightest I could be.

I don’t think there was anyone to point me in the right direction at that age. I lived on my own and there wasn't anyone to pick up on it and say "You probably should be eating more." So it was actually when I moved back home after three or four years when my mum was like, "Oh my gosh you are so bony; you need to put on some weight." 

I was very lucky to have a very supportive family who caught it at the right time and helped me, and I realised how unhealthy it is for women not to have periods. Before that I remember seeing many doctors and asking if it was okay that I was not having a period. And always, the answer was yeah, that’s fine don’t worry about it. 

When I was growing up there was a lot of disordered eating in sport and you were aspiring to be like someone who wasn’t actually healthy. The difference now is if you go on social media there are so many people talking about their experiences, or encouraging people to fuel their riding. 

I worked with RenĂ©e McGregor and she was amazing. She helped me get better and it’s not even a problem anymore. I think it’s so important to educate people about this. Under-fuelling is something that can ruin a young rider and ruin their career from a young age. It can lead to a really short career. 

Covid made things very complicated when going to races because of all the paperwork and it was worrying. You need a Covid test, a letter from British Cycling, a letter from the race organisation saying that you’re racing. You need a higher status letter, so normally one from an Embassy, with an official stamp. There’s loads of other paperwork you need, though those are the three main ones. If you don’t have one of those there’s no chance of you getting across.

We have to travel from Heathrow Airport, which is nearly three hours for us. Once when we got to Heathrow we were told there was no way we would be flying, as we didn't have the right paperwork. So there we were - people who had travelled from all across the UK and we met at the airport -  only to have to go home as the trip was off. Then a few days later, we got a message saying, "Quick - book yourself in for a Covid test! We’re going in a couple of days!" We just about managed to get across to our race in Spain in time. It was so stressful!

I love riding my bike, but I also love non-cycling things. I’m very competitive but I think if you saw me in the street you probably wouldn’t think I was a cyclist. I don’t really like talking about bikes. Bikes are my day job. I don’t want to see my bike or my phone on my day off. I like doing mini holidays. Like me and my mum do a 48-hour retreat on my rest day just after training. 

My friends are really important to me and that’s such a really big part of my life. I like to go and have coffee with them or have barbecues up in the hills and stuff like that. Just doing anything that isn’t cycling with my friends is fun. I’m not really into shopping but I’d rather go to a little market when there aren't huge crowds, and I’m with people I really love seeing.

I do love sport. We’ve grown up doing it, and I love running, love swimming, wild swimming. I also like to play tennis or do anything outdoorsy. 

I think there can be a lot of pressure on young riders very early – whether it’s from parents or teachers or just from themselves. I think with me I was very lucky to have this group of boys and we would ride and have a camp fire or we would ride in winter to some random Tesco ages away and buy ice cream, sit outside on the kerb and eat it. So I think the importance at a young age is just to find a group of friends and just go on adventures, exploring places on your bike. 

I get a lot of messages from parents or kids asking me what training plan should they be doing, but I really think at that age you should just be having fun. If you want to race and do efforts then race each other, but don’t go out and thrash yourself because you feel like you ought to at that age. Find a group of people you can socialise with and make memories together. I think it’s so important because there are a lot of people who are so narrow-minded and all they do is cycling and that can only last so long, so you might as well, at a young age do as many sports as you can and just have fun really." 

Other Cycling Voices

Pauline Ballet

Tracy Moseley

Helen Wyman

Monica and Paola Santini

Janet Birkmyre

Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig

Emily Chappell

Michelle Webster

Caroline Martinez

Maria David

Friday 5 August 2022

The Monkey Motorbike Diaries - Episode 1

I have become a motor biker - well, kind of. I am still just a learner at the moment. But it is a start. I'm on two-wheels and with a machine. It's not quite in the all leather or hell's angel or even a mod type, but more in the practical sensible bike rider type. 

I guess my motives for motorbike riding are more dowdy and less rock'n'roll than most other bikers. I just wanted a way of getting around London without being heavily reliant on public transport and without having the car stresses of getting stuck in traffic, parking, expensive parking and congestion charge. 

Of course, I like to travel around by pushbike, and that is something I will still continue to do. But it's good to have another option for when you don't want to have to go by using pedal power all the way to North London, or when travelling late in the evening. Or sometimes I just feel tired and want a sedentary way of getting around on two wheels. I'm getting old!

So, after a number of lessons I got through my compulsory basic training (CBT) and now I have the prized D196, which let's me onto public roads, albeit with L-plates and limited to a 125cc motorbike. 

That's handy, as that's what I've got - 125cc Honda Monkey with L-plates on it. 

I picked up my new 2wheeled horse the very next day after doing my CBT. I had had most of my lessons on a Honda MXS 125cc (also known as the Grom), so the Monkey, which has the same construction as the Grom was a good bike to start with in my motorcycle riding journey. However, that still doesn't stop you from being nervous.

The worst moment for me, was after I paid for and picked up the bike from the showroom in Coulsdon, South Croydon, shook hands with the salesman and sat on the bike. which was parked right outside the shop on the main road. I really felt like everyone in the shop was watching me and I felt all the pressure to set off smoothly like I knew what I was doing. Of course I knew what I was doing - I had spent the previous afternoon riding around South London and had shown my instructor what I was capable of riding on public roads. So I really had to remind myself that I would be fine.

Riding through the Croydon traffic at rush hour was fun and games. I stalled the bike a couple of times when pulling away from lights. At least I had the presence of mind to pull into the side of the road, out of the way of traffic, and

 restart the machine and carry on. The busy Wellesley Road which includes many buses pulling out from the bus terminal and traffic coming in from the underpass proved a bit of a challenge. Likewise for Selhurst Road which involved stop-start traffic on an uphill stretch. 

In fact, it wasn't as terrible as I thought it would be. Motorists seemed quite patient, and in any case the traffic was quite slow-moving given that it was rush hour. What I can look forward to is being able to filter through the traffic and leaving behind the four-wheeled vehicles.

Once I reached home at Crystal Palace, I felt like letting out a cheer that I had survived my first unaccompanied motorcycle ride through the London area. When I took my jacket off I realised that I was drenched in sweat - not just because it had been a hot day, but because it was reflective of how nervous I had been.

Well, I had made it home in one piece, and from here on in no other bike ride would be as nerve-wracking and clumsy as this one. So things can only get better. It was just a question of making sure I get out on the bike frequently, so that everything becomes a natural reflex. 

Given how much I like my little cute Monkey I don't think it will be difficult to will myself into getting on the bike.