Sunday 31 December 2023

2023 over and out - hoping for more in 2024

2023 was not a bad vintage. It wasn’t brilliant, but at least nothing dreadful happened - a positive thing in these unsettled times. I did a few things, though hope to do more in 2024.

So here we are at the end of another year, feeling slightly full up with left over festive food and Prosecco, heading that bit further out of middle age and into older age. My bones and joints are beginning to tell me, as such. Well, I had a sports injury which refused to go away for the first five months of this year. Sure, that happened when I was 26, but back then in 1995 sports injury treatment was a relatively new thing.  Almost 30 years of adopting the various and evolving techniques, my worn out knees are becoming less and less responsive to the typical RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) methods. They just groan, creak, and stay stiff. The wood rot is setting in. That has been quite frustrating. 

Thankfully, after a few physiotherapy and podiatry trips I recovered enough to be able to take part in the Paris Triathlon, Paris-Versailles Grande Classique running race, and the Ötillö Cannes SwimRun, my first such event abroad.

I also got up to Scotland during the World Cycling Championships and swam in Loch Lomond. Then I went on to Edinburgh and swam at Portobello Beach and ran around Holyrood and Salisbury Crags.

I feel blessed to still be able to do these activities and maintain reasonably good health - something I don't ever take for granted.

Through sports I made a couple of new connections, notably at the SwimRun, where I met some friendly women from Lyon, with whom I enjoyed a good time on that glorious day on the Côte d'Azur. I hope to see them again in 2024 at another event. 

Away from the sports field I got more into language speaking, by keeping up my conversation exchanges. There were my Italian partners - Ilaria from Milan and Alessandro from Rome, plus my Spanish contact, David from Burgos. As for French, I became more integrated into my French conversation group and got to know the folks better. I think Michèle had a great idea setting up this group, and I have gotten to know Deborah, John, Monika, Nick, Pamela, Paul, and Sonja a bit better. We have our own little group in South London, and that makes a big difference to have folks to socialise with locally.

Music continued to feature in my everyday life too - more specifically, making music. Although I regularly played my clarinet and my flute, I feel that my level plateaued. I only did one concert in 2023 - at Fairfield Halls, Croydon with my local symphonic band. Then I bombed out of doing the other dates. The concerts with my folk band clashed with other things I had planned, and the concerts with my concert band were hampered by unfavourable conditions for me. I must admit that as much as I enjoy playing in community bands I realise I am not prepared to play in the rain, in the freezing cold, or in blazing heat with no shade! I also like to play either before or after a decent meal. This might sound a bit "I don't do stairs" à la Mariah Carey (!) but I need to keep in mind certain fundamentals. I pay for the pleasure of playing my musical instruments in these bands. So pleasure is what I intend to get. I can't see that happening on a miserable winter's day like what we had between October and December. Also I don't feel comfortable being in a band where the leader thinks it's okay to accept those conditions for its players. So I think 2024 will be a year of new beginnings, and hopefully good progress on the music front.  

Work has been steady, with no new type of project done. That has been remiss of me for not getting properly organised. I did too much coasting along in 2023, and not enough striking out. I hope to do more of that next year. I have always been one to see the opportunities presented to us in the free world we live in, and take up those opportunities. Folks in many parts of the world just don't get the chance to do what we are able to do in the UK and other economically developed countries. So I don't like to pass over those moments. 

Still, I did a few things. My medical copywriting ticked along, and so did the cycling journalism. I was very pleased to have had the opportunity to interview the Amaury siblings at their headquarters in the west of Paris. Jean-Etienne and Aurore between them (with input from their mother Marie-Odile) head up big name brands like the Tour de France, Le Dakar (formerly Paris Dakar) and L'Equipe newspaper. These family directors hardly ever give interviews to any media - French or international. So I was very honoured to have done the interview with them for Rouleur magazine. This came on the back of the interview I did with Marie-Odile Amaury in 2021 for Cyclist magazine. Another person I interviewed, also for Rouleur, was Amina Lanaya, second in command at the Union Cycliste Internationale, cycling's world governing body. I even got to do a bit of modelling, when I did a photoshoot for Brompton cycles.

Getting out and doing things has become more important to me as I get older. Every second week the newsreaders announce the death of yet another person from my era - people that formed the tapestry of my life - even if I didn't meet them. Of course in 2022 we lost Queen Elizabeth II, which was nevertheless very sad even though it was imminent. At the end of that year we lost Pele, and also Vivienne Westwood whom I did meet - and that trend of folks exiting the world stage has continued with increasing frequency. I was saddened when Friends star Matthew Perry died. (Caveat: I read Friends, Lovers, and that Big Terrible Thing at the start of this year and was so shocked to learn about the extent of his substance addiction I was amazed he was still alive.) He was the same age as me. He's actually six months younger than me, though his co-star Jennifer Aniston shares exactly the same birthday as me. There is something disconcerting about folks of a similar vintage to yourself dying. I felt the same about Sinead O'Connor's passing.

Then there were household names like Tina Turner, Terry Venables, John Mottson, Henry Kissinger and George Alagiah.

In cycling Tijl de Decker aged 22, and Gino Mäder aged 26, died in cycling accidents, and also incredibly shocking and tragic was the death of Melissa Hoskins aged 32, who was killed in what appears to be a domestic incident with her husband.

I was also very sad to see the demise of a fellow local cycle racer, Tabitha Rendall, succumb to bowel cancer in the space of four months - just aged 52.

Reading about so many people of various ages passing away makes me think about my own mortality. I don't want to get too morbid about things here, as I help myself to another glass of Prosecco while watching the Jools Holland Hootenanny on TV. But before we do the 10-second countdown to 2024, I want to just say no one knows what's around the corner, so I just want to do what I can to write that book or do the round the world trip or any other bucket list stuff before exit day comes. 

That round the world trip could even be done on two wheels, as I made progress with my motorbiking when I got my A1 license earlier this year. I even went to a couple of biker meets in Surrey, and next year I hope to go further afield in the UK and even to France. Some say it might be a typical mid-life crisis thing to do, but I say Carpe Diem!

So in short, 2023 was not a bad year. I did a few good things, and there were a few fun moments. I am not one for New Year's resolutions, and just prefer to change habits in an organic progressive way. I do hope to do more in 2024. 

Happy New Year!  

Wednesday 20 December 2023

Operation Etape du Tour: December update

To stay motivated in my Etape du Tour preparation its important to ride often over short distances rather than seldom over long distances 

As soon as I got my place in the Etape du Tour I set about training and establishing a rhythm of getting out on my bike regularly. 

I regularly cycle, provided I am not ill or injured. Thankfully that doesn't happen very often - or at least sports injuries don't often affect my cycling.

The last twelve months have been a little different though. Last summer, after spending a lot of time training and taking part in cyclosportives (Fred Whitton/Lion and Lamb, and Ride London-Essex 100) plus trips to Lombardy and the Côte d'Azur I experienced a bit of burn-out and didn't ride my bike much, apart from for short commutes. I got into motorbike riding too, which required a bit of time and dedication in order to prepare for my tests. That was quite the antidote to sweating it out up hills for kilometres on end.

In the first part of this year I was able to ride a little, but without any real objective. In some ways it was refreshing to not feel under pressure to ride to a particular mileage or speed. Coincidentally, I found I couldn't ride far as I had a prolonged bout of patella syndrome, which kept me from doing cycling or running. Even swimming had become difficult for me.

So after various trips to podiatrists and physiotherapists and following a rehabilitation programme I began to feel an improvement and gradually got back into cycling regularly. 

In terms of my preparation for the Etape du Tour, the key is to get out and ride regularly, even if it is just to do modest mileages in this initial phase. Continuity is key. It is better to do four 20-mile rides in a week, than to do one 80-mile ride and not riding for several days.

Not quite Promenade des Anglais, but the Parc du Vinaigrier, in Nice

It's important that I feel a "pull" towards cycling rather than feeling like I am being pushed into doing it. My rides need to be doable in terms of ability and time management, and it shouldn't feel like a slog.

There's nothing worse than that moment when you've been riding for four hours, it's a Sunday afternoon and you pass country pub after country pub where people are enjoying a slap up lunch and you have another three hours' cycling to do! You then have to will yourself along, working hard to stay motivated and keep the pedals at a reasonable cadence - all while trying to convince yourself that this is good for me.

So this month has been about doing short regular rides a few times a week, with one ride being at a faster pace, and another ride including hills. For November I was riding 125km per week and then in December the aim is 150km per week. These are low mileages, but that will make the rides feel more accessible, fun, and quality training miles rather than junk "pootling around to a café" miles.

My faster miles have been around Regents Park, generally latching onto a group that's riding at a training pace I can sustain. I also want to restart regular trips to the Velodrome. That should definitely help.

In the meantime I aim to keep my eye on the target - the start pen at the Promenade des Anglais, in Nice, and happy to be there.

Related posts 

Another cycling mission for 2024 - Fred Whitton Challenge 

Operation Etape du Tour - Understanding the challenge 

Rides on the Côte d'Azur - Col de Turini 

Monday 18 December 2023

Another cycling mission for 2024 - Fred Whitton Challenge

I have been successful in the ballot to take part in the 2024 Fred Whitton Challenge. My mission is to cycle 174km (112 miles) around the Lake District, taking in the mighty Honister, Hardknott and Wrynose Passes. It's gonna be a tough day out, but I say bring it on - sort of!

In my opinion this is the mother of all cyclosportives. There may be other challenge rides in the UK that are longer or hillier than the Fred Whitton Challenge, but what really bites about this event is that moment when you pass through Eskdale Green, with its quaint country pub, after 98miles of cycling and you look up high into the distance to see a long line of riders snaking skywards. That's the Hardknott Pass, with its infamous 30% gradients along the one-mile stretch - and that's where you're headed. You have a feeling of dread and your legs go even weaker than they were already feeling from riding over Kirkstone, Honister, Whinlatter, and Newlands Passes. How on earth will I get over that and the 25% gradient of Wrynose Pass straight afterwards?

Few sportives instil that feeling of dread. I have ridden the Fred Whitton Challenge in the past and gotten around it within the time cut (although once I didn't). I therefore know that I have it in me to complete the ride, and I also remember the feeling of elation as I crossed the finish line. So I really want to have that moment again. 

It will be less easy now than when I last did the full monty almost 15 years ago. By the time D-Day comes round I will be 55 years old. Age definitely has caught up with me. While I am still capable of doing lots of sport, I find that I need more recovery time, and am more prone to soft tissue injuries than when I was younger. So as well as the main job of training, there is the added dimension of monitoring energy levels and preventing injury.

Getting a place in one of the UK's toughest one-day cyclosportives is not easy. The ballot opens in early December and roughly 10 days later the draw is done to see who are the lucky (or some might say unlucky) 2,000 riders to suffer the steepest hills of the Lake District.

Hardknott Pass 

I had been in two minds about throwing my name into the hat. Having gotten a place in the Fred Whitton last year, I remember how tough it was to train for the event, how many miles I needed to get in as well as how much cycling uphill. When the big day came I didn't feel entirely ready, and in the end opted to ride the shorter version - the Lion and Lamb ride. I must say I felt quite relieved to have not had to do the ride feeling anxious about riding the most challenging climbs. I enjoyed being able to have my post-ride pasta in a room full of other riders and chat to people. Had I done the full distance it would have just been a survival ride to beat the cut-off and I am sure I would have been one of the last finishers, probably munching my post-race meal in an almost empty buffet tent as the organisers packed everything away. That's not what I wanted. Having said that, I also feel a sense of FOMO (fear of missing out) at the fact that I only did 73 miles.

So I entered the ballot in the hope of having the chance to sort out this unfinished business. Many people enter this ballot multiple times without ever having their name drawn out of the hat. So I feel lucky to have gotten a place in the Fred Whitton Challenge. But now, I have to go out train properly, and ride the thing.

Training has already started, given that I also have the Etape du Tour to also prepare for. My 2024 calendar is already looking rather busy.

Sunday 17 December 2023

Sadhbh O'Shea's journalism tales and tips

Sadhbh (pronounced "sive", like hive) O'Shea has over 10 years' experience in journalism, and has been a prolific writer, working across the cycling titles Cycling News, and Velo News, as well as doing a stint at the BBC. 

She previously shared with me how she got into cycling journalism and what she likes about it.

At the Tour de France (photo: Betsy Welch)
Now, Sadhbh is preparing to move to the other side, working in PR for Team Jayco-AlUla professional cycle racing team. 

Before she transforms herself into a suit, she recalls some journalism anecdotes, notably from working at the last few editions of the Tour de France. 

A busy summer 2023

Yes, it’s been a particularly busy summer – more so than recently. I did the last eight or nine days of the Tour de France and then I did the Tour de France Femmes. But with the Cycling World Championships in Glasgow happening so close afterwards, coming home to the Isle of Man, and then going away again was quite arduous. Soon after that I went to cover races in Canada.

Tour de France

This year was the latest I’ve ever come out for the men’s race, which was a challenge, as so much had already happened. So I started working at the Tour from the penultimate Saturday, on the stage into Morzine. It took a little while to adjust to that, and then I left before the race finished because I had to be in Clermont Ferrand for the start of the women’s race, and be able to do the pre-race stuff.

I didn’t get to do any pre-race work for the 2022 Tour de France Femmes. That year I worked the first 10 days of the men's race and then I went home. Because of staffing levels, I had to work on the men's race from home until the final Friday, and then I flew out to Paris on the Saturday. 

This year I wanted to leave early from the men’s race as we already had someone covering it, so I was able to do all the Tour de France Femmes pre-race coverage.

By that time the Tour de France had moved into the Jura, so it was about a three-hour drive to Clermont Ferrand, where the Tour de France Femmes was starting – so not too bad, all things considered. I was glad I left when I did because if I had waited until they were further up, it would have been a nightmare to try and pick up a car somewhere and then drive more and more diagonally across France. Whereas leaving from Bourg en Bresse was logistically a significantly easier drive than it would have been if I had left later.

I was at the Tour de France for the time trial from Passy to Combloux, which was pretty dramatic. We were stood at these gazebos beyond the finish line and there was a TV in there so we were watching the coverage. I don’t think anyone could really believe what was happening. I think people had thought Vingegaard would be stronger than Pogacar, but not so much stronger. 

I don’t think we’ve ever really seen Pogacar look that second hand before. It was still a good race, but in relation to Vingegaard he wasn’t anywhere near enough. We were just shocked at seeing Pogacar looking properly second best. It was an unusual situation to be in. So yeah, it was quite interesting being where we were. There were fans stood on the side of the road near where we were and it was quite the buzz – you could feel the ripples of surprise and shock among everybody.

Race-day logistics

A Tour de France day is almost always super long, unless it's a short stage. Things condense a little around rest days as you don’t have to do as much travelling.

But when they’ve got the big transitions where you have to jump from one region of France to another region really far away, you end up doing some really long drives during the day. I remember last year when the race dipped into Switzerland for a bit and came back out again, there must have been a two and a half drive from the start to the finish on motorways. 

I tend to work better in the morning – it’s not to say I can’t work better later in the day, but I am not a night owl. I tend to stop working once I’ve had dinner, so in the morning if I’ve got a bit of time I finish off work from the night before. It usually means I do it before breakfast so I can get it out of the way. 

There's usually a point at which we have to leave the hotel, and that is generally to allow ourselves to arrive up to two hours in advance of the stage start. You also want to try to avoid getting caught up in the caravan. 

If it’s an easy way into the media area and you don’t have to cross the course, and you don’t have to mix with other areas to get to the car park that’s fine, but most days you do. So if you arrive just as the caravan is leaving you are stuck for 20 minutes while you wait for them to pass. And then that is 20 minutes of dead time just stuck in the car waiting for the caravan to go through. So it's best to try and avoid that. You’ve also got to account for traffic, so you could be leaving your hotel. So depending where your hotel is, you could be leaving between three and four hours before the stage starts. 

We might stop at a service station and get some food, depending on whether or not there'll be food in the press room. In the last couple of years there’s been a WhatsApp group set up by the Tour de France organisers where they make and announcements and give information to the accredited journalists. One of the pieces of information they send is whether there will be food in the press room. It’s up to the host town or city to put on food. Some cities really want to show off whatever food they’ve got, and keep the journalists happy, so they’ll put on a good press room buffet. Other cities couldn’t care less, so you won’t get anything.

At La Planche des Filles in recent years the food has been quite good, but at the top of Alpe d’Huez, there's cheese and bread and that’s about it. I remember the stage that finished in Saint Gervais de Mont Blanc this year had a decent buffet. Last year at the Tour de France Femmes I remember at one of the stages we were given champagne. It wasn't at Epernay, though when we went there we did get a lot of nice finger food. 

The hazards of reaching the finish line

Sometimes things can go wrong on the day. For example on the stage into Epernay, during the Tour de France Femmes me and my colleague's car had mechanical trouble. We managed to make it to the yellow jersey press conference but we had to skip the winner's press conference so that we could get out in time to exchange our car at the nearest Hertz office. The car was having trouble with hill starts. I live in a hilly area, so am normally all right with hill starts, but I couldn't get the car going. So one of the security guards had to come in the car and floored the accelerator to get it going. He gave it so much welly I thought he was about to steal it! The thing is he had to do that because we were on the course.

On that day journalists had to cut across the course, which was part of a final loop before the riders crossed finish line, in order to reach the press room situated in the middle of the loop. You could only cross the course at a very specific point. So my colleague and I were trying to find where that point was. At the Giro d'Italia you normally get a QR code in the road book so it can give you the exact GPS coordinates. But the Tour de France road book doesn't have that, and we just couldn't figure out where we needed to go. We kept going down these different turnings and then going "nope, that's not it". The car was making weird noises, and then there was a big clunk. My colleague got out to check that the exhaust hadn't fallen off. It hadn't, but we were still on the course and the security guard had to get us off pretty quickly. 

Finish-line flurry 

It is quite stressful dealing with the end of the race. I can feel the adrenaline rising as the race is getting nearer and you have to spring into action as soon as the riders cross the line and especially as I am only 5ft 3 (1m 60). So trying to see over the tops of journalists' heads and find people to interview is quite a challenge. That can be quite interesting!

Depending whether you’re on your own or whether there are a couple of people working for the same publication you might have a chat about who we’re going to aim for and then see what happens afterwards. If you're own your own you have to go on your instincts and try and identify what stories have been important within the race that will be interesting to tell. Normally you are guaranteed some sort of press conference or media moment with the winner after the race. At the Tour of Oman this year, it was just a huddle behind the podium. At that one you didn’t really have to worry because you could also find other people than the winner too. Often it’s a case of running around a little bit like a blue-arsed fly, but with a mission at the same time. It can be difficult.

Interviewing Matej Mohoric in the mixed zone (photo: Ben Delaney)

Getting the best out of mixed zone interviews

How you approach mixed zone interviews is a bit different nowadays, especially with the bigger names where you are guaranteed several journalists will be there. It has changed a little bit, as just reporting that “This rider said this at the end of a stage” is becoming less important because so many people have that quote, and a growing number of websites have paywalls. So if you just write that story that “Geraint Thomas said, ‘I’m very happy’ after a stage” then people will look and say, "Well there’s a paywall there. I’ll go to a different website where there’s no paywall." So it has become about finding themes and topics and packaging things differently. 

So the writing has become less about "I need to get things out as soon as possible" and more about "I need to try and make this as strong as possible" and finding the overall story within it, and it has become less of a rush to get things done. It was definitely like that when I first started – getting all your stuff and then racing to the press room and trying to write as quickly as possible, which can be stressful and quite challenging. Back when I was working at Cycling News, and I was at the Tour de France it was quite testing, as someone who struggles with dyslexia, and it could be quite difficult trying to get things planned out and in the right order. So it is definitely better to have a more relaxed approach to post stage/race writing.

Getting to the press room

Often the the race course does a nice U-shape or N-shape so you can cut from the start to the finish and you’re there a long time in advance of the stage finish. That way you’ve got time to write some stuff up and publish it before the crucial part of the race. So that’s a nice day if you can do that. But if not, sometimes you might arrive quite late so you really only have enough time to get yourself set up, maybe get a bit of food in you and then you’re watching the finish. 

Sometimes the press room, especially in the Tour de France, which is really big, may end up being quite a distance away from the finish line. There was one stage where we drove from the press room to near the finish line. It was the stage that Kaspar Asgreen won (to Bourg en Bresse), and it was a long walk and very hot. So we drove there to save time. 

But sometimes that's not possible, and you just have to walk it. For the Tourmalet stage of this year's Tour de France Femmes it was quite the adventure. It was quite a drive to get there from the previous day’s finish town, Blagnac near Toulouse. It was about a two and a half hour drive to get there, so I missed the start of the Tourmalet stage. 

On some of the really big mountain stages you might as well miss the start because anything you get at the start is going to be completely irrelevant by the end of the day unless you pick up quotes for a completely different thing. If you speak to the big favourites or whatever the whole race could be upended, so there’s no point in doing it. 

If I had gone to the start at Lannemezan I would have missed a lot of other things and it would have taken ages to get up to the finish line anyway. So I set off early for Tourmalet , and checked into my hotel along the way. That took longer than planned because the lady at the reception had disappeared, leaving a note saying “back in an hour”. Well, I don’t know when the hour started, so I just waited - thankfully for not too long, as I still got to the press room early enough. However, the press room was at La Mongie, 4.3km down from the Tourmalet finish line, and there was no organised transport to get there. You could do it by car if you went up the day before, and obtained a special pass beforehand. Alternatively you could get what they said was a cable car. It was not a cable car. It was a chair lift, and for someone who is not a fan of heights it was not a nice discovery! 

I had to walk 20 minutes to get to the chair lift, and get on the right one. The thing is the chair lift stopped working at 6pm, and because the organisers wanted the stage to be on at Saturday prime time television, the stage didn't finish until just after 7pm. So I had to walk down the mountain. I had thought I could just walk off-road a bit between the hairpins of the climb. But it was so misty by the time the stage finished and I probably could only see about three or four feet (around one metre) in front of me. There was no way I could ramble across that and risk ending up in a ditch with a broken leg. So it was a case of walking down the climb, using the torch on my phone to see the way, and then shining it at traffic so that I could be seen. By the time I reached the press room the winner's press conference had long finished and everything was closed.

I was still able to get material for my story though, as generally the journalists are quite friendly and help each other out. If you ask someone in advance they can usually give you an audio of what was said in the press conference. 


Cycling World Championships, Glasgow

Going there was relatively smooth for me. I was able to get the boat from the Isle of Man, where I live, to Heysham, just north of Lancaster. For the first time ever I could use my own car in a race, and that made things very chilled, so I didn't have the worry of going to a car rental company and sorting all that out. 

Initially I was going to cover just the road races, but while on the boat I made a snap decision to see some of the mountain biking. It meant that I would have to miss the Under-23 men's road race. It was surprisingly okay for me to have a last-minute change of plan, even if it was a two-hour drive to get to the mountain biking.

As a once every four years event it's a nice thing to have. A lot of riders said they quite enjoyed the atmosphere of a "Superworlds", event though it was quite spread out. It was nice for the fans to have so much going on. But for me to see the mountain bike racing I had to miss the Under-23 men's race, so that race got less press coverage than it might have had in a regular World Championships. Some of the smaller category races may have lost out on some publicity and air time compared to a regular World Championships. 

It was particularly difficult for media organisations that only had one journalist at the World Championships, and was a logistical challenge to figure out what you were going to do, where you were going to go, while making it as easy as possible. I am sure a few people covered the downhill mountain biking in Fort William, but that was really far away compared to anything else. Even Glen Tress, where they had cross country mountain biking was a good trek away. 

For the more niche side of the sport like artistic cycling it did give the public the opportunity to see it where they might not otherwise have done so. The cycle ball and artistic cycling actually sold out. I don't know if it will have a long-term impact but it was certainly a nice moment for those disciplines.

Being a recognised face in cycling media

To a certain extent more riders recognise me now that I am doing a lot more women’s cycling, and Covid video interviews have become more of a thing. In the past it was just telephone calls if you were doing an interview, so the rider wouldn’t know what you looked like until the next time you saw them. It didn’t build that sort of repertoire with them, like it does now. 

Generally as a woman in cycling you stand out anyway as there are so few of us, so riders tend to remember maybe not necessarily your name, but they will identify you as a journalist, and they will probably remember your demeanor or manner more than a male journalist because there are an awful lot more of them. I was quite surprised at a Classics race that a rider had seen me at the end of a cobbled section one day and when I spoke to them two days later they remembered me and said, "Was that you on the cobbles?" And I was like, "Yes it was, me". I was quite surprised that they’d actually recognised me. It definitely happens on the women’s side as I do all the women’s cycle races whereas a lot of journalists dip in and out of them. The women’s peloton appreciate it when they have journalists that are working on their races throughout the year, and they identify with you a little bit more. I wouldn’t say they are more friendly than the men’s peloton, as most riders - male or female - are friendly anyway. But the women seem more at ease with you.

My tips for anyone wanting to become a journalist

There’s no one way of doing it. I don’t think people should think this is exactly what I have to do and if I don’t do it this way I’m never going to get in.

I went through the university route. I did an undergraduate course, then a masters and then after a year and half or two years of applying for jobs I eventually got a job in the cycling industry. 

My main piece of advice would be perseverance, as it's a tough area to get into. Don’t be put off by not getting accepted early on because it has become a lot more popular as a sport to become involved in reporting on. 

For me, perseverance would be the big thing, as I was applying for stuff for two years, and worked in finance before I got a job in cycling. Sometimes it just takes one person to take a chance on you and then you’ve got your foot in the door.

There probably will be a few rejections as that’s the way it goes unfortunately. 

My other big piece of advice would be to keep practicing your writing. If you don’t have the funds to be able to go to university to do a specific course on journalism there are books available and guides on line on how to make a story, how to plan one out. Those sorts of guides will help you. Create a blog, put stuff on line. The more you practice writing, the more you read, the better you become at it. 

Lastly, pitch things to editors. Come up with an idea and send it to an editor. A lot of use have been naïve at the start of our careers and just sent an email to an editor, saying “I’m happy to work if you want me. Please have me.” Editors like to have ideas and a story plan that’s been put together where they can say “I like that, okay – I would like you to do that.” Then they can start seeing how you work. But first of all you have to have the idea to go in. 

Photo: Team Astana/Vitali Abramov

As someone with dyslexia I did not see it as a barrier to making a career out of writing. You'd be surprised about how many people with it write for a living. Don't get disheartened by knockbacks either. Everyone has them - keep trying, and be kind to yourself.

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