Alice Cobb is the British National Junior Hill Climb Champion and rides for Squadra Donne. Alice, despite being relatively new to cycling, has already made something of a name for herself as a naturally talented climber – there’s a very good chance you’ll see her riding with the world’s best on the mountains of the Giro Rosa in a few years’ time.
She is also the author of Saddled With Prejudice, which you can read here.
When and how did you first get into cycling?
I was previously a competitive runner; however, as I had bad knee injuries I took up cycling as a form a cross training. Out on a ride one day I stumbled across the Nottingham Clarion club run and it just escalated from there…
I have now been riding my bike for 2 years and began racing and training 18 months ago. Everything got pretty serious pretty quickly and with 2 nationals titles in that time I have become even more inspired and dedicate to seeing how far I can go.
What do you love most about the sport?
It’s fair to say that I caught the ‘cycling bug’ very quickly and I think that’s down to the great camaraderie there is between cyclists. Everyone in the cycling community is friendly and always willing to help you progress further. The history and tales of cycling paint a somewhat magical picture of the sport and also provide so much inspiration for a young rider like myself.
Although my absolute favourite aspect of cycling has to be racing. That buzz you get from road racing; the competitive element mixed with the mental concentration and all that adrenaline – it’s an unbeatable combination!
What was the highlight of your 2013, and what are your goals for 2014?
I approached 2013 with a slight feeling of trepidation as I really didn’t know what to expect from racing. After being caught from behind and crashing in my first ever race, a huge confidence boost came in the form of the CDNW race in Great Budworth a few weeks later. I managed to get in a successful early break away and ended up coming 2nd overall. It was a great experience and acted as a real motivator.
Another highlight has to be winning the Junior Hill Climb Champs just 4 weeks after returning to riding. (I broke my pelvis at the end of June and this ended my season aim of performing well in the Junior Road Champs).
My goals for 2014 are simply to keep learning and keep improving. I have my eye on performing well as an U23 at the Nationals as the hilly course should suit me and I am also looking to do well in the major TT championships. Although as long as I stay injury free and keep enjoying my racing I will be happy – well to a certain extent!
What does the future hold for women’s cycling? Are you optimistic or pessimistic?
I think the future of women’s cycling looks bright. There seems to be progress at every level and that can only be a good sign. People like Heather Bamforth and Huw Williams are encouraging grass root level participation, British Cycling are holding more challenging National Series races as well as providing better coverage and the recent news about La Course all suggests things are moving in the right direction.
In 2013, a lot of fans have been getting more involved in women’s cycling. Any ideas what we can do to help even more?
Although I’m not a massive fan of Criterium racing (I prefer long, hilly road races), I think city centre races such as the Tour Series and The Milk Race are great at engaging the public and building interest in our sport. It’s also a great opportunity to showcase how fast and aggressive women’s racing is.
I also think that another way to build up the fan base of women’s cycling would be to provide more coverage of the National Series events. Eurosport televise the premier calender events so why not show the best UK women’s road racing too.
How can the cycling world – fans, riders, race organisers and the UCI – encourage more women to start racing?
I think things should be addressed from the top and then we will see a trickling down effect. The first thing that needs tackling is equal press coverage; the lack of coverage leads to a severe lack of sponsors and investment and the vicious circle is created. Fans shouldn’t have to put up with hazy and poor quality laptop live streams when the likes of Eurosport and Sky spend millions on covering nearly all of the men’s racing.
I think the UCI should also take some responsibility for providing parity in races – be it grand tours or major championships. A prime example would be the road World Championships where there isn’t an U23 category for women yet there is a category for men.
At the domestic level I believe race organisers should always give women a separate race. I have competed in several circuit races where women have been thrown in with the 4th category men and I personally think its not only quite dangerous but it also acts as a major deterrent for first time racers.
Lastly, the fans should continue to support women’s cycling as well as put pressure on the media for more coverage. It would also be great to get more fans out on the road to support women’s racing!
It’s early days for your career, but when you retire will you remain involved in cycling? Perhaps as a team manager or federation official?
I’d definitely loved to stay involved with cycling; it’s a massive passion of mine and I couldn’t think of a better career path! I’m quite keen on journalism and writing so I would be interested in pursuing that further.
What are you reading at the moment?
This is going to sound rather sad but I’m currently reading the ‘Strategy of Conflict’ as part of my university studies. It’s about the applications of Economic game theory in the real world. I won’t bore you any further…
Here’s a time machine which you can use to meet any rider from any point in history. Who will you be meeting?
I’d absolutely love to meet Beryl Burton. She is a true inspiration in women’s cycling and I think I could sit and listen to her stories all day!
Last question, and it’s the one that top psychologists agree reveals more about a person than any other: which is better – cats or dogs?
Without a doubt – dogs.