Photo supplied by Deborah
Welsh cyclist Deborah John has only appeared on the British racing scene in the last few years, but she’s been riding for a long time – in fact, she first developed an interest in the sport before many of the women she races against were even born.
When and how did you first get into cycling?
It was the year that Lemond beat Hinault, the 1986 Tour de France . I was sharing a house with an American, who was cycling obsessed so I started riding with him and a few others and loved it. I stopped for a long time , becoming a mum , having my bikes stolen . I took it up again nearly 4 years ago and am loving it even more.
What do you love most about the sport?
Its a very broad church so many different kinds of riding to choose from. Belonging to a club is great: I’ve learned so much, and riding with guys makes you faster and stronger. For me, it’s a little bit the suffering and the ever so slightly smug feeling you get arriving home after a long or hard ride knowing you did good
Where would you like to be at this time next year?
Fitter, faster, stronger. I’m a bit goal orientated so I’m still putting together 2015.
What does the future hold for women’s cycling? Are you optimistic or pessimistic?
I’m realistic, and cautiously optimistic. There seem to be lots of positive things happening. More women’s teams, more women at policy-making level, more men supporting women’s cycling. But change always takes longer than you think, so its important to keep joining clubs, and encouraging more women and girls just to give it a go.
In 2014, a lot of fans have been getting more involved in women’s cycling by helping to promote races and riders. Do you have any ideas what we can do to help even more?
Keep going to watch the races, encourage your friends and family to go, get to know who the riders are, support a team , volunteer to marshal. If you are a fan , run a business or own a company consider sponsoring a women’s team or race.
Which is your favourite race, either one you enjoy riding or love to watch? Why?
The Tour de France was special this year, starting in Yorkshire, riding to watch the stage and being this far away from Jens Voight as he was leading up Buttertubs. Over the years I’ve watched it, there have been so many incredible moments.
Also very fond of the cobbled Classics , especially Paris-Roubaix.
It’s exciting, and hard, racing, I’m always terrified lining up… watching these guys is inspirational.
There are still some people out there who think women’s racing isn’t as interesting or competitive as men’s racing. What would you say to convince them otherwise?
They just have to watch it , that’s what will convince them … So more coverage. Track , MTB, Road , Cyclocross …we have many of the best women in the world across these disciplines. They are awesome.
Photo supplied by Deborah
What should the UCI and British Cycling be doing for women’s cycling?
I think things are getting done, albeit slowly – persevering with women’s events even when there may not be many women to begin with, they are coming through. Make it financially worthwhile at a grassroots level. Always looking outside their programmes for maverick talents. Employing women at all levels and areas of expertise including coaches, DS’s, soingeurs et al.
Often, when a race organiser is disappointed due to a small number of women signing up to race, they blame the riders and say there was a lack of interest. However, events such as the Tickhill GP and Newport Nocturne get huge start lists for their women’s races – so what are three (or more, if you have other ideas) things that organisers could do to encourage more women to take part in their events?
Run a Cat. 3/4 only race
Parity in prize money
Work together regarding the dates for races
When you retire from competition, would you like to stay involved with cycling in some capacity, perhaps as a National Federation official?
I’m a sports therapist so will continue with my practice; most of my clients are cyclists and runners. It would be great to work with a pro team .I like helping organise rides. Honestly I’m a bit new to the structures that run cycling so I remain open to offers.
I think we’re all agreed that 2014 was an incredible year in women’s cycling, especially here in the UK. What was the highlight of the racing season for you?
Lizzie Armitstead and Emma Pooley in the Commonwealth Games – awesome race. Being Welsh, I can’t help but mention Geraint Thomas in the same Games… edge of my seat! He’s a dude. Tanya Griffiths winning the Elite Women’s crit in Tickhill [Tanya did a Ten Minutes earlier this year too, folks – ed.]
with brilliant long solo break. For me, getting my Cat. 3 and riding in the Women’s National Masters Road Race, a fantastically well organised and supported event. The number of women entered had increased from 16 two years before to over 40 – who knows how many next year
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?
And this is the hardest…! I’m a bit of a horse person…. no seriously, I may have to say dog… though cats do have their advantages…
Deborah on the start line at the Tickhill GP, which she lists as one of the highlights of 2014 (image: Neutral Service CC-BY-SA 3.0)