With their bright pink kit, the WyndyMilla-Reynolds riders are the easiest people to spot in any women’s race. If you went to the Tickhill Velo GP (if you didn’t, make damn sure you do in 2015) you may have noticed one rider in particular, who insisted on taking part despite the enormous and very painful-looking graze on her left leg and the attempts of her father – one of the organisers of the North Nofolk 100 time trial, incidentally – to persuade her to enjoy the event as a spectator instead.
She is Isla Rush, and Neutral Service spent ten minutes chatting with her about the sport she loves.
When and how did you first get into cycling?
My Dad competed in triathlons in the 80s so there’s always been a cycling background in my family. I learnt to ride a bike at Kenley Aerodrome in Surrey when I was about 4, but I didn’t properly get into cycling until I was about 12.
What do you love most about the sport?
I love so much about cycling. The one thing that really stands out to me now is that it’s now considered a ‘cool’ sport, and I have a lot of people my age saying that they think it’s awesome that I ride a bike competitively. I love the fact that being a cyclist is seen to be something to aspire to, which then in turn drums up support for the sport. I guess I love how cycling has developed over the years into a sport full of different backgrounds and cultures. But the best part has to be getting to ride a bike as fast as possible; nothing beats that feeling.
Where would you like to be at this time next year?
I’ll have finished my 3rd and final season as a youth rider, which is scary, as I still feel relatively new to it all! I have plans to make a couple of visits to Belgium next year, so maybe something will come of that. If not, I’ll be looking into Junior teams for the following season. Ideally I’d like to win a National Series race or something in Belgium, but we’ll have to see what next year brings! In the mean time, I’m working hard to get as fast and as strong as I can for next year.
What does the future hold for women’s cycling? Are you optimistic or pessimistic?
I’m very optimistic about women’s cycling; it’s definitely going places. It still has a long way to go, but I feel by the time I reach senior ranks the inequality between men and women’s cycling will be resolved. It’s important to remember that we want equality within cycling, as some get the wrong end of the stick and think that women want to be considered ‘better’ than men; this is not the case at all. As a female cyclist, I’d like the same treatment as that of a male cyclist. But firstly, I think we need to get more people out watching women’s races.
In 2014, a lot of fans have been getting more involved in women’s cycling by helping promote races and riders. Do you have any ideas what we can do to help even more?
The support for women’s cycling this year has been fantastic! It’d be great if women’s races were ran on their own, rather than supporting a men’s elite race etc as this will allow the women to get their own publicity, and not detract from the men’s race either. I think this will attract more attention to the sport, as it shows gender equality. But I think getting the supporters out on the streets watching a local women’s crit will do wonders for the promotion of women’s cycling.
Which is your favourite race and why?
My favourite race to ride has to be Jeugdtour Assen, in the Netherlands. It’s a brilliant starting point to get used to riding abroad where people may not necessarily speak the same language as you and race very differently. I loved Assen this year as I moved up an age group so it was just girls racing, even with junior girls on two occasions. This taught me so much about what racing in Europe is like and also what women’s races are going to be like when I’m older. The amount of local and international support for this 6-day event is jaw-dropping; it’s brilliant.
Here are the keys to the Neutral Service Time Machine – you can use it to meet anyone from cycling history. Who are you going to see?
I’d love to meet Beryl Burton- she’s a cycling legend, after all. From the documentaries I’ve seen about her she seemed like such an ordinary, lovely lady, but also a world champion; it was as simple as that for her. I am in awe of her achievements and it’d be amazing to learn from a lady like her, as she is truly inspirational. She rode her bike because that’s what she loved and that was the only motivation she needed; she’s a cycling hero.
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?
I think everyone of this opinion needs to watch several high-level women’s races before passing this judgement. Obviously there are physiological differences affecting men and women’s strength and speed, but it is all proportional; the best women riders are at the level they are not because the others are slow, but because they are the best in a talented peloton of female riders. Just because women may not be as quick as men sometimes, doesn’t mean they aren’t as talented or the racing isn’t as interesting.
What should the UCI and British Cycling be doing for women’s cycling?
I think we need some longer stage races and more publicity at the spring classics, as this shows professional women’s cycling is being taken as seriously as the men’s.
What was the highlight of the racing season for you?
I really enjoyed the Prudential Ride London youth inter-regional race as it was great preparation for the British Cycling IRCC and the
setting was truly spectacular; you can’t beat racing along the mall and past Buckingham Palace! The women’s race was awesome to watch, too, and it was great to see fans in their thousands supporting the riders; it was a great evening.
Why was it so important for you to race at Tickhill?
Firstly, I didn’t quite appreciate just how badly hurt my leg was until it was healed and I saw the photos of Tickhill; it was very painful! I think it’s important to race after a get down because if you don’t, you’ll be terrified to even ride your bike. Yes, my leg stung and hurt a lot, but the amount of support the crowd gave me made it better. Plus I wasn’t going to miss racing the infamous Tickhill Grand Prix!!
Which is better- cats or dogs?
Dogs all the way! I cannot stand cat much to Huw Williams’ disgust! Dogs are great companions and are incredibly loyal; they’re great to take along to road races as long as they don’t mind loud noises. Cats are just lazy and boring; dogs win every time for me!