10 Minutes With… Laura Morgan

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© Huw Williams

Manx rider Laura Morgan spent 2014 racing for Merlin Cycles and will switch to VCUK-PHMas for the 2015 season. Neutral Service is firmly convinced we’ll be seeing a lot of her on the podiums in the new season, so here’s a quick interview in which we get to know more about her and what makes her tick.

Laura’s blog

Laura’s Twitter

When and how did you first get into cycling?

I first got into it when I was working in London, a few of the guys at the office there wanted to get a team together to raise money for charity by participating in the HotChillee Alpine Challenge. At that point in my life I was quite an unlikely subject (I was more of a party girl than a fitness fanatic), but wanted to take on a new challenge and have a reason to change my lifestyle for the better. I instantly caught the bug, realised I’m ridiculously competitive and so here I am now!

What do you love most about the sport?

What’s not to love! To be honest I can’t pin it on anything specific as so much of it has improved my life. I love the freedom of riding a bicycle, and the feeling of gratification you get from achieving what you do off your own steam. Riding up mountains really brings that home for me, as you get to the top of a beautiful col and realise it was your legs that got you there.

I love the feeling of going quick, too. I think that’s why I love time trials so much.

I also love the culture around it, from all the accessories you get to wear (I LOVE layering for winter rides), to the nerdy-ness of the technology to the café culture and community aspect. It’s just a beautiful thing to do, whether it’s for sport or enjoyment.

Where would you like to be at this time next year?

Geographically speaking I’m hoping I’ll still be doing my winter training on the Isle of Man.

Career-wise I’m hoping I’ll have had a successful season with VCUK-PH-Mas who I’ll be joining for 2015. I had a really rubbish winter last year due to constant illness, so this season hasn’t been as great as I’d have hoped. This winter my coach and I are really working hard on focusing for the road so I’m hoping I’ll feel a little more satisfied about my performances. Depending on where I’m at I’d love to be in a position to continue another season with the new team. I’m still really new to the sport so I can’t really predict where I’m going to be at, but the 2015 season I think will be a turning point for me with both confidence and fitness. I’m just hopeful that I can get some results.

What does the future hold for women’s cycling? Are you optimistic or pessimistic?

Optimistic! Since the 2012 Olympics the sport has grown so much. So many more women are not only becoming more competitive but also more vocal – this is great because we are getting so much positive media attention. We need this to attract more sponsors into the sport. I think 2015 will be much like 2014 in respect of developing the sport – but we’re already seeing a change in the UK Domestic level in that high profile riders are starting to return to domestic racing as a viable career path.

A lot of the domestic teams who were prolific this season are making a step up and really getting organised for next year, so I’m hoping we’re on the cusp of developing similar premier calendar type racing like the men get, with more airtime to boot!

National A race level would be great too!

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© Kevin Kissack (image supplied by Laura)

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?

The PR side of things has been fantastic. I think we need more teams ensuring they have a more formal and organised media presence in that they have accessible websites and Facebook pages – as well as active and informative twitter accounts.

On the rider front I think we are seeing a bit of a lull in newer folks getting involved – I think if we just continue to focus plenty of training and racing incentives to gather new recruits, we will continue to up the game. There is fast becoming clearer splits in the field now – with E1234 racing becoming less viable for the smaller races, which is great, it means we have more ladies getting involved. It also means those who might not be as confident in such a varied field actually have an incentive to give it a go.

Really I think we’re going in the right direction, more of the same will be great! I still think plenty of clubs need to get on board with encouraging women’s racing too, and try and break down those cultural differences that the “old-school” mind set still has.

Which is your favourite race, either one you enjoy riding or love to watch? Why?

My favourite race to ride…. That’s a tough one! I really enjoyed the Bedford 3 Day this year, it was my first stage race and it was a great opportunity for all skillsets to try some real hard core National level stage racing. The terrain per stage is challenging but not so difficult that newbies like me can’t give it a go. My other half and I travelled down in the van and I’d sleep in it between stages, try to force down cheese baguettes at lunch and try and stay awake long enough at night to eat my tea – it felt like real gritty proper racing, I loved it & I think stage racing is definitely the way I want to go.

The CDNW women’s series organised by Heather Bamforth races have been brilliant too, they’re perfect for gaining real race experience for newer riders, each race caters well to all abilities too – they’ve helped my confidence to no end this year.

To watch, either the Women’s World Champ ITT or Women’s Ronde Van Vlaanderen. In the future I’d give my right arm to see a ladies Roubaix!!!

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In the pack (© unknown; image supplied by Laura)

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?

Watch the world cups or even some national domestic racing and come back to me with that!

It’s just crazy; so many folks still ignorantly judge the sport. It’s fair enough if someone has watched women’s racing and genuinely just isn’t entertained by it – but for someone who watches 200km of a two man break with no other racing quite contently, and still judges a women’s 100km attacking race so harshly without even watching it just seems completely ridiculous. No offence to the men’s racing meant, but there are pros and cons to both sides of the sport.

Folks who call themselves cycling fans shouldn’t be judgemental of gender, they should embrace it – cycling racing is cycle racing regardless of who’s pedalling. Thankfully most people I speak to on a personal basis absolutely see it that way – the more races there are to watch, the better!

What should the UCI and British Cycling be doing for women’s cycling?

I think the UCI are beginning to try and go in the right direction, in that they have now gathered a board of female advisors on the matter of women’s racing. Hopefully over the coming years we will see an increase in support from them, although I will keep my feelings of optimism safely locked up until those changes actually take effect.

On the subject of British Cycling, again I think they are going in the right direction – but more emphasis on promoting competitive road riding would be excellent. I realise they are very focussed on track and top results but I think they need to understand that we have a very healthy road scene and there is a huge amount of talent that should be developed in that area.

When you retire from competition, would you like to stay involved with cycling in some capacity, perhaps as a National Federation official?

Hopefully I don’t ever have to retire. I know folks in their 80’s who still time trial….I would like to be one of those people.

I do write a lot of blogs and media on the subject, I’ve also been delving in to women’s motorsport media too so I’d like to continue with those sort of things. Possibly stick with journalism or promotion in some way. I can’t imagine having to leave the sport completely; I think I’d go crazy.

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Laura in action at the Tickhill Velo GP in August 2014 (© Dave White)

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?

While some of the results for me this season didn’t quite meet my own expectations, there were also so many that felt amazing..

I won a couple of time trials, which I’m chuffed to bits about. I think some of the races where I didn’t necessarily get top results, but the performances made up for it were probably the best. The Team Series race at Darley Moor was one of them, I only lasted for a short while in the bunch but for a good part of a lap I tried to chase another rider… looking back on the photos I feel all chuffed to know that I’d finally managed to tow a National Level bunch! The other big one for me was my first UK top 20 at CDNW Pimbo, it was the first time I really got to put in some work on the front, and while I maybe didn’t time my attempt to get away at the end quite right, it was still a huge jump for me in performance.

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?

CATS! My boyfriend and I are proudly owned by a cat called Sheldon. He is AWESOME.