In the first of a series of interviews designed to introduce the (several!) new women’s teams that will be racing and, hopefully, making their mark on the domestic circuit in the 2015 season, Neutral Service spoke to Wayne “Skid” Marks, the manager of VO2 Bikes.
I went to meet Wayne and his first two riders Francesca Rust (who wrote us a guest blog describing her first time trial recently, and has promised us more on her first racing season) and Rosemary Homer in Norfolk earlier this month, and I was enormously impressed by their professionalism. Francesca and Rosemary have the desire to become as good as they possibly can be, and Wayne is genuinely determined to support them in everything that they do.
Keep an eye out for them at the races in 2015, and make sure you say hello!
When and how did you first become interested in cycling?
Cycling has always been of interest to me, but it was always a tarnished sport – every year of watching the Tour de France (TDF) we were always having a sweep stake, guessing how many riders would be caught for drug taking.
I have always found it a great way to keep my fitness up for other disciplines and sports, I started taking it seriously around 2010.
What’s your own cycling background?
I’d been more of a endurance runner and got in to triathlons to push myself that little bit more, which peaked with the Iron Man until various long-term chronic sporting injuries put a stop to the running, at which point I fell into time trials. I instantly loved them and the thought of competing against myself really applied to me.
When and how did you first become interested in women’s cycling?
Apart from the obvious of watching Victoria Pendleton, I first saw a women’s race on ITV4 one late evening during the 2012 Olympic year and was blown away by watching the tactics at play, so much more evident than watching the men thunder away down the road.
Why was it important to you to create a women’s team?
I truly believe that the women’s racing is going to take off in the next few years. From my time as the club development office for my local cycling club I knew that gaining the women’s interest not only would it change the outsiders’ perception of the club, it would also open the door to the men that were not quite confident to sign on with the faster men. 2013 season saw an average of 15 riders at the club time trials, during 2014 it regularly had a sign-on of 30 to 35 riders.
Tell me about your plans for 2015? What are Team VO2’s main objectives?
2015 is a “building blocks season” for us. We have some strong riders and will be looking to add to that as the season goes on. The team will be built around Rosemary Homer, who will be my principle rider as we bid for her Cat. 1 licence. We also have Francesca Rust – she hasn’t been in cycling long, indeed this will be her first road race season, but like me she comes from a triathlon back ground and her split times are very impressive, she is hotly tipped to do well [by Neutral Service, as well as by Wayne – ed.].
What would you like the team to be doing in 2016?
Firstly to retain the services of Rosie and Francesca! And build a strong team of 8 to 10 riders and go hunting the Wiggle team down! OK, a team manager can dream…!
You’ve been involved in race organisation. Any plans for a VO2 event in the future?
I have some big ideas for races in the next few years, in both men’s and women’s racing. I feel privileged to have been approached by the Women’s Eastern Racing League (W.E.R.L) and I’m excited about working with them next year and organising some races and inviting them.
What does the future hold for women’s cycling? Are you optimistic or pessimistic?
I am very optimistic about women’s racing in the UK, I really do think that there is now the desire and ambition to make this a success. I am really hoping that other racing clubs at the grassroots level will promote this more. The ‘every day’ cycle clubs are more important in developing the upcoming stars than some people realise.
I think it is just as competitive, but in a different way. The men have dominated sport as a whole, but in the last few years women’s sport has become more and more mainstream – the women’s England rugby was evidence of that in the recent BBC Sports Personalities of the Year awards.
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?
There are so many to choose from! Laura Trott dominating the track, and Lizzie Armitstead’s Commonwealth Games ride was nothing short of amazing. For a team effort is has to go to Team Wiggle in the Prudential Ride London Grand Prix – watching them gang up on Marianne Vos trying to her grind down was really impressive. Credit also has to go to Vos for getting second place.
Here are the keys for the Neutral Service time machine – you can use it to meet anyone in cycling history. Who’s it gonna be?
Firstly, I’d meet up with Lance Armstrong about 20 years ago and “have a word.” Such a talented rider that got consumed with winning at all costs and effectively sold his soul, crushing so many people’s idea of a sporting hero – including my own. I would also like to have watched Graeme Obree; in my mind he’s one of the most undervalued racers in the UK.