16-year-old Connie Hayes is a well-known rider on the road and in cyclocross and has numerous good results and a fine selection of podium finishes to her name – including first place at the London Youth Games in 2016 when she won the U16 Time Trial.
For 2017, Connie will ride for Liv AWOL, a new team for 2017 created specifically for Junior women making the transition to adult racing, which will be riding the Team Series and events around the country as well as doing some racing in Europe, with the Assen Jeugdtour and the North-West Tour as particular objectives. Connie is from London, where she still lives, and has been racing for five years. She started cycling around nine years ago, but says she can’t remember precisely!
When and how did you first get into cycling? Do you remember your first bike?
Well, I suppose my house was always filled with my dad’s bikes but the honest truth was that I was more fascinated about how my dad’s matching Orbeas were the same colours but were used for completely different disciplines than actually riding my own bike. Up until the age of 10 I would often refuse to go out on rides as it just didn’t click with me. However, I remember in Year 6 [age 10-11] at school doing our Cycling Proficiency badges and racing the boys in my class round the laps of the school playground and winning simply down to all the cycling I had done over the years! I think from that day onwards I decided that maybe this sport isn’t that bad!
Which is your favourite cycling discipline, and what is it about it that appeals to you?
I would have to say time trials without a doubt. I just get such a thrill from putting my body though extreme pain and without the worry of other riders around you. I do also love road racing and although I am not exactly a top cyclocross rider what’s not to love about falling into mud whilst freezing cold.
And what do you love most about the sport?
I suppose again its putting yourself though the pain but knowing the end goal is so rewarding. I also love how cycling has races and disciplines to suit everyone there is no perfect rider for every race.
Which bit of your racing kit is most important to you?
I suppose it’s not really race kit as such, but my pink socks. I have to have either my Woolly Boolly pink sheep socks in the winter, spring and autumn (they have also been worn in August in temperatures over 30 degrees but that was a bit of a mistake!) or my neon pink Dutch socks.
What’s great about riding for Liv AWOL? What does the team offer to a young female rider?
Liv AWOL is a dream come true. To be representing two brilliant companies this season is amazing and I am so thankful for what they are putting in. What makes us different from your standard race team is that we are about developing ourselves as riders and as a team and not necessary striving to win this and that. It is also brilliant to be able to ride as a team. At the end of the day cycling is a team-based sport so having a solid team is key. I feel that we are all so close already; that it is going to make the coming year so much nicer.
What should the UCI and British Cycling be doing for women’s cycling?
On a national scale the fact we have no official Junior Girls National Series needs addressing . I am so grateful for all the organisers who put on the unofficial series, which I can not wait to ride this coming year. However, I feel without BC’s recognition it cannot get the coverage it deserves. Having said that, at least there is a standalone National Championships this year. Globally I would say there needs to be more coverage of women’s racing and more top level women’s races.
Obviously you ride a lot of ‘cross races, but tell us a little about your road race off-season training regime.
I do have a winter training bike which is a Ridley X-Ride cross bike which is usually set up for road but I’ve loaned it to a team mate so that she can do some cyclocross, so have just been using last season’s road bike. I’ve been doing the Wednesday night cluster sessions down at Lee Valley Velopark, which are brilliant winter training. However, a lot of my winter training is done off the bike and instead on a rowing machine – due to their similarities in terms of endurance and muscles used, rowing and cycling are really easy to do alongside each other. Due to my short height rowing isn’t overly suited for me competitively, but it’s a brilliant form of winter training for cycling.
What’s the best way to keep motivated through the winter?
I personally take a break and only ride my road bike once, or occasionally twice, a week during the winter months. I suppose riding round fields for five months lets me forget the road season gone and focus on the next.
What were your highlights, favourite race and hardest race in 2016?
My favourite race has to have been the time trial at the European Junior Cycling Tour Assen. I hadn’t been having the best of weeks but getting 20th in a field of riders destined for the top was quite special. Other highlights have to include winning the London Youth Games time trial, coming second in the National Circuit 10 for my age group and my joke breakaway from the start line at the National Youth Championships that lasted 3 laps.
What does the future hold for women’s cycling? Are you optimistic or pessimistic?
I am really optimistic. There are still some massive hurdles to climb but we’re in a much better position than we were 10 years ago. Who knows – the sport may and hopefully be on a equal footing with men’s cycling in 10 years’ time.
Describe your warm-up routine.
25 minutes on the rollers usually listening to The 1975!
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?
Get out there and watch some racing! Most people who have these views have never properly watched a women’s race, so they quite simply need to watch women’s racing – whether that be an international elite level race or a local 3/4.
What are your main aims for the coming season?
My main aim is to keep improving and enjoying racing my bike. I want to settle down into women’s racing and obviously a few podiums either for road or time trial would be rather nice.
A ten-year-old comes up to you after a race and says she’s just starting to race. What one bit of advice would you give her?
The one piece of advice I wish that I had been told aged 10 is that unfortunately there are still some very sexist people in the sport, but you just have to go out there and prove to them that their views and opinions are completely wrong.
Finally, here’s the keys for the Neutral Service time machine – you can use it to go for a ride with anyone in cycling history, past or present. Who’s it going to be?
Hmmm – leave the hardest question to last! I will have to say Emma Pooley as she does so much for women’s cycling and just seems such a cool person. Having said that I would also love to go for a ride with Nicole Cooke, Marianne Vos, Katie Compton or Helen Wyman.
Liv AWOL in 2017
Connie Hayes (from CC Hackney), Rosie Wallace (from Wigmore CC), Issy Torrie (from Chelmer CC), Hannah Graveny (from Kent Velo), Savannah Hewson (from Hillingdon Slipstreamers), Lauren Higham (development rider, from Welwyn Wheelers)
Previous Ten Minute interviews on Neutral Service
Alice and Tom Staniford – Catherine Coley – Sian Botteley – Maddie Gammons – Gemma Sargent – Gaby Homer and Savannah Morgan – Valentina Scandolara – Alicia Speake – Meredith Miller – Anneke Prins – Giorgia Bronzini – Marijn De Vries – Heather Bamforth – Georgina Pymer – Nicola Soden – Detta Guerrini – Isla Rush – Jen Edwards – Anika Todd – Alice Cobb – Deborah John – Tanya Griffiths – Laura Morgan – Rebecca Nixon – Suzanne Deveny – Karla Boddy – Sjekkie Vos