Velo Club Londres’ Emma Jane Hornsby is a regular sight at road, track and cyclocross events around London, and the South, South-East and Eastern regions. She’s been picking up decent results since 2014 and last season managed eight podium finishes including a victory.
Now aged 29, South London-based Emma Jane is originally from Henley-on-Thames and has been riding for four years. 2017 will be her third season of racing.
When and how did you first get into cycling? Do you remember your first bike?
I cycled as a child with my dad, all I remember is that it was a Raleigh – and I just used to cycle it round the residential area I grew up in. I got back into cycling when I was doing my Masters degree – my boyfriend at the time had a friend who was riding London to Paris and I said I’d always wanted to do a ‘sort of sports thing’ like that so we cycled Oxford to Cornwall. The bike I rode was a 1972 Raleigh tourer that I paid £10 for out the back of a van. She lives in my parents’ shed now.
Which is your favourite cycling discipline, and what is it about it that appeals to you?
Hard to say really – each discipline I’ve tried has bits that I enjoy and bits that I don’t. I like road racing, but I’m crap at hills. Track is fun with the different races run in one meet – I really love riding elimination races, it’s the tactical element that appeals to me there. I’ve done a few cross races this winter which have been brilliant fun – as a discipline ‘cross seems the most approachable, I keep getting told I’m not trying hard enough because in every photo I’m smiling!
And what do you love most about the sport?
I just love riding my bike. We live in such a full-on world now, where there’s always a million things going on at once but when I’m on a bike that’s all there is.
What made Velo Club Londres stand out? What was it that made you think “that’s the squad for me”?
When I joined the VCL I’d not long moved to South London and they seemed like an obvious choice as the friends I’d met through doing a few open seasons were all VCL members. Now I’m a member I realise how lucky I am to be part of the club.
What should the UCI and British Cycling be doing for women’s cycling?
To be really honest, I don’t think I have the experience to really comment on the UCI, but over the past few years I’ve definitely noticed some things BC could do. As a relative newcomer I just don’t see why womens’ racing has lower prize funds (this is improving recently at my level for sure) and there are some organisation and training elements that could get better.
Last season I kept seeing several races on for the same level of women in the same region, on the same day, with only a few entries each. It made me wonder if BC could co-ordinate any better. I think there’s something to be said for encouraging women into cycling by offering women-only training. Personally I’m not put off by riding with men, you can certainly learn a lot, but I know that a lot of women are and this is something that needs to be addressed. Again, I think this is improving but doing more can’t hurt. Something like the London Womens’ Racing group, but for all regions would be the dream – they’ve done an amazing job at running progressive structured training on the road, and they’ve done a bit for cyclocross too, really encouraging women to ride and race.
Tell us a little about your off-season training regime. Do you have a winter bike or do you stick with your usual trainer?
This is the first winter I’ve really tried to do anything – this time last year I was racing crits and just doing road rides at the weekend. This year I got a winter bike, which doubles as a cyclocross bike, which has been absolutely brilliant for going out for long base rides and for exploring bridleways and sliding over in the mud! I’ve just started working with a coach because I’ve got pretty big ambitions so want to give myself a good chance… and so far so good!
What’s the best way to keep motivated through the winter?
Periodically I look at the BC website and bookmark races and set goals for myself, and I know I won’t enjoy races if I don’t train so that’s what motivates me. Plus riding my bike is an escape from everything, if I don’t ride I go a bit mad.
What were your highlights, favourite race and hardest race in 2016?
Hardest race was without a doubt the 3 Days of Bedford – four of us went and I was completely out of my depth, but the feeling of finishing in the bunch on the second day was just so satisfying. My favourite race was the Hopton Women’s Road Race where I managed 4th in the bunch sprint, my best result on the road and I remember feeling like I’d worked out how to ride in a bunch properly.
What does the future hold for women’s cycling? Are you optimistic or pessimistic?
Definitely optimistic, particularly at the level I’m racing at. There are more teams popping up and the fields get larger every week and each year gets more competitive which can only build to support the sport as a whole.
Describe your warm-up routine.
Always music. As loud as possible, usually a punk playlist from Spotify, and I warm up on rollers. For me, its a good chance to clear my head of anything else going on so I can focus on the racing that’s coming.
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?
This might not be a popular comment, but some womens’ racing is quite boring to watch. I don’t watch much track because in the bunch races everyone stays together, when a rider tries a move its usually shut down by negative riding. But I don’t think thats the case for all track racing, and it isn’t for cyclocross or road that I’ve watched. A race is a race, it doesn’t matter the gender of the bunch: men’s racing can be dull too, just like women can pull out brilliant breakaways and smart tactics to win.
What are your main aims for the coming season?
The Women’s Team Series is in my calendar this year, particularly Bedford again now I know what to expect! I’d like to race some of the National Omnium series again too. This year I’d like to focus on the road because I really enjoyed the races I did at the end of last season.
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?
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