16-year-old Felicity Gledhill has been riding for eight years and winning races since 2010 – she’d already clocked up more than a hundred wins by the time she turned 16 and moved into the Category A classification in 2016, then added ten more that year. Born in Leeds and based in Shepley, Felicity joined Sunsport Velo team for 2017 and is the team’s youngest member. So far this year, she’s won six races for them, including the Nottingham University GP where she beat (among other strong riders) Charlotte Colclough and Nicola Soden.
When and how did you first get into cycling? Do you remember your first bike?
Through my grandad, dad and brother (passed on through generations). My first bike was an Islabike.
When did you start racing, and who or what inspired you to do so?
I started racing as an Under-10. My brother was racing, so dad decided to get me a little bike and let me have a go too. So, I guess my brother inspired me as he still does today.
Which is your favourite cycling discipline, and what is it about it that appeals to you?
Criterium races. The’re the most exciting and pretty challenging, but not too long which keeps them fast.
And what do you love most about the sport?
All the people I’ve met through cycling have been fab. It’s a great way of keeping fit and it takes you to some amazing places.
Which bit of your racing kit is most important to you?
What do you love most about Sunsport Velo? What was it that made you think “that’s the squad for me”?
My team mates. We get along really well and are all willing to work for one another which is extremely useful and something not all teams are willing to do.
What should the UCI and British Cycling be doing for women’s cycling?
I think everyone is doing a good job at promoting women’s cycling and it’s grown massively but there’s always going to be something that could be done. TV coverage is a big one that quite a few big women’s races are still not getting which is unfortunate.
Tell us a little about your training regime. Do you have a coach and how do you prepare for an important race?
I train 5-6 times a week, including a few turbo sessions and a race/longer ride. My coach is Stuart – Sunsportcoach.
If I have an important race I always do an easy ride or have the full day off two days before, and do an activation session the day before either on the turbo/rollers/road depending.
Every cyclist has a bad day once in a while – maybe a race doesn’t go how you hoped, or perhaps your legs just won’t do what you ask them to do. How do you keep motivated and keep coming back for more?
The fact that ‘every cyclist has a bad day once in a while’ is what keeps me going, you can’t get put off by one/a few days… have a day off and get a massage, that works for me anyway. Stay positive.
What were your highlights, favourite race and hardest race in 2016?
My favourite race was at the same place as Seonaid’s on the Hetton-le-Hole circuit, (not the same day) – winning at Hetton was nice as it was my first ‘women’s’ race I had done so I wasn’t expecting a win. I also love that circuit.
My highlights were racing in California. That was a last-minute race on a borrowed bike but the atmosphere was great. I also really enjoyed the Doncaster and Ilkley town centre crits, hoping to get a few more in this year.
The hardest races were probably the youth tours like Scotland and North-West. Hadn’t really got enough confidence to get stuck in near the front and the road races were challenging.
What does the future hold for women’s cycling? Are you optimistic or pessimistic?
I’m optimistic. The future is looking good and equal but we’ll have to wait and see.
Describe your warm-up routine. Turbo or rollers? Music or no music (and if it’s a yes to music, what kind)?
Preferably turbo – simply because it doesn’t require so much concentration/balance and it’s not as ‘spinny’ as rollers, but rollers are more convenient, just depends. I like to start warming up about half an hour before the start of the race, starting off easy spinning, then onto progressive 8 mins, and some rev outs to fully wake up the legs. After that I like to get at least a lap in of the course to get my bearings. I tend to not listen to music at road races.
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’d ask them which races they’d watched! Every race I’ve done and watched has been interesting and competitive.
What are your main aims for the coming season?
Gain even more experience of women’s racing as my first year as a junior and just enjoy it. Luckily, I have time on my side and a lot of space for improvement.
Finally, here’s the keys for the Neutral Service time machine/teleporter – you can use it to go for a ride with anyone in cycling history, past or present. Who’s it going to be?
I think I’ll go with my grandad. He’s still with us today but I think meeting him as a young cyclist would be funny, bombing around Sheffield on his fixie.
(photos © Chris Meads/Sunsport Velo)
Previous Ten Minute interviews on Neutral Service
Liz Burrows – Seonaid Thompson – Sophie Holmes – Emma Jane Hornsby – Nikki Juniper – Rebecca Johnson – Joanne Newstead – Connie Hayes – 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