Neutral Service loves Gemma Sargent because she’s one of those riders who always seems to be up there near the front, attacking again and again on the climbs, getting into the thick of the action and generally animating the race. Yet, as is often the way with the most aggressive riders, off the bike she’s one of the friendliest people in women’s cycling, always happy to chat about the sport she loves. She’s also written us a couple of excellent race reports – Banbury Star and Curlew Cup.
In 2016, Gemma raced with Aprire-HSS; for 2017 she has joined the new team On Form.
When and how did you first get into cycling? Do you remember your first bike?
I started out in triathlon initially and actually my running was my strongest discipline. I raced at age group level and regularly qualified for European and World Championships, then started to race Elite around 2010. I moved from Hertfordshire to the Lake District around that time and the facilities to train at that level were not readily available, so got into mountain biking. I did a good few seasons of the National rounds and was National Sport MTB Champ in 2012. I then thought I would give road racing a go in 2013 and here we are now…!
Which is your favourite cycling discipline, and what is it about it that appeals to you? What do you love most about the sport?
I do love a hilly road race but I kind of enjoy it all to be honest – I love it all, the different types of races, the atmosphere, the buzz but mostly for me the people involved in the sport. I have made so many friends over the last few years through road racing, that are truly great people.
Which bit of your racing kit is most important to you?
Too many to mention, decent functional kit is a necessity!
What made On Form stand out? What was it that made you think “that’s the squad for me”?
The staff behind it all and my team mates. I have worked with a few of them throughout this season and we all get on so well. There is a really good feel about this team. I have worked with Simon (Howes) before as he was our directeur sportif last season and with the combination of him and the rest of the management team it can only be a truly amazing team. That coupled with the other girls I will racing alongside as team mates, (some which were team mates last season) I kind of already felt at home and I’m really excited about the whole thing. Bring on 2017!
What should the UCI and British Cycling be doing for women’s cycling?
There should be total parity between men’s and women’s cycling, wages, coverage both in social media and airtime on TV. It’s quite disappointing when only five minutes of a women’s race is shown and the main focus is always the men’s 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?
I will mainly stay in the UK, living in the Lake District you kind of have the perfect terrain for training; but it does get very cold! We have a few team training weekends planned and a training camp abroad too. My long rides are usually at weekends but I do fit one in mid week too. The rest of the time it’s on the turbo, and I also focus on core and strength work too. My training volume varies dependent on my plan but generally it’ll be 15+ hours a week. My training is a mixture really, but winter is generally for focussing on base miles – I have a heavy bike for winter training, it makes your race bike feel amazing when you get back on it!
What’s the best way to keep motivated through the winter?
I’m generally quite a motivated person all the time so I just carry on as normal. I enjoy riding so much I don’t think anything could deter me, but riding in a group or with friends helps – the long cold miles in the saddle don’t feel too bad that way. Also having a good structured training plan helps too!
What were your highlights, favourite race and hardest race in 2016?
There have been a few but second in both the National Masters Crit & Masters Road Race Champs was certainly a high point, as well as some good results in the National Road Race Series. My favourites would be any of the Matrix Tour Series races – the atmosphere is electric, you can’t beat it. The hardest were a couple of the Lotto Cup races in Belgium – the pace was insane but you learn a lot from such races rubbing shoulders with world class level riders.
What does the future hold for women’s cycling? Are you optimistic or pessimistic?
I think as a whole we are getting there in achieving total parity but it will take time and effort. The standard and excitement of women’s racing is just the same as the men’s, we just need to keep working at the coverage for everyone to see this.
Describe your warm-up routine. Music or no music, turbo or rollers?
Rollers with loud music!
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?
Further to my comments above, if you have never actually stayed and watched the women’s racing I urge you to do it. It’s just as fast, furious and exciting as the men’s in my opinion!
What are your main aims for the coming season?
I will focus on the Women’s Team Series, the Matrix Tour Series and the National Women’s Series.
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?
Well, not so much on the time travel side but Lizzie Deignan (Armitstead) and Marianne Vos are certainly riders I look up to so that would be amazing!
Previous Ten Minute interviews on Neutral Service
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