Right back in the early summer, we asked Leicestershire born-and-bred Lucy Sturgess to be the subject of a Ten Minutes With… and sent her some questions. Six months later, she sent back her answers.
Fortunately, she’s much faster at riding bikes* than answering interviews and in 2017 she finished top ten eight times; the year before that she managed twelve top tens out of thirteen races – which isn’t at all bad for someone who only started cycling at the age of 28 in 2015.
When and how did you first get into cycling? Do you remember your first bike?
I had a bike as a child but wasn’t into cycling properly. Three years ago myself and a friend decided to enter a charity event to ‘get a bit fitter’. The event was a 18km cycle in Snowdonia National Park, then climbing Snowdon and then a 4km kayak. I wasn’t very fit at all and was actually at the time quite unhappy, I found an old bike in the back of my parents garage and just started riding to try and build up some fitness but I loved it and it wasn’t long before I upgraded and brought a better bike. I started going further and getting quicker, found a few groups to ride with but the main step was going to the British Cycling women’s coached sessions ran by Dean Hughes in Leicestershire, that really improved my group riding and gave me a push to enter my first circuit race the following year.
Which is your favourite cycling discipline, and what is it about it that appeals to you?
Road cycling – I like road racing and time trialling but recently decided to attempt a cross race and loved it. I have lots to learn and anything technical I’m quite cautious on but it’s fun learning and I hope to ride more through the season. I missed racing last winter and so this should give me something to work on.
And what do you love most about the sport?
I love that cycling can be whatever you want it to be and the options for different riding and disciplines are endless. You have the chance to really push and challenge yourself but also it can be a really sociable sport too. I have met many great people through cycling.
Which bit of your racing kit is most important to you?
It’s all important as I couldn’t do without any of it! However, I love my Mavic Cosmic deep section wheels, I was really pleased with them when I upgraded.
What made your team/club stand out for you? Are they doing anything to attract female members, and encourage them to race?
I ride for Leicester Forest CC and I joined because they are a club local to me. Female members are very much a minority but we have seen more female riders joining, riding and competing over the past few years. This year we have had six women competing for the club, three time trialling and the rest a mixture of time trialling and road racing. The club is always supportive and encouraging of those racing and we have women’s and men’s club trophies across all disciplines. If I do go on any club rides then I’m quite often the only female there, but I haven’t found this to be an issue. We have in the past ran women’s social rides and there are a group who ride together through the year also. It’s a big club and I’m always trying to get more riders to join and race with us. So if you’re in the Leicestershire area and are looking for a club to race for then please get in touch!
What should the UCI and British Cycling be doing for women’s cycling?
I think British Cycling could do more on a local level to help organise and promote women’s races. Up until just recently there was hardly any women’s racing in my area, but this always falls upon clubs and volunteers to organise, I feel there could be more support there.
Women’s cycling and racing is growing in popularity, British Cycling programmes such as Breeze are great for getting more women on bikes, but it’s on more of a social level and then what next? I’m pretty sure this isn’t increasing the number of women racing; however, British Cycling run some great women’s development sessions and I know several women, myself included, who have started racing through these. It’s a supportive, encouraging environment and sometimes women need a push just to have a go – not all of us grew up with cycling and started racing as a kid, it takes more guts to have a go as an adult. However, these are BC subsidised and I think it’s a good thing, there should be more of them.
I’m not sure who it comes down to but more media coverage of races is needed. The Giro d’Italia is a Women’s World Tour UCI race and despite my efforts I couldn’t watch it anywhere!
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 try and keep training varied – turbo, rollers, club runs, solo rides where possible. I’m looking forward to riding some CX this year.
What’s the best way to keep motivated through the winter?
Keep training varied and fun, ride in groups and have some aims and something that you’re working for in preparation for the coming season.
What were your highlights, favourite race and hardest race in 2017?
I was really pleased to get my 2nd cat license this year, it was something I had wanted to achieve this season.
The hardest races for me were the two road races I rode – the Ipswich Spring Scramble 234 and the Naseby E123 Women’s Team Series race. Need to improve on the hills and on the longer road races but I plan to have another go in 2018!
I had some top 3 circuit race finishes and so I was really pleased with those.
After a race, a ten-year-old girl comes up to you, says she’s just started racing and asks for some advice. What do you tell her?
To get as much group riding practice as possible and work on the things you aren’t as good at, but most importantly to enjoy what you’re doing.
What does the future hold for women’s cycling? Are you optimistic or pessimistic?
I’m optimistic. I feel in the short time that I have been cycling that it has come a long way but I still feel that it has a long way to go. There shouldn’t be a big funding gap between male and female team funding and prize money. Why are the women’s races so often not shown in the media?
Describe your warm-up routine. Rollers or turbo? Music or no music (and if it’s music, what kind)?
Rollers, with music! Something loud and motivational.
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?
It is just as interesting and competitive, it just needs to be given a chance. When you watch a bike race it’s much easier to follow when you know the riders and the teams. I have watched several women’s races with keen cycling fans but they never know who the teams and riders are and it makes it harder to follow. Often people don’t even know who our top UK female riders are, which is a shame. I personally prefer watching women’s racing by far.
What are your main aims for the coming season?
Well, to survive and improve at CX for 2017/18, but in 2018 to improve on my TTs at 10, 25 and 50 mile distances. Then to retain my Cat. 2 license, not be dropped in hilly road races, then I’m hoping to persuade a few more women in the Midlands area to come and try some racing too.
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?
I never really knew my Grandad and it was only after I started cycling that I found out he was also a keen cyclist. He competed in time trials and did some long distance rides – it’s funny, I never knew this until after I had started cycling, and so it would be with him. 🙂
*and eating cheese, which she doesn’t buy because it vanishes too quickly 🙂
Previous Ten Minute interviews on Neutral Service
Hannah Larbalestier – Felicity Gledhill – 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