“Looking for female riders for next season. Road, Track & TT. Interested? Give us an email firstname.lastname@example.org or PM us on Facebook”
Usually, when a new team appears on the British women’s cycling circuit, it makes itself known with a glitzy press release. PMR@Toachim House did things differently, revealing themselves to the world with a Tweet asking if anyone might be interested in riding for them. It worked: when team management kindly notified Neutral Service of their roster, it was obvious that a seriously strong new squad was about to make its mark – something they’ve already done thanks to Ruth Summerford’s three victories (rounds 4, 6 and 9) at the Imperial Winter Series this year.
Neutral Service wanted to know more; team manager Graham Hills granted us an interview.
When and how did you first become interested in cycling?
In the early ’70s a bike was the only way to get around, at 16 I joined Dulwich Paragon.
What’s your own cycling background?
Raced for 3 years, gave up just turned 20 disillusioned…no results, no coaching, no advice (other than ride your bike). Raced in Yorkshire for Leeds RRC.
Started again 28 years later, realised what had been missing in my riding when younger, and got some reasonable results given my age.
When and how did you first become interested in women’s cycling?
My wife, Catherine, had been riding for some years and surprised me when she wanted to start racing. We got involved with WyndyMilla and she ran the team for a few years. During that time I gradually coached her to be become a very good rider.
Why was it important to you to create a women’s team?
My body has decided it’s had enough physical strain and so it seemed a natural progression to put my knowledge and experience into the Women’s team. I was aware of Paul and Tom Morton’s interest in having a Women’s race team alongside the men, so I phoned Paul and that was the start of the new PMR@ToachimHouse women’s team.
I guess the importance of this new team to me is that I can offer and give the support that I never had as a young rider – I am really looking forward to seeing our riders develop!
Tell me about your plans for 2015? What are PMR@Toachim House’s main objectives?
I guess like a lot of the teams we are looking at the National Series and Team Series races as our main focus, as well as local races. We would also like to enter a team into the Tour Series – we will see, as all of the riders bar one have full time jobs it is a big commitment.
And of course we will support local races as much as we can.
What would you like the team to be doing in 2016?
My aim for 2015 is to develop the team so that everyone wants to stay together for 2016 – if we achieve that then we will really get noticed as the riders will have developed significantly for 2016. Having said that, it’s not easy to achieve with riders being tempted by offers in the ‘transfer market’. I do think we should keep a perspective here – this is UK amateur sport not professional football!
I would also like to see us compete in some continental UCI races.
Is your line-up finalised yet? Who are the riders?
Alexis Barnes, Ellie Cadzow, Susan Freeburn, Louise Laker, Adele Martin, Vicki Strila, Ruth Summerford, Chloe Weller and Catherine Hills. (Catherine is now unlikely to be able to ride this season following her hip injury sustained at the Coalville WTS race).
Who are your sponsors, and which bikes will the team ride?
Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research is our charity.
We do not have a bike sponsor.
How do you decide which races to target? What makes a race listed on British Cycling’s website stand out as one you really want the team to enter?
Personally I’m a road racer through and through, so for me stage races like Tour of the Reservoir, the Bedford 3-day and the Essex Giro are the stand out races.
Which is best: more “stand-alone” women’s races, or more run in conjunction with men’s races?
I think both sides of the sport can benefit from running men’s & women’s races in conjunction, as long as the women’s race is not seen as a “warm-up event.”
Certainly the women who have partners that race enjoy the opportunity to race at the same event!
What does the future hold for women’s cycling? Are you optimistic or pessimistic?
Very optimistic! There is now a depth developing in women’s cycling. It is still some way off the depth enjoyed by the men, but is certainly getting nearer to having more tiered racing with 3/4, 2/3/4 and E/1/2/3 races.
Some people think women’s cycling isn’t as competitive as men’s cycling, and must therefore be less interesting. What would you say to them?
I think it’s different, but there’s no question that it’s very competitive. I also think that it’s partly down to coaches and DS’s to instil attacking riding in their riders, male and female.
There are plenty of uninteresting men’s races from 3/4s up to pro’s, as well as many cracking races. The same is true of Women’s racing.
Most women’s teams actively try to help promote and develop the sport. Will you be doing that, and if so how?
PMR@ToachimHouse are promoting a good number of Road Races, Circuit Races, Time Trials & Hill climbs over the season for both men and women. We are running a 3 race series at Fowlmead to coincide with the Giro, Tour de France & Vuelta. The dates are 9 May, 4 July and 22 August.
I would like to see a major Women’s race in the SE in the future – we have some fantastic tough road race courses. Maybe in the next year or two?
As well as managing the team I am coaching (ABCC) a number of the riders and am a Commissaire and NEG rider.
And just to finish off here’s a link to a video from Sunday 15th Feb taken by Dave Hayward on the back of my motorbike – active coaching and photography!