Roy and Karen Wyle Smith run EliteVelo-Kalas Sportswear, a new women’s team formed from BikePure-Lemond-Aspire-Velotech which closed down at the end of 2014. With an excellent website, the team has a slick and professional image; an impressive roster of riders ought to give them some good results to match.
Roy and Karen took the time to chat with Neutral Service about their team, their reasons for creating it, what they hope to bring to women’s cycling and where they think the sport is headed – with their obvious passion for the sport and good ideas, it turned out to be one of the most enlightening and fun interviews we’ve had yet!
Roy: I got the MTB bug in the early 90’s, watching Grundigs at Newnham Park, the sense of adventure was amazing as a teenager and I have raced bikes ever since. I still get the same feeling riding my bike 20 years later!
Karen: I have cycled since the age of five; my parents were very active members of the CTC and Tandem Club in the 80’s, Sundays were spent on social rides around the fens and wolds of Lincolnshire, as a super stoker! We cycle camped abroad most summers, covering most of France, including the Alps and Pyrenees, fully loaded with camping gear! Roy is still trying to play catch up on the Cols!
What’s your own cycling background, and when and how did you first become interested in women’s cycling?
Karen: Whilst at University I was introduced to competitive cycling by Roy, whom I met whilst studying. So since the mid 90’s I have been involved in cycle sport either as a competitor or a volunteer. Media coverage of Women’s cycling is slowly improving and with the upsurge in quality events being promoted, the scene continues to grow. We want to support this growth and development actively, rather than standing on the sidelines.
Roy: Money is channelled to the male side of the sport, but in real terms women’s cycling is as exciting if not more exciting. The smaller number of riders in teams promote more open, aggressive racing. The women’s tour was great to watch in 2014 and the women’s cyclo-cross world championships was an absolute cracker.
Why was it important to you to create a women’s team?
Sponsorship opportunities and support is more in favour of the male side of the sport. We wanted to create a team environment where members were given an equal opportunity to excel and perform. Having selected our team members for 2015, there is a real sense of excitement and fun for 2015.
Tell me about your plans for 2015? What are your team’s main objectives?
Our main objectives are to develop the members into a cohesive racing team, developing their fitness, skills and performance. Our racing goals are focused on the Women’s Team Series, a selection of the National Road Races and regional events the South West. We will also actively seek opportunities to race in higher profile criteriums and foreign events, but the goal is to build a strong foundation in 2015 and progress to the National Domestic Scene in 2016.
What would you like the team to be doing in 2016?
2015 will be a big learning curve for us as new “Director Sportifs”, so we will be absorbing the new experiences and building relationships with event organisers and teams. The long term plan is to be competitive on the National Domestic scene in 2016.
Is your line-up finalised yet? Who are the riders?
Yes, we have six quality riders:
More details on our riders will be uploaded onto the riders section of the team website following our team building and training weekend at the end of February.
What does the future hold for women’s cycling? Are you optimistic or pessimistic?
Cycling’s image in general is improving both as a sport and as transport. There is a lot of good work going on at the moment with women’s sport in general, and this is following on in cycling. Participation in women’s cycling seems to be increasing, and with increased numbers, more opportunities for racing should follow. As long as the momentum continues, then the outlook is positive.
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?
We do not agree that Women’s sport is less interesting or less competitive. Women’s participation in competitive sport is lower than male sport and in general does not receive the same media attention as male sport, hence funding – creating a vicious cycle. Opportunities and coverage are increasingly becoming available, although there is still a long way to go before girls are offered the same opportunities as boys, even from a young age. There is a lot of great work going on currently to change this and hopefully this will continue, but we believe women’s sport still has a long way to go. Women’s cycling is progressing similarly.
Who are your sponsors, and which bikes will the team ride?
eliteVelo Cycle Coaching is the main sponsor of the team. Our package of support includes performance analysis and coaching, we will be mentoring the team and preparing them before, during and after competitions. We promote a holistic approach to performance, developing the riders as a whole.
Kalas Sportswear is our cycle clothing sponsor and have provided the team members with their exceptional quality kit for racing and training.
Paligap LTD have been very generous in subsidising us with Powertap Wheelsets and
Joule GPS cycle head units. This has allowed us to provide the riders with the best training tools to develop their performance.
Powerbreathe UK have supplied each team member with a world leading inspiratory muscle trainer, the Powerbreathe PLUS. This supports and strengthens our team and business ethos of holistic athlete development.
Madison UK have been very generous in subsidising us with Lazer Genesis helmets.
Lazer Sports innovation in design and quality matches our team ethos and also finishes off that professional look.
At the present time we don’t have a bike sponsor for 2015. However, as this will be a formative year for the team, we hope that with our performance and awareness this will raise our profile for 2016 making it an easier decision to make for a prospective sponsor.
Most women’s teams actively try to help promote and develop the sport. Will you be doing that?
We were instrumental in the origins of the South West Cyclo-Cross League, Roy was Chair for 7 seasons and continues as Treasurer. We guided the league through two successful lottery grants to allow the group to promote quality grass roots cycle racing. Over the years we have implemented several incentives to encourage women to compete and have seen a healthy growth in numbers. Cyclo-Cross in our eyes is one of the best introductions to cycle sport and many of our champions have experience of this great branch of cyclesport. We promote at least one cyclo-cross event a year and are involved in the general running of the League. We have often been called stalwarts of the league.