20-year-old Sian Bottelely was born in Bourne, Lincolnshire, where she’s still based, and has been riding seriously and racing for five years. She started picking up good results in her first year with a win at Darley Moor and Redbridge, followed by more wins and podium places before she joined Starley Racing for 2014 and won six races in her first year with the team, then five in the second year and nine, including spectacular sprint finishes at the Lovelo-Cinelli RR and the Eastern RR Championships and four in a row between the 18th of August and the 10th of September, in 2016.
Starley, which had been one of the best-known and most recognisable teams on the British circuit, folded at the end of that year. In 2017, Sian will race with the new outfit On Form.
When and how did you first get into cycling? Do you remember your first bike?
My first ever bike was just a purple sparkly mountain bike when I was really little but my first proper bike was an Islabike. I started riding the Islabike when my dad, who’s the coach for our local club, bought a couple for the kids in the club to use. I did a Lincolnshire League cyclo-cross race, ended up going off the course and getting lost, finishing dead last and hating every minute of it. But I was the only girl in the race so won a tenner, so thought I’d give it another go. The next week I beat someone and the competitive streak in me came out, and I’ve not looked back since!
Which is your favourite cycling discipline, and what is it about it that appeals to you?
I really enjoy crits for the atmosphere but road racing is my favourite. It suits my style of riding the most, especially if it’s a sprint finish!
And what do you love most about the sport?
Lots of things, it’s too hard a sport to do if you don’t love it! My dad, brother and boyfriend race too, and there’s a lot of really good young riders that live near me, so I’ve always got people to train with. I love the camaraderie of cycling, I’ve met so many lovely people through the sport and learnt now that the friends you have at school often aren’t the ones that you keep, all my true friends are cycling friends!
Which bit of your racing kit is most important to you?
I’d probably say my power meter and Garmin, such massively helpful training tools that I hate being without now!
What made On Form stand out? What was it that made you think “that’s the squad for me”?
I was really excited about the prospect of On Form, run by Simon Howes who I’ve known for a while and fully trust to make 2017 a good year for us all. My dad is involved with the management too and my brother is on the junior team, so it’s going to be a bit of a family affair for me which will be nice!
What should the UCI and British Cycling be doing for women’s cycling?
A few things really. A lot of people say about how we should race the same distances as the men. I agree with this but not in the same way – I think the men’s races should be made shorter. There’s a reason why the TV doesn’t show the first bits of TDF stages etc, because they’re too long so everyone just rolls along chatting for the first parts and it’s boring!
Another thing, and I don’t know how controversial this is, but I think that British Cycling should introduce a road specific programme. The name of classification for categories at BC is “road and track “, and most of the academy riders are primarily track riders. While these riders are very good track riders, there’s a lot of very good road riders that miss out on all the support and backing of British Cycling because they don’t enjoy the track.
Tell us a little about your off-season training regime.
I’ve got a winter bike that I’m riding now, but I’m currently in Spain for my winter training so I don’t really need the full winter mudguard set up! But it’s quite heavy, so I’m excited to hopefully feel like I’m flying when I get my team Bianchi Oltre XR4 when I’m home!
What’s the best way to keep motivated through the winter?
Ride with other people, it makes the winter chilly miles go a lot quicker! Oh and leave England, go to Spain and ride in the sunshine.
What were your highlights, favourite race and hardest race in 2016?
I had quite a few highlights as I won a few races, but I reckon the my highlight was probably the Dave Peck as it was the first proper race I had won.
My favourite race had to be the Cicle Classic. Super hard but a lot of fun with all the off road sections, and it’s about as local as a race gets for me as well so it involved a lot of my training roads!
The hardest was the Curlew Cup, I had the worst day I’ve ever had on a bike and found it really hard physically and emotionally, finishing it feeling pretty dejected about bike racing!
What does the future hold for women’s cycling? Are you optimistic or pessimistic?
I’m optimistic, I think it’s getting there slowly but surely. Women’s racing is becoming more and more exciting and the numbers of girls taking part are growing exponentially. There’s a group of really talented junior girls that I train with at home, and when I started racing I was the only girl racing for miles around my house, and I think that just shows how far it’s come in a few short years.
Describe your warm-up routine.
For a road race I’ll just roll up and down the road, or spin on the rollers. For a crit or if I know a race is going to be flat out from the gun I’ll do a proper progressive warm up on the rollers without a couple of hard short efforts. Generally no music, I find that trying to get “in the zone” makes me more nervous.
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?
Just come and watch us flying round a Tour Series, or stick the Olympic women’s road race on the TV. It’s not hard to see that we race just as hard as the men. If anything, because our races are generally shorter, the racing can be more exciting, because everyone is racing hard the whole time, rather than just rolling along until the last 50km that going flat stick!
What are your main aims for the coming season?
I’d like to get some really good results in National Series races and Tour Series, a few podiums would be nice! I feel a lot stronger and I’m looking forward to mixing it in the harder hillier races. Before I’ve always struggled when the going gets really tough and I’ve not been strong enough to stick with the best when the road goes uphill, but I’m confident I’ll be in the mix this season!
A ten-year-old comes up to you after a race and says she’s just starting to race. What one bit of advice would you give her?
Just go and enjoy yourself. Results don’t matter, if you come last but have a whale of a time then it’s been worth doing.
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 reckon it would have to be either Peter Sagan or Esteban Chaves, they’d both have to slow down considerably for me but they’re just refreshing and funny personalities and seem to get all the enjoyment possible out of cycling!
Previous Ten Minute interviews on Neutral Service
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