Nicola Soden, of Team GBcycles.co.uk, is one of the friendliest riders on the UK domestic circuit. You can follow her on Twitter, and be sure to cheer for her at races.
When and how did you first get into cycling?
I first got into cycling through my Dad when he had a bad cycling accident at the velodrome about 4 years ago. He was ordering a new helmet from his hospital bed, so I figured it must be really good fun. I got accredited at Manchester Velodrome and it spiralled from there.
What do you love the most about the sport?
The risk and the tactics. Even from a spectator point of view in races I love watching what’s going on and who is doing what – everyone has their own agenda. Its fast, exciting and its hard work. I get bored if things are too easy and it definitely requires a lot of hard work in lots of ways.
What was the highlight of your 2013, and what are your goals for 2014?
My highlights of 2013 was probably racing the Ras na mBan (the womens tour of Ireland) guesting for my new team – GBCycles.co.uk. My performance wasn’t anything to shout about, but the course was really challenging and racing was point to point – the organisers didn’t hold back! I had really good fun with the team too – they’re a great bunch of girls!
My goals for 2014 are to continue to improve. I have a few ‘issues’ I need to work on, but the idea is to become more competitive at a national level.
What does the future hold for women’s cycling? Are you optimistic or pessimistic?
Definitely optimistic. The standard of racing is growing year on year and fields for road races are becoming increasingly oversubscribed. I’ve heard talk of holding split category races, so E/1/2 & 3/4. There are already some great local leagues for 2/3/4 women – in particular the CDNW league in the North West is getting fields bigger than some National Series when I first started racing. Its great that there are so many women racing now. There is also a larger number of races to choose from – I am finding that I can race women’s races both days on a weekend if I want. A few years ago the first women’s race on the calendar was the Cheshire Classic at the end of March.
There is the tour series which is televised, plus world cup road race coverage and now the Women’s Tour is coming to the UK. Things are definitely on the up in women’s cycling in the UK.
In 2013, a lot of fans have been getting more involved in women’s cycling. Any ideas what we can do to help even more?
Making pro racing (on a world level) more accessible to watch and follow. I am interested in pro women’s racing and would love to watch it, but find that the ability to follow it isn’t there like it is with the men’s racing. The Neutral service website is a great new development which definitely allows people to follow racing much easier.
How can the cycling world – fans, riders, race organisers and the UCI – encourage more women to start racing?
The person who I know has made the biggest difference in this area is Heather Bamforth. She has done a lot of hard work with the CDNW investing time into promoting it, encouraging new female racers to come on board by working with local clubs and offering race training sessions. Its this sort of direct contact with new riders that I think has the biggest impact. Its about telling people they’re good enough and providing them with a suitable level race to start off. Everyone was new once..
What could race organisers do to attract more female riders and fans?
Promoting the event. There are now many more women’s races than there ever used to be, so women may choose to ride a more local event where they’ve been used to having to travel. If more women know about your race in plenty of time, the more likely they are to be able to choose to ride your event. Contacting local clubs or using social media – getting influential teams/people with big followings on board to encourage people to race @heverb, @onthedrops @cyclopunk @_pigeons_ @epicscottwrt can help massively, or writing a race preview for velouk.net or onthedrops.cc/category/neutral-service/
Attracting more fans is a difficult one. I love what Andy Wood (Cheshire Classic organiser) did last year inviting a group of Breeze women to cheer the race on up the climb.
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?
I would ask if they’ve ever watched a women’s race? 😉
What’s not exciting about Barnes crashing out at Working tour series, getting back up and winning? The close finishes between her and Trott at the London Nocturne/Ride Prudenial GP? Corrine Hall giving Wiggle Honda the slip in the track nationals to take the National Scratch race championships?
The level of effort some women put in a race is immense – I remember pictures of Clemencie Copie on the floor after giving It everything in Colchester tour series last year and similarly Natalie Creswick after team series at hog hill just last week. Its not always a slow race with a bunch sprint. Women’s races are very attacking, tactical and fairly often a win is from a break.
Its about knowing the riders – I guess a race is less interesting if you don’t know who people are and what their strengths are.
Here’s a time machine which you can use to meet any rider from any point in history. Who will you be meeting?
Last question, and it’s the one that top psychologists agree reveals more about a person than any other: which is better – cats or dogs?
Cats. They are practically self sufficient and don’t require too much attention.