Local Heroes

Local Heroes

Articles pop up in our news feeds daily on the latest news from the pro’s, but we all know there’s much more to sport than those at the top. It can sometimes be those we do sport with regularly that we get the most inspiration from, which is where my latest idea for a competition has come from.

I say competition, but it’s more of a way of launching a new series I want to run on my blog for 2019. Local Heroes. I’ll be opening my inbox to any amazing stories you want to tell. A race result you’ve been chasing all season. A new trail run route you’ve found. A friendship group you’ve formed with all of the banter.

The best part?

There’s the chance to get a free photo shoot out of it. Some of my blog readers might not know that I’m actually a big lover of photography. I went to photograph the British Downhill Series at Llangollen before hopping on a downhill bike myself. Riding and racing means I don’t do it so much now, but I want that to change!

So, to launch this new series I’m going to run a competition to be the first Local Heroes story to hit Lucy’s Life and Bikes. Any sport. Any age. Male. Female. As most will be a little shy to enter themselves, enter your local hero by using the contact form below!

ENTRIES CLOSE 13th JANUARY AT 18:00 (so I have chance to get January’s ‘Local Hero’ article out there!)

Don’t forget to spread the word by hitting the share button!

 

Is Cycling as a sport the problem, or the people in it?

Is cycling as a sport the problem or the people in it

When rally fever hit Wales, I couldn’t have been happier as the low rumbles of rally car engines returned to our forests. In the lead up to the rally I attended the Rally Forum, which is organised by Broughton-Bretton Motor Club. Big names from the rallying world attended to get interviewed on their season and their thoughts before the big rally took place. The reason I’ve mentioned the rally is because some of the things talked about in the Rally Forum got me thinking about cycling too.

A question that came to mind was;

Is cycling as a sport the problem, or the people in it?

There’s been lots of upheaval in the cycling industry recently, particularly on the road cycling side of things. There’s been teams folding left, right and centre leaving a lot of riders looking for team spots for the 2019 season. JLT Condor and One Pro Cycling just to name a few.

Something mentioned at the Rally Forum was how it is possible to reach the top of rallying as a sport if you’re willing to put the effort in. Someone quoted “if you speak to some of the top football players, they weren’t necessarily the top players on their team when they were young”. It just takes a lot of work to get there. It got me thinking that this is the same across any sport, including cycling.

There’s news articles daily about how cycling is underfunded, that it isn’t fair women get less than men…you get the idea. Big names are always saying “we need to get cycling as a mainstream sport”. And it brings me back to my question of is cycling the problem, or the people in it?

Growing up through the grass roots of racing I’ve seen riders with potential fall out of love with the sport and move on to other things. Others question why they’re not getting sponsorship despite a strong string of results throughout the season. But my view on the situation is that results simply aren’t enough anymore.

Being around many different sports growing up, I don’t have the cycling blinkers on. Keeping on similar themes for example, look at rallying as a sport. The top drivers will be expected to push their sponsors and their team by doing things like ‘Meet and Greets’ with fans and wearing team jackets covered with team sponsors when their not in the car. The teams that have the best relationships with their fans are those with the biggest fan base. The teams that will like ‘tweets’ when fans tag them in pictures. The teams with drivers who will take the time to talk to their fans. A team can have the best results, but if their drivers refuse to speak to anyone, the dream might not last very long. From a business point of view, the fans are who buy the tickets and team merchandise, so they’re what’s bring the money in.

We’ve all been there. There’s a rider we idolise and after a good experience talking to them, we all of a sudden want the products they’re using. Take Coryn Rivera for example, a cyclist who is regularly on social media in team-branded kit finding the positive in every situation. She’s one of the smallest riders in the peloton but was strong enough to take the win at the Tour of Britain, but was extremely humble about it when she did. All of a sudden I loved riding my Liv road bike that little bit more.

Then you look at the likes of Trek Drops Cycling who did something totally out of the blue setting up a British women’s development team, but had one of their top sponsors as Every Can Counts, who they still have to this day. The difference with Trek Drops and their relationship with Every Can Counts is that I know what Every Can Counts is because their riders promote the company and their products. It’s a very topical company since they encourage recycling and even encourage me to turn to cans as aluminium is continually recyclable, unlike plastics.

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All smiles. #ColourTheRoad

A post shared by D R O P S (@dropscycling) on

So many cycling teams have sponsors that I either don’t know about, or are just a name to me, rather than knowing what the sponsor actually does without having to search on the internet. If we want to attract companies to invest in the sport, like they do with football, we need to make sure we’re doing all we can to promote them to make it worth their while.

I only recently found out JLT are an insurance company. How can we expect cycling to grow as a sport if we don’t see sponsorship as a two way thing? We can’t expect companies to sponsor teams or athletes if they’re going to get not a lot in return. I think the cycling industry isn’t very creative either in terms of where it gets sponsorship from. Trek Drops is the only team I can think of who did something a little different. They didn’t just go to companies in the cycling industry. Cycling could grow so much if it ventured into other industries and turned the heads of people in those industries.

That’s obviously at the top level of cycling, but if we come back down to grassroots cycling, maybe young athletes can also change their approach to getting to the top of the sport.

When I interviewed World Rally Championship Driver, Hayden Paddon, a few years ago, he didn’t get an easy route to where he is today. He had a close bond with his Dad, but his Dad told him that if he wanted to rally he would have to fund it himself. When working three jobs as a teenager wasn’t enough, he started approaching local businesses for sponsorship. But he didn’t just provide results, he did demonstrations and car washes. He looked after his sponsors…he didn’t just ‘have’ sponsors.

I question what sponsorship even means anymore. People seem to drop the word into advertising to catch people’s attention, but when you delve deeper all it means is a discounted code to use on products. To me this isn’t sponsorship. It’s a marketing tool to get people to buy and promote products even though they’ve had to pay for them. I’ve seen people get drawn into ‘sponsorship’ where they’ve ended up buying products they’ve never even thought of using before. Just to say they’re ‘sponsored’.

Call me bitter, but I don’t see the point in buying kit just because you’ve got a discount code. What’s the difference between the ‘sponsorship’ code and the codes they might send out monthly in emails. To me this is supporting riders, rather than sponsoring them.

Back when I raced downhill, I was lucky enough to get sponsorship with Fridersinc. From the sponsorship I had team kit I had to wear (and loved to wear) and a custom painted helmet. Nic from Fridersinc even helped with some of my race entries. To me, that was sponsorship and I loved promoting them as a company.

Now you tend to see people drawn into ‘sponsorship’ deals just so they can look more professional by having a sponsor next to their name on the start sheet. Essentially these codes are a way of companies getting cheap advertising by people plastering their product all over social media. When I come to buying new cycling kit these days, I’m much more inclined to buy a product an established name uses. Not because someone’s got a discount code on social media. By established name, think Danny Mcaskill and Endura.

I think thats what puts me off, is you get people drawn in with a discount code with a brand they secretly don’t like the quality of, but they’ll go along with it anyway because they’re ‘sponsored’.

With the likes of Danny Mcaskill, I was more inclined to buy Endura for my brother last Christmas because he was someone who was at the top of their game and needed kit they can trust.

So back to promising athletes making their way through grassroots racing. I don’t think you necessarily need team sponsorship to get to the top of the sport. Granted, having riders you can rely on in a road race is invaluable, but just because you’re not on a team doesn’t mean your restricted to where you can take yourself in the sport.

Try and be a little bit creative.

If you look how big the blogging/social media industry is these days, maybe we can learn a thing or to from it. Brands suddenly want to work with bloggers, who are essentially a personal brand, so you need to build a personal brand of your own. Not only this, look at how you can fund your sport a little bit differently. You might need a little bit of help on the training side of things, so your first thoughts might be ‘I need to get sponsored by a coaching company’. Why not approach this a little bit differently and ask local businesses for sponsorship to fund paying for a cycling coach? You have their company logo on your kit and make sure you promote them as much as you can like Hayden Paddon did. As you grow your sponsorship bit by bit, all of a sudden you could have a handful of companies that help you pay for race entries, or even travelling to races. All of which can be the building blocks to help you get to the top of the sport. We only need to look to grassroots football teams and the logos on their kit to get some inspiration.

Chirk Tri – Fuelled by Easter Eggs

It finally came around, the race that I’ve been gambling on about for months…

My first Triathlon.

And…drumroll… I completed it, which when I could barely swim 25m last October, was all I ever wanted to do.

Going into it I genuinely had no idea how it would turn out. I was doing a typical me and overthinking and over planning everything. In my head, I wanted to wear socks for the bike and run. I needed gloves and a jacket for the ride so I didn’t get cold. I was going to put a Buff on to stop my wet hair dripping down my back.

What happened in the transition from swim to bike?

I left transition with no socks, no jacket, no Buff and no gloves. I was venturing out into the valley to Glyn Ceiriog in a wet Tri-Suit. Nice one Lucy…nice one…ha!


Off out on the bike there was a long drag uphill to the half way point. A climb which looks less steep than it actually is, so it’s easy for it to play with your mind. You feel like you’re struggling a lot more than you should be. I felt a lot stronger than I thought I would be and on the descent I would only feel stronger as the climb was now a descent. It was such a great road to race on. There was a final kick up a hill heading back up to Chirk, where I was expecting my legs to hurt a fair bit, but I somehow just breezed up it. I think I was on such a high after the swim my legs just kept going!


The swim isn’t actually something I’ve spoken about first, despite it coming first in the Tri! So how did that go?

Interesting to say the least.


I may have misheard, but I’m sure someone said the pool was shallow at both ends, but it wasn’t. I push off for my first length and get to the other side of hot pool. It reach for a bar and go to put my feet on the bottom of the pool. The floor was nowhere to be seen along with the bar. Well done Lucy, you’ve nearly drowned and you’ve done one length. Ha! Thankfully I managed to grab onto the side and carry on!

But after a few lengths another swimmer past me and as I went to breath, rather a lot of water went into my mouth. Thankfully I was still in a shallow part of the pool when that happened, or god knows how that would have ended. After that point, all the swimming techniques went out the window and I just wanted to get out on my bike. Next minute, a sign with the lovely number 2 on meant I had two lengths left. I quickly sped up and was soon out of the pool!

The biggest hurdle of the Triathlon for me was done. After what was always going to be the strongest parts for me, the bike, it was back into transition for the run. It did involve me stopping dead at the dismount line though after forgetting about it!

Transition from bike to run was interesting. Despite me feeling strong on the bike, I was freezing cold! The downhills on the way back meant in transition I could barely feel my hands or feet. Have you ever tried to put running shoes onto your wet feet that you no longer have any feeling in? Don’t. It’s near damn impossible. I apologise to anyone who was around me at that point in transition…ha!

Being as cold as I was, I picked up my cycling jacket (to run…I know I’m mad), my gloves and a Buff. The first part of the run felt rather odd because it felt like all of the blood was rushing back to my legs. I still couldn’t warm myself up though.


At this point I put on my Buff as a headband. From my training runs I normally put a Buff on now to stop my hair going in my face, but I also found it raised my body temperature quite a bit  if I put it over my ears. So my Buff became invaluable during the run on my Tri. My body temperature quickly warmed up and I could get round the 2.6 mile run to the finish.

Running took a back seat in training vernthe past few weeks. My swimming was important and I’d spent a lot of time at Crit races and a TT. The time had past and it dawned on me how little I’d been out running. Yet, when my Garmin bleeped showing my first mile was a 8:22 my pace wasn’t as bad as I’d thought.

Similarly to a Duathlon I did last October, when I realised I could possibly get a sub hour and a half time, I made sure I picked up the back on the last downward stretch to the finish. I was in nowhere near of a state as I was for the Duathlon at the finish either. I was just on a massive high from the whole thing. Something that had been on my Bucket List for so long was now ticked off. And I think I may even do another one…

My family have been amazing since I booked onto the Tri. Thinking I’m mad when I’ve come back from a long run or a tough swim session. I’m just glad I managed to finish it to make all of the training worthwhile. I may have splashed and struggled at times, but I kept my race face mentality with the only thing on my mind being the finish. Ryan’s been the biggest support and I definitely couldn’t have done it without him. Not letting me have too many lazy days and taking me on long days out on the bike.

Everyone at Chirk Tri did amazingly today from the competitors to those involved in running the event. We can’t forget the Marshals either! Their smiling faces were a big encouragement on the way round.

I was so nervous at the start, but the women who were swimming at the same time as me were full of encouragement. It definitely helped when the whistle went to start swimming.

The way I’ve rambled on, anyone would think I’d done a marathon! To everyone doing the London Marathon or anything active, whatever your reason behind doing it, keep it up & well done!

Finishing in 1 hour 26 minutes? I’m happy with that.

I just need to find something else to train for now…but look out for future blog posts where I review the kit that got me through my first Triathlon:

Battling the West Pennines

Going into this weekend I really wasn’t sure how it was going to go, but then nobody can predict racing can they!

A 14 mile Time Trial was the challenge. I’d been riding between 25 and 30 miles regularly, so 14 shouldn’t be a problem right? Those rides weren’t that slow, but I certainly wasn’t going full effort for an hour like I would be for the TT. The only time I’d pushed myself for an hour and above was a Duathlon last October and I remember that that hurt a lot!

Rocking up to the West Penine Road Club’s TT the skies were grey and rain was falling down. On a drive around the 14 mile loop, the roads were riddles with puddles and water running off the fields. 

How on earth was I going to get around this? On a bike we’d built the night before. I say we because I ended up requiring help off Ryan when I decided to have a complete mind blank on how to build a bike. I’d not done it as a job for a year or anything…

The rain kept falling and I was trying to figure out how I could pin a number to an expensive waterproof jacket without putting holes in it. Luckily I’d chucked in a £10 Endura jacket that was going cheap online. I like to support my local bike shop as much as I can, but that £10 jacket has now become the jacket I’ll use for TT’s where rain is causing chaos. I’d also put my Mavic gloves last minute, which I’m now incredibly glad I did!

TT tip number one? Packed for all kinds of weather as you never know what you’ll end up dealing with even if the Weather app on your phone tells you you’re going to dodge the rain….

One thing I noticed fairly soon after arriving was how nice everyone was. I told all the other girls I met good luck and then it was time for me to get changed. And get a certain bike to fit me! Seat and bar adjustments needed to be made…all minutes before a race but hey ho…ha!

I’d heard about the TT after Joanna Rowsell had posted it on Twitter encouraging more girls to enter. The part that shocked me the most was that she was the one to ensure there was equal prize money for both men and women, even if she had to put some money in herself. With the large start list with plenty of girls in the mix, there wasn’t actually a problem funding the equal prize money.


Since meeting Ryan, I’ve been toying with the idea of trying a TT. Road cycling had become a much bigger part of my life whilst I tried to find job and build a career. It was easy to get out on the road bike straight out of my back door, where as mountain biking would rarely end up materialising. I just wanted to go out and pedal, and road cycling offered that even if it was on my brother’s bike which was two sizes too big!

When a message popped up on my phone off Ryan asking if I’d checked the start list, I was getting worried! I was expecting a jam packed field of pro’s I’d be at the back of, however the surprise was much more pleasant than that. Ryan’s start time was a minute behind my start time meaning we could start together pretty much. It also meant he could brief me on what on earth was going on!

Clipped in and held upright until it was time for me to go, I was given a bit of a push to get going and off I went to experience my first ever Time Trial. 

The first part was a bit of a mess for me if I’m honest, I’d find myself in the completely wrong gear going up 10% gradients or not knowing how my bike would hold its line on the descents. The roads were like rivers and roads I didn’t know either with the TT being up in Clitheroe near Preston. However, passing a speed checkers that brought up 20mph I started to feel a little bit more confident on the bike. I was expecting to be going much slower!

When they called it a hilly time trial they weren’t kidding! From the TT’s I’d been to watch Ryan compete in they were dual-carriageways or flat roads. This TT was the opposite, especially with it finishing with a 10% uphill gradient toward the finish! Wind and rain battering me through every pedal stroke I somehow found myself caught unawares at the finish. So TT tip No. two? Find a few landmarks you can use to gauge how far you’ve got to go! Or a fancy Garmin to sit on your bars, but I’ll stick to the less expensive landmarks option for now!

Ryan with his 4th place!!!


Rolling back to the race HQ after attempting to shout my number to the guy on the finish line, I was soaked! My Mavic gloves were dripping wet, yet I had the biggest smile on my face. My first Time Trial had given me such a buzz. To some the thought of hurting yourself for an hour sounds like hell, but for me it was pushing past limits I’d not stretched before. Putting my everything into every pedal stroke. Beating my target of a sub-hour time by 7 minutes. So many good things came from doing that race in the pouring rain. I was so close to not doing it because of the weather, but sometimes switching off your brain to do something outside of your comfort zone can be the most uplifting thing you’ll ever do.

Let’s not forget we got to meet one of Britain’s most successful female cyclists, Joanna Rowsell, who’s recently announced her retirement and is going on to study at University. I still can’t get over how down-to-earth and genuine she was. She didn’t just put her name against the event, she stood outside in the pouring rain to marshal and helped organise tand alongside her husband, Daniel Shand.

A big thank you to them both and of course the West Penine’s Cycling Club. Everyone involved in the event can’t be thanked enough! I’ll look forward to seeing everyone somewhere on the TT circuit in the future!