It’s not every cycling team which travels around with a 1 year 11 month year old, but that’s exactly what Pearl Izumi Sports Tours International do when Dame Sarah Storey and Barney Storey are involved.
Speaking to us in an interview during her pregnancy, Dame Sarah Storey told us: “I have no plans at the moment to either stop [training] before the birth or start afterwards, it’s all going to be about how my body is.”
GB’s most decorated female Paralympian and Paralymic World Hour Record holder, Dame Sarah did just that – and her daughter, now nearly two, travels around the world to races with her and her husband Barney.
Lousia Storey spent last week, like us, following the Aviva Women’s Tour – and we caught up with husband and Team Manager Barney to find out how they coped with a “nearly two” year-old on tour.
His first point was that for women’s cycling, or sport, to move forward, it was important that the “issue” of children wasn’t pushed aside.
An Olympic champion himself, who won a Gold medal piloting a tandem in 2012, he said: “I think America probably took the lead in this… obviously we’ve investigated it a lot but the USA women’s soccer team have nanny’s away with the team that look after the kids, so the mums can do what they need to do: their jobs.”
He added: “It goes hand in hand… you can’t employ a draconian strategy of ‘keep the kids away from everything,’ because its just not possible, no one is happy – so you’re never going to get a good result.”
You cant employ a draconian strategy of ‘keep the kids away from everything,’ because it’s just not possible, no one is happy
Not that many athletes on British Cycling programmes have trodden this path, and Storey added: “It’s the first time its happened in the British Cycling set up… I know a lot of the girls watch with interest, particularly those on the Olympic programmes… because they think: “that might be me in 5/10 years time, I want to know how things happen and that I don’t have to leave my sport” – and it shouldn’t have to be like that.”
So, how do the Storey’s manage their bundle of joy on tour? Barney explains: “We’ve got Sarah’s Mum and Dad along for the [Women’s Tour] race so they’re basically looking after her in the morning, which she absolutely loves because she loves to spend time with them.
“She goes to sleep really easily, the only struggle is that she gets up late, so these are all really early starts for her, normally she wakes up about 8.30 in the morning, so that’s the only thing with this race, but she gets a snooze in the day.”
Of course, not all races are the same – he added: “Sarah’s parents travel around with us a lot, but sometimes it’s just us, we just mix it up and make sure she’s happy – she’s our number one priority, we have to keep reality in check, as nice as all this is her needs come first. The good thing is, because she’s always traveled with us, nothing is ever a shock, so all this is quite normal to her.. when she goes to school she’s probably going to be really bored.”
All this is quite normal to her.. when she goes to school she’s probably going to be really bored
And how do the team get on with having a mini-supporter? Barney tells me: “It’s one of those subjects that some people are comfortable with, and others aren’t – but it’s a fact of life. It shouldn’t be as unusual as it is I don’t think.
“Obviously if you’ve got riders trying to concentrate and warm up and a child is screaming or in distress right next to them, that’s not ideal either, but Louisa is very good, she’s a happy little soul, but if she wasn’t, we’d obviously take her away as we wouldn’t want to upset her or any body else, we just try to find a happy medium really.”
Dame Sarah has had a string of fantastic results in recent years. We know from the great source that is Google that there are well documented benefits of pregnancy and childbirth on performance – but we want to know if they’re real, and tangible.
Barney tells me: “There are well documented differences in performance in women post childbirth. That has happened. How long it will last, we don’t know. It’s likely that’s dropping off now. But Sarah is still riding much better now than she was around 2012.”
He did add, however, that hard work will be playing a big a part, saying: “It’s difficult to say if it’s down to the fact she trains pretty hard to make herself better and better all the time. There’s also a flip side – your sleep is affected – it’s all very well having a boost in aerobic performance, if you’re not getting any sleep, you’re not going to get the most of the boost. It’s all about having a balance between everything so you do get an improvement.”
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