11 Inspirational Women in Cycling to Celebrate - Total Women's Cycling

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11 Inspirational Women in Cycling to Celebrate

There are some incredible women in cycling. We celebrate every single woman who gets on a bike and pedals – but there are a few we’ve spoken to in the last year who have really inspired us to ride.

Some of them are pro cyclists, others have used their bikes to smash through the barriers of what they thought was achievable, and others have worked tirelessly to drive women’s cycling in their local area and further afield.

We’ve grouped all of these incredible stories here – but to mark international women’s day, we’ve rounded up eleven (because ten just didn’t do them justice!) of our favourite interviewees from the year that’s passed…

 

Plus Sized Athlete Krista Henderson

How many times have you seen women’s magazines publish articles around how much you can eat now you’ve done your exercise? Or which exercises will get you a flat stomach, or ‘pins to die for’? Exercise and weight loss are so tied up in our psyche, a landing alien would be forgiven for thinking that we women only move our bodies for the sole purpose of making them look better.

Krista Henderson is attacking that idea. For her, training and racing are about getting stronger and faster, not smaller and smaller. As well as competing herself, she also coaches spin classes and writes training plans. She told us: “My advice is not to focus on the weight loss, focus on what it means to get stronger and fitter. Your goals could be how do you run 5 seconds faster or ride ten miles at a certain rpm. Those goals are more healthy and confidence building.”

Read more here

Wall Street to Hour Record Holder Evie Stevens

TWC’s love affair/girl crush/obsession with Evelyn Stevens has been ongoing since we first interviewed her about her career swap from Wall Street finance to pro cycling last year. We got even more insight into this incredible character when we spoke to her about how she deals with fear when racing wheel to wheel – she told us: “I’ve worked at trying to identify fear and anxiety separately. You need fear, but not anxiety. For example, if you’re on a hike, and you see a rattlesnake come out at you, you need fear to get out of the way. But you don’t need anxiety to tell you ‘I’m not going to walk in the woods ever again’.”

Soon after, Stevens went on to become the new Women’s UCI Hour Record Holder. We’ve documented the hours leading up to her attempt here. 

Rwanda’s Only Female Cyclist Jeanne D’Arc Girubuntu

Cycling isn’t exactly top of the agenda in Rwanda, but Team Africa Rising are bringing it to the forefront – with the aim of eventually sending a team to the Tour de France. For women, the idea of cycling is even more far removed from expectations – there are fears that jumping on a bike could cause a girl to lose her virginity.

There is however one woman daring to be different. Jeanne D’Arc Girubuntu is the only female member of Team Africa Riding. When the 20-year-old first saw people cycling, she said they looked “free” – and it wasn’t long before she got on her bike herself to seek that freedom. This month, she took a silver medal in the Women’s African Championships Time Trial  – moving up several places from her 2015 performance when she came fourth.

Read more about this amazing rider and her team here.

Always Growing Sport Manon Carpenter

At the age of just 22, Manon Carpenter has done a lot. She’s been Downhill Mountain Bike World Champion, and this year won the British Downhill World Cup series.

Not only is Carpenter obviously incredible on the pro stage, she also does a lot for women’s cycling – organising local rides for women in Wales, most recently teaming up with Strongher to take a group out in the drizzle at the Forest of Dean.

Our writer Jess Strange was along for the day, and said: “Days like these are brilliant for bringing women together, making friends and riding with professional athletes. They are fun and sociable, and a great way to observe other’s riding styles, and pick up a thing or two for yourself.”

Read more about Manon Carpenter here.

Tough Trooper Hannah Barnes

The good news is that Hannah Barnes is well and truly back on her bike and training now, but she had a long injury lay off over the off-season after she broke some hard to heal bones in her ankle racing in August.

Even amateur riders will feel the smarting frustration of an injury lay-off pretty keenly, but for a pro for whom riding is their livelihood as well as their passion, it’s even harder. Barnes, however, was copping admirably when we caught up with her.

She talked to us about her coping mechanisms, and said: “You kind of take yourself away from cycling a bit, and just be a normal person. It’s hard, crutches drive me crazy, but I just try to forget about training and racing and what everyone else is doing and just focus on me.”

We also discussed how she keeps her head cool during hard and fast races where a crash and injury are very real risks – of course Barnes had some great advice. Read the full interview here. 

‘I eat the Tour de France for Breakfast’ Katrine-Mari

There’s a vicious rumour circulating in cycling that women – even pro women – aren’t capable of riding the Tour de France. That’s a bit insulting to the pros who train full time, but most amateurs could be forgiven for feeling intimated by a three week tour averaging 200km a day.

Not Katrin. She did it once under sad circumstances, as her supportive father died close to the end. So she did it again, to celebrate his life.

She had a lot to say – everything from climbing advice to tips on avoiding saddle sores, and she also had something to say to the men in the sport who don’t welcome women – explaining: “Unfortunately the attitude to women racers and bikers is awful. I feel like I get looked at by guys – and excuse my French – but it feels like they’re saying, ‘what the f*ck are you doing on the bike. You’re a woman, you shouldn’t be here’. And I’ve experienced that. There are always exceptions, but 90% of male bikers I’ve ridden with have had that attitude. It’s going to be a tough one to change, and it has put me off riding in groups. Within bike travelling it’s much better… We have to keep fighting and maybe we’ll change something.”

Read more of her story here. 

Cycled the Coast of Britain and Wrote a Book in One Anna Hughes

Many of us dream of cutting all ties with every day life, and cycling off into the distance on a long adventure, and many of us like to think we have a novel brewing somewhere in an untapped part of our brain. Anna Hughes ticked off both goals in one go by cycling the coast of Britain, and writing a book made up of her experiences.

Hughes told us: “Adventuring is a very healthy thing to do, both for the body and for the mind. And what purpose is there in life other than to enjoy it? I learned to relax and not rush and not worry about things I couldn’t change. I wasn’t a fundamentally different person on my return, but I could definitely appreciate a different viewpoint.”

She now lives on a narrow-boat, gives motivational speeches, and is always looking for a new cycling adventure.

Read the full story here

Inspiring the Next Generation Isla Rowntree

Image: Jey Brooks (motelstudios.co.uk)

Until Rowntree arrived on the scene, the bike options for children were pretty limited, and didn’t take into account the lower weight of children, their smaller hands or weaker arms. It’s hardly surprising many little ones were reduced to tears at the very sight of an incline!

Rowntree launched Islabikes – a brand devoted to providing children with cycles that make them want to ride – just for fun, or competitively. Isla has a history as a successful mountain bike and cyclocross rider herself – she was the British Veteran Cyclocross Champion and Cross Country MTB Champion in 2010 and 2011 as well as being British National Cyclocross champ in 1999, 2002 and 2003.

We talked to Rowntree about everything from the design process, to advice for parents taking their children riding, as well as her desire to get more women in the industry. She learned most of what she knows on the job, and said: “It’s about joining up the dots, seeing somebody struggling with something then working out how to make it better.”

Rowntree doesn’t ‘do’ bikes for boys and girls, but bikes for children – she told us: “We don’t say “boys and girls” and have one with pink and Barbie tassels and one that look like a fire engine – that’s gender stereotyping and I actually feel quite strongly about that.” That’s one more thing we agree on.

Read more about Isla Rowntree here. 

I Lost 45kg and Became National Champ Hayley Simmonds

Hayley Simmonds has been smashing her way onto the pro scene for a couple of years, gradually transforming herself into a lean mean cycling machine, bit by bit – fueled by determination and sheer strength of will.

The cycling world took notice when Simmonds won the National Championships in June, and we interviewed her she went about her rise to cycling fame. She told us: “When I started riding, whenever we got to the smallest rise I’d just go backwards, other girls would just power off and I’d be slogging away up the hill… and now I’m leading the pack up the hills which is great.”

Having finished her PhD, Simmonds now rides for United Healthcare Pro Cycling – this year she’s experiencing her first pro races and appears to be making excellent progress.

Read the full interview here.  

Making Women’s Cycling Professional Rochelle Gilmore

Women’s cycling has got it tough – limited media coverage, struggles for sponsorship, fewer races and often abysmal gaps in prize funds. The symmetry between men’s and women’s cycling will never be realigned over night, but Rochelle Gilmore is working tirelessly to make sure it happens sooner rather than later.

Gilmore, who manages Wiggle High 5 Pro Cycling as well as the High 5 Dream Team, believes that to develop women’s cycling teams need to be more media savvy – she told us: “I had to think outside the box a little bit because traditionally you go to a sponsor and you propose the value in TV exposure and print media and all that kind of thing. But we couldn’t really depend on that.”

The ex-pro wears many hats, commentating at events as well as working with the teams – she told us: “They [the girls] see how much work I put into it, I use every single second of the day to promote women’s cycling and I think they respect that and they see that because they are on the inside. And they want to work towards that with me. I have their 100% backing,”

Read more from her here. 

Ultimate Adventurer Anna McNuff

Anna McNuff has done a lot of stuff: marathons, Ironman’s, races, sportives, public speaking and mega challenges that would break most people. Her first major jaw-dropper was cycling through all 50 states of the US in 2013 – covering 11,000 miles.

It was after she retired from professional rowing that Anna realised she needed to do more than spend her life “sitting here trying to make spreadsheets look pretty.”

An epiphany came soon afterwards – she told us: “[I realised] that everything I did was my choice, that this was my life and I could change it if I wanted to”

So McNuff made the choice, and has been adventuring ever since. Read her story here. 

 

What we love about these stories is that they’re all so very different. There’s no one trait that unites these women – other than perhaps a bravery and strength of character. With enough self-belief, all of us can do something incredible.

These are just a few of the incredible women we’ve been lucky enough to interview – there are so many more – check out a selection here.  

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