Picture this: you take up cycling whilst searching for a new hobby (breaking your hand in a hockey match early on in the new love affair with the bike), enter a couple of Duathlon races (once the hand is healed, obviously). You qualify for the World Championships in the spring and you’re a World Champion by October. And then you do it all again the next year.
That’s how it all happened for Claire Steels, a self-employed personal trainer from Stamford in Lincolnshire who represents Great Britain as an Age Group Duathlete (that’s the run, bike, run one).
- Age-Group Duathleltes and Triathletes are amateur athletes who race at European and World Championships, competing against others in their age category. Senior Categories start at 20-24 and go up to 80+
- Claire Steels’ results:
- 1st 25-29 Duathlon World Championships an Adelaide, Australia in October 2015
- 2nd 30-34 European Duathlon Championships in Kalkar, Germany in April 2016
- 1st 30-34 World Championships in Avilés, Spain in June 2016
Claire – who is an ambassador for Sundried activewear – has a background in hockey and running. Cycling represented an entirely new challenge for her when she walked into a bike shop and bought a Specialized Dolce before her first races in 2015.
Travelling up to the flat (but incredibly windy, it seems) lands of Stamford to ride with Claire and her coach Mark Griffin last week, one of the first things she says to me as we clip in is “I still don’t know that much about bikes!” Clearly she’s pretty good at riding them, I comment as we zoom off up the first gentle incline and my heart starts beating far too hard for easy conversation.
Cycling turned out to be a sport where Claire was naturally talented, but still had plenty of room for improvement. That represented a clear carrot for the goal driven athlete who tells me herself: “I’m in a very different category mentally [to most people]! I’m very competitive, but with myself as well. I have to know that I’ve done my best in every situation.”
In what way a ‘different category’, I ask?
Well – firstly she did race so hard at one event that she was actually sick. I’ve always considered that a bit of a mental line that you see Olympians cross, whilst most of us just settle with ‘felt sick’ during an event or interval. But she’s also in a ‘different category’ in a way I reckon most female cyclists or athletes will identify with: “My friends will often say ‘you need to make time for yourself – not training’! There’s that feeling of your relaxing time should be you sat in a spa, someone painting your nails – to me that isn’t relaxing. I’d find smashing myself on a 3 hour ride a lot more relaxing. Mentally it would help me a lot more to work all the stress out on the bike. See a hill and try to drive up it, that’s rewarding for me.”