Five minutes with Ishbel Taromsari, national rollapaluza women’s champion 2013

Ishbel Taromsari has just been crowned as the national rollapaluza women’s champion 2013. The Reluctant Cyclist found out what rollapaluza is and spoke to the 32 year old Commonwealth Games hopeful from Falkirk who was giving her first ever interview.

Ishbel Taromsari won the 2013 national rollapaluza women’s champion title.

A rollapaluza is a race between two stationary bikes, with the back wheels on rollers and the front forks are fixed. You race to person next to you, usually in a pub and there is a big timer behind you for the crowds to see.

I heard about rollapaluza from some of the mechanics at the Chris Hoy Velodrome in Glasgow when I was training there. I’d never heard of it before but there was a heat on in Glasgow the next week, so I went along not knowing really what to expect and I won! I then came to London for the Nationals and won that too. You ride a 500m race in around 23 or 24 seconds for the girls, so it’s short but painful. In the last race I had my head down with my eyes closed and was just screaming through it. That shows you how painful it is because as a woman you don’t really want to be screaming in front of a whole load of people.

The Chris Hoy Velodrome opened in Glasgow last year; you have to get accredited to ride on it, and they teach you how to ride on a fixed gear bike with no brakes. I went down with some friends, and the head coach, Kevin Stewart approached me to suggest I might be a sprinter. Kevin and Glasgow Life took on training me. I’d only been training for about 3 months when I went to my first race, and I won 3 of the 4 races that evening.

Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton are sprinters, which is what I want to excel at. I’m still amazed that at the national final I beat Victoria’s recorded time on the rollapaluza and rode the 2nd fastest time ever for a woman, at 22.51. In the rollapaluza final the women’s and men’s prizes are exactly the same, which is great. I won cycling goodies, a Union 34 jacket and £300 cash. It’s great that rollapaluza to do this with the same prize money. People say that men get more in cycling because of the media coverage but that isn’t a reason for local races, so it’s fab that rollapaluza are doing this.

Before this I’ve done touring; I’ve gone off round France on my own for months just me and my bike. It was difficult and painful and I hated the hills. When I went to try the velodrome and Kevin Stewart asked me if I would be interested in training with him I asked him if that meant I wouldn’t have to cycle up any hills. He said yes and so I said ‘fine I’ll do it’! I’d never watched the cycling on TV so I didn’t know what I was getting into, just that I wouldn’t have to cycle up any hills.

My employer really supports me with the sprinting. I work for Central Refractories who also sponsor me, along with The Wheelsmith and Pedal Power. I get coached through Glasgow Life and timed at the velodrome in Glasgow around 3 times a week. I train with all the hairy boys and am the only girl there. Every time I go I try to beat the boys and I’m always disappointed because I’m about a second slower.

There are a lot of women cycling around Edinburgh, but it’s difficult to get them to make the jump from recreational to competitive. I’m desperate for some other women sprinters to come and join me. Sprinters from any other field should try cycling at the velodrome. You need explosive power for a very short period of time. You need to understand performance and failure and be able to fail all the time to get better, because that’s how you get better.

Glasgow Life set up the velodrome and are really behind me. I’ve been sprinting for only 5 months but the time I achieved last session would have got me 10th place in the British Nationals for the ‘Flying 200s’. You cycle at the top of the velodrome to get your speed up then fly down to the bottom and cycle a 200 metre sprint. My aim is to be the fastest woman qualifying for the Commonwealth Games when they are held in Scotland next year.

To settle an on going argument I’ve been having, I also asked Ishbel about her experience of wearing cycling shorts.

I had been around Europe cycling for months, covering about 80 miles a day. Nobody had ever told me you don’t wear pants under cycling shorts so for the whole trip I was wearing them. I found out a couple of years later when I’d been at a race and one of the marshals noticed that I had a pant-line. He mentioned it to his girlfriend who was also racing and she let me know that you’re not supposed to wear them. It’s been much better since I found that out. Ladies – you don’t wear pants under your cycling shorts.

We’re looking forward to cheering Ishbel on in next year’s Commonwealth games, she’s certainly a star in the making.


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