Making the somewhat daunting step from cycling novice to racer can seem scary – but Boot Out Breast Cancer’s Scholarship rider Kelly Murphy made the leap within just six months.
Murphy will be riding as an ambassador in the cycling club that Dame Sarah Storey has set up to support the Podium Ambition – Sports Tours Pro Cycling pro team.
Though she only began racing last year, having got into cycling via her six mile commute to work, Murphy impressed Storey with her performance at the Ras Na mBam women’s stage race in Ireland this September.
The Birmingham PhD student explained her route from beginner to scholarship rider, saying: “Initially when I moved back home after uni, my office was around 6 miles away – it took an hour and a half on the train which was ridiculous so I started commuting, and I just fell in love with it."
It was local riders who encouraged her to take riding further – she says: “I was already quite sporty. I was a lifeguard at my local leisure centre, and there were quite a lot of cyclists that rode there – I told them that I’d bought this bike and they all said ‘oh you should come and join us on a ride’."
"The first few rides I did with them were about 30 miles, which at the time seemed like A LOT. When I actually did it and didn’t feel horribly worn out it was like a huge achievement"
“I built up gradually – the first few rides I did with them were about 30 miles, which at the time seemed like A LOT, but they took it really steady, really easy – when I actually did it and didn’t feel horribly worn out it was like a huge achievement – I was like ‘let’s do that again’! I couldn’t believe that I’d done it."
The riding group, which organise regular excursions via Facebook, consisted of various groups cycling at different speeds – Murphy made her way up the ranks: “From there, I started riding with the faster groups – and then I started mingling with some of the guys who raced. They explained more about the racing side of things. I just took it up on a whim."
From first getting her bike, to her first race, there was only a six month gap. Murphy says: “It was pretty quick. I did two races before the stage race – Ras Na mBam. But the two races I did where really quite far apart. They became my goals for the year – I didn’t realise it was the kind of thing that happened every week! I signed up for those and trained for them a bit like people do for a marathon or something. Once it was over I was like ‘ohh no more racing for a bit!’ I didn't realise people raced most weekends!"
"It’s nice to have a goal and have something to focus on. Otherwise I just go to the gym kind of aimlessly, to tick it off"
Many road racers will be competing once a week or more – and Murphy says: "It’s bizarre now, to be in a team, and racing regularly. It’s nice to have a goal and have something to focus on. Otherwise I just go to the gym kind of aimlessly, to tick it off."
Of course, being a scholarship rider, with a team bike and kit, Murphy’s training has stepped up – but her hours aren’t as brutal as we expected.
A PhD student studying Neuroscience, she's got plenty of work on her plate and said: “I do about 50 per cent of training outdoors and 50 per cent indoors now. I actually do most of it on the weekend – I can notch up around eight hours over Saturday and Sunday, then I do maybe an hour a day in the week."
"When you see riders on TV you assume they have the best of everything, that everything is perfectly dialled – and it is, but there’s no magic trick to it, you just have to be consistent."
We expected a regime of multiple hours, daily – and Murphy tells us the relaxed attitude to training in the peloton was unexpected to her, too: “It really surprised me how autonomous you can be over your own training and how normal you can be about it. When you see riders on TV you assume they have the best of everything, that everything is perfectly dialed – and it is, but there’s no magic trick to it, you just have to be consistent."
Murphy’s training is all self-organised and defined – she says: “I don’t have a coach. I love working out - I work in an office so I’m sat down most of day. Training is a great way to get rid of some stress. There’s no magic trick to it - if I feel good I push myself, if I’m tried I take it back a bit and take it easy. I think that’s the basics of training – it’s finding a balance."
"You need a bit of grit to push yourself harder than is comfortable. And you’ve got to be disciplined."
She adds: “To be successful – in terms of training – you’ve got to be consistent and you’ve got to be able to push yourself. You need a bit of grit to push yourself harder than is comfortable. And you’ve got to be disciplined – all those tiny things, getting up early to miss traffic, make a big difference."
To be a successful rider, she says there is more: “Without sounding cheesy – I think you need to be nice and make friends – cycling is a network – people need to like you as a rider."
Murphy will be an ambassador rider with the Boot Out Breast Cancer Cycling Club – which is open for all to join. She said: “Racing your bike is very different to riding your bike - I hope we can help to bridge that gap. Loads of my friends are interested in riding a bike, but racing seems intimidating - and it would be nice to smooth over that transition."
Find out more about Boot Out Breast Cancer, the club who Murphy will ride for, and you can join - here.