In 2010 Sophie Coleman won the World Junior Duathlon Championships, her third consecutive World Championship win at the age of 20.
When she went to university, she decided to switch her focus to her course, and exploring other sports – but last month she set a clear marker that she’s back on the competitive scene by winning the Mallorca 312.
We caught up with Sophie to find out what she’s been up to, and how she came to shift her focus to competitive cycling.
“After the World Duathlon Championships, I began a BA Fine Art course at Loughborough Uni. Quite soon after starting I concluded it was time I took a break from the elite world of sport and changed focus for a while, though for how long I wasn’t sure."
In her triathlon days, Sophie was training 20-25 hours a week, and her time at university gave her space to devote time elsewhere, she said: “With much more time on my hands, I was able to fully commit to my course and embrace new things, including other sports which was fun. I graduated in 2013 with a 1:1 and have since been working with my families’ mobile catering business Oatopia."
A couple of years on, and Sophie set herself the goal of riding the Mallorca 312. She completed the event solo but her mum and dad also rode, to raise money for the Amyloidosis Research Charity.
She quickly began ramping up the training: “I only started training on the bike in January, not that I was by any means unfit before then, just that I had been dabbling in lots of sports rather than training with any particular focus.
"The 312 has become somewhat of a catalyst for me! Now that I’ve got myself bike fit I’m stepping away from the comfort of sportives and getting involved in some bike racing, entering events like the Women’s Team Series, though I’ll be heading to Wales in June to both cycle the Wiggle Dragon Ride and cater for the event with Oatopia."
Getting bike fit for 312km (that’s 194 miles), including ascents of the islands biggest climbs, takes quire some preparation and Sophie upped her training in the months prior to the event. All seeemed to be going in the right direction in March when she rode and won the Hot Chilli 3 day stage race for amateurs, the Cape Rouleur.
Sophie told us: “I checked out my stats on Strava the night before [the 312] for a bit of a confidence boost, and realised I’d ridden over 5400km, and climbed over 84,500m on both road and mountain bike in less than 4 months!
“I felt sure I’d done enough mileage to get me round... I was intending to ride hard but to be first lady home in 9hrs45 was definitely a surprise!"
How do you fuel 194 miles?
We published advice recently for those looking to fuel a 100 mile ride, but what about 194 miles, we asked? “I really do love oats so it was nothing other than porridge for breakfast! Then I literally had a picnic stuffed into the pockets of my jersey... Oatopia energy bombs (my every day ride essential), Marmite sandwiches, Cliff blocks, a few SIS gels...all alongside energy drink."
Caffeine was a vital ingredient, too: “I’m quite careful with caffeine and usually avoid it, however I figured as this was going to be such a long day exceptional circumstances applied, so I switched to caffeine energy drink in the second half of the ride."
The 312 is a remarkable event that saw 3,000 starters this year, and there’s a ‘Mallorca 167’ for those not ready to take on the full distance. What advice would Sophie give to those considering stepping up their distance markers?
Three top tips for riders wanting to complete endurance events?
“In practical terms, the first thing I would advise is to check bike set up! I invested in a bike fit before I started training for the 312 and was so pleased I did as I felt more powerful and comfortable in the saddle.
“Secondly, I suggest investing in some good quality cycling kit, especially decent shorts.
“As for the training, I’d advise gradually building up mileage and devise a game plan to ensure you don’t lose motivation. The fun is in the process of preparing for the event as much as it is actually doing it!"
And is it all worth it? Yes – it seems – she told us:
By taking on new challenges you give yourself the opportunity to surpass your own self expectations and limits which is hugely rewarding.
What are you waiting for? Check out out 100 mile sportive training plan and get started!
Catch up with what Sophie's up to by following her on Twitter: @Oat_Fairy.