Helen Croydon describes herself as a journalist and author by week, and an age group triathlete by weekend (and morning, and evening, we imagine).
She took up triathlon two years ago, and last May qualified for the Age Group World Championships, at which point she got in contact to discuss sponsorship with Bianchi.
As well as Helen, Bianchi sponsor a range of athletes, including current South West Road and Circuit Race Champions ‘BikeShed Bianchi’ women’s team. The riders get high quality rides, Croydon’s own bike is the Oltre RX2 – a bike she’s nicknamed ‘Bluey’ after the Celeste colour.
We caught up with her to find out more about her relationship with the brand, and the way they’ve supported her…
All images: Geoff Waugh
It was a break up and a sudden change in social dynamics that caused Croydon to discover her love for triathlon – she explains to me: “It all started after a break up and all my friends simultaneously moving out of London or having children at the same time. Basically, I needed new friends and a new hobby which didn’t gravitate around drinking! I wasn’t sporty at all – I’ve always kept fit, but never outside of the comfort of a warm, dry gym."
"Suddenly I’d replaced fancy cocktail bars for weekends getting cold, muddy, exhausted and pushing physical and mental boundaries, which is empowering and satisfyingly wholesome"
All that was about to change - starting with running, Croydon quickly discovered a whole new, unexplored territory in her personality: “First, I joined a running club and quickly got hooked on the culture of outdoor sport and competitive racing. When that no longer seemed enough, I stepped up to triathlon. I think I got so hooked because I never saw myself as tough – quite a girly girl in fact. Suddenly I’d replaced fancy cocktail bars for weekends getting cold, muddy, exhausted and pushing physical and mental boundaries, which is empowering and satisfyingly wholesome."
In May Croydon qualified for the triathlon Age Group World Championship – that’s when she got in touch with Bianchi – she says: “I qualified on an entry level road bike, which I always felt was an effort to ride. Cycling was my weakest discipline of the three because it was the newest sport to me. That’s when I approached Bianchi and asked if they would be willing to work together. The idea was simple: I use my media and broadcast background to help promote their brand and enhance the push to get more women involved in cycling, and Bianchi support me in competitions with a quality bike fitted professionally for my needs."
Unlike many of our top women’s brands, Bianchi don’t offer a women’s specific frame – but that’s something Croydon is quite happy with, and she’s not alone. Though we value brands creating women’s specific frames, not everyone wants one – she tells us: “It’s all about the fit. I have a shorter stem on both my Bianchi bikes than the standard length so this reduces my reach. I rode a women's specific bike before but I found the reach a little short causing me to go onto the drops a lot to compensate. With the unisex frame (and a professional fit) my power is up and I’ve noticed it's easier to handle."
- More about triathlon:
- Off season training here
- All you need for your first race here
- An exploration of the tri gender gap here
Croydon’s sponsorship with Bianchi is based on an agreement that she helps them with their UK initiatives to get more women riding. This year, they’re hosting a range of ‘Dama Demo Days’ – the first of which was held at Rutland Cycles this month.
Bianchi bikes do have a vast and constantly growing women’s audience – despite not offering a women’s specific frame, we can’t help but be drawn to them. Pondering the reason, Croydon offers up her own opinion: “They are sexy bikes! It would be sexist of me to say women have a better eye for style and colour and so perhaps the stylish Italian branding and iconic celeste blue appeals to them more… But there is obviously something which is having this effect! It’s also that Bianchi seems to be a brand people trust – it’s the designer label of cycling. Anyone who rides a Bianchi does so with pride and gets involved in the romance and history of the brand. There’s even a very keen bunch of riders who have started a nationwide Bianchi Owner’s Club of their own accord."