Women in Cyclocross

Last week’s eventful National Cyclocross Championships in Bradford was full of exciting and action packed races. The field was made up of headstrong and determined women all ready to compete. No matter the odds…or age.

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Sally Reid aged 58 won the 55+ women’s veterans national cyclocross race last week. I caught up with her after the race to find out what got her to where she is.

Tell us about yourself.

I started riding mountain bikes in my early 20’s, after some time I decided I wanted to race. At that time national teams were looking to have a woman on each team to promote women’s cycling within the sport. I was lucky enough to join the Specialized UK national Mountain Bike Team in the elite category. After a few months, I was beginning to win races out of a field of 30 or so women. It was then in 1991, I won my first National Mountain Bike Championship, I followed this up by winning again in 1992. After this, I settled down, got married, had children and left the sport. I continued to be interested, I coached juniors and continued to following races. Then, last year I found cyclocross.

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What first attracted you to Cyclocross?

Going to watch the races, it is a great spectator sport with short exciting races. It is very accessible and easy to enter local races to get started. So I decided to give it a try.

How have you found training this season?

I have had to be disciplined and having a former world champion as a coach has really helped with this. My husband is very supportive, I needed to be very adaptable because I want to push on despite my age.

What do you think makes a good racer?

You have to be an adrenaline junkie! The camaraderie within the sport is great and I have made so many friends over the last year. I love racing takes your fitness to another level.

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You have mentioned you used to coach, do you see yourself working with juniors again?

I used to coach younger riders and would love to work with my local club to help support new riders. I would like to run girls specific training sessions to help them build skills and confidence. Clubs should offer incentives to juniors, some free kit or training sessions to help them get on their way.

Have you seen a difference in the sport since the last time your raced?

Cycling has come a long way since I was racing mountain bikes. However, there is still a big gap between the elite and amateurs. There is work to be done on closing the gap. Juniors need to be supported as they come up through the ranks. Naturally gifted riders will find it easier, but we need to support the ones who need further training. It is that work at the grass-roots level where improvements can still be made.

What advice would you give to anyone looking to get into bike racing?

Join your local cycling club, ride with groups, be brave. Don’t worry about your ability. It is important to train, to work hard. Things take time, you just have to believe in yourself.

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Tell me about your career highlight

Racing in Houffalize, Belgium in 1990. It was a World Championship race where I came 5th. I was only beaten by the world champion and a few other past champions.

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Sally hopes to enter the Nationals again next year and hopefully make her way up to the top 5 in the women’s veteran race. Talking to Sally, her passion is what drives her. She strongly believes in coaching and inspiring young women and girls to get on a bike.

Women’s cycling is growing, it is an exciting time. What do you think about women’s races and the opportunities for young girls in the sport. Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

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