What Healthy learned riding with Team Wiggle Honda
Ellie – in the white helmet – takes on a hill alongside Olympic champion Dani King
Last year’s Women’s Tour of Britain was the first – and it was a roaring success for women’s cycling, with unprecedented crowds lining our streets as the peloton came past. With this year’s Tour starting on Wednesday 17 June, Healthy joined Team Wiggle Honda as they met up in Marlow to recce the final stage of the race, due to take place Sunday 21 June, through the Chilterns to Marlow. So what did we learn about life as a professional female cyclist?
They miss ferries and have to get up for work the next morning anyway, just like the rest of us
Half the team arrive at 3am in the morning, having been busy the day before winning the Tour of Diamonds in Belgium. Due to arrive in our Marlow hotel around midnight, they end up just missing their ferry and having to wait hours for the next one. But come 9.30am they’re up and cheerful over the team breakfast in the hotel.
Napping is an essential skill
Australian rider Nettie Edmondson tells me, as they’ll often be up at 5am for an early race with the day’s work over by mid-morning. Not surprisingly, they tend to forget which day of the week it is.
They eat a lot at breakfast, but less at dinner
Three courses wasn’t uncommon: scrambled eggs, porridge with all the trimmings, followed by fruit and yoghurt. There is a discussion about the best nut butters.
Conversely, at dinner the night before, they eat the steak but the most common choice is to have sweet potato fries on the side. Only the arguable ‘team leader’, former World Champion Giorgia Bronzini, has ‘proper’ chips, a glass of wine and cheesecake for pudding – and she’s the smallest one of a (pretty small) bunch. She’s also a bit of a maverick, known for celebrating with a lager.
They muck about when they’re riding
Well, when they’re on a relaxed recovery ride with assorted journalists through the sunny picture-perfect Chilterns, that is. They’re not together like this very often so the ride is punctuated by various riders pulling out of the group to take photos, especially owner/manager/rider Rochelle Gilmore, or filming on a Go Pro.
As Nettie points out, her family don’t see her very often so it’s a good way of showing them where she’s been (once she’s clarified with me exactly where we are). And we’re distracted on one of the steeper climbs as they mimic the famous riding styles of their male counterparts, dancing on the pedals á la Alberto Contador or the gangling ‘no style is still a style’ of Chris Froome.
They’re well hard
Dani King, Team GB Gold medalist in 2012, broke eight ribs in a bad crash last winter. No, they’re not mended 100 per cent yet and yes, she says, they do still hurt – but it’s only really bad when she’s doing strength work in the gym. Nettie tells me, as the UK’s current high pollen count makes her cough, that she’s asthmatic, it’s manageable but the time when she had a crash, landed on her inhaler and smashed it wasn’t great. Now, she has a spare in the team car.
They’re good friends
I leave after spending nearly 24 hours in their company with an overwhelming sense of a supportive team. A lot of the chat over breakfast is centered on Scot Eileen Roe, who has just broken her knuckle in a crash on a training ride. Stories of similar crashes/ injuries/ recovery times are shared but there isn’t much in the way of commiseration: everyone’s been through it and they know it’s just part of the job.
The team is full of champions – national, Commonwealth, World, Olympian – but to a woman they all tell me how they love putting their own ambitions to one side and working for a common goal like the Women’s Tour.