e’re incredibly proud to have Eileen, pro cyclist and all round barrel of laughs working part-time for us in our Online Team. Eileen currently races for WNT Pro Cycling and represented Team GB at the 2016 World Championship Road Race. Here’s a few of her incredible accomplishments:
2X BRITISH CRITERIUM CHAMPION
1ST MOTHERWELL MATRIX FITNESS GP TOUR SERIES 2016
1ST STAGE 6 RAS NA MBAM
2ND OVERALL RAS NA MBAN
2ND TOUR DE YORKSHIRE
3RD DWARS DOOR VLAANDEREN
REPRESENTED SCOTLAND AT THE 2014 COMMONWEALTH GAMES
We asked her a few questions about her life as a pro, her sources of inspiration, and her thoughts on women’s cycling.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO CYCLING?
It was my dad’s fault (local cycling hero Brendan Roe). I did my first bike race at the Highland Games when I was ten years old, on a track bike with one gear and knobbly tyres. They were short of kids that day and needed an extra so they could run the race, and my dad made me have a go. There was this spare bike, and there was guaranteed prize money – I got £5 for last place, which I spent on the rides. It was a lot of money to me at ten years old!
The first time I did it I hated it, because I’d never experienced the lactic acid build up like that before. I told my dad I’d never do it again, but the next week I was back.
I actually think I got my first bike out of a skip, and I also used to ride on the back of my dad’s tandem. At the time I guess I just copied him.
WHAT BARRIERS ARE THERE FOR WOMEN WHO WANT TO CYCLE COMPETITIVELY?
I think in terms of road racing, women are still a bit scared to take the plunge and take part. They’re thinking, what happens if I get dropped by the peloton? What if I can’t make it? The problem is that women have to make such a massive jump from amateur to pro racing.
“Marianne Vos is just a genuinely nice person. And she’s pretty good on a bike, too!”
If you’re a man then there are more opportunities to get into a Pro-Conti team where you get a regular income, which means you can really dedicate all of your time and effort to training and becoming better. The same opportunities don’t exist for women, so they usually have to hold down jobs and fit their training around that.
Having said that, in Scotland the women’s calendar is becoming a lot bigger. They’ve even got a women’s road series now, which wasn’t around when I was younger.
WHAT’S THE MOST LISTENED TO SONG/BAND IN THE TEAM BUS?
I’ve not been anywhere on the team bus yet! We’ve just got our bus, though it’s more like a camper van. I usually fly to the races by plane and then out again.
WHAT RACE ARE YOU MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO THIS YEAR?
I was really looking forward to the Ladies Tour of Qatar, which I just did in February. It was totally flat and really windy, which I think really suits me. I like using strategy to position myself where I want to be in the peloton at the most important time, which you can do if you’re smart and you know where the winds coming from.
For one stretch of the tour we had a strong tailwind and covered 10 miles in 16 minutes and 50 seconds, which works out at an average speed of 35.6 miles per hour! When you’re in the middle of a peloton, it’s pretty savage – you’d think it would’ve been a relief to have tailwind but at that speed in your biggest gear it’s brutal.
Read: Britain’s Eileen Roe fights through crosswinds at the Ladies Tour of Qatar via Cycling Weekly Magazine
WHAT WOULD BE YOUR DREAM EVENT TO COMPETE IN?
I’d love to do the Women’s Tour of Britain, but I don’t know if our team Lares-Waowdeals are doing that this year. It would be amazing. I’ve never experienced really massive crowds, but the other girls in the team were talking about how big the crowds were there, and it sounds incredible. They said the whole experience was pretty special and bigger than last year. I hope it keeps growing.
WHO ARE YOUR FAVOURITE CYCLISTS?
I’ve got a favourite female cyclist and a favourite male cyclist. The female is the mighty Marianne Vos, who everybody should know, and if they don’t know her, they should Google her. I met her a couple of times, and even though she’s famous she’s so approachable and genuine. The first time I met her I was really unwell, I was sitting in the canteen in my jacket and scarf in 20 degrees Celsius. She came over and spoke to me just to see if I was ok. She’s just genuinely nice – and she’s pretty good on a bike too!
And my favourite male cyclist is Sven Nys, the Belgian cyclocross superstar. In 2007 me and my dad went to Belgium and saw him racing – coming from Scotland our scene is so small – it was like a football match, the excitement was contagious. He was unbelievable to watch, the things he was doing with his bike were just impossible. And he retired at 40! I’m a bit addicted to cyclocross now.
WHAT DO YOU THINK THE FUTURE OF WOMEN’S CYCLING IN SCOTLAND IS?
I think the women’s scene is growing. There are more kids racing now. When I was 13 years old the same 10 boys and girls used to race each other at every event year after year, but now there’s enough people competing that they can have separate boys and girls races. I think the future’s looking good with so many young, talented people coming through.
But I do think there aren’t enough opportunities for women cyclists in road racing, compared to track racing. Mountain biking is supported pretty well, but when it comes to road racing there’s just not enough funding and support. I hope that changes.
On the plus side, I see more and more women out and about on bikes, which has definitely changed from when I was younger. Especially on Liv bikes! It’s great to see, and I can tell it’s going to grow and grow.