InterCardiff gets a glimpse into the life of a professional cyclist
British cycling is on the up. Recent success has created an expectant nation greedy for more at London 2012. But what of the future for cycling beyond next summer’s Olympics? InterCardiff speaks to Welsh cyclist Jessica Allen about her life in the sport.
Two steaming mugs of tea and a packet of biscuits; 22-year old Jessica Allen is the perfect host. Having been part of successful Wales and Great Britain teams at the Commonwealth Games and World Cycling Championships, she is confident about continuing such success, “[Team] GB have got a really strong team right now, 100% down to the funding. And success breeds success, it’s contagious. The more you win, the more you will win. Once you win, you know how and you will keep on winning”.
But such results don’t come without hard work. Training for the girl from Brecon may have taken in many locations over the years: Manchester, Belgium, Cardiff, but ultimately she says, “Training never changes. It uses the same principles: work hard and recover”.
Training is tough
Yet balancing training and studying (first school and now university) is one of the challenges that Jess has had to face, “It was quite difficult during my A-levels. But I loved it though as I’d go on my bike in the morning, go to school then go on my bike in the evening”. The Welsh weather too, poses its problems, “Racing is fun. Training, as long as you’ve got a training partner, is fine. But if you’ve got to do five hours on your own it’s tough. I‘ve had my bottles and my eyelashes freeze up on the Beacons. It’s vile”.
Now based in Cardiff, Jess praises the facilities available for the cycling community, “There are two massive clubs in Cardiff: Ajax and Jif. They’re very friendly groups who welcome any new rider”.
Indeed, Jess stresses the importance of community and team togetherness in competitive cycling. Speaking about Nicole Cooke’s victory at the 2008 World Road Cycling Championships, she says, “Definitely 2008 was the highlight of my career. It was the first year I turned pro so everything was new and those World Championships were amazing. Because Nicole won it was such a good atmosphere. We went out afterwards, went for pizza. There was such a good team spirit. I loved my coach, loved the team. When you’re surrounded by nice people it makes all the difference”.
Drive to win
But it is clear that there is one thing that motivates her above everything else. She puts down her mug of tea and looks up, “I don’t ride a bike because I love riding a bike; far from it. My motivation is about winning”.
Looking to the future, Jess’s next major goal is the Commonwealth Games, “The Commonwealths in 2014 is the next big one. It all leads up to that one race in Glasgow 2014”.
And when asked about the rewards of the sport a smile plays around her lips, “The best thing is the winning. Definitely”.