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WE’RE TALKING TO… Dame Sarah Storey


‘Podium Ambition – a not-for-profit company set up by me and my husband a few years ago to get more people cycling. Because our cycling team, Pearl Izumi Sports Tours International, excelled beyond all expectations last year, we had to step up quicker than expected by recently registering a UCI Women’s professional team. This gives us an exciting platform in an Olympic and Paralympic year to promote cycling even further.’



‘By providing opportunities that better suit women’s lifestyles. We’ve launched a UK-wide sister team to the professional one, the Boot Out Breast Cancer (BOBC) Cycling Club (, for people of all ages and abilities to get together either as riders or spectators. Even if members are in another part of the country, they can log in and find a local cycling buddy. It’s all about creating an inclusive, no-pressure environment where you can get involved as little or as much as you like – and raise money for BOBC, too. Our motto is Your Club, Your Way.



‘Right now, I’m focusing on getting selected for the team – I have four titles to defend so I’d be really disappointed not to make it! I train six days a week in four-week cycles, with three weeks of overload and then a week of adaptation and recovery to allow my body to grow and become stronger. I’ve followed this pattern for 15 years. Nutrition-wise, I eat everything in moderation. It’s essential to listen to your natural hunger and give your body the fuel it needs – there’s only so much a nutritionist can tell you.’



‘Eyewear is very overlooked. Just as your muscles and heart get tired, your eyes get fatigued too, which is the last thing you need when you’re racing down a mountain at 50 mph – you don’t want to misjudge something and crash! I wear Adidas’ Evil Eye Halfrim Pro performance frame (£126.49, for enhanced vision and protection from the elements.’


 Words: Joanna Ebsworth

Women in sport

Men play sport, and they play it well. We know this because both sports-specific channels and mainstream network television channels are saturated with it.

Which is great. After all, who can deny the entertainment value of a nail-biting FA Cup final or an edge-of-your-seat primetime boxing match? 

Plus these men train hard to be the best they can be at their chosen sport, and their efforts and abilities can be truly inspiring. But hang on… what about the women? Most sports you see on TV – including football and boxing – have plenty of female participants – at an elite level, no less. They train just as hard. They turn up and play their hearts out. But while we’ve a long way to go before we get the huge funding, 

Lets hear it for the girls 

In the past few years, we’ve seen some huge positive changes for women in sport. London 2012 saw the introduction of women’s boxing to the Olympic Games. And it couldn’t have gone any better for us with Great Britain’s own Nicola Adams taking home the first ever Olympic gold medal won by a female boxer. It was a proud moment for Team GB, undoubtedly, but it was also a proud moment for women everywhere. Nicola – and female boxers of all weight categories from around the world – proved that women have a place in the ring, and they did so on the biggest sporting stage possible. Team those performances between the ropes with Jessica Ennis’s breathtaking skills in the stadium, Jade Jones’s fighting spirit and the blood, sweat and determination of every female who represented their country that summer, and it’s obvious that sport for women is changing, for the better.

GB’s Victoria Pendleton et al made massive waves in the cycling scene during 2012, and since then, too, popularising the sport among everyday women like us. And these girls, along with the other female cyclists working hard to bring the sport into the spotlight, have been nothing short of successful. This summer – two years after the Games – saw the inaugural women’s race at the world-famous Tour of Britain, the country’s largest professional cycling race. The free-to-watch event brought female cycling into the limelight once again. The Tour’s winner, Holland’s Marianne Vos, added this title to her already impressive list of accolades – Olympic gold medallist and world road-race champion. She’s fast becoming a cycling legend.

Cycling and boxing, in particular, are thought of as men’s sports, with athletes like Bradley Wiggins and Ricky Hatton household names in Britain. But perhaps the most popular sport among men? It’s got to be football. From chants in the stands to glugging a beer down the pub while the game’s on, football has long been seen as a man’s sport. But, more recently, women have been moving in on the action on the football pitch, too. According to stats from the Football Association, a whopping 1 million viewers tuned into the FA Women’s Cup Final last year, and a staggering 70,000 watched Team GB beat Brazil at Wembley Stadium during the 2012 Games. If spectator numbers are reaching such soaring figures, it’s undeniable that people want to see it. ‘The closer and more competitive our matches are, the more of a spectator sport it becomes,’ says former England player and assistant head coach of the England Women’s team, Marieanne Spacey. ‘More FA Women’s Super League teams are training full time and more players are turning professional. So standards will continue to rise and the quality of matches will improve even further.’

The FA’s stats also prove that we want to get involved, too. Some 42.9% of those attending FA skills programme sessions are girls, and 11,025 of us attended national FA girls’ football festivals and fan zones last year. Football is no longer just for the boys.

While some sports are traditionally male dominated, that’s not the case for all sports. Martial arts like taekwondo, for example, have a high number of female participants. ‘Unlike many sports, taekwondo has just as many female as male competitors,’ says Jade Jones, GB’s first taekwondo gold medallist. ‘Girls often start wanting to learn self-defence, but then realise the sport is much more than that. It’s technical, improves flexibility and is great for keeping fit. Our governing body also recently launched a campaign called KickSister, which encourages women to get involved by focusing more on fitness and self-defence.’

Get a slice of the pie    

Women’s SportsNet (WSNet), which is a useful hub for women to get information on sport, recently launched the ACTIVEMapX ( to help women find sports classes near them. Almost all of us have enjoyed playing sport at some point, even if it was just through school PE classes, so it’s often a case of simply finding a way to get back into it. With almost 20,000 locations nationwide offering hockey, netball and volunteer-led classes, ACTIVEMapX proves that it really is becoming easier and easier for women to get fit through sport, and that it’s slowly but steadily becoming the norm. ‘Local classes found on the ACTIVEMapX help you engage with friends and neighbours, and build confidence,’ says WSNet’s Paul Reynolds. ‘You can find fencing, rollerderby or powerhoop around the corner!’

If you want to start with something more familiar, cycling is perfect. And following the success of golden girl Victoria Pendleton and her team mates in 2012, it’s no wonder that there have been so many initiatives to get more women into the sport. The FA have even joined forces with British Cycling to launch Kick Start Your Ride – a joint effort from two of the UK’s biggest governing bodies to get women to cycle to football matches. ‘This is about two sports coming together to inspire women to try something new,’ explains Natalie Justice, women’s network project manager at British Cycling. ‘The opportunity to go on a group bike ride with the prize of getting to watch some exciting football at the end of it has all the ingredients of a fun day out and we hope to see hundreds of women getting involved.’

Raising the profile           

It’s time to start evening the playing field, but it takes determination and courage. Something GB’s own gold-medal-winning cyclist Nicole Cooke has by the bucket. ‘When I first started competing in cycling, there were no British Championships for women in road or track,’ she says. ‘I wrote to the British Cycling Federation to ask for championships, and after an initial refusal, they changed their mind and I competed in the inaugural U16 British Track Championships for girls in 1998, and there are now championships for all age categories for girls on road and track – a huge step forward.’ Nicole also wrote to the Union Cycliste International (the world governing body for sports cycling) about the heavy bias towards men in the Olympics, which in 2004 offered eight medals for men and only four for women. In London 2012, five medals were offered to both men and women. While it’s shocking to see such inequality in sport, it’s the determination of people like Nicole that makes a real difference. 

Women’s Sport Trust ( aims to raise the profile and visibility of women’s sports through role models, media coverage and funding – the things that get female athletes seen and heard in order to inspire others to give sport a go. ‘Since London 2012, there’s been an increase in coverage and buying of rights to women’s sport from broadcasters such as BT Sport, Sky and BBC,’ says Jo Bostock, co-founder of Women’s Sport Trust. ‘Not to mention the national cricket team becoming professional and the announcement of La Course – a female event alongside the final day of the Tour De France.’

What WST does is important as it’s about encouraging women to realise that, whatever their fitness level, background or history, sport can be for them, too. We need to increase the positive impact not only by participating, but by watching women play sport, getting our companies involved with sponsorship and urging schools to create more sports opportunities. 

Train like a pro

Imagine training as part of a real squad, just think about those body and mind benefits. We sat down with Team Ford EcoBoost riders Sophie Fennell, Julie Erskine, Nikki Juniper and Charlotte Broughton to find out about their goals and gains.

How does training as part of the team help your training? Sophie: ‘I think you benefit a lot from training with others especially on the road because it allows you to understand how other riders ride. It develops your own skills as you pick up techniques from the other riders; it both pushes and motivates you; and it allows less experienced riders to gain experience from those with more.’

What’s the best piece of advice you can give to women who are inspired to get into cycling now? Julie: ‘Invest in a decent pair of cycling shorts.  Lots of women are put off when it gets sore and uncomfortable sitting in the saddle, so a good pair of cycling shorts is key! Don’t worry about how far or how fast you go, just go for it and have fun!’
What do you enjoy the most about training/racing? Nikki: ‘I love the feeling when I’m finished that I’ve pushed myself as hard as I can.  I just love riding my bike and in a sick kind of way I love the pain it inflicts on my body because then I know that I’ve given everything I possibly can.’
When it comes to race nutrition, what really counts for you? Julie: ‘Team Ford EcoBoost are really lucky to have HIGH5 as our nutrition sponsor this season. I love its EnergySource 4:1 drink especially for back-to-back races or hard blocks of training. It has whey protein and carbohydrate in it so as well as providing you with energy to keep going, it also helps to start your recovery process.’

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received when it comes to training? Charlotte: ‘If your body starts giving you red flags, address them. Now I’m older and understand my body better it keeps me healthy and my training consistent.’
What drives you to train, other than winning? Nikki: ‘I’m not just training for myself now, I’m training for the team and the fear of failure that if I don’t train then I won’t back up all the hard work the girls do for me.’

Essential kit picks ► Giant Envie Advanced Pro bike, £3,299,
► Kask Bambino TT Helmet, £299,
► Kalas LADY A-5 Titan X6  cycling Shorts, £65,
► HIGH5 EnergySource 4:1, from £16.99,

For more information on cars in the Ford EcoBoost range, visit

And find the Team on Facebook and Twitter.

5 reasons to get on your bike

What’s not to love about cycling? There’s no greater pleasure than the feeling of freedom you get pedalling out on the open road. 

And let’s not forget that cycling – whether on an indoor bike in the gym or touring the streets – is the perfect way to get your exercise fix. Here are our favourite reasons to saddle up today. 

Reason 1: Stay slim
Want an awesomely fit body? Hit the spin bike! High-intensity spinning classes offer a great head-to-toe toning workout and they’re suitable for everyone – regardless of your fitness level. The interval sessions really challenge your lower body and the calorie-burning potential is pretty impressive, too. ‘The most beneficial part of spin classes is the intervals, as they challenge the body so you can get the most out of your workout,’ says Chris Foster, professional head of fitness at nuffield health ( Looking for a fresh alternative to your regular spin class? Check out BOOM Cycle, it’s an awesome indoor cycling class with an emphasis on fun and great music, it’s a firm team WF favourite ( 

Reason 2: It’s better for the environment
Nobody wants to live in a world clogged up with unhealthy carbon emissions that wreak havoc on health. So ditch your car and get on your bike instead. A study by the European Cyclists Federation found that Europe could reduce its CO2 emissions by a quarter if its population cycled as regularly as the Danes. In Denmark the average person cycles almost 600 miles annually, while the average Brit logs in a meagre 46 miles each year. 

Reason 3: See the world
Whizzing around on two wheels is the perfect workout to take you away from home and out exploring new places. ‘Cycling lets you see the world – whether you want to hit the MTB trails or head out for a ride on the road. You can travel to places that you didn’t even realise existed and appreciate buildings and views that you have only ever bypassed in the car,’ enthuses Wiesia Kuczaj, cyclist and Sigma Sport Team MuleBar Girl (

Reason 4: Add years to your life
Turn your commute into your workout and not only will you save money, you could also lengthen your lifespan. A 20-year study by Copenhagen’s Bispebjerg University Hospital found that women who cycled every day at a vigorous pace lived on average 3.9 years longer than slow cyclists. So get pedalling hard, people!

Reason 5: Improve joint health
The low-impact nature of cycling makes it an accessible sport for those who are at risk of joint injury and also enables them to increase the volume and intensity of their riding at a faster pace. ‘Consequently, cycling may help you to reach your health and fitness goals more quickly than is possible in more technical and/or weight bearing sports, such as running,’ explains performance coach James Hewitt (

Pedal power

Jumping on a shiny new steed and pedalling off into the sunset is a glorious feeling – you just can’t beat it! But if you haven’t saddled up for a few years, you may be wondering where to start or why to bother. Don’t worry! We caught up with Gareth Turner from Cyclebeat ( to chat about the benefits of life on two wheels and how you can get back in the race. 

Slim cycle

Jumping on your bike is a fantastic way to blitz calories and trim down. ‘Cycling is a great way to lose weight and a brilliant way to burn calories – you can burn around 500 calories an hour cycling and sometimes much more,’ says Gareth. ‘Cycling can also have the added benefit of increasing your metabolism – even after the ride is over.

And it’s a great option for working out on your commute. Think about it – you can get your workouts in on the way to and from work and cancel that gym membership altogether if you want! ‘And, because it is a non-weight bearing exercise, it’s a lot easier on the joints than something like running, so you can do it more often,’ says Gareth. Sounds good to us!

It’s also a great toner, working your lower body hard, which – thanks to this focus on the bigger muscles in your body (bum and legs!) also burns fat. ‘Cycling helps to tone your muscles and works your calves, thighs and bottom, while also giving your shoulders and arms a workout, too,’ says Gareth.

Healthy heart

Cycling is not only bags of fun, and a great way to stay in shape, it’s good for your heart, too. ‘Cycling improves cardiovascular fitness,’ explains Gareth. ‘And the British Heart Foundation says that cycling regularly can help to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes by up to 50 per cent.’ 

Mind matters

And getting on your bike could have benefits for the mind, too. ‘It’s not just the body that sees the benefits, as cycling is believed to reduce stress, anxiety and provide a sense of wellbeing,’ says Gareth. A cycle home after a long day is a great way to shake off your worries.

Wheely wheely fun

Whizzing around on a bike gives you a great sense of freedom and there are so many types of cycling, and types of bikes, you can try. ‘Cycling can be very varied and fun – try mountain bike trails, exhilarating downhills, BMX and road biking with amazing views,’ says Gareth. Plus it’s one of the few workouts in which you can have a good gas with your mates, too! Have you every tried catching up over a quick swim or disco rave class?! ‘Cycling can be very social by riding in a group and also with the family – everyone can get involved,’ adds Gareth. 

Back to it!

Check out Gareth’s top tips for beginners or those getting back into cycling:

The first thing that you will need is a bike; it’s best to visit a good bike shop where they can give advice and find you a bike that fits properly.

Start by riding comfortably for up to 45 minutes three times a week, then look to slowly build on the number of sessions, duration and speed of sessions gradually.

There are cycling proficiency courses that can build skills and get you ready for the road if you’re nervous.

Practise riding in a traffic-free area, such as a local park, to build confidence.

Why not get used to pedalling, standing and clipping in and out of pedals at a studio such as Cyclebeat ( before heading out.

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