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A day in the life of Team Ford EcoBoost rider Mel Brand

9 Sep 2016

Mel Brand is a ‘rouleur’ with Team Ford EcoBoost: a rider who prefers races to be hard, leaving only the strongest to contest victory.

Despite a penchant for challenging road races, Mel Brand is no stranger to the blood-and-guts racing of the Matrix Fitness Grand Prix Series: city-centre circuit races famed for their wheel-to-wheel racing. Cyclist caught up with Mel to discuss a day in her racing life: the warm-ups and warm-downs, hotel check-ins and pre-race briefings, and the long journeys to and from races in her Ford EcoSport. 

The day before the race


‘It depends on the distance, but if the race is more than a couple of hours from home, we’ll travel the day before and stay overnight in a hotel. For example, The Tour of the Reservoir is in Northumberland and about five hours from the Midlands, which is where many of us live. If we’re staying overnight, I’ll head out for a quick spin before the drive, at around 8am.’


‘I try to get on the road around lunchtime – around 12.30pm – to avoid the traffic. Ford provides three EcoSport vehicles for the riders, which we share around, and two Transit Custom vans, for rollers and spares.

‘It’s really helpful to have a number of vehicles and to be able to share them. When we go to the national series races, the vehicles create a real presence for the team, which helps.’ 


‘I might have an early ride when I arrive at the hotel just to get the stiffness out of my legs; either on the road or the rollers.’


‘We use the same hotel chain each time, where we know they have a policy that will accommodate us. We don’t want to turn up and be told we can’t bring in the bikes. The team management is good at locating somewhere that we can stay and eat, either on site or nearby, so we know we can eat around 7pm and get an early night.’

Race day


‘If we’re staying overnight, we’ll have breakfast at the hotel. A lot of the riders bring their own porridge to supplement what the hotel supplies.

‘If the race is a round of the Matrix Fitness Grand Prix Series we won’t be racing until around 6pm, so we might have a spin early in the morning, either on the rollers, or on the road if it’s a nice day. Then we relax as much as possible during the afternoon, before the race briefing.’ 


‘Because the Matrix Series races are “crit” races [laps of a city centre circuit], the race briefings are fairly similar each time, and are usually given in a sports hall or somewhere like that.

‘You have to sign the race register and they brief you about anything that went well or didn’t go well in the previous race. They also brief you on anything that’s changed from the race manual, which I like to read, to look at the course plan.

‘For me, knowing what to expect takes away an element of stress. I like to prepare for things I can prepare for, because there will be plenty in the race that you can’t.’


‘There’s a lot to learn from a recce lap. I think it’s important to ride a fast lap, or a couple of fast laps, because the course rides differently from a slow pace. You can assess how the course might change if the weather changes – which it often does in the UK.

‘You can look for points where the race might break up or come together; where there might be opportunity, or risk.’


Team Ford EcoBoost

‘It’s time to race. The women’s races last for 40 minutes, but the nerves kick in the night before. It’s over in such a short time that you can’t afford to go in complacent. You have to be firing from the start, otherwise it’s game over. The minute the gun goes, it’s just an adrenalin rush.’


‘Ford provides a Mondeo Vignale team car, which follows us during the race and carries the spare wheels. After the race, we’ll go back to the team car and then get on the rollers and warm down. I go really easy, just flushing the lactate from my legs and relaxing the muscles, which will be tight.

‘I’ll take a recovery bottle, which will be a mix of carbohydrate and protein to replace the carbs I’ve burned during the race and to repair muscle damage. During the race, your body will have used a lot of its carbohydrate resources, and you have to replace them straight away.’


‘At the race debrief, we all have a bit of input: what went well and what went badly; did we stick to the plan. Sometimes the result might be to deliver the plan, rather than win the race. Normally, we have more than one plan. As an individual, you might be frustrated with your ride or pleased: “That was brilliant” or “I didn’t do so well”. The job of the team manager is to mediate and keep things sensible.’ 


‘Usually, we travel back home from a race the same night, so people can relax in their own environment. If it’s a long distance, team members stay with riders who live nearby. We try to share transport where we can. Quite often, I’ll drive myself. If it’s a long way, it can be tiring.’ 

The day after the race

‘A recovery ride depends on what the week holds. If it’s the Matrix Series, there might be a race two days later, so the middle day will be an easy ride with some light stimulation, like 10-second sprints, to keep the system firing. If there isn’t another race for several days, the day after a race will be a pure recovery day.’ 

Mel will race again in the West Midlands Road Championships, which will be held on Sunday 11th September, 2016. 

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