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Q&A: 1982 Road Race World Champion Mandy Jones

Winner of the rainbow jersey on home soil in 1982, Mandy Jones tells Cyclist about coping with the aftermath of her win

Giles Belbin
25 Sep 2019

Cyclist: You were born into a family of keen cyclists. When did you start riding competitively?

Mandy Jones: I was very reluctant to ‘get to the start line’, as my dad said. Our club used to have a Wednesday night 10-mile time-trial on one of the local courses but I wouldn’t ride with everyone else. I was too embarrassed.

In the end he timed me on a different night to convince me. I think it was more being a teenager and not liking the thought of people watching me riding down the road.

Eventually I started doing more TTs and then road races. Then somebody in the club said to my parents that they thought I had a bit of talent and needed to ride more. I was 16 and it was only then that I actually started training.

Cyc: You rode in your first Road Race World Championship just two years later, in 1980 in Sallanches, France.

MJ: That was amazing, although in some ways it could have been quite overwhelming if it hadn’t been for the fact that all the girls knew each other as we frequently raced against each other.

Being at such a massive event was awe-inspiring – the size of the crowds and how many women were lined up at the start. I mean, in the UK you were lucky if there were 20 of you at the start.

Cyc: You were only 18 but took bronze on a very difficult course. What did that tell you about your potential and how did it focus your goals?

MJ: I was delighted with third. At the back of my mind was a conversation from school with a teacher who said I wasn’t trying hard enough with my schoolwork. She asked where I thought cycling was going to get me. Immediately I said, ‘I’m going to be World Champion.’

To this day I don’t know where that came from. Even I was shocked I’d said it, but I suppose I must have felt it was the ultimate aim.

When I got third at 18, on a course like Sallanches from a field of 80 women, it reaffirmed things for me. We already had a three-year plan in place because we knew Goodwood would be one of my best chances.

Cyc: What was your training regime? 

MJ: I was training with Ian Greenhalgh, who was a pro cyclist and my partner at the time. It wasn’t a specific regime for me. We did long rides in the Yorkshire Dales and some speed work behind a motorbike.

Most of it was based on doing a lot of climbing – I suppose it was almost like doing interval training, riding hard up the climbs and then easing off and freewheeling on the descents.

Cyc: At the 1982 Worlds you rode the pursuit in Leicester before the road race at Goodwood…

MJ: I’d set the 5km pursuit World Record at the same track earlier in the year and would have liked to have won the pursuit.

I loved that event but I’d trained behind the motorbike right up until a few days before – we didn’t understand about tapering – and so, when the pursuit came, I was knackered [Jones came seventh].

In the 10 days between the races I did no real training. That was my taper, so when it came to the road race I was flying.

Cyc: Did you know Goodwood was a circuit that would suit you?

MJ: Yes, although I could have done with the climb being harder – but obviously it all turned out fine. The motor racing circuit was very exposed, which meant that people could see you if you got away, and everyone expected me to get away on the climb because I was a decent climber.

Cyc: You actually escaped from a group of four on a descent at the start of the final lap…

MJ: The climb levelled off a bit around a right-hand turn before starting to descend. I went around that corner first and realised I had a little gap as they started to freewheel behind.

We were being chased, so I was working to keep us away, and when I saw I had a gap I just went for it. That is what you train for, to recognise and take those opportunities.

Cyc: And then you crossed the line as World Champion.

MJ: They weren’t far behind so I just had to bury myself. The crowds on either side were shouting my name and encouraging me. I was just euphoric really, mixed with a small feeling of disbelief.

To do it in my own country as well was great, because my parents were there and they wouldn’t have been able to come if it had been abroad.

Cyc: How did you react once you’d achieved the goal you’d been working towards for three years?

MJ: That was one of the biggest difficulties for me. We’d set this goal but we’d never talked about what would happen if I won. In my head, because I’d put my heart and soul into it, I was done.

I actually remember saying in an interview with Hugh Porter that I was having a year off. Of course, you can’t do that when you’ve got the rainbow jersey. ecause I’d switched off. I never really properly got back into it.

Cyc: You still won the Nationals the following year and managed fourth at the Worlds in Switzerland.

MJ: Yes, but if I’d trained as I had before I could have won again. My chain came off at the bottom of the climb that year and I’d been hit by a car two days before the race.

In hindsight I could have got away again had I trained as I had done for 1982. 

Cyc: Are you still involved in cycling these days?

MJ: Yes. I’m still with my local club and we run a mail-order cycling business. We’ve also organised the Etape du Dales for the Dave Rayner fund for the past six years, which is a rewarding experience.

It raises money for young riders to race abroad. It’s helped the likes of Dan Martin, Adam Yates and David Millar in the past.

Cyc: What do you make of the Worlds coming to Yorkshire?

MJ: It’s amazing how many people who are non-cyclists like to come and watch. The Tour de France start that we had and now the Tour de Yorkshire has brought cycling into a prominent position in people’s minds. They just love coming out to watch it, and the crowds are unbelievable. 

Cyc: Have you looked at the women’s course? Would the 20-year-old Mandy Jones have fancied her chances?

MJ: It’s a hard course, with a very tough climb up from Lofthouse and after that lots of ups and down before the tricky finishing circuit – ouch! It’s definitely a course I would have enjoyed.

Actually, ‘enjoyed’ is probably not the right word, but it would have suited my riding style.

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