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Women's cycling - the ins and outs of going pro

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20 Sep 2016

Cyclist talks to Team Ford EcoBoost about the reality of life as a professional cyclist and the changing role of women in cycling.

When a season is as successful as Team Ford EcoBoost’s has been this year, you could be forgiven for thinking that racing for a cycling team is a carefree occupation. While success certainly goes some way to justifying sacrifice, to dismiss racing as more of a hobby than a job would be to do it a massive disservice. No matter the background of its team members, racing for Ford EcoBoost is a massive commitment, but one each member is happy to make.

‘This was a life choice. I accepted a pay cut and gave up the stability of a full-time job, but getting to ride my bike and race in a team that team director Nick Yarworth and I have set up isn’t a sacrifice – it’s a passion and a privilege,’ says team captain Nikki Juniper.

‘Now I’m not only racing in a team with a massive sponsor such as Ford UK but I’m putting back into the sport and hopefully inspiring others.’

Part of Ford EcoBoost’s ethos is to try and provide an alternative path to the British Academy for young riders, so commitments are being made to the team from a young age, which brings its own set of complications.

Aspiring Ford EcoBoost racer Charlotte Broughton has to juggle training around her education, and the impact on her lifestyle extends far beyond the obvious. At the elite level where Ford EcoBoost riders compete, everything must be controlled to ensure success. Diet is one such area.

‘I’ve always been pretty good with my diet but I went through a phase in my early 20s when I had a massive negative battle with food that nearly caused me to give up sport all together,’ says Juniper.

‘There is always going to be this perception with endurance athletes that skinny is best, but skinny is not always healthy. At Ford EcoBoost we try to encourage a balanced attitude to food – if there is less pressure on your diet you can focus better on racing.’

This way of thinking has gone down well with the troops. ‘I have been a little obsessive in the past but now I love my food,’ says Broughton. ‘Being in a supportive team environment allows you to be really relaxed and frees you up to handle other pressures better, like being away from loved ones.’

Bigger and better

Regardless of the pressures associated with a life as a professional cyclist, it is certainly not a case of diminishing returns – women’s cycling is on the way up.

‘I think having positive role models like Laura Trott in the sport has played a key part, plus our success at the Olympics has kept the ball rolling,’ says Ford EcoBoost rouleur Julie Erskine.

‘Women feel empowered by these role models,’ adds Broughton. ‘Plus campaigns such as This Girl Can and He For She have really challenged the concept of women in sport and produced a more modern and positive outlook on women's participation.’

The effects are certainly being felt on Ford EcoBoost’s racing calendar. ‘It has been so great being able to race a full calendar without the financial stresses or worrying about transport,’ says Juniper.

Ford supported the team with five vehicles this year – a Mondeo Vignale team car, a Transit and three EcoSports. ‘You couldn’t put a price on these vehicles,’ says Juniper. ‘Two years ago I spent most of the time turning up to races on the back of an AA truck which was really stressful, so having such reliable vehicles takes that stress away and allows us to concentrate on the task at hand.

‘Ford has played an instrumental part not only in supporting Team Ford EcoBoost but also in women’s cycling in general – they are leading the way for big sponsors, and that can only mean good things for women’s cycling in the future.’

To find out more about Team Ford EcoBoost, go to facebook.com/teamfordecoboost

For more information on cars in the Ford EcoBoost range, go to ford.co.uk/ecoboost

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