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Cyclist’s 31 Inspirational Women No22: Mandy Jones

A popular home winner at the first home World Championships

Maria David Sponsored
22 Mar 2021

Cyclist's 31 Inspirational Women

To celebrate International Women's Month, we have partnered with Zwift to tell the stories of 31 inspirational women across 31 days

Words: Maria David Photo: Alex Wright

Having a home winner is the dream outcome for any home World Championships. It didn’t happen in Yorkshire two years ago, but it did happen in the 1982 World Road Race Championships at Goodwood in Sussex when Mandy Bishop (née Jones) defeated the best riders in women’s cycling to become a world champion at the age of just 20.

The Lancastrian had already made a name for herself by taking bronze at the 1980 Worlds in Sallanches two years earlier, and in between had won the British National Championships in 1981 over a challenging 80km course – a distance that was quite a breakthrough in women’s cycling at that time.

Mandy recalls her debut World Championships in Sallanches:

‘I was 18, and apart from a few little races in France in May that year I hadn’t done any other international races. And then, bang, you’re riding at the World Championships in Sallanches in September – this massive event.

‘It was frightfully mind-blowing. It was a difficult course, like the one in Innsbruck with a climb that was so incredibly hard.

‘I got away with a little group and we literally ground our way up this climb because it was so hard – bear in mind bikes have much lower gears now than what we used to ride.

There were loads of people lining the course on that final climb, cheering me on and shouting encouragement. It was fantastic

‘When I got a bronze medal it paid off as I got belief in myself that I could do this. So that’s where the aim of trying to win [the World Championships] on home ground was born.’

But it wasn’t plain sailing in the build-up to the Goodwood Worlds two years later. The week before the event, Mandy rode the world track pursuit championships in Leicester, but was disappointed with her results, which in hindsight she put down to over-training too soon before the event.

Back then, Mandy wasn’t aware of the concept of tapering, but the fatigue and disappointment after the pursuit championships led her to not ride her bike much in the week before the World Road Race Championships.

So almost by default, Mandy ended up tapering perfectly and arriving at the championships in Goodwood with fresh legs, though she was far from confident.

The course consisted of four laps of a 15km circuit based around the racecourse and out into the lanes of Sussex and the South Downs, taking in the Goodwood motor raing circuit and Goodwood House. Each lap ended with a 2km climb, with brief 10% section.

Mandy’s game plan was to attack the field, since she knew sprinting wasn’t her forte so she’d have little chance if it came down to a bunch sprint. But there were plenty of others with a similar plan, and Mandy recalls it being a fast race, with a lot of attacking from the gun.

‘There were breaks straight away, and I was getting into them. Then we were getting caught, and then we’d get away again. Eventually I got into a small break with Maria Canins, Sandra Schumacher and Gerda Sierens and we stayed away.

‘I got away from them on the last lap as we went up the climb, but the three girls went after me and counter-attacked. I had to grit my teeth to stay with them.

‘The road then levelled out a bit as we went into the lanes around Goodwood House. As we turned right and the road started to descend they all freewheeled around the corner but I didn’t stop pedalling.

Find the rest of Cyclist's 31 Inspirational Women here

‘I glanced back and realised there was a tiny gap, so I attacked on the descent. I just took off as hard as I could because I’d caught them napping and they didn’t realise that I was really good at time-trialling.

‘Then we got onto the motor racing circuit and of course I knew they could see me, because it’s really open. There were loads of people lining the course on that final climb, cheering me on and shouting encouragement. It was fantastic.

‘When I crossed the finish line I was mobbed, and that was a surprise as I hadn’t experienced that or interviews in front of the media before. It was all so overwhelming with people asking for autographs and getting me to sign jerseys. It was great.’

Media training for athletes didn’t exist in those days, and Mandy hadn’t thought about the media or public reaction if she won. She admits it was something she found difficult to manage.

‘There were media engagements, like I was asked to do Question of Sport, and I went on Crackerjack. Once the initial media flurry died down, I got invited to a lot of club dinners and to do prize presentations leading up to Christmas, and I accepted all the invitations.

‘But I wasn’t riding my bike enough. Whereas normally I’d have spent the early part of the winter doing a really good foundation of stamina to start the harder training after Christmas, that didn’t happen in the same way.

‘So when I went to the Worlds in 1983 I wasn’t as fit as I had been the previous year. I managed to scrape fourth place but looking back I could have kicked myself because if had I been as fit as in 1982, I could have won it again.’

Sadly, a persistent calf injury prevented Mandy from ever regaining her winning form. Mandy hasn’t totally left cycling, however, as she opened a bike shop in Oldham, and together with husband Nigel organises the Etape du Dales sportive.

For more from Zwift this International Women's Month, visit here.