Getting on your bike with one of the sport’s legends
by Penny Hopkins
If the heart of south Leicestershire is not the last place you’d expect to see Dame Sarah Storey launching her new cycling team, it must be pretty near the top of the list. And yet here she is, joyful and excited about her new project, along with her team-mates and bike supplier, Chris Boardman, posing for photographs in a rare flash of June sunshine.
We are at Café Ventoux 1951 in the village of Tugby, a cycling café that already has an impressive reputation in cycling circles. The café will be the base camp of the Podium Ambition Pro Cycling team until 2017. Storey was clearly drawn to a partnership with Ventoux as they are both dedicated to the promotion of women’s cycling.
Storey noted: “both parties are keen to bring the excitement of women’s racing to more people and as we embark on our journey to try and become a Women’s World Tour Team in 2017 we will be able to share that journey with more and more people via the support of the café and the people who visit.”
In fact the café has several new plans for expansion in the pipeline, including the opening of a space for yoga and pilates in September.
The focus is very much on health and well-being – the food counter is piled high with cakes, the theory being that if you have expended the energy on the ride, you should be able to be rewarded with a piece of cake.
Storey noted that: “both parties are keen to bring the excitement of women’s racing to more people and as we embark on our journey to try and become a Women’s World Tour Team in 2017 we will be able to share that journey with more and more people via the support of the café and the people who visit.”
The team is obviously at home already. I spoke to local rider and Podium Ambition team-member, 19-year-old Grace Garner, about the team and what the new base camp means to her.
“It’s great because it’s local. I discovered the café last summer and was impressed because they’re so keen to encourage women’s cycling.
“It’s my first year as a senior with the team. I had a good track career, but took the decision at the end of last year to go down the road route. Now I’m solely focussing on road.
I asked her about working with Sarah and the team; “I’d never met her until the team got together, but she was really welcoming.It’s a family-friendly environment and the perfect environment for people to ask questions. She knows how fortunate she is to have to the chance to be able to carve out a career in a sport that is notoriously difficult to make pay, especially for women;
“It was always my ambition to cycle full-time. I never wanted to go to university although now I’m considering doing some extra study in my spare time. I realise that for many it is barely feasible as a career, but I’m lucky I am doing it for the enjoyment of it.There is a great vibe around the team. The talent, both established and burgeoning is undoubted.
Sarah is quietly determined to make Podium Ambition a Women’s World Tour team in 2017, but the base camp means more; it exists for the team to interact with its supporters and with women cyclists in particular and there is merchandise and team clothing on sale.
Cyclists of all capabilities will be encouraged to come and ask questions, go on led rides with members of the team and follow everything Podium Ambition does. It’s a win all round – for the café, Podium Ambition and for visiting cyclists. It’s certainly an experiment worth keeping an eye on and if it works it could be the blueprint for others to follow.
British based Penny Hopkins is a freelance journalist and writer, specializing in women’s sport. Her dual passions are cricket (women’s and men’s) and the political and social issues surrounding women’s sport. Women are underrepresented in all areas of sport. Penny believes that it’s time the balance was redressed and is proud to be helping to do just that.
Whether it be at elite level, in the boardroom, in the media centre, on the touchline, at grassroots level or at the local gym, women in sport should be recognized for their expertise, knowledge and talent. She writes, blogs and campaigns on issues surrounding women’s sport and also loves reporting on live sport. Penny would have loved a cricketing career, but this was never offered as option when she was growing up, so now she plays netball and badminton with vigor and passion.
She has her own website https://pennyjhopkins.wordpress.com/ and also writes for Women’s Views on News and Women’s Sports UK