24 December 2013
The Olympic silver medallist, 25, on the rigours of training, the races she’s looking forward to in 2014, and the rise of women’s sport.
Normally if I go to a race, even if it’s a World Championships, sometimes people don’t even know if I’ve done a good ride. The London Olympics was on such a public scale that I got to share it with everyone, so that made it special. My whole family and friends were there, and I had a homecoming in my town and I got to experience it with everybody.
For me the Olympics was a huge success because it highlighted women’s sport in general. I opened newspapers and it wasn’t just football, it was sport in general – and it was women’s sport as well. It was so refreshing for me to meet men who were inspired by what I’d done on a bike. I think it really opened people’s minds.
The hardest thing about being a professional cyclist is definitely the time on the road. I live and train in Monaco and I miss my friends and family a lot. I come home to Otley in the off-season and I’m ticking off as many people as I can to try and see, but at the same time there are people who want me to open the local scout hut. My local community and my family are really important to me, so juggling those aspects is quite difficult.
It’s great that the UK has got a Women’s Tour in 2014. It’s great for me personally, because I get to ride in front of a home crowd, and there’s nothing quite like that. And publicity-wise, the UK is actually a step ahead of most other countries in terms of the support they give to women’s cycling. I think it will be a real platform, and a big success.
As a Yorkshire girl I’m obviously very excited about next year and the Tour de France coming. For me, Yorkshire was key to my success as a cyclist. I grew up riding in the Upper Wharfedale and around the Yorkshire Dales and I really feel genuinely lucky that I grew up there because it’s made a difference to my learning as a bike rider. I learnt my trade there, in the beautiful, safe surroundings, and I just love it.
Christmas is pretty big in our family. I’ve got a very big family, almost thirty cousins. It involves fun runs, hiking, eating, bike rides, all sorts – it’s definitely a tough few days! But it’ll be good.
When I first started cycling there was nothing like Breeze. It was one of the big barriers that I faced when I first started cycling, that I had to do it by myself and go out to roads I didn’t know, and didn’t really feel safe on.
I met some Breeze champions in Bradford earlier this year. They were a group of really friendly women of all different shapes and sizes and ages, all really enthusiastic about riding their bike. I talk a lot about equality in women’s cycling, but they’re doing something that’s productive – they’re out there giving their time and getting people on bikes. I wish I could join them.
The reason I love cycling is because it’s a sport that any age and any shape and size can get involved in. Why not start with three miles and then see how far you can go? It’s really a simple way of looking at your development on a bike: each week, just try and get an extra mile done. For those who want to push themselves, then do it in a group and do it where you feel safe. You can really get behind each other and keep striving for more miles.
Lizzie Armitstead rides for Great Britain, and for the Boels Dolmans Cycling Team. She is expected to compete in the inaugural Women’s Tour, 7-11 May 2014.
Find out more about Breeze bike rides for women.