15.03.13 is sure to go down as a date to remember in pro-women’s cycling. This was the launch of the 2013 Matrix Fitness Racing Academy Team
It was a launch event like no other – a complete break from the norm. Forget those stifled images of a whole team together for a day of posed photos with cars, bikes and kit. Turning the standard on its head, it was about getting to knowthe individual women on the team; who they are, what they’re about and what makes them tick. This was about breathing a new lease of life into the launch ‘format’ – a documentary of how it all went… another nod to The New Cycling.
Months of planning between Sports Director / Manager of Matrix Stef Wyman, and founder of Vulpine Cycling Apparel & team sponsor Nick Hussey, resulted in an amazing all day event. Accompanied by Stef & team mentor Helen Wyman five of the eight team members came to Vulpine HQ on Friday morning to try on some gear, have a few relaxed team photos taken in-between documentary shots of the morning & then each rider was paired-up with their own writer & photographer for the day to interview them & get shots that reflected their style & personality. Then it was off to London cycling cafe Look Mum No Hands for the launch party in the evening. Didn’t I say that this was a launch like no other?!
I was thrilled to be selected as one of the writers for the Matrix Launch & to work with professional wedding photographer, huge cycling fan and bloody nice bloke Guy Collier, who also did all of the stunning documentary shots around Vulpine HQ for the day.We were both paired up with rider Jessie Walker, who I had the pleasure of interviewing and doing the shoot with around Brick Lane – famous for its gritty and bright urban graffiti, this was the perfect setting for Jessie with her love for Art and Photography.
At 18, Jessie is the youngest rider with Matrix Fitness Racing Academy, and is entering her second season with the team.
“I’m kinda new to the sport of cycling, compared to a lot of riders” explains Jessie over a hot chocolate in the coffee shop we’d chosen for the day – “But I come from a cycling background because it runs back four generations on my Mum’s side of the family… and both my Mum and Dad used to race on an international level!” You could say that cycling is in Jessie’s genes, but it wasn’t a family expectation that she go into racing – “We would mess about on our bikes on family rides, but I used to do cross-country running with my brother before cycling.”
Inspiration to ride on a competitive level came from outside the family circle of cycling for Jessie, after going to watch the 2009 Lincoln Grand Prix – “I went to it with my Dad and saw Russell Downing win the race. He’d done really well and just seeing him win with an amazing finish was incredible, as was the atmosphere.”
The spark which ignited the desire for Jessie to race was burning, and soon enough her Father bought her a road bike, with an interesting first experience on it – which Jessie looks back on and can laugh about… “My Dad was all like ‘I’ll get you a road bike!’ but I’d never ridden a road bike up until then. I tried it out, and you know the first time I rode I think I started crying because I couldn’t clip in the pedals! I remember getting to some traffic lights and just falling because I clipped wrong!”
There is something truly refreshing talking to Jessie about her experiences & the fact that she can indeed smile about it not being perfect the first few times, but getting there is part of the adventure… it certainly gave me inspiration, being a world away from clipped-in riding! “Another time I was riding on this little lane with my brother which was just one track. He stopped infront of me and I was like ‘What are you doing?! – Keep going!’ I couldn’t clip-out and just fell into a nettle bush! I wasn’t happy but it’s all good fun, isn’t it? Clipped-in takes a while to get used to, but soon you just don’t think about it – you just do it and go with it.”
Life away from the Matrix Team is a busy affair for Jessie, yet getting out there on a bike still plays a huge part in it… “On recovery days I just like to go for a ride. When it’s a nice day you just want to be out there and just going for a steady ride is just lovely”
It’s clear she’s dedicated to the 2013 team, but there is the not so small matter of Jessie’s studies and just how she balances her education with cycling. Training everyday, along with attending Sixth Form College and revision, Jessie explains it’s a demanding regime; “In the week, training is shorter and more intense, with 1-2 hour sessions indoors, or I might go out and do a short ride. The weekend is where I get my longest training sessions.”
She’s a determined young woman, with a great support unit around her… “I did all my GCSE’s without the pressure of cycling which was good and I got my results. Now the pressure is on; I have my A-Levels and 2012 was my first year of racing with Stef’s team so I didn’t have any