Due to a frustrating year with my Italian team I have decided to take a break from racing. This hasn’t been an easy decision to make and it’s been playing on my mind for the majority of the season. I received little support from my team; at times I’ve even thought that the DS was against me and doing everything he could to make the situation even more difficult. I fully understand there will always be challenges when trying to move forward in any sport but I don’t think management should ever be the biggest hurdle. I only ever wanted to race my bike and be treated with respect. I’ve seen how other teams operate and even experienced the better side whilst being part of the GB team this year at the Aviva Women’s Tour and at the World Championships in Richmond last year which only added to my frustration with Servetto Footon. My year in Italy has been a struggle to say the least but I love the sport so didn’t want to accept any doubts I might have.
It’s plain to see that women’s cycling is increasing in popularity with more races on the calendar and races becoming more professionally organised and some even televised but there are still too many problems out there. I’d say from personal experience on the World Tour level only the top 10 teams are acceptable to call themselves ‘professional’. As soon as you get further down the rankings including my team Servetto Footon (ranked 15th WT) the teams are well below par. I’ve seen much more professionally run British amateur teams. I understand that the money in women’s cycling doesn’t compare to men’s cycling meaning less staff are involved and everything is to a lower standard but that’s not what I’m getting at. Why are the wrong people managing women’s cycling? I didn’t expect anything more from my team budget wise; all I needed was a good team manager to fully support all the riders. It is one of the toughest sports out there even with a strong mind set but as soon as that is gone it is impossible perform to even 50% of your ability. It has been a real struggle for me to be in a good mental state at races because the team has been poorly run, with a bully for a team manager. Every rider needs to be happy in order to perform at their best.
Apart from the funding that I’ve received from the Dave Rayner Fund, without which I wouldn’t have been able to move to Italy, I’ve never had any financial support from any team so racing is basically a full time hobby for me which has been a big part in me realising if I’m only doing this for fun then there’s something missing in the fact that racing has become a chore for me. To be treated with no respect is truly demoralising.
Most on the outside think that riders are living the dream racing on the continent but I know in many cases they aren’t. My environment was so controlled on and off the bike by people who don’t have a clue of what they are talking about. Even easy days I wasn’t allowed Cafe stops and told that all rides must be over 4 hours, and we were never allowed a day off the bike. Obviously I didn’t follow this as I’ve been fortunate enough to have the full time support of Jon Sharples at Train Sharp so I knew what my DS was saying was incorrect. No food was provided after races, in one case water was denied to riders from the car due to the DS deciding ‘they don’t deserve it’ maybe because we’d missed the break or something similar.
I really don’t want this to just sound like one big moan. I want this to be an honest blog of my personal experience so other girls in the future are more aware of the reality of these teams.
I have decided to remain in the sport of cycling because its what I love however I will not be racing next season. Plans for me will soon be announced and I’m excited for a new chapter in my live, wherever it will takes me.