Lee and I first met Katie a year ago at a coffee shop in Covent Garden, London. We were there to talk Girona as we’d just had the crazy idea of ditching our jobs and relocating. A mutual friend put us in touch and Katie turned out to be the deciding factor in persuading us to book a one way ticket to Catalunya.
I was excited to meet her – she had lived my dream and I wanted to find out more about her story and her life in Girona as a pro. Over the course of our conversation I found we had lots in common: we’re about the same age; she had recently retired from a 10 year career as a cyclist, I wanted to embark on one; I needed a coach, Katie was doing her coaching qualification.
Katie offered to coach me on the spot. One year on and I feel very privileged to be Katie’s first client. Her knowledge of women’s cycling and professional approach has been invaluable for me in making the transition to full-time cyclist. I caught up with her about her cycling career and plans for the future:
How long did you live in Girona for?
Actually only the one year, and from that one year I probably only spent half of my days there as I was away racing so often. But it was the dream place to return to for some down time between races. Previously I’d been balancing track and road seasons year round and based in Manchester or Belgium, so as you can imagine, waking up to blue sky and sunshine every day in December was quite the novelty for me; getting ready to go out training was rarely an effort!
When did you start cycling? How did you get into it?
It was my older sister Charlotte who kick started the cycling bug in our family. She’d seen a local cyclo-cross race advertised in the paper and I decided to join her. We turned up on our retro Apollo mountain bikes and soon realised we didn’t quite fit in. I was only about 14 and beat a fair few of the boys in my race. Someone suggested I try out for the British Cycling talent team, and that’s where it all began. My sister’s the one still racing however so it’s probably a shame she was too old to try out for the talent team!
When did you go pro? How did it happen?
I signed for HTC-Highroad in 2011 but it’s not really the most inspiring story – I was pretty lucky! In November 2010 the British Cycling academy announced that they were no longer going to run a road programme and I was left with no option to race internationally the following summer. Fortunately HTC-Highroad were in need of an additional young rider to bring the average age of the team down to meet the UCI requirement. My coach at the time, Simon Cope, managed to put my name forward. I signed on the line on Christmas Eve, which was a pretty cool Christmas present. The team then formed into Specialized-Lululemon where I stayed for the remainder of my cycling career – so I guess I did something right and wasn’t just lucky!
What are your best memories and career highlights?
It’s probably the obvious, but winning the World Champs Team Time Trial. However it’s not because it’s the most notable result on my CV but more because I loved being a part of that team. They were such a nice group of people and it’s always more fun to win something as a team.
What was the best thing about being a pro?
You’re never stuck in the cage of an office!
And what about the worst?
Not being able to ski! (Although I may have snook the odd sneaky trip in!) It would also get a bit lonely at times. It really could be an eat, sleep, cycle repeat routine, and when the cycle part was on your own to accommodate specific training efforts day in, day out, it could become very monotonous. I’m also rather partial to a glass of red wine (or bottle) which, like skiing, wouldn’t have really complimented my training.
Why did you decide to retire?
Bike racing was all I knew and there were just so many other things I wanted to experience in life. I had put plans in place to return to the GB track squad and aim for Rio in the team pursuit squad. I received a plan from the team coach essentially outlining the next 3 years of my life. I was about to embark on the first team training camp in July 2013 and I just looked at it and realised I didn’t want to do it. I’d ‘celebrated’ my birthday for the last 5 years on a January training camp in Mallorca and guess I just didn’t want to know where I’d be celebrating for the next 3.
So what happened next and what are you aiming for now?
I’ve tried a fair few different jobs over the last few years, some of which I wasn’t so fond of, and it dawned on me that coaching ticked quite a lot of the boxes for what I find rewarding in a job. I’m rubbish at anything in sales or promotion and I hate being in an office 9am-5pm. I enjoy something where I feel like I am helping people and you can see progress. Also, with one to one coaching, it can be done from pretty much anywhere which means it compliments my lifestyle pretty well – I’ve worked as a ski instructor for the past 6 months and would like to be able to make that work again next year.
What’s your coaching ethos and vision for the future?
I’m working on setting up a coaching company, Challenge Cycle Coaching, with my former GB team mate (and one of my best friends) Alex Greenfield. What’s most important for us is that we enjoy it and work with nice people. I think that this pretty much sums up our ethos. I think far too many riders get caught up in power cranks and torturing themselves on turbo trainers to hit maximum watts when actually they would be better off being out on a chain gang improving their bike handling skills and having a bit of fun sprinting for village signs. Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of components that create a good bike rider, and training will sometimes need to be on a turbo with specific efforts, but generally happy bike riders win races, so for me that’s the most important.
Describe your dream client
I guess I like to be working with relative newbies to racing where you can see lots of room to improve. Having said that I’m aiming for a varied portfolio of riders whether their aiming to progress from national series racing to signing an international team contract, or whether they simply want to get fit enough to get around their first bike race.
You can follow Katie’s journey on twitter @CCycleCoaching