What will the 2021 race season look like? We have no idea. But our riders are training as per any other year! Former World Championship rowing medallist turned cyclist (and casual neurologist) Mathilde Pauls talks to us about her goals and motivations.
What were your goals at the start of 2020, pre Covid?
I am not sure I can remember! I was definitely looking forward to racing with the team, after a really good camp in Denia before we went into lockdown, which had left us all in good form. The British Cup races were definitely on the list, and I like a Town Centre Crit, so was hoping to have a good go at a couple of those. I ended up mostly time trialling – which actually was quite good fun (in a painful way) in the end.
What are your 2021 goals?
It is difficult to make goals at the moment, as what will happen is a bit up in the air. As a more short term goal I am having a go at the ‘Tour of Suffelandria’ together with my team mate Michelle. I am thinking at the moment that I will have another go at getting my TT time for 10 miles under 20 minutes (as time trials are more likely to be happening to be on than road races). I was 20 seconds off last year, and all the fast events, once I had a disc, were cancelled. But if and when road racing makes a comeback, I suspect that’ll be more interesting.
How have you stayed motivated?
Riding has been a great distraction from work, a way to get out, and to actually speak to a friend (or several at times depending on what rules were like). It has kept me sane! And I do really enjoy being out, and feel so much better after!
What are your best achievements so far in cycling?
I am really not sure. Maybe the Women’s Team Series win at Hog Hill a few years ago. I somehow ended up riding of the front on my own really early on (the plan was to break up the field, not go solo). The race was hard, but I managed to pace it well and stayed off the front the whole way. Or maybe the bike leg in the Aquabike in Pontevedra – I managed to overtake everyone after my (as usual pretty bad) swim leg and being something like 12 minutes behind, to finish first overall, with both of my legs cramping for the last 35 of 110-115km.
How did you get into cycling and racing?
I used to row quite seriously (Editor’s Note: understatement of the year), but prior to that already really liked riding my bike – so it was something obvious to go back to. Really getting into it and the racing started when I lived in Devon, riding for Exeter Wheelers through 2013. My friend Elenor Bremer had set up (single handedly!) a racing series for women in the area, which made races more fun.
What advice would you give to a potential new racer?
Just do it. You’ll learn! And it will go wrong, but it does for all. How you come back from that, get stronger, and learn is what makes you good (Editor’s Note: this applies well in all areas of life!)
What’s your favourite way to unwind off the bike?
When it was still allowed, spending time with friends, just talking about whatever. Now: binge watching films or series’ that require little mental effort?
Whats the best cycling advice you’ve ever been given?
“Stay on that wheel.”
Hardest day on the bike?
The Queen stage (?) of the Giro de Sardegna. I do not know what I was thinking when I rode away from the other women the first time up the half-hour climb, I was in no-mans land with 1 or 2 guys for the next 40 minutes or so, to then get dropped on the descent. I had no idea where anyone was, so did another half hour completely on my own, only to then get caught and rolled through by everyone on the last climb. This was day 5 of a 6-day stage race, and I did not eat anything until about 15 minutes into the last climb for the whole thing. I felt so bad it was incredible. (And the effect of sugar, if short lived, was AMAZING!!!)
Best day on the bike?
This one is harder. I have had a lot of good days on the bike. I’ll go for best day 2020, and that was with Nick and Siggi doing the Frew Whitton in reverse after lockdown 1 (I think this was in July). It was hard, but it was just fantastic to be allowed to go away from home with friends and to have a day in the saddle in the sun with them. And my nutrition strategy was top notch as always – I ate an entire cheese covered in pastry before we went up one of the 20-25 minutes climbs….(and somehow ended up in the top 10 on Strava ?!?!)
We’ll be bringing you interviews with more riders in the coming weeks – for now, check out our interview with team manager Michelle Arthurs-Brennan to find out who is on the team for 2021 and what to expect, and read about how Jenny Andrews is staying focused into 2021 with CX goals.