Pearl Izumi Champion Team
This blog takes a different form, with us both giving our perspective of our PI Champion Team adventure!
This adventure started at the beginning of December last year when an email dropped in to say my application to be a Pearl Izumi Champion had been successful. This news was surprising as a) I’d have thought I’m a little long in the tooth to be chosen to represent a stylish cycling apparel brand and b) I wasn’t quite sure what being a PI Champion would entail.
What followed was PI setting up a Facebook group so the champions could engage with one another and arranging a launch day in March to give us full details of the programme.
From the outset, there was great camaraderie on the Facebook group; accomplishments were applauded, bikes were envied, humour was shared, and as the launch event grew closer, questions were answered, travel and rooming arrangements were made, with champions travelling miles out of their way to share transport. It was heart-warming, but more than a little scary.
From reading everyone’s training and exploits on Facebook and Instagram I’d built up a picture that this was a team of strong cyclists, performing at the highest level and cycling huge mileage on a regular basis. So with trepidation, we set out on Friday evening for our road trip (by train!), having arranged to meet another PI Champ, Nicola, en route. Nicola is a breath of fresh air; enthusiastic, positive, funny. Just the type of person Louise and I try to surround ourselves with, as they make life so much more enjoyable. The weekend was already taking shape.
We arrived at the hotel in Milton Keynes, travel weary and wary of how these other champs would perceive two women from Bolton who are just ‘having fun’. What we found was a group of like-minded, fun loving, passionate individuals all mad keen on promoting the benefits and enjoyment of cycling, and some who were suffering confidence issues like us. The PI team had clearly done an amazing job in the recruitment of the team. We gelled quickly, over a drink in the bar and then over breakfast, before we headed to Madison HQ for the official launch event. When the presentations had concluded (with us knowing more about PI’s expectations of us for the coming year; PI’s vision and mission statement being communicated; and a rather bizarre and bewildering talk on nutrition!) and the free kit had been handed out, we chatted and bonded more. Advice was shared, (about random topics such as which arm warmers to buy, which events to try, and the sizing of the kit) over the buffet before the team set out in various groups for the rides, either at the mountain bike trials at Woburn or around the roads of Milton Keynes.
The day then came to a close as we all headed home for our various, far-flung destinations, only for circumstances to further highlight the spirit of the team. When a helmet was dropped at the station, it was found, collected and posted back to the PI Champ by two other Champs in shining armour!
This year is going to be such fun, watching everyone’s exploits in their kit, and I just hope we can meet up again soon.
It’s safe to say I was incredibly nervous ahead of the event but within minutes of meeting Nicola on the train, Emma and Laura over a quick lager on arrival at the hotel and Jude and Linzi at breakfast nerves were settled and I was keen to get to the event.
The thing that really struck me was that it wasn’t about being a fabulous cyclist. Don’t get me wrong I’d followed people on FB and Instagram beforehand and was absolutely in awe of their achievements in speed and distance of rides, countries visited, races and challenges completed, but on the day I can’t remember a conversation about any of those things. What we did talk about was going from zero to regular cyclist, setting up of cycling clubs, surviving cancer and charity fundraising with seemingly impossible challenges, coaching of children and adults.
I could go on and on, but I definitely sensed a theme of using cycling to give to the community, by helping and supporting others and being determined to make things happen.
I adore the kit we were provided with; elite top, bib shorts and shoes, not just because I’m human and love a freebie but because it gives a sense of belonging, being part of a team.
The Pearl Izumi vision is ‘To be the brand of choice for cyclists. We aspire to elevate the sports we love, and empower more people to become cyclists’. The group of people in that room on Saturday totally embodied that ethos and whilst I’m humbled by their achievements I can also associate with them. My biggest joys since starting to run then cycle have been when we’ve been doing community/ support events, volunteering and run directing at parkrun, leading Breeze rides and running our ladies cycling events.
So we’ve got the ambassador title and strip and for the next nine months or so are tasked with regular social media posts using Pearl Izumi hashtags showing off our lovely apparel. My hope is to cycle more, lead more Breeze rides and throw in the odd personal challenge or two!