In tandem

Pearl Izumi Champion Team

This blog takes a different form, with us both giving our perspective of our PI Champion Team adventure!

Ann
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.

Photo courtesy of Pearl Izumi UK
Louise

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!

 

Good company

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So yesterday my train home after a meeting in Edinburgh was horribly delayed due to an issue near Lockerbie. I ended up sat on return trains for almost six hours.

There is only so much time I could bear to read my tiny Blackberry screen and type on its minute keyboard so this book (and my MP3 player) kept me company.

I’ve not finished it yet, but I’m really enjoying it. Just as the music on my MP3 is ‘easy listening’ this book is ‘easy reading’. So far it’s a fun, interesting look back on his career, the people he’s met and worked with and places he’s been.

In fact it’s all been very ‘nice’ up to now so I’m waiting with interest to see if G dishes any dirt or brings up the subject of drug use in the second half of the book. Definitely an area of great interest at the moment!  I’ll report back after a few (hopefully shorter) train commutes!

 

Planning

Last year Ann and I chanced our arm and put an application in for a grant from Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) to host an event for their Women on Wheels initiative.

We were amazed and a little thrilled that our initial 25 places were snapped up in 24 hour hours and on the day 35 novice cyclists joined us for a morning of cycling skills, bike maintenance and a park ride. Finished in true cycling style with tea, coffee and cakes!

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Last year’s Women on Wheels event

We were so chuffed and got such positive feedback that this year we’re doing it all again!

We’ve got the grant and are making plans working with British Cycling Breeze and Bolton Tri Club to hold an event that we hope will be even bigger and better, accommodating new and nervous ladies and also improvers and intermediates.

So as they say… Save the Date Sunday 26 March Leverhulme Park.

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On t’telly!

ITV

Transport for Greater Manchester have played a huge part in our lives as cyclists. But we never thought it would get us on the telly!

Their free courses helped us become road ready (lots of laps of the fire station forecourt), learn how to ride on the roads (including navigating a roundabout the size of a small Caribbean island), taught me how to use cleats (and gave me my first experience of the dreaded cleat fall, very impressively at a main junction!), and gave us the knowledge of how to maintain our bikes (even pumping our tyres up was a dark art in the beginning).

So it was with huge excitement that Louise and I put in an application, early in 2016, to their Women on Wheels initiative, which was offering to fund projects aimed at getting women on their bikes. We were lucky enough to be selected for funding and our event was a huge success (no one was more surprised than us two) and so when the fund opened to applications again for 2017, we were sharply onto it, submitting an application with the vision of a bigger and better event.

What we didn’t envisage was the publicity (and for two girls just making it up as we go along, this was very unexpected) we would generate. Getting an email last week asking if we would ‘do a piece for ITV’ was too good an adventure to turn down.

So it transpired that we, along with a group of our lovely WoW ladies, turned up at Leverhulme Park on the bitterly cold first Tuesday morning of 2017 to meet the journalist and photographer from the evening news programme.

Two hours later, after a few pieces ‘to camera’ by a couple of our success stories and a lot of riding round the park in a variety of directions, we decamped to the park cafe to thaw out and digest our morning. A cafe always features in our rides, so despite us having probably only cycled 500 metres, it seemed churlish not to partake of a brew, cheese on toast and excitement at ‘being on the telly!’

I can safely say that the following evening, waiting for the piece to air on the news, was more nerve wracking than any job interview. However the nerves disappeared once we had watched it (and rewatched for the umpteenth time) and appreciated the scale of the interest in women’s cycling.

The Facebook pages were inundated with enquiries and in her truly interminable style, Lou spent the evening replying to each and every one, encouraging and advising in equal measure.

Whatever the outcome of our application for this year’s funding, I’m humbled to think that our excitement and enthusiasm for cycling has helped even a few ladies get on their bikes!

Festive fun

On the eve of the first day back to work of 2017, I wanted to reflect on the last two weeks which I’ve spent as a staycation with family and friends. As I coughed, spluttered and swallowed the antibiotics towards the end of last term, I vowed I was going to spend a part of every day over the festive break having fun! In Louise and Ann world, this fun usually takes the form of running, cycling, walking, or parkrun.

The break started on the Friday night, when at 7pm I met a hardy group of 10 fellow Tri-clubbers on an unlit reservoir car park, bedecked with Santa hats and headtorches for a festive 10k darkrun, finished off with coffee and mince pies from the boot of the organisers car.

What then followed was:

Five trail runs

Four parkruns, including Christmas Day and ‘the double’ on New Years Day

Three cycle rides

Two baking sessions of flapjacks for post-run refuelling

One filming adventure for ITV

All spent with our positive and like-minded group of friends.

Photo courtesy of Bolton parkrun

My home isn’t as clean as I’d like, I know we both have ironing mountains that would take an intrepid explorer much effort to scale, and the work I brought home still lies in my bag unread. But I can safely say that I haven’t any qualms or dread at going back to work tomorrow. Rather I will spend the next six weeks to the half term break planning our next staycation full of fun.