“Sometimes you need someone to push you”
Let's give a voice to those who know us best : the riders! The Sa Calobra Cycling Club is a team, your team! Today, an interview with Sophie, who talks about her experience at the Sa Calobra Cycling Club and her best SCCC time on Sa Calobra for a female rider.
When did you start cycling?
: I started cycling consistently at the end of December 2022 when I got a loan of my mum’s old bike. Since I was dealing with a running injury at the time, cycling seemed a good option to maintain my fitness. In January, I was doing rides of about 1-1.5 hours, both inside and outside, as I live near the mountains, and the roads can be icy at this time of year. I was still feeling a little down about not being able to run as normal and worried about the upcoming race season. But there came a point when I decided I needed to reframe my thinking and use this as an opportunity to build fitness and challenge myself in a new way. So, instead of doing a week of warm weather running training like I would have done if I hadn’t been injured, I found a cycle camp. I thought it would also be a great way to learn more about cycling and feel more comfortable going on long rides alone. As a woman, starting a very male-dominate sport like cycling can be quite intimidating. Still, I don’t think that should deter any woman from pursuing it. It’s important to not be afraid to ask for help and advice - it’s the best way to learn and the community is very open and welcoming.
You participated in our camp, how was it?
I knew I was throwing myself in the deep end since my longest ride before the camp was under 70km, so every ride there would be my longest. I really doubted my ability for endurance and even thought, “maybe I won’t be able to finish all of the rides this week.” But my body surprised me, and I felt energised and well-recovered daily. I am sure this was because of the great nutrition we had on and off the bike. Throughout the week, I learned the importance of fuelling properly and how it allowed me to ride for long hours, maintain power and recover better than I had previously.
Was it challenging?
I loved the challenges Aurélien set us when we arrived at the climbs. Sometimes you need someone to push you to help you realise you can overcome your limits. I enjoyed the opportunity to practice my ability to control my feelings of pain and overcome self-doubt. With the encouragement of my teammates and the desire to feel proud of my numbers during the post-ride analyses, the camp really taught me I could suffer much more than I previously thought.
Since the camp, I am already a lot more confident in my cycling ability, which in turn has increased my enthusiasm for the sport. Even as I begin to run again, I will continue to cycle - I don't think I can see my life without it now!
You beat the best time for an SCCC female rider on Sa Calobra. Did you expect that?
I definitely wasn’t expecting it, particularly as I had a calibration problem with my power meter on an earlier climb, which had caused me to do an all-out effort to try and meet the power target we had been set. But I knew I would still try to give it my all, and was hopeful that I could pull out some extra power with the atmosphere of a ‘race day’. My aim for the climb was to suffer as much as possible because I wanted to challenge myself mentally and physically – I didn’t think much about the time or average power I wanted to achieve. In fact, I switched my power meter to the navigation setting for the climb because I didn’t want to see my watts and think, “oh, I’m pushing too hard. I won’t be able to hold this”. Instead, I focused on staying present in my body, feeling the pain in my legs, and knowing I could continue through the discomfort. Just as if I was in a running race, I kept my mind calm and used a lot of positive self-talk because I knew that if I stay calm in my mind, my body is more relaxed, and I can push through discomfort a lot better.
Once I reached the top, I didn’t want the climb to be over because I was enjoying the effort and the process of pushing again – it was something I missed a lot due to my injury. I remember getting to the top and thinking, “I could have done that faster. I could have pushed more.” But I think as athletes, we always want to improve ourselves and push ourselves further and more. Ultimately, I was happy to see I pushed my watts a lot higher than the target Aurélien had set me, which gave me confidence that my fitness had increased during the week despite the cumulative fatigue built in the previous days of cycling.
What’s your next cycling goal?
Before the camp, cycling was a way to maintain my fitness for running. Now, this is definitely not the case! I feel very grateful to have discovered my love for this sport and how it allows me to challenge myself and build confidence in all areas of my life. Growing up I wasn’t particularly athletic, so for me, it is only the beginning, and I am excited to see what my body can do with more training and time. I am looking forward to trying all the epic climbs near me in the French Alps, and I already have a long list to get through this summer! But for now, I will continue to build my training, learn more about the sport, and work towards building as much power in my legs before next year's camp (I’ll be back in February 2024)!