2014 is looking like a great year for women’s cycle racing. The first round of the Women’s National League attracted a record number of starters and more women’s races have been announced for this year than ever before. The trend is also reflected at the top end of the sport where we’ve got more female riders competing abroad than ever before. Olivia Dillon continues to ride at the highest level in the US, while Mel Spath, Michelle Geoghegan, Mary Costelloe and Lydia Boylan are representing us in the UK and on the continent. Back home Fran Meehan and Caroline Ryan are training full time on home soil.
In the first of a series of articles profiling these full time riders we caught up with Lydia Boylan. This year she gave up her engineering job to go full time with Team Velosport Pasta Montegrappa and for the ever enthusiastic 26-year old this is the opportunity of a lifetime. For many women going full time in cycling would be a tough decision. It’s a sport that doesn’t guarantee a minimum wage to women and where making ends meet can be tough. But for Lydia it is an opportunity she relishes. She is just glad, after coming to the sport relatively late, that she had the chance to give it a go.
“Being full time is just incredible. I don’t have to worry about how many annual leave days I’m using up with all these races!” When asked about the drawbacks she does mention the heavy schedule of travelling “It’s a totally different lifestyle. Now that race season has started I am travelling lots and it’s really important that I keep on top of training, recovery and eating well. Not always very easy”.
In her first season as a fulltime rider the highlight so far was last weekend’s Gent Wevelgem, a Flanders Classic style race which is held on the same day as the men’s race of the same name. It involves the famous Kemmelberg, a cobbled and notoriously difficult climb. “For me personally it was a good race as I feel that I’ve made progress with bunch positioning and getting used to UCI ranked racing. Not without fault and still lots to learn but happy to finish in the main bunch after two ascents of the Kemmelberg! It was also a fantastic team result as my teammate Claire Thomas was up the road in the break and finished 8th.” Next up for the team is this weekend’s Energiewacht Tour in Holland. Boylan says “I did this race last year and it was incredibly tough. I’m hoping with more fitness and confidence I can do better than last year.”
The 26-year old came to the sport relatively late and had to work very hard to catch up with fellow riders who had started at a much younger age. Her advice to up and coming juniors is to “train, train, train” and make sure you are getting lots of race experience. “Coming to the sport late I have a whole load of catching up to do on the experience side of things. For the Dutch and Belgian riders it all just comes so naturally because they’ve been doing big races since they were young”.
Lydia first started cycling with Orwell Wheelers and it was immediately obvious she was a very talented rider. While some people are happiest after the race is over she’s a rider who always looks like she’s in her element when she’s racing, even when she’s dishing out the pain. In her first ever stage race, the 2012 Rás na mBan she finished an astonishing second place.
In last year’s Rás na mBan she finished fourth, a placing she is all too familiar with after finishing fourth in the National Championships for the last two years in a row. With her step up to full time training it’s likely that this will be the year to change that. Boylan is likely to be a serious contender in any of the races she enters on home soil this year.
To keep up to date with Lydia’s progress check out her blog here.