Saint Piran Women's Race Team: Breaking the Bias
As we mark International Women’s Day on 8th March, we caught up with Team Manager Jenny Bolsom at Saint Piran Women’s Race Team to chat about cycling, changes, motivation and breaking down barriers.
How long have you been racing, and how did you get into cycling?
My first race was in 2015. I spent a couple of years just having a go at local crits before joining a team and taking it a bit further in 2017. Like a few of the girls on the team, I started as a triathlete before I realised cycling was my strongest discipline. We’ve got women who have been racing for 10 years, and those who have been only racing for a couple of years. I think this shows that it really is never too late to get into cycling!
Things are changing slowly but cycling events tend to be dominated by male cyclists; has this affected you personally in training and racing? What would your advice be to women specifically who are thinking of taking up the sport?
At Saint Piran, we’re fortunate to operate under a ‘person-centered’ team approach which puts our personal wellbeing before the result. Plus, we offer our women’s team the same support as the men’s. We’re also trying to tackle the male dominance by launching the Saint Piran Women’s Race League. The League focuses on the inclusion of female riders across a variety of circuits, creating an accessible league for women and riders in the South West.
I think my advice for women who are thinking of taking up the sport would be to join a local cycling club and to ask questions. When you first start out, there’s never a question that no one else has asked, or been asked. We’re all in the sport for the same reason, we all ride bikes and race because it’s what we love to do. We all have experiences and stories to tell and there’s never a silly question!
A lot of women experience ‘mum guilt’ when it comes to taking time for themselves - do you ever get these feelings, and how do you balance training with work and life in general?
Quite often I get asked ‘how do you do it all’ and I actually don’t know! Every part of my life is really important to me (although for different reasons), I give everything I can in order to be the best at what I am doing. Whether that’s being the best mum that I can be, making compromises for the benefit of the team, ensuring the business is financially viable, all I can do is give my all, and try my best.
I’m at a point now where I’m nearly 37, my coach Liam Holohan is great and completely understands my life demands and between us with open communication we can adapt my training. I think that’s a key element and in life in general, know your goals, understand your constraints and be open about them. There’s no point beating yourself up about a missed training session especially if it’s beyond your control, that’s something that has taken me a while to grasp!
What has been the highlight of your cycling career so far?
I rode the Ras in 2017 and I would love to go back to it. My Mum's family are Irish and so it meant a lot to be racing in her home country. It was my first ever stage race and I went with no idea of what it would be like but I was so happy to finish all 5 days and not finish last!
Another highlight has got to be CiCLE which was the first race that we went to as a Team. I was so incredibly proud to see the Team line up on the start line, and waiting at the finish to see our iconic jerseys flash by - I have to confess I shed a tear, a happy, proud tear!
The first race of the Saint Piran Women’s Race League will be held on 12 March, Westpoint, in partnership with the University of Exeter Cycling Club. To find out more, register for events and keep up to date with results, head over to the Saint Piran’s Women’s Race League page.