19 September 2019
| THE HEARTBEAT OF WOMEN'S SPORT

Helen Wyman looks ahead to The Women’s Tour

May 6, 2014
Helen-by-Andy-Whitehouse

Tomorrow is the start of The Women’s Tour, a five day road cycling competition that has UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) status, live TV coverage and equal prize money to it’s male equivalent. It’s a massive step forward for women’s cycling and a fantastic sign of real progress for women’s sport. Sportsister spoke to Team Matrix Fitness-Vulpine’s Helen Wyman on the eve of the event.

Helen-by-Andy-Whitehouse

Matrix Fitness-Vulpine is a non-professional racing team, predominately made-up of promising young talent from the UK, and tomorrow it will go head-to-head with the very best teams and racers in the world at The Women’s Tour. For Helen Wyman, the teams mentor and herself a Bronze medalist at this years world championships in cyclocross, it represents a huge opportunity for the young team,

“For the professional teams it’s just another race, they move from race to race – it’s their job. Evenstill, it’s going to be really exciting for them because the event is attracting so much media attention. But for us it’s incredible, and an amazing opportunity for our riders to experience professional road-racing at the highest level.

Sadly our top sprinter crashed at the weekend when a pedestrian walked out in front of her. But this means that Melissa Lowther, at just 17 will step up to that position. This is her second year as a junior and now she’s the lead sprinter for our team at an event that we hope will draw really big crowds.”

” This team have only ever ridden one UCI race before, so this is going to be a big step-up for them. I think it’s going to be great for the pro-riders too. London 2012 proved how great Britain is at supporting events when they come to town – even the Dutch girls like Olympic Champion Marianne Vos talk about how great it is to race in the UK – and they are used to amazing crowds in Holland where the sport is really high profile.”

There’s no doubt the event has built up a really strong momentum with headline sponsors Friends Life coming on board and the media subsequently sitting up and taking notice. The organisers Sweetspot have also done a great job to engage with the local community,

“We really hope the crowds are going to be big, certainly the local councils and all the towns that the Tour is going through are getting behind it. There are festivals at the start and finish, lots of cycling events for all levels of riders and a hill climb section of the race in Felixstowe, which should draw big crowds. We’ve heard that schools are coming out to support the event too. Generally it’s just really, really positive because a lot of these supporters wouldn’t have known that much about women’s road racing before, so we are reaching a whole new audience.”

And the momentum in women’s cycling is happening at the very highest level too. Helen is a representative on the UCI Committee for Cyclocross,

“Personally I am so encouraged by the development of women’s cycling, our new UCI president Brian Cookson wants a woman on every committee. Everyone is listening now, people are prepared to sit and take note of what needs to happen, women’s cycling is a big topic. This race is is definitely helping make big changes happen – it has equal prize money for the women and live TV coverage and that’s pretty much unheard of up until now. The organisers are making this as professional and as commercial as the men’s race and all this will help to grow women’s cycling.”

Team Matrix Fitness-Vupine’s owner and manager, Stefan Wyman is Helen’s husband and brings with him years of experience of running women’s teams – including one of the first professional teams back in 2005/06. Many of the UK’s top riders have at some point ridden for him, Nicole Cooke, Emma Pooley, Lizzie Armitstead, Dani King and many others. So how do the husband and wife team work together and what are their roles?

” I just ride with the team as a mentor. I have lots of experience at the very top level, so I am out there in the peleton helping them. Stefan picks the team and trains them – he has a ridiculous amount of knowledge and exertise, but once they are out there in the race there is no way of communicating, they are on their own and that’s where I come in.

“It’s not just racing they need help with, there’s so much to consider, like nutrition, stretching, core stability and race tactics. When you are racing against riders such as Marianne Voss you need to use everything in your armoury to try and beat her.”

Whether the team team bring home any medals or not, one thing’s for sure, women’s cycling is enjoying boom times. These young riders in the Matrix Fitness-Vulpine team can expect a future where they get spotted by the general public – just like Helen is experiencing now,

“One thing I have noticed, is that people are starting to recognise me, It’s really cool – I’ve been recognised in the supermarket, out riding, it’s incredible. and It’s great for women’s racing.”

The Friends Life Women’s tour starts Wednesday 7th May. Follow the action on www.womenstour.co.uk

Danielle Sellwood, Sportsister
The Women’s Sport Magazine

 

 

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