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Catching up with our Sponsored Rider, Fiona Meade, Current Irish National Elite Female Road Race Champion

It was great to catch up with Fiona Meade last week when she was free for a coffee and along with some questions posed by us, we spoke to her on her super achievements in 2014 and what her wishes for 2015 would be… Here is the full interview.

1) Wow, 2014 was a great year for you, you must look back on it with lots of satisfaction ?
2014 was a bit of a surreal year for me and even now I’m still trying to take it all in. I have to pinch myself still to know I’m not dreaming and it did all happen!

I had a superb racing year. I wasn’t expecting it starting the year as I started a new area of work in Jan 2014 and put a deposit on a new house in February. I had to be efficient with my training and racing as a lot of my free time was spent picking kitchen units, tiles, couches, beds and all those household things, not something I found easy as I rarely go shopping!!

I think the nine years of racing I have under my belt provided a great foundation to the results I achieved. Consistent training and a bit of luck sprinkled on top of this foundation resulted in me smiling from ear to ear in September.

2) Compare winning the Nationals to a Ras na Mban stage win in terms of satisfaction and competition ?
It’s great to win a stage in the Ras. An Post commenced sponsorship of Ras na mBan in 2011 and I won the first stage that year and it felt fantastic both to win the sprint and to pull on the first ever An Post overall leaders jersey even though it only lasted a day! but for me the Nationals is the pinnacle of road racing on the Irish road racing calendar so in my eyes nothing compares to winning that.

Although it’s always been a goal for me to aspire to realistically, I never thought I could achieve it especially when I am not full time on the bike and there are full time riders in the bunch, but as the 2014 season progressed I knew I was riding well and that my potential to do well was something realistic to aim towards. For me it was a second bite of the cherry it being on in September as I was unwell in June.

3) Who’ll you ride with this season in the National Champs Jersey ?
I’m going to ride with the great ‘Blarney Castle’ sponsored Blarney Cycling Club   :-)

4) Our favourite question that we have been holding back on, soooo You’ll be wearing ‘VeloRevolution Clothing’ Custom kit especially made for you, that’s a pretty cool jersey (and complete kit) they’ve done for you ?
I have to say I absolutely love it.

I have never possessed gear of such great quality that fits like a glove,  so I can’t wait to get out racing and show it off.  In fairness to VeloRevolution, you guys have done an amazing job on all the items and I am really happy with everything you have done for me.  I will sure look like a Pro now.

5) How is training going?
Training is going well……now.

Because I was doing adventure races after the nationals I kept training until the middle of November. Unfortunately the hecticness of work, the house, training and racing took it’s toll and I collapsed in work in late November. I was on day 7 of a 12 day stretch in work, on top of a crazy few months and my body decided to call it a day.

I spent a week pretty much in bed after that. I still wasn’t right when I went back into work and it was only after 5 days off work over Christmas that I felt my energy levels come back to near normal. Its really only in the last couple of weeks I’ve been able to get back in to consistently training again. I am back up to training 5 times a week now and am doing a mix of core, running, circuit training and cycling. When I can I try getting out on the mountain bike as I think it’s great fun and I love the challenge. Also I find it means I’m not tired of seeing the road bike by the time the racing season starts.

6) Is it hard to stay motivated for the long season?
Sometimes it is hard to stay motivated but I love training mainly because I am reminded ever day, by what I see in the hospital, of the detrimental effects leading an unhealthy lifestyle can have on your body and mind.

The women’s season starts with the first round of the women’s national league, normally in April and finishes with ras na mban in September so it’s really not that much longer a season than the men’s season. I think the problem that can happen and can make it a long season is that there are not that many women racing in Ireland. Those that are tend to train with men (most often there are not enough girls in the club to train with, from my experience). If you train with the men as if you are starting the season in February with them then yes it would be a very long season!

Over the years I have learnt to hold back, for a bit longer, on increasing the intensity to ensure it doesn’t become a long season. With my first main goal being the nationals at the end of June there is no need for me to be gearing up for the first race of the men’s season in February. However, this year will be a little bit of a longer season as the women’s National league will start back Sunday 15th March with Blarney Castle sponsored Blarney Cycling Club hosting the first race.

7) Any changes you’d like to make?
Changes to myself? ……become stronger, fitter, faster and develop a pair of climbing legs so I have a higher potential to be there for the sprint finish!

I would love to race abroad this year to help with the above and I’m fortunate to have had a couple of offers to do this. Financially I will have to think long and hard about this though as the new house has managed to swallow all my money!!

8) Any ambitions to ride for Ireland or may that day be gone now?
Ah now, I’m not that old!! Its always nice to pull on a green jersey. If I got the opportunity I wouldn’t say no.

A few years ago there was an Irish women’s squad put together that raced on the road for the summer with the aim of getting fit for the track season that September. Unfortunately in training and racing with the squad for the spring and summer of that year I had all my annual leave used by the end of august and was unable to get time off from my job to continue and try out on the track. I have not worn the Irish jersey since that summer.

As my experience is in road racing and as my results from last year meant I met the criteria for selection for the women’s road race World Championships it has planted a seed to think of wearing the Irish jersey at the worlds in 2015. Cycling Ireland are focusing on the women’s track national squad at the moment. I was very disappointed to miss out on the opportunity to test out my potential on the track. This is something I would like to look in to this year.

I was delighted to read a article over Christmas stating that after the track world championships, next month, cycling Ireland will be looking at domestic based riders to broaden the scope of their women’s squad. The results I have had to date domestically give me great confidence in knowing that I have earned the opportunity to try out on this squad.

9) What are the biggest barriers to women’s cycling now?
In Munster,the lack of local women’s only races to encourage more women to get into racing. Although growing, the number of women racing in Munster is still low but since I have started racing it is growing so that’s positive and these things take time to grow.

A big barrier to increasing the numbers, I have learnt over the years, is fear. I know a huge number of girls in the South who love to cycle and with great potential to race. When I ask them to try it they have a huge fear of the bunch and the potential for crashing..convincing them that it’s worth the risk is difficult!

After my 2014 season I think it’s definitely worth the risk and worth persisting with year on year..for 10 years anyway…Hopefully I’ll be saying the same after year 11 in the saddle :-)


Ed: Thanks Fiona – We wish you the best for 2015 and may everything work out for you.

(Photos Courtesy: Micheal Meade)