Talkingshop: Jessie Walker & Helen/Stefan Wyman

Matrix Fitness/Prendas Ciclismo talk training camps, proud fathers, Women’s racing & a big year for cycling — 2012!

On the eve of the official team launch, Matrix Fitness/Prendas Ciclismo took delivery of their new kit. Team Manager Stefan Wyman, the squad’s youngest member, Jessie Walker and team mentor Helen Wyman called in at Prendas HQ in Poole, Dorset.

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Eamonn Deane writes … Most of the team were up the road in Southampton, having Bike-fits for their new Velocite frames ahead of a two week training camp in the south of France. While Prendas Ciclismo Patron, Mick Tarrant loaded boxes full with bib shorts, tops, skinsuits, gilets, mitts and rain jackets, I took the chance to chat to all three.

Team sponsor Mick Tarrant of Prendas (also a sponsor of VeloUK) with Jesse Walker and Helen Wyman.

Always keen to know what training other cyclists are doing, I asked Helen to take us through a typical day on the camp. “The girls will have a lot of specific work to do. They have their first race, the Cheshire Classic when they return to Britain, while I will just be there to crack the whip. We will breakfast together as a team and go out on a set ride. The area we are going to is quite hilly and they will have specific sets for the climbs or the flat parts.”

“Normally Stef will follow behind in the team car so if they need anything, drinks and food they can go back; it’s a good learning experience. We might do four hours as an endurance ride, the next day might be three hours with two minute threshold efforts on the climbs, and another day might be sprints or lead out training. We will also do 15-20 minute intervals and ten second sprints, all within the structure of three to four hour rides.”

“It’s getting close to the season so you don’t need to be doing five hours as women don’t race much more than three hours anyway. At this point in the season it’s much shorter but much more intense. They will also practice feeding from the car, the team mechanic and soigneur are coming on camp and the team will be able to practise with them getting bottles from the side of the road. It’s more for the staff really. The team are working with a third year student from the London School of Cycling Mechanics and two physio students and they are all girls which is really positive”.

Helen Wyman (right) has many years experience, not just in cyclo-cross but also racing the road with her team and Great Britain and will be have plenty to pass on to the young girls in the team such as Jesse.

Post training ride, Helen added the team will have to cook their own food, a deliberate ploy to encourage independence & build team morale. “When you are away from your parents, it’s good to learn in an environment where there is always someone who knows what they are doing. They will share the cooking but all will have to learn. It’s good for team bonding and they can have a laugh at each other”.

Jessie Walker is new to the Matrix/Prendas team but is no stranger to cycling. Father Chris was a professional rider and prolific winner in the late 80s and 90s and now works for the MotoDirect who through their Cycle Division (see the ads on the left) are responsible for RST Clothing and Trigon bikes & accessories.

Since November, Jessie has been doing gym work and long rides to build strength. What about the turbo? I ask “It’s alright when it’s done” she laughs. “I go on the spin trainer at home but I prefer to get out. I just can’t wait to race instead of just training. Its good when you have a lot of racing instead of having to think about training, just turn up at the race. You don’t feel like you are training even though you are working twice as hard. I am really looking forward to racing as part of a team.”

“Last year I entered all the races as an individual in the women’s races and it will be good to learn how to work for the team.” I asked Jessie if she thinks women’s cycling goes unreported. “I didn’t know about it. If you don’t know about women’s cycling, it’s not advertised, if you don’t know someone involved you don’t find out about it.”

Jesse racing for RST Clothing/Trigon Bikes in 2011 at the Women’s Circuit Race Championships in Preston.

“At school everyone was shocked when they found out I was cycling, now, it’s like “WOW well done”. I am glad that they appreciate it and understand now. My dad was a professional cyclist, he never pushed me, but he is really supportive. After a race we always have a debrief on the way back. We criticise, in good and bad ways what we have done well and what we can improve on.”

“If you make a mistake, the benefit is you can learn from it. He doesn’t want to be pushy; he wants it to come from us that we want to ride. If we are having a bad day and we don’t want to do it, he doesn’t say you have got to, he just says, ok don’t do it, then we can decide ourselves. The trouble is when he says don’t do it, straight away I think I should be doing it. We have kind of got him back involved in cycling and I think he likes it”.

The Matrix Fitness/Prendas Ciclismo women’s team have a full domestic programme for the coming season and the team will also race on the continent.
Photo: Mick Tarrant models one of the more generous sizes!

Team Manager Stef Wyman talked about exciting times ahead. “2012 is a really important year with the Olympics and having riders with genuine Olympic aspirations is really important to us. I think it is going to be pivotal time in the cycling industry. It’s become such a key sport now with the television and the focus on the Olympics and the medal haul we have had at recent world championships. It’s got a disproportionately large amount of media coverage. So I think the cycling industry and all the teams will be looking at really expanding their operations this year and hope the Olympics brings further investment & opportunities for them and we are no different to other people.”

“We hope to be professionally registered with the UCI next season and taking on the biggest races; the Giro d’Italia and Tour of Flanders in a good position with strong riders. We are looking very long term. This year, we have an average age of 19 on the team and we need to be developing these riders over the next three or four years as a group. Inevitably you lose a few riders and you gain a few a come through the junior ranks.”

The Walker sisters! Well, not actual sisters but Jesse (left) and Hannah right, do share the same surname and are in the same team in 2012, Matrix Fitness/Prendas.

“We are in a good position; we are one of the big teams that people will focus on when they are coming through the sport. It has always been a goal of ours to provide a second opportunity for people so that the Great Britain Cycling Team system isn’t the only option. The Great Britain Cycling Team are doing amazing things with riders and what they have done to change, develop and professionalise the sport in all areas, it’s not just track. We would not have Cav if it wasn’t for their system and we would not have half the interest in the sport in general. Everybody at the Great Britain Cycling Team deserves a big pat on the back.”

“But I also think that in some ways it has become so powerful that people think if don’t get into the Great Britain Cycling Team’s development squads, that they haven’t got the potential for a career in the sport. The people like Helen, who can help our riders develop, have proved that there is a good career for people in non-Olympic disciplines or outside of the GB structure. Helen has been in the top 5 in the World for Cyclo-cross for last five years and is a regular World Cup and podium challenger, it’s a really exciting time.”

“We have been really lucky that 2012 has given us the chance to re-launch what we do. It’s a focal year, everybody is looking at cycling. It’s our third year and with a new title sponsor name, changing our colours, a complete new image that comes with that we have been able to take forward our image on and off the bike, to raise the levels of professionalism and a really look to the future with the riders we have on the team.”

“The blend of riders is really exciting as is the blend of sponsors and partners.”

Stefan was involved with the design of the kit, the sharp, red and black colours are the main colours of Matrix Fitness. The design has been embraced by bike suppliers Velocite, shoes from DMT and Casco helmets are all colour matched
“Everything is done so we look really sharp. Hopefully it can set a standard to other aspiring teams coming through which will have a knock on effect on the sport.”

“When I first got involved with women’s cycling some eight years ago, there wasn’t a team structure. Now teams are actually being turned away from races. Competition is big; we work with our sponsors to ensure there is a Johnson Health Tech Grand Prix series, to ensure there is a professionally run set of races that all of the female rides in the UK can aspire to be a part of”.

With Stefan’s vision, Helens experience and Jessie’s enthusiasm, the team will only go from strength to strength. Mick Tarrant from Prendas has the last word. “They all make great role models, especially for other girls looking to get into the sport, they don’t get supported like the guys do. It’s nice to put something back, I get a real buzz out of it”

2012 team line-up: Sarah Reynolds, Dani King (World Team Pursuit Champion), Hannah Rich, Joanna Rowsell (World Record Holder Womens Team Pursuit), Penny Rowson, Annie Simpson, Hannah Walker, Jessie Walker plus Team Mentor Helen Wyman.

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