Feature: Chat with Lydia Boylan

Gordon Wiseman chats with Lydia Boylan about the Women’s Tour Series  and the Women’s Tour which starts today (June 7)

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Feature: Chat with Lydia Boylan

The biggest women’s bike race in Britain, the Women’s Tour, starts today and one of the riders in the race is Ireland’s Lydia Boylan. Gordon Wiseman spoke to her ahead of the race. He started by chatting to her as she caught her breath having just chased Katie Archibald around the two kilometres of the TTT round of the Matrix series at Stevenage. The Irish star spoke about her season so far and her thoughts about taking part in this year’s OVO Energy Women’s Tour.

VeloUK – Although only short, it looked like you had to work really hard in the TTT just now (WNT won the TTT by over 2 ½ seconds from Team Breeze).
Lydia Boylan (LB): Yes, it was like hanging onto the back of a train! We had a good game plan going into the TTT. It might sound a bit like an old cliché, but we knew that Katie’ – Archibald, the Rio 2016 Team Pursuit gold medallist – ‘was going to be our big powerhouse and so over such a short distance we knew that trying to rotate our riders was going to be a bit time consuming. So the plan was simply to keep our front three together even though that meant sacrificing two riders very early on. After getting through the first couple of corners all together it was a case of Katie getting to the front and hanging on!

VeloUK – That was you and Gaby Shaw in second and third wheel so you had an enormous amount of experience to work with.
LB – But we needed that! From the beginning of the season, we had quite a few new riders come into WNT but everyone brought new strengths onto the team and I think we’ve actually meshed quite well. And because of that, at every race we’ve done, we’ve got a better understanding of what we can all bring to the team and that really shows when you’re doing something like a team time trial because you really need to be able to trust the wheel in front.

I knew that maybe I wasn’t the fastest round the corners but I knew I could kick out of the corners pretty fast and hold onto that wheel. I knew I wouldn’t get dropped, I might gap out a bit but I was always confident I’d be able to get back on to Katie’s wheel. It’s just knowing the attributes of and getting the best out of every rider.

VeloUK – Does your experience of riding on the track and knowing how to follow a wheel in that sort of situation help?
LB – Yeah, I think that definitely helps. When you train for the team pursuit, it’s so disciplined and so drilled into you. When you train for the team pursuit that’s all you do and spending two years on the Irish team pursuit squad, that skill is definitely drilled into you. You become pretty much a pro wheel-sucker! I’m not going to drop a wheel!

VeloUK – You obviously enjoy your time on the Irish team pursuit squad
LB – On yeah, the team pursuit really teaches you a lot as a rider. I’m still part of that set up even though last year I took a bit of a different route, focussing on individual events and the Omnium became my goal. I also changed my coach’ – Lydia is now coached by David Muntaner, the 2008 and 2012 Olympian and 2014 Madison World Champion – ‘and I had my best season ever on the track which I was really pleased about.

He works with Cycling Ireland and so he has a lot to do with my training programme. It was great working with him 1-on-1 and that got me into really great shape for the Hong Kong World Cup races and then I got 9th overall in the Omnium at the World Championships. To finish in the top 10 was my Big Goal so to achieve that, yeah, that was great. That also gives me confidence moving forward knowing that I can compete at that level.
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VeloUK – Were you pleased with the changes they’ve made to the format of the Omnium?
LB – I’m just really pleased they’ve got rid of the individual pursuit! The Omnium is now four bunch events which makes it that bit more open and perhaps less predictable in racing terms. I’ve definitely got some events I’ve got to work on but where I was able to do better in those events, that helped my overall position improve. And it’s now only over one day, I like that and that means you really have to focus on the recovery element as well as the racing.

I’m hoping to continue focussing on that and with that in mind my next focus is the Commonwealth Games’ – on Australia’s Gold Coast in April next year – ‘and then the Worlds and then already people are saying to me ‘what about the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo?’ but I’m trying not to think too much about that just yet!

VeloUK – You’ve had the Matrix Fitness Grand Prix series, how pleased are you with the results both for yourself and the team?
LB – Drops got the first win at Redditch but we’ve since had some better team results and Katie and Eileen’s individual wins’ – Katie Archibald at Stoke plus the two wins for Eileen Roe at Bath and Motherwell – ‘so we’re pleased with that. But because we’re a UCI team and have a few European commitments as well, we’ve had to chop and change the line-up a bit with some of the team going to the Bira in the Basque country for that stage race’ – where Katie won the Sprinter’s jersey – ‘and that obviously disrupted our plans to some degree.

I think it’s fair to say that our strongest crit squad would always include Katie, Eileen and myself but with the other commitments that wasn’t always possible. I think if we had those three in every round then things would have been different. We know there’s always ‘coulda-woulda-shoulda’ but we’ve learned from each event. I think we could have capitalised better in some of the races but we learned from each race and as the racing went on we changed our tactics. And because of that we raced a bit smarter and got better results because of that.

I guess that overall, I’m pleased with my own performances. I think I’m the only one on the team that’s done all of the Matrix races. I know some people moan about all the travel and how tiring that can get but I enjoy the racing. Yes, I’d like to take a win but I’m that sort of consistent rider and that’s good for the team as I’ve always be there to back up the better riders. I think I’m always guaranteed to be there in the front group and the team will always know that that’s where I’m going to be.

VeloUK – After the finish of the Matrix series there’s the Women’s Tour. How are you looking forward to that?
LB – Before that we’ve had the CiCLE Classic’ – (won by her teammate Katie) – ‘but I didn’t do that so I can build some recovery time into my programme and do some further training. But the Women’s Tour is a Big Event and not just in Britain.

I think it’s because they promote the race so really well. It’s already got that prestigious stature even though it is a ‘young’ race. And although I’m proud to be Irish, it really feels like it’s my ‘home’ race. And being the Irish road race champion, I’ll be really proud to be wearing my National Champion’s jersey in the biggest race in Britain and Ireland. I think wearing a national jersey in any race is massive but I think I’ll find it really special to be wearing it in the Women’s Tour.

VeloUK – And what do you want to get out of the race?
LB – Firstly? Just to finish! It’s going to be a difficult race and I think we understand that. It’s going to be the best teams in the world and probably the best rider line-up of any race this year. But we’re going into the race knowing that and knowing that we’re one of the underdogs.

A goal will definitely not just to be there but to be part of the race and so we’ll see what we can do. Hopefully on the longer stages, breaks might go and if we can get representation in a break then obviously that’ll be key to us. For me to do so wearing the Irish jersey and the showing off the WNT name, that’d be really good.

And then the final stage is in London and that’ll be a big stage for us. The team has been putting in the miles in stage races so we’ve got that stage racing ability, it’s just pulling it all together against, as I say, probably the toughest field in any race this year.

And before veloUK could ask Lydia about her first UCI win – in this year’s Semana Ciclista Valencianna – making her a member of a very small group of British and Irish riders of either gender to have won a race at the top level – she was called away to warm-up for the final Matrix race of the year. Even when you’re a winner at the sport’s top table, team duties will always come first!

VeloUK sends its best wishes to Lydia, Team WNT and the other ‘home’ teams and riders who’ll be racing hard in this year’s OVO Energy Women’s Tour.



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