Q&A: Dr Sophie Earl (Saint Piran)

We quiz a fascinating new signing for the Saint Piran Women’s Racing Team, Sophie Earl from Yorkshire who is an intensive care doctor who had her first road race in 2019 after a spell doing triathlons 

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Q&A: Dr Sophie Earl (Saint Piran)

Read more about Sophie here on Brother UK Cycling’s page 

Sophie Earl from Leeds in Yorkshire hasn’t been racing very long having had her first road race in 2019 and admits she’s a bit late to the party LoL. When asked how she came to be doing cycle racing, the cycling doctor explained “I started doing triathlon’s five or six years ago and got to a reasonable age group standard, but used to get demoralised when I’d come off the bike in first or second position and then loads of people would overtake me on the run. So I thought why not try and play to my strengths and try bike racing on it’s own! I started with local time trials on my road bike in 2018 and then I did my first cat 4 crit early in 2019 and to my surprise, I won it!”

Sophie on the attack in the Tour Series

Q: How difficult was 2020 with little racing or did it give you time to reset, refresh and focus on 2021?
Sophie: I was really really looking forward to 2020 as I was signed by my first ever team at the end of 2019 – Crimson Performance, so I was really excited to get stuck into higher level racing. So, I was a bit gutted when everything was cancelled because of Covid!

Q: Do you think you came out of 2020 stronger, the same or less strong as you were before that season of no races?
Sophie: I’m an anesthetics and intensive care doctor, so 2020 was pretty full on for me work-wise! I was re-deployed to cover intensive care on an emergency rota with lots of night shifts and long days which caused a significant amount of both physical and emotional strain, so in some ways I was pretty glad not to try to have balance racing alongside this too. I did however use my bike as an escape to get some headspace and I really enjoyed independent training and felt like I came out of lockdown pretty strong!

Q: What was the highlight of your racing in 2021?
Sophie: I absolutely loved racing with the Crimson Performance girls on the Tour Series – we had a great time :)

Q: What race in your career is the one that still gives you the biggest buzz?
Sophie: The first time I finished a National Series Road Race was Stockton GP in 2019 – I was still super new to racing and just wearing my local club jersey, but I managed a top 30 finish with the front group and think I may have even done a little celebration on the line!

Q: Were there learning moments in 2021 races and if so, what were they?
Sophie: Oh so many – it was my first proper season of racing National elite races with a team, so I learned so many things that I hope to build upon with the Saint Piran Women’s Racing Team in 2022.

Q: What’s the furthest you have traveled for a bike race in 2021?
Sophie: I only traveled within England for bike races in 2021. I live in the North and we were lucky that most of the National Series events were within one to three hours drive, so thankfully there were no super long drives. I’m looking forward to some trips down to beautiful Cornwall in 2022 to train with my new teammates though ;-)

Q: If a younger rider asked you to describe how a national level women’s road race unfolds, is there a common way the races are raced or does that depend on the course?
Sophie: I think it very much depends on the course and the race on the day. For example at the Curlew Cup, the riding was pretty consistent until the second time up the Ryals when it absolutely blew apart this year (as did my legs) LoL!

Q: During a race, do you find there is a lot of talk between riders in the same team to deal with changes in the race like breaks going, key points in the course approaching and the finish coming fast?
Sophie: Yes. I really try to keep the communication going during a race. Sometimes it’s what you need to keep going or to work out a tactical move within the bunch.

Q: Do you go into a race nervous or intimated by other riders or do you have the confidence to hold you own and race the race confidently in your own style?
Sophie: The first races after lockdown, I was sooooo nervous I could barely eat before a race and I was struggling quite a bit. Thankfully, as I got more races under my belt, this improved and I began to find the confidence again to get stuck in and enjoy my own race. The master Crit Champs was probably the turning point for me in 2021 when I decided to be active in the race from the start, attack and not let the nerves make me ride too conservatively. I had a really fun race and got a bronze medal so was super chuffed.

Q: Do you train more in a given week in winter than what you do in summer when there is a lot of racing and travelling?
Sophie: I like the consistent nature of winter training and sometimes find it is difficult to fit in longer rides in the summer when you become focussed on racing and then recovering for the next one.

Q: Do you train on a training bike or the race bike …
Sophie: The race bike always!

Q: Do you cross train at all; running, swimming, gym or other disciplines like MTB?
Sophie: I have a gravel bike and MTB and love to hit the trails when I can and it fits in with my training plan.

Q: Where is your favourite training ride?
Sophie: Just north of Leeds, we have access to some lovely quiet roads in the Yorkshire Dales – this is my go to training route.

Q: What type of race suits you best? (Time Trial, Circuit Race, Hilly or Flat road races)
Sophie: I love the excitement and buzz of a town centre crit!

Q: What are your tips for staying warm on a long winter ride?
Sophie: It’s so hard to to get it right I think – I’d say wrap up warm with layers, but not too warm so that you get sweaty! It’s important to keep your ears, hands and feet warm too, so I always wear a headband, windproof gloves and overshoes.

Q: What are goals for 2022
Sophie: To get stuck into a full season on National Series racing with perhaps some exciting overseas action too :)

Q: It has been said a change is as good as a holiday – is coming to Saint Piran something that you can use to motivate yourself during winter training?
Sophie: Absolutely! I’m so happy that Jenny has given me the opportunity to race with the Saint Piran Women. We have such a strong group of girls, I am totally motivated to give this winter my all so that I can help contribute to some fantastic results in 2022!

Read more about Sophie here on Brother UK Cycling’s page 


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