Q&A: Christina Wiejak (Saint Piran)

A rider I still see during the winter is Christina Wiejak of the Saint Piran Women’s team who competes in the National Trophy and regional Cyclocross series as well on the road… Here is her Q&A!

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Q&A: Christina Wiejak (Saint Piran)

A rider I still see during the winter is Christina Wiejak of the Saint Piran Women’s team who competes in the National Trophy and regional Cyclocross series as well on the road… Here is her Q&A! Christina is from Cumbria and her first road race was in May 2018 (Muckle CC road race) whilst she admits having dabbled in cyclocross a little before that.

Q: How did you come to race bikes?
Christina: I was persuaded to enter a road race after a training week in Mallorca with Struggle Events. Somewhat surprisingly, I soloed to a convincing win in my first race. After that, I threw myself into the deep-end, with my second race being the CiCLE Classic (I know, what a ridiculous idea!). Away from the road, I’d previously done a handful of XC races whilst studying at Loughborough University. However, I suppose my first ‘real bike race’ was the 2017 3 Peaks Cyclocross, which I raced on a borrowed bike that my colleagues arranged without my knowing. You might say I was coerced (but I’m glad I was!).

Q: How difficult was 2020 with little racing or did it give you time to reset, refresh and focus on 2021?
Christina: I actually really enjoyed the riding aspect of 2020. I’m a bit of a mileage-junky, so with no real need to be race-ready, I just made the most of local riding in the Lake District. I was lucky in the sense that my local club, Barrow Central Wheelers, were quick to get a TT league moving the minute that restrictions were lifted, so I managed to get some competition without the need for travel.

Q: Do you think you came out of 2020 stronger, the same or less strong as you were before that season of no races?
Christina: I’d say that I built up a very good base fitness, but with no structured training at all, I lacked much ‘oomph’! I also had some surgery in December 2020 on a crash-related injury, which forced me off the bike for a short while. The two combined meant that by January 2021, I wasn’t at my fittest!

Q: What was the highlight of your racing in 2021?
Christina: To be honest, I didn’t have the best road season so I’m struggling to pick a race! I was struggling a bit with confidence in the bunch in the earlier races, then I got wiped out by a car (or should I say, driver of a car!) early July, just as the bulk of races were about to happen. Fortunately, I love to race CX, which has saved the year. A 5th at Falkirk National Trophy would be my 2021 highlight so far!

Q: What race in your career is the one that still gives you the biggest buzz?
Christina: That would have to be my first 3 Peaks CX win. I’d told myself that I’d win it one day, but I’m not sure if I believed that I could! On the road, it would have to be the Tour of the Reservoir in 2019 – I was in the break on stage 2 and was pretty chuffed to hold off some serious hitters with enough time to take 4th on GC. It wasn’t a podium, but it really felt like a step up for me.

Q: Were there learning moments in 2021 races and if so, what were they?
Christina: Absolutely! Positioning is everything, and it’s the lesson that I learn time and time again. I guess the race which brings this home the hardest is the Cicle Classic! I also did a Zwift race (having never visited Watopia before or since!)- that whole race was a learning experience!

Q: What’s the furthest you have travelled for a bike race in 2021?
Christina: The furthest I’ve travelled for a race this year so far is Banbury Star RR (Women’s Team Series). It’s a long day when you’re driving yourself there and back, as well as racing! I’m down in Kent for the National Trophy CX on 12th December, so that will be the furthest for the year. I’ll be making a weekend of that one!

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?
Christina: Whilst I maybe 29, I probably have the racecraft of a 9 year old, so I’d probably be asking the younger rider for help instead. What I would say is that you need to be prepared to get your elbows out and have the confidence to hold your position, because the start of most of the races is fairly chaotic with everyone wanting to be up at the front. I think this has been particularly prevalent in 2021 (or maybe I’m just being more wimpy!).

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?
Christina: I would say no to this, at least not to the extent that the more experienced riders might find – I’ve experienced a small amount of communication, but that’s usually someone telling me to get on their wheel! I’ve never raced with a radio, so that would be a new experience.

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?
Christina: I certainly struggle with nerves prior to racing – this is partly race nerves, as I put an enormous amount of pressure on myself to ride well. It’s also nerves surrounding riding in the bunch, and fear of crashing. I don’t feel intimidation from other riders however – if I find myself racing with someone of a much higher level, I find it inspiring, but not intimidating.

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?
Christina: I find that I do more volume in the summer, as during the winter months (at least whilst the CX season is underway), I focus more on race-specific efforts and skills. Cumbria can be hostile place to ride in the winter, so sadly sometimes a six hour ride just isn’t sensible or possible!

Q: Do you train on a training bike or the race bike …
Christina: During the summer, I do all of my training on my race bike. I use a winter-bike with sturdy mudguards during the winter and for commuting if the weather is poor, and I do a lot of training on my CX bike during the CX season.

Q: Do you cross train at all, running, swimming, gym or other disciplines like MTB
Christina: I love running, as this is my background, but I don’t tend to do much of it during the summer. I try to run at least once a week during the winter however. I don’t really swim, unless it’s on a sunny day in one of our many lakes! I do quite a lot of my endurance rides off road, whether that’s on my CX bike or a MTB. I also do a lot of walking, but admittedly little-to-no gym work.

Q: Where is your favourite training ride?
Christina: My favourite training ride in the UK would be a big day out over the Lakeland Passes from my front door. I believe that I’ve got the best UK riding right here, but it’s extremely steep and stabby – Zone 2 rides aren’t really a thing! My friend and I rode to Scotland and back in the summer, which was about 280km – that would probably be the ride of the year so far. Away from the UK, it might be cliché but I do love Mallorca. For training quality however, you can’t beat a big day out in Tenerife – it would great to be on one of these Islands all winter!

Q: What type of race suits you best? (Time Trial, Circuit Race, Hilly or Flat road races)
Christina: I find that the more attritional a race is, the better I fare. I like the wearing down process. I do like a hilly TT too – I enjoy the solo effort required. If I’m going to do well in a circuit race, there needs to be a nasty climb. I’ve had good rides at circuits such as Ilkley and Barnsley, so I’d say something like that.

Q: What are your tips for staying warm on a long winter ride?
Christina: My tip would be to not ride in Cumbria in the winter, as I haven’t found a way to stay warm yet! Mudguards are a necessity, as is a skull-cap and buff. Suggestions of gloves welcome!

Q: Finally, what are goals for 2022?
Christina: My goals for 2022 are quite varied! I’ve got some times in mind for 10 and 25m TTs, and I’d like to try and get as close as possible to being the XC Marathon National Champ. On the road, I need to regain some lost confidence, and when I’ve mastered that, top-10s at National Level.

Good luck Christina in 2022 and see you at the National Cyclocross Championships! Great to chat …


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