Gabby Day is part of the cyclocross Euro Invasion of the US this season. Photo courtesy of Gabby Day
by Molly Hurford
The Euro Invasion has hit the East Coast, and UK-based cyclocrosser Gabby Day has been staying with me in the days leading up to Nittany. For those of you who haven’t heard of Gabby, she placed third in UK Nationals last year, and is currently sponsored by The Chainstay and RENNER Clothing, along with Canadian cyclist, Craig Ritchey.
This 26-year-old racer has never been to the US, and while maybe the Philadelphia airport wasn’t the best introduction to the country, I’ve been trying to show her some of the nicer parts. Granted, it’s been raining every day, which is going to mean a very muddy start to her US cyclocross season, but she’s taking in stride. With her first US race only a few days away, I wanted to ask her a few questions about her first impressions of the East Coast and how it feels being a woman in the sport.
To find out more on Gabby, check out our upcoming Issue 14, which features a few of the Euros who’ve decided to start their seasons stateside.
Cyclocross Magazine: What made you decide to come to the US to race in the first place?
Gabby Day: I have always wanted to visit the US and so this year I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to go. I can get some early season ’cross races in and it will be a new opportunity as well as a refreshing different start to my season. It is always good to do something different. And I hope it will be a great experience.
CXM: Any major goals while you’re here?
GD: I would like to get some podiums … you have to aim high! It will be great to race against different competition and race in new venues.
CXM: It’s your first time in the US, any initial thoughts after being here for a day?
GD: It sure is my first time, and I am excited to be in the US. So far, all good. Everything I have seen so far is what I would consider ‘typically American’ … I was impressed with the choice of foods in the supermarket!
CXM: You’re not the only UK cyclocrosser racing at the races you plan on doing. How do you feel about that? Did you know that Helen Wyman or Ian Fields would be here?
GD: I guess it is a popular year for the Europeans to come out to the US. I wasn’t aware of any other Brits coming out when I planned my trip, but its cool. I’m used to racing with Helen every weekend in Europe so nothing out of the ordinary really!
CXM: What’s your prerace routine like?
GD: My routine is pretty specific, over time I have developed what seems to work for me. I will normally get to the race 2.5 to 3 hours before the race. I will pre-ride the course, usually riding about two laps making sure I am familiar with the circuit. I then have my bikes cleaned if the course is muddy. I get myself into my race gear and chill out for a while listening to music on my ipod before I do my specific turbo warm up, then I go on the turbo for 30 minutes and ride at a variety of tempos to get myself ready for the race. I allow myself 20 minutes before the start. You always need to be at the start line 15 minutes before the start for gridding.
CXM: Post-race routine?
GD: I make sure I have my Torq recovery shake! I will do a short warm-down; I tend to do this more if I have a race the next day.
CXM: What’s a typical week look like for you (training and race-wise) during the season?
GD: Normally Monday will be a recovery ride as I will have raced at the weekend, the rest of the week will involve some speed and power work and a longer ride. Wednesday is a cyclocross skill session also.
CXM: How long have you been riding/racing?
GD: I started riding when I was 15, just for fun to begin with. Previously I was a competitive runner. I started racing on the world scene about 6 years ago.
CXM: What’s your favorite part about cyclocross compared to the other cycling events you do?
GD: Cyclocross is exciting. It is a 40 minute full-out effort for me and I love that. It is just about you and the bike there are no major tactics involved like there are in road racing and most of the time the strongest/fastest rider will win.
Gabby racing in Belgium on a fan-lined race course. Photo by Danny Zelck, courtesy of Gabby Day
CXM: What kind of bike do you ride, and who will you be riding for this Fall? [Ed. Note: look for an upcoming Pro Bike Profile on Gabby's bikes.]
GD: The team secured Raleigh USA as a sponsor so I will be riding the brand new Raleigh RXC Pro full carbon bike. It looks understatedly slick, a black stealth machine! So I’m looking forward to racing it. I am really happy to have the support of Sram again so my bikes will be equipped with Sram Red. The bikes are finished off nicely with Ritchey WCS components and Cole wheels.
CXM: How does it feel being a woman in the sport? Especially at the highest levels, do you feel like it’s different than being a male pro racer?
GD: It is different being a woman in the sport compared to a guy. Obviously I am in a male dominated sport, but I do think that women should be given more recognition for what we do. After all, we put the same effort in and train hard. In Europe, there is a new rule for this year all UCI C2 races have to have a women’s race alongside the mens, so this has meant alot more UCI races for women which is only a positive thing. It is a bit of a vicious circle … men’s cyclocross races are televised every weekend in Belgium; however, the women’s race may only get five minutes coverage at the most. Without the coverage it is hard for our races and the racers themselves to attract the same type of sponsorship and money that the men are able to receive. However, to have our races covered at all is a big step forward. So hopefully things will continue to progress.
CXM: When you first started racing, how did it feel being a woman entering a male-dominated sport?
GD: I didn’t really think about it to begin with as I was only young; however, as I got older certain things would start to frustrate me. That said, it does have its advantages, being in a male-dominated environment!
CXM: Do you think there are more women in cyclocross now than a few years ago?
GD: There are definitely more women on the scene now and the strength and depth of womens racing has really progressed. It is a tough scene in Europe now, which is great. Cycling in general is definately growing in popularity. In the UK, we now have “women only” mass participation cycle events, which are very popular. I also think that the more women that go out there and race and have fun and look good will attract new women to the sport.
CXM: Do you feel like there are any sexist attitudes in the sport?
GD: You always meet the token sexist male. Also, a lot of cycling magazines solely focus on male racing and if us women are lucky, we may be an after thought in a paragraph!
CXM: Did you feel like it was harder to develop yourself as a pro cyclist because you were female?
GD: I have been pretty lucky with the support I have received throughout the years. I have the backing of some great teams and personal sponsors. The thing you do realize in women’s cycling is that most women do it for the love of the sport, not the money, because there is not big money in women’s cycling like there is in the men’s.
CXM: What message would you pass on to young girls who are interested in the sport?
GD: The most important thing is to have fun and enjoy what you do. Don’t put pressure on yourself, just go out there and ride.
CXM: What’s the best training advice you have for women entering the sport?
GD: To begin with, I would advise just riding your bike for enjoyment and progress from there. If you start putting pressure on yourself to train hard everyday then the enjoyment can be lost. Join a local cycling club, it is great to ride with a group of like minded people.
CXM: Any racing tips for new women?
GD: Be confident. It is a good idea to be confident and capable of riding in big groups before you throw yourself into road racing, so going out on group training sessions is a great idea. Again, this also applies for cyclocross, especially for the starts. Be aggressive and believe in your own ability. Self-belief is very important, something that I have found to definitely help me.
Gabby taking a muddy downhill ahead of an opponent. Photo courtesy of Gabby Day