We Love Cycling got a hold of Megan Boyd, 21-year-old British track cyclist, physiotherapist, and fitness enthusiast to find out what’s coming up on her life schedule these days. We chatted simple beginnings, motivation, training sessions, nutrition, and many more. Below you’ll find one example among numerous individual journeys how to pursue your passion and help people alongside it.
WLC: What was your first bike?
MB: I think I probably started cycling before I could even walk or talk! I can’t remember exactly what my first bike was, only that it was very small and red! (laughter) I do remember having a bright yellow Peugeot bike when I was about 3-4 years old.
WLC: What got you interested in Track League cycling?
MB: My dad has been a cyclist since he was in his 20’s, when I was born he was well into track cycling and I would spend my weekends up and down the country watching him race, so I had no choice but to get involved, really! My first race was on a scale hall circuit when I was 3 years old, I’m not sure how I did, I think I was the youngest person racing by a long way, but I’ve always been so competitive! And I’ve absolutely loved the sport since I can remember!
WLC: What is it like to train for track racing?
MB: Depending on what kind of races you do on the track the training is quite specific. I was always more of a sprinter. When I was training properly, a normal week would consist of a couple of days of strength and conditioning [training] in the gym, a couple of recovery road rides, sprint sessions, interval sessions, and standing start sessions. I think it is also important to combine a Pilates session or similar at least once a week to really work on core stability and postural alignment, which is vital to preventing injury.
WLC: How do you prepare before a track race and what sort of diet do you eat?
MB: Before racing, I always try and make sure I get a good breakfast or meal before I ride, depending on the time of the day the race takes place. Something carb-based like porridge or pasta does the trick! In terms of a diet, there’s no strict routines that I follow, I tend to try and make sure all the foods I eat are natural and balanced. I mainly tend to avoid any processed foods, being healthy and eating healthy is definitely vital! I like to make sure I get a lot of fruit and vegetables to keep on top of my vitamins and stop myself from coming run down as I tend to have quite a busy schedule. I always make sure I have some sort of protein post training, whether that be a protein shake or in other forms! But I am quite partial to a cheat meal once in a while!!
WLC: You were a part of the para-cycling team as a pilot for visually impaired cyclists. How does that work?
MB: So it’s much more simple than it sounds. Although you’re considered a pilot there is no flying involved, unfortunately! The bikes used are tandems, so a bike made for two people, two saddles, two sets of pedals, and both pushing the bike forward! The visually impaired person sits on the saddle at the back and the ‘pilot’ which was my job, sits on the saddle at the front and steers the tandem, although movement and shifting weight of the person in the back also moves the bike around quite a lot!
WLC: How did you become a part of the para-cycling team?
MB: I’ve always been part of track cycling. I went to my club sessions (Sportcity Velo) every Wednesday at the national cycling centre in Manchester. One Wednesday a partial-sighted girl (Sophie) came down to the track and was interested in getting involved with the tandem riding! My dad has done a lot of tandem racing in the past and has actually been the National Tandem Sprint champion 13 times, he has had a lot of experience! He trained with Sophie every Wednesday from then on and noticed she had a real talent! After a while of riding with my dad, I got the offer of racing the School Games with Sophie on the tandem which would take place in London. I was pretty nervous as I had never been on the front of a tandem before, only on the back behind my dad.
We did a couple of practice sessions before the School Games and, apparently, I was a natural, I’m not sure why, I think mainly because I was so calm and relaxed from my previous track experience! When riding a tandem the person of the front has to be very smooth, as soon as the person tenses up the tandem seems to go everywhere you don’t want it to! From there, we were lucky enough to win 2 gold medals and 2 silvers at the School Games in London, 3 gold medals at the inter-regional championships, and become National champions in the 1K time trial all in the space of under 6 months! It was all a bit of a whirlwind from there and both me and Sophie were lucky enough to get placed on the Para-Olympic development programme for British Cycling.
I got the experience to travel all-round the country on different camps and racing weekends and had a great couple of years on the programme! And the girl I rode with, Sophie Thornhill, went on to winning a gold and bronze medal at the Olympic Games in Rio, so just to be a little part in her journey makes me pretty proud!!
WLC: How can people get involved in helping visually impaired cyclists?
MB: You will find there is a lot of visually impaired riders around the country that are waiting for a pilot to help them be able to train! The best way to get involved is to speak to your local clubs, often there are visually impaired riders just waiting for someone to pilot a tandem for them! You won’t regret it, it’s such a fun and amazing experience and you really could help enhance and change someone’s life so much!
WLC: You were a part of team Sportcity Velo, what’s it like to be a part of a cycling team?
MB: I love being part of a team, the support and encouragement you get from everyone around you always makes you push yourself a little bit harder, whether that be in your training sessions together or at races. The club is full of riders at lots of different levels of cycling so everyone is made to feel welcome and fits in greatly!
WLC: You have taken a break from cycling to concentrate on your education. What are you studying and do you think you will return to professional cycling after you have finished your degree?
MB: Yes, cycling has taken a bit of a back seat over the past year or so, I still train around 6 times a week on the bike and in the gym, but not to the level I’d need to be at to be competing at a high level. I’m studying Physiotherapy now which I absolutely love and also coincides quite well with sport, which crosses over well for the future! Cycling has always been my main passion and there’s nothing I love more than racing my bike! I finish my degree in June this year and it would be great to have one last go at trying to make a return to cycling, but it would be quite difficult to fund so we shall see what happens when the summer comes round!!
WLC: Do you cycle for fun or to commute to university?
MB: I mainly cycle for fun now, I train quite a lot with my dad who always pushes me hard and still enjoy racing the track leagues and other track races that run throughout the year. Due to my uni course being very placement-based, I tend to be all round the north west in different hospitals and patient centres at the moment so I tend to drive as it’s usually dark when I leave home and dark when I finish! Hopefully, with the days getting a bit longer I’ll be able to start riding to a few of my placements. Definitely saves on the petrol! (laughter)
WLC: What’s it like to cycle in UK cities?
MB: To be honest, I don’t ride too much in the cities, I live in a nice, quite village with a lots of countryside around Rivington and the Trough of Bowland, it’s such a beautiful place to ride and tends to lead to me staying away from riding in the busy cities! On the occasions I to have ride through the cities, I tend to get lost or bored of waiting at traffic lights! (laughter)
WLC: Do you have a favourite cycling city?
My closest city to home is Preston, it might not be the biggest or most exciting place but it really has put in a lot of money to help promote cycling. A 20-mile route called the Guild Wheel has recently been built and it’s a really great course for riders of all different abilities that can be done on road or mountain bikes! It’s always a great atmosphere riding around there, safe away from the cars and busy roads and it’s always great to see so many other cyclists out enjoying riding their bikes!
WLC: Will we see you race at Tokyo 2020?
MB: I think that would be a bit out of sight for me at the moment! Although it would be the absolute dream! I have recently been lucky enough to have some testing for different power Olympic sports with the Discover Your Power programme, run by the English institute of sport and from that I got selected for trials for the sprint canoe team, so that could be an exciting new adventure, but still very early days! I’ve also entered my first ever 10k for running in May so lots of new challenges for me this year.