Juliet Elliot is a passionate cycling amateur, adventurer and influencer working closely with Škoda UK and their cycling chapter. Adam Blythe is an English former professional road and track racing cyclist, and present-day Škoda ambassador who competed under the colours of e.g. Tinkoff or Lotto–Soudal. Paralympian Dame Sarah Storey is an accomplished cyclist and the principal of the Škoda DSI Cycling Academy where talented young female riders are given a chance to develop their skills under her mentorship, and is also the head of her own cycling team, Storey Racing.
All three are involved in this year’s Škoda V-Series Women’s Tour that will take place between 17th and 19th June and is the first race of its kind in the United Kingdom. The event originated in 2010 as UK’s first international stage race for women, called the Women’s Tour, but as spring and summer 2020 are still not exactly keen on mass events due to Covid-19, the race moved its whereabouts online, the same as many others. Re-emerging as Škoda V-Series Women’s Tour, V standing for “virtual”, the race will take place on the RTG Cycling platform and will be accessible to viewers all over the world via YouTube and BBC Sport. Juliet will be reporting the race live on her Instagram, Adam will be acting as the race’s Directeur Sportif and Dame Sarah will be watching over both the Škoda Academy crew and her team. The Škoda V-Series Women’s Tour was the cornerstone topic of our fifth livestream.
First to tune was sunny and beaming Juliet Elliot and her insights, which was no easy task thanks to her packed and exciting day-to-day schedule. Laura’s first question was about her amazing YouTube and Instagram content and how visibly happy she is on two wheels. Juliet simply stated that she’s been very lucky to do what she loves and having viewers and sponsors supporting her while she does it. “Riding a bike makes me happy so it’s nice to be able to share that with people.”
Outdoor racing may be on hold but our support for women's cycling definitely isn't. Watch 20 teams of pro riders compete…
When asked about her role in the Škoda V-Series Women’s Tour, Juliet was first and foremost excited that the race was resurrected in virtual as it’s her favourite one of the season and she’s been also tutoring the Škoda DSI Cycling Academy riders. “I’m going to be going live from my living room so maybe I’ll tidy up a bit and make sure my daughter is in bed. First of all, I’m going to be watching all the action and, afterwards, I’m gonna be chatting to different guests such as Adam Blythe who’s the DS and some other guests as well.” The main topic of their chats will be, of course, how does it feel to do a virtual race as opposed to actually hitting the road. Juliet will also virtually ride the course of the race with the general public three days after the pros.
For a few years now, Juliet’s been also involved with Škoda’s campaign This Is Our Time, focused on getting more women hooked up on cycling. “It’s all about women on bikes but from every level, so from pros all the way down to people who’re just starting out. It’s about showing everyone what fun it can be, how accessible it can be, what you can aspire to, and it just builds from that idea of getting women excited about bikes and showing them positive role models.”
For Juliet’s detailed breakdown of the V-Series Women’s Tour’s course, training motivation, building up the love for cycling, career paths of women cycling pros and more, head over to the uploaded livestream on our Instagram.
Next, we welcomed Adam Blythe, the V-Series Women’s Tour acting Directeur Sportif. Regarding the technological side of this unusual digital format of racing, Adam explained how he will virtually accompany and support the riders even though he thinks that won’t really be necessary as he’ll be watching over their performance from his living room. “I don’t think there’s a lot I can say, I think it’s really just paying attention to your body and making sure you look at the numbers so you don’t go too high at the start and then just keep constant power […]. It’s very easy for me to sit here and say that. […] The girls got it all going on for themselves, really, but it’ll be exciting, it’ll be good.”
Even though Adam plans to ride the race’s course himself the day after, he confessed that he’s not much of a fan of riding on home trainers since he’s no longer a pro and doesn’t have to adhere to a tight training schedule. He loves cycling and training indoors makes it a chore, taking the joy away. So his post-lockdown plan is clear – enjoy the weather and outdoor bike rides. “I definitely think, when we are able to socialize on the bikes again, that I’ll be out a lot more so I can stop for coffee, I can stop for cake. I’m retired so I can eat a lot of food now so it’s great.”
Regarding women’s cycling, Laura asked about Adam’s outlook on the scene as he’s been actively involved with it, e.g. in the abovementioned This Is Our Time project. And his outlook is clear. “I think we’re all equal. […] They try as hard as us, they train as hard as us, they do no different than us, the only difference is that they’re ladies and we’re men. And I think [women’s cycling] gets overshadowed massively. If you go back and watch the women’s World’s, that was one of the most exciting races of the year.” Adam also likes how women’s races are usually more unpredictable compared to men’s in terms of structure – the usual breakaway and attack routine tends to get more diversified. “In women’s races, it’s just full gas constantly. […] It’s like the final 15 km in the men’s race but the whole race.”
For more great insights from Adam, play the video below.
Right after Adam, we had the honour of meeting our final guest, Dame Sarah Storey, in our virtual #Ride2Unite studio. With 38 World titles, 14 Paralympic gold medals and 76 world records related to both swimming and cycling under her belt, she was the proverbial cherry on top of our Sunday livestream. When asked about cycling races going virtual, she stated: “It’s very exciting. Cycling had to find a way to adapt in lockdown and we’re a very fortunate sport to have a static version. You know, if I had been a swimmer, I would have to find a paddling pool to train with a bungee rope or something.”
As the mentor and principal of the Škoda DSI Cycling Academy and the leader of her team Storey Racing, which are both participating, Dame Sarah walked us through the three days of the Škoda V-Series Women’s Tour from her perspective. “We have the […] riders in separate teams. […] Teams of three make it difficult because you, obviously, don’t have a lot of teammates like you would have on the road. Also, you can’t steer your person on screen to put them where you want so it’s just full gas all the time and for about an hour. But it’s going to be great to see that and to have the opportunity to promote women’s cycling. […] It’s way to fill that gap while we can’t race together outside.”
Laura then took the conversation in the direction of progress in women’s cycling and Dame Sarah’s outlook on it. “I think we had a lot of progress over the last 15 years. When I first came into cycling, the Olympic events were very different. When I was in Beijing, which was my first Olympics, women only had three events. […] They levelled it up so London and Rio had the same number of events but we lost competitions like single pursuit and the Madison. The track side of racing has been made equal.”
Taking on the road side of women’s cycling, Dame Sarah noted that we’re making big progress towards the distances of races but the number of participants is still well below than it should be and that we need to size up the women’s peloton considerably.
Dame Sarah Storey and Adam Blythe appeared in the same livestream together so for all of her advice, insight and wisdom, just watch the video above.
Stay tuned for more livestreams of the #Ride2Unite series to come!