One of the guest experts temporarily in charge of the We Love Cycling Instagram, Mathew Stephens, sat down with his compatriot Cherie Pridham, the world’s first woman in the Directeur Sportif position operating at the World-Tour level. Originally a pro road cyclist, Cherie’s career started when she was 19, spanning eight Tour de l’Aude Cycliste Féminin and two Giro d’Italia Femminile. After a hit-and-run incident in 2006, she switched roles to cycling management, guiding multiple pro teams to success to this day.
Pridham joined the Lotto-Soudal team as a sports director for the 2022 season after managing the Israel Start-Up Nation team for several years. As the owner of Cherie Pridham Racing, she is also the longest-serving UCI Continental-level team manager, and the only female manager in the UK. She talked with Matt about teams and roles past, what’s next for the upcoming season, what it means to be a trailblazer for women in cycling’s management positions, tactical planning perspectives, where she returns to get some “me time” after the season is over, and much more.
Firstly, covering the current comings and goings, Pridham ventured into her debut experience as a DS at the Giro d’Italia: “This is my first year of Grand Tours. I just didn’t know what to expect but I had to take that little bit of an element out of being the first woman at a Grand Tour. Being an SD, not knowing what to expect, talking to my colleagues, telling me to pace myself. But actually, after two days, I’m like, ‘well, this is just like a normal bike race.’ […] You could feel the higher expectations and whatever goes with the pressure of riding a Grand Tour, but I loved it. Absolutely loved it.”
One of Lotto-Soudal’s most notable recent successes was Thomas de Gendt’s stage win due to a breath-taking breakaway at the 2022 Giro. How did that feel for the newly appointed DS? “Sometimes, you have to pinch yourself, you know, is this really happening? But at the end of the day, it was part of that first experience.”
But Lotto-Soudal also ran into some bad luck when Pridham was just getting started with them, especially with Caleb Ewan’s nasty crash in 2021. So, naturally, Matt also wanted to know how to keep a positive mindset for the whole team even if it hasn’t reached the level of success they desired. “As a sports director, it’s so crucial to make sure, even if things aren’t going well, that you keep up the morale and the sense of teamship, supporting everybody. […] Lifting the spirits, you know. You’re on your nerves the whole time but managing the whole process.”
For more insights and friendly banter between two experts in the field of cycling, just tune in.