Monica Greenwood's career is proof that age is no barrier to becoming a bike racer. At 33-years-old, she stepped down from her role as women's endurance podium coach for the Great Britain Cycling Team and donned the race kit of DAS-Handsling Women's UCI Continental Team. And what a start she's made to her debut race season. Riding a Handsling A1R0evo, she's had two wins, a string of podiums and, following her Lincoln GP top ten, wears the leader's jersey in the British Cycling Women's Road Race Series. She speaks exclusively to Handsling about how it was 'now or never' to race her bike and why women's cycling is in an 'exciting place'.
What have been the highlights of your debut season as a bike racer?
Being in a three rider break up the Paterberg at Leidal Koerse (below) was amazing. To get the opportunity to race up such an iconic climb was fantastic. I also loved being right in the pointy end in the bunch sprint the first day of Setmana Valenciana. While I’m really experienced as a coach, actually having the legs to be where I want to be is still a bit of a surprise.
Why do you think your form has been so strong?
I trained really hard over the winter, but also smartly and with progression and clear rationale. Probably the biggest performance gain was being able to rest better. When I looked back at last years CiCLE activation, I completed it at 5.40am. That was pretty normal before, but you need as much rest and sleep as possible.
What have been the highlights and challenges of your transition from coach to elite racer at 33-yrs-old?
The highlights are not training at 5.40am anymore! I really like what I’m doing at the moment. I train in the mornings and still coach athletes in the afternoon. For me it’s the perfect balance. I very much enjoy a much-reduced Teams Meeting schedule.
How much are you benefitting from your coaching experience in your training, racing and recovery?
As my husband put it, most coaches learn all the things they should have done when they are too old to implement them. I am just about young enough to so it’s a big advantage. I like reading and researching training methods. I've spoken to so many experts over the years that I have really good knowledge that I'm now able to utilise.
To what extent do you act as a role model and mentor for the younger members of the team?
I think they just think I’m the old boring one (laughs)! In all seriousness it's cool to be able to race with them. I coached Sophie Lewis through her junior years, for example, so when we race together I know she gets what I’m trying to do and I know what she knows, which is super helpful.
Do you think you'll have any regrets in leaving your GB coaching role when Olympics fever kicks in?
I can live vicariously through my husband who is still doing it so I think it will be okay. I do still miss being at the big competitions, but I’m happy with the choice I made. It was now or never to be able to race my bike like this.
How important is DAS-Handsling in providing a platform for women to gain experience and exposure at elite level?
The team is key to getting exposure to higher levels of racing. It's been great to know I have good support at the races and I can bring a few less tools! I still pack half of the things I would have brought as a coach though so I am the bag lady of the team.
How confident are you in the future of women's cycling?
I think women's cycling is in such an exciting place. When I was a junior there was no Team Pursuit, Madison or Omnium on the track for women. Road racing was so far behind the men's scene it was unreal. Now it's an exciting place to be and there are so many opportunities available to riders. Hopefully young riders can see the path to pro now whereas when I was a junior there was no clear pathway.
What advice do you have for girls aiming to make a career of cycling?
Just keep going! When you are young, you question yourself a lot. ‘Am I going to be good enough? Am I too old?’ But you just need to put your head down, work hard and keep focused on improving yourself and not comparing yourself to others. Cycling is a sport where if you work hard you can get a long way. I’m constantly telling riders training is about consistency and just getting a bit better each day. I’d also say invest in yourself so put time into learning, speak to people, learn from coaches and do things that challenge you and take you outside of your comfort zone. But most importantly still, make sure it's fun because if it's fun your more likely to stick at it!
Check out Monica's blog for more insight into her race season.