Becky Preece is always cold. With 10 - 15 hours of training per week, plus her job walking 10miles a day as a postie, it seems like no amounts of hot showers and cups of tea can have any lasting effect on the deep-rooted freeze that seems to come with being a crazy cyclo-cross racer! A winter sport where racers are expected to ride their bikes through sloppy mud, deep sand, hard frosted ground and then get off and carry the thing up steep hills and flights of steps with no rest, Becky explains why anyone would want to do this..."it´s absolutely brutal"

Come on Becky, sell it. Does anyone actually enjoy it?

"It´s the craziness of it, the atmosphere, it´s one of the best sports I think for spectating. The competitiveness, the fact you can get off your bike and run with it, I just think it´s mental."

With an elevation pitch like that, it´s hard not to think that Becky must be a bit of a nut job herself to be honest. She is a 25 year old elite cyclo-cross racer in the Hope Team, having discovered the discipline via her cycling club when she was already into MTB. She loved it from her first ever race on a borrowed bike. As time went on she evolved from primarily being an XC mountain bike racer with a bit of cross on the side, to getting better and better results and realising that cyclo-cross was destined to be her main thing because she enjoyed it more...which made her better at it. That positive cycle thing that keeps coming up in our Hopetech Women chats with successful riders.

Having had experience in both MTB and cyclo-cross, Becky maintains that the latter discipline is the one with the friendliest people, combined with the lack of pressure she feels at races it has become the world she loves and thrives in. Whatever your take on the community, there is definitely something to be said for cyclo-cross racing being a welcoming beacon for people who are new to bike racing. It undeniably has a relaxed atmosphere in terms of cliques and just turning up on whatever bike you can get your hands on and even if you have none of the cool, trippy gear, no-body will make you feel like an outsider. Another great thing about it is that after 2 minutes off the start line, the course is total carnage and it´s basically impossible for anyone watching to work out what position anyone is in. So for self-conscious starters (hello every first-time racer ever), it is a great way to hide from embarrassment and get lost in giving it a go. Here at Hopetech women, our recommendation for trying a bike race out would be to head to a local cyclo-cross.

Talking of getting into racing, Becky managed to get her boyfriend to give one a go, even though he doesn´t ride a bike at all. And by all accounts "he absolutely loved it". We love that Becky is bucking the trend of boyfriends getting their girlfriends into cycling and she has turned it on it´s head. Nice one!

I wanted to know if Becky has any females idols or mentors. Her main inspiration however, is actually Hope rider Nick Craig "I´ve always looked up to him as an idol. But also Annie Simpson, she used to ride for Hope too and I always watched her and thought she was incredible and always so kind and friendly and she showed me a lot of things."

AG: "Is it like that in cyclo-cross? Is there competitive camerarderie?"

BP: "I defintely have friendlship groups. Like, in a race you´re very on your own but after the race you´re all like, pally. But I dunno, I´ve never been like that with any other people I race, I´ve always been friendly with them. I really enjoy racing"

AG: "Yeah and I guess cyclo-cross isn´t a team race, so you can´t form those team bonds..."

BP: "Aah, no, no definitely not. But when you´re pre-riding the course you all go together and like, help each other out and show each other the lines."

AG: "That´s super cool! Do you train together?"

BP: "If we lived closer, I´d love to, yeah!"

In terms of training, Becky chooses to do it however she pleases. Having had experience of having a coach years ago, she found it really destroyed the love. As someone who prefers not to ride if she doesn´t want to, being forced to do training sessions is an obligation that she doesn´t enjoy. That isn´t to say that she takes it easy, with the previously mentioned minimum 10 hours riding per week, 10 miles walking per day, plus a weekly netball session, she feels like she is covered physically and emotionally. Plus netball is really great complementary training for the running parts of cyclo-cross. That said, Becky does admit to recently thinking it may be time to go back to serious coaching to get the best out of her training, because she has no idea what she is doing. She´s just enjoying it. Which sounds pretty dialled to be honest, but it is understandable to be torn between wanting to see how good you can get in terms of results and simply enjoying the balance of life.

BP: "Basically I ride my bike to have fun. And I just love cyclo-cross."

Let´s find out a little bit about how Becky is getting on this season...

BP: "I had a good race at my first race, but then it kind of went a bit down hill. I had a death in the family, so it wasn´t good and then I got ill. But now I´m back on it, I´m ready."

AG: "What are your goals this year?"

BP: "Initially my goal was to podium at a national. That is my dream but um, at the moment I guess a top 10 or a top 5 at a national and see where it goes from there."

AG: "Sounds like you´re quite chilled out about it, not putting too much expectation on yourself.

BP: "Noo, i find that the more I put pressure on myself the worse I do. And the more I just chill out and enoy it, the better I do. I´ve just sorta learnt that over the years."

Longer term goals for the Bucket List include racing in Belgium. A MUST for any cyclo-cross lover. Here in the UK, cyclo-cross is still quite a marginalised sport. If cycling is a niche sport itself, cyclo-cross is the tiniest of niches within that. Hop across the channel to our Belgian neighbours though, and it is a totally different story. Cyclo-cross is the Belgian´s version of football, in that it is the national sport that draws tens of thousands of spectators to a weekend race. Despite watching it on the TV every week, as yet, Becky has never actually been, either as a racer or spectator.

AG: "And what sort of courses suit you?"

BP: "Technical! Twisty and not like, super muddy, but wet mud that you can still ride through, so you don´t have to run for miles."

Becky has figured out a lot about what she needs as a cyclist, to keep her fit, to play to her strengths and to keep her happy. It bodes for a great future because, aside from a few small variables, the core necessities have been identified and attended to, leaving her open to continue to ride for Hope and experience more races in the UK and abroad in the sport she loves. Good thing too, because she habours visions of a very long future indeed...

BP: "I think I will always love it and wanna be one of those that races as a 70 year old!"


Photography: Roo Fowler

Words: Anna Glowinski

Footnote: If you have been inspired and want to watch Becky at a race, she recommends Bradford...

BP: "Bradford´s a really good one in Yorkshire. It´s always crazily muddy and has this one super techincal descent that just draws everyone to watch and there´s always crashes and stuff but it´s just a really good day."