On the 21st of April we had the chance to sit down with the Switzerland based team Cervélo Bigla. We have really been enjoying seeing this team grow stronger this season, it was especially nice to see their youngster Marie Vilmann 2 days earlier during flèche Wallonne, where she made a top 15 on Mur de Huy.

We met the team all the way back in Durbuy, this is a team that prefers to be isolated before a race, instead of staying in a gloomy hotel in the town of the race, they prefer to stay a bit further away. We find them in a typical ardennes vacation home, away from the race madness, and the last place I thought I would meet a pro team.

Before we met up with the 2 women of the team, Marie Vilmann and Allie Dragoo, we met up with their mechanic Patrick. Patrick showed us their bike setup and the main brands they use to build them up. This is a women’s team that has some nice brand partners, and they show them to us with pride.

The obvious bike partner of the team is Cervélo, Cervelo provides them with 3 frames, two road frames (S3/R5) and one TT-frame (P5).  Each of the riders is appointed a bike that fits their needs the best. Most of the riders ride the R5 frame, the most all round bike that Cervélo has in their top range.

The bikes are set up with some top of the line Enve products, Enve provides the wheels, bars, stems and seatposts for the riders. Also working together with great partners like Rotor, Endura and Kask.

After being introduced to the brands and partners behind the team we had the chance to talk to two of their riders, Marie Vilmann and Allie Dragoo.

MARIE VILMANN

 

HOW DID YOU GET INTO CYCLING?

I only started about two and a half years ago. I was a track runner before, but due to injuries I tried triathlon for a year. But even when racing triathlon my injuries kept bothering me. So I continued to only do bike races locally in Denmark.

HOW IS THE WOMEN’S CYCLING CULTURE IN YOUR HOME COUNTRY?

In Denmark there aren’t many female cyclists, there are local races every weekend, but there are very few women racing. Even if you look at big events like the national championships, very few people show up. About 30 participants, and then we do the championships itself, together with the juniors. But I can also see that we are growing. For example, there is a new Danish team called Velo Concept Women now, that come here to race. But the country is definitely developing.

WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR THIS YEAR?

For me this year is all about developing my technical and tactical skills. Because it’s my first year as a pro cyclist, I still have so much to learn. I fortunately have a team that I can learn so much from, and a team that supports me a lot. It has been very interesting to learn from the more experienced riders. My goal this year is to learn and get better. I would like to specialize myself more in hilly races and practice my TT skills more. I want to become a stronger climber as well, because we have a strong climbers team, and I want to help them more during the race. So this year I want to get some personal good results, and become strong and ready for the national championships.

WHERE DO YOU FIND YOUR MOTIVATION TO TRAIN?

What motivates me the most is the constant progress. You always get a little better with every training. I also love to just be outside and use my body. I am a naturally driven person and try to always aim for perfection, so that is also a great motivator.

WHEN DO YOU PREFER TO TRAIN?

The morning. I feel that I want to spend most of my energy on training and then do all the other tasks in the day. It’s nice to wake up with my family, when they wake up for work, and so do I. Also mentally it’s mentally easier to train in the morning, because during the day you get distracted much easier.

WHAT DO YOU THINK WILL BRING THE BIGGEST CHANGE INTO BRIDGING THE GAP BETWEEN MEN AND WOMEN IN CYCLING?

More media attention is definitely needed,. More airtime for women as well, this will be a positive aspect for sponsors as well. Because I do believe that women’s cycling is as exciting as the mens. The wage and the teambudget is something that is very noticeable, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because that means that women in cycling are not in it for the paycheck, they get into cycling because it’s their passion.

WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE ABOUT THE TYPE OF ROUTES/RACES IN WOMEN’S CYCLING?

I would like a proper tour like the Tour De France. Also something that is typical for women’s races is that we rarely finish on the top of a hill, we usually have to go down, so that can bring some dangerous situations. So longer climbs and tours is definitely something that I would add more to the schedule. 

MENTAL – HOME

One thing that I like a lot about cycling is that you constantly work on yourself. Because you have so much good and really bad moments. But when you overcome these moments, they become little milestones that make you much stronger and that feeling is quite incredible. It’s hard to stay away from my loved ones, but being away from home, it has made me a lot stronger as a person as well.

HOW IS THE TEAM ATMOSPHERE?

It’s really nice. We know each other well, so we can feel when someone either needs alone time, or a pat on the back. The teams like to stay in places a little bit further away from races than other teams, for example instead of staying in busy and gloomy hotels, we come to houses like this (vacation home in Ardennes), surrounded by nature and silence, but we can still go to the little town. We have time to relax and breathe here. Also this is a really nice team, because as a less experienced rider I can learn and have learned so much from my team mates.

ALLIE DRAGOO

HOW DID YOU GET INTO CYCLING?

I started with bmx racing when I was 7 years old together with my brothers, and then in college/university I did much more road and track racing. I have been riding for about 5 years now.

HOW IS THE WOMEN’S CYCLING CULTURE IN YOUR HOME COUNTRY?

Well there is the standard national race calendar, but there aren’t a lot of races, and they aren’t very versatile. But it has been growing a lot in the last few years. The level of racing here is definitely much harder (Belgium), because in the US there aren’t that many participants, whereas here in Belgium 100 women can show up at a small local race. But it is growing rapidly in the US, which is very positive.

DID YOU SEE YOURSELF BECOMING A PRO CYCLIST?

Definitely not, I thought that I would simply graduate from, get a job and do cycling as a hobby, and now I’m here. It’s an incredible experience, it has been hard, but very good at the same time. It is something that I have learned to appreciate about cycling, the struggle.

WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR THIS YEAR?

I really enjoy TT-races, it is something that I love and hate at the same time, so a goal for me this year is to have a strong result at the national TT championships. I also want to grow more as a rider and serve my team mates better.

WHERE DO YOU FIND YOUR MOTIVATION TO TRAIN?

I just really enjoying exercising, so it’s something that comes natural to me. This isn’t a bad job to haven I have the chance to do this incredible job, so I might as well make the most of it. And even if you have a good or bad training, after it you’re just happy that you got it done, and that you can make progress.

WHEN DO YOU PREFER TO TRAIN?

The morning. Because that is when I am the most motivated. When i finish my training, I still have a full day ahead. Also there is a lot less wind in the morning, and that is worth getting up for alone.

WHAT DO YOU THINK WILL BRING THE BIGGEST CHANGE INTO BRIDGING THE GAP BETWEEN MEN AND WOMEN IN CYCLING?

Yes, more media is definitely the key. Because I believe women’s cycling is as exciting, if not more because it’s much less robotic. The races are a bit shorter, so it is usually full gas from the start.

MENTAL – HOME

For me it can be quite hard because my family is really far away (America). but the struggles around it also makes me so much tougher. Also technology helps a lot, with facetime for example, you can still get in touch quite often. My communication skills have definitely grown a lot. But also during your time away from home you learn so much about yourself. I like to write down a lot of my thoughts in a journal, and sometimes I like to take time to read back and reflect on the progress I’ve made, which is really nice.

THE TEAM AT THE LIEGE – BASTOGNE – LIEGE

As an outsider visiting this team was such  a lovely experience. From the moment we walked in the house we could see that this was a real team. We were greated by such friendly faces, and the conversation was one of the interesting ones we’ve had. We wish these lovely women nothing but the best and are crossing our fingers together with them, in search of more victories. Thank you for giving us a peak in your world. It was much appreciated.