Cyclist, writer and lover of all things Velo, Gillian Baker completed the inaugural Man of Sperrin in June 2017. Here she talks about her cycling origins, the secret of the Sperrins, and why keeping a clean bike is a must.
GB: LoveVelo Rides (Gillian Baker)
MOS: Where are you from?
GB: Dundrum, Dublin
MOS: How long have you been cycling?
GB: Since March 2016
MOS: How did you get into cycling?
GB: My son cycles with a local cycling club, bringing him each week to Corkaigh Park (bike track) for training, I thought maybe I’ll give this ago. I asked him what did he think and I was delighted with his response – “I’ve no problem with you joining the club, when are you getting a bike”
MOS: Are you part of a cycling club? If so who?
GB: Yes, I joined Scott – Orwell Wheelers
MOS: How did you hear about Man of Sperrin 2017?
GB: I saw an article on Stickybottle, the headline jumped out to me; ‘is this Ireland’s toughest 100km’.
MOS: What made you decide to accept the challenge?
GB: Man of Sperrin, claimed to be Ireland’s toughest 100km sportive, and I was dying to put it to the test, it was my 2nd summer cycling and I had confidence in my ability and felt very comfortable going for long spins on my own. This would be no different, so I thought.
MOS: Did you train much in advance?
GB: I had been training continuously you could say, out during the winter and I had a done a week in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the March. After Spain I kept the training up each week (1 long spin on the weekend and 1 or 2 short spin during the week after work).
MOS: How well prepared were you for the hills?
GB: Well there are hills and then there are beasts, but I think nothing could have prepared me for Benbradagh, it literally is unreal, I still can’t get over it, I smile/giggle when I think about it. I still haven’t experienced anything like it since. This is coming from someone who genuinely enjoys cycling around Wicklow and Mount Leinster.
MOS: Did you train specifically for the Man of Sperrin route?
GB: No, I didn’t but I was regularly cycling 100km distances.
MOS: What do you remember most about Man of Sperrin 2017?
GB: The beast that is Benbradagh and the scenery, stunning and I was stuck by the natural beauty around the Sperrin mountains. Perhaps Ireland’s best kept secret.
MOS: Are you taking part in 2018?
GB: I would love to do it again but unfortunately, I can’t quite commit just yet.
MOS: What is your target?
GB: My target will just be to get out regularly. I seriously thought about racing, but I know I would put too much pressure on myself to succeed. I couldn’t just do it just for the craic, when it comes to sport that’s just not in my DNA. Honestly, I would end up hating it and cycling has given me so much more that any podium slot.
MOS: Any tips or advice for those thinking of taking on Man of Sperrin for the first time in 2018?
GB: I would suggest perhaps building some hill repeats into your training, increase your long spin so you’re comfortable with a 100km distance. Hills are personal take them at your own pace, get yourself into a nice flowing rhythm (easy cadence and breath easily). But my top tip is don’t think too long about it, just do it! It’s extremely well organised, there’s an amazing atmosphere, the people you’ll meet are so friendly and the scenery is breath-taking.
MOS: What is the best cycling related advice you have ever been given?
GB: There are so many, being part of a club is a bonus. Group spins will bring on your ability and confidence. Just get out and enjoy each spin, you will always learn something from it, I’m still learning. Bike maintenance, always check over your bike before you head out, it’s your responsibility to ensure it’s in good working order. Oh, and keep it clean, when your bike looks good, you’ll feel great on it. Plus, it’s going to perform better than a greasy mess.
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