Today, I’m happy to introduce you to Mathilde! She’s not only a versatile cyclist, she’s also initiating projects that promote women cycling. Cycling is a matter of family for Mathilde thanks to his father who has shared with her his passion. Her daily life is clearly synonymous with cycling: when she is not pedaling, Mathilde works in the Bike Paradise shop in Tours. She shares with us her philosophy of cycling, between benevolence, sharing and pleasure of cycling above all. An inspiring interview that also highlights the difficulties that can be encountered for women in the rather old school world of cycling.
Hi Mathilde! Can you tell us about yourself? Who are you?
Hello! My name is Mathilde, I’m 28 years old and live in Touraine. I work in a bike shop called Bike Paradise in Tours (37). I’m glad to share my passion every day!
What is your story about cycling? It’s been more than 10 years in 2019, isn’t it? It seems ages you’ve been cycling!
Thanks to my father, cycling has always been a part of both my life and our family routine. We’ve all been involved in cycling: my mother, my sister, my brother and me! A true passion for all.
What were the key moments of your progression?
First clear progression was the purchase of my first carbon bike in 2011. The differences of operation and performance compared to my aluminum bike really impressed me!
Then, my second progression happened in 2016, when I started working for Bike Paradise store. New materials, a lot of motivation to ride, a looooot of kilometers and new disciplines (my discovery of mountain biking and cyclocross), and obviously a sincere pleasure to ride, and not to perform. I’ve found my balance, and I have never progressed so much since I’m having fun!
What does cycling do for you?
Cycling is an integral part of my life since it’s my work. All year, I live with and one bikes: road cycling from February to September, and cyclocross all winter! Cycling is a real escape and also for me a matter of sharing. Beyond the physical benefits, it helps me to meet people, to discover new landscapes and villages.
What is your favorite bike memory?
Hard to say since I have many better memories! I think the first time I climbed a col. It was the Galibier in 2009! And also my first Paris-Roubaix challenge, or the 24 Heures du Mans 2018 with our 100% female team.
Cyclocross in winter, road cycling in summer and mountain bike. You are a versatile cyclist. What do you like in these disciplines?
The road is the discipline with which I started, it’s really the base of my cycling practice. The mountain bike is a matter of a lot of technique, cardio, and confidence on the bike. I particularly enjoy the downhill bike, when we go to the mountain in summer … even if I do not venture into the black pistes!
It’s been 3 years since I started cyclocross. I appreciate more and more this discipline; the idea of progression and performance is particularly awaiting me. But what I prefer is to learn how to manage my bike and the equipment on complicated and muddy circuits. I feel better as soon as I take my road bike again …
You’re regularly doing competitions now. When did you decide to take part in the competition?
I started the competition 2 years ago. It was quite natural in the family since we’ve always known sport through competition with my parents. My first years were very complicated: every Sunday, I finished behind the peloton. It was possible for me to hold in the peloton every weekend … Then, after many races, I progressed.
What do you like about participating in races?
To overcome myself, to be confronted with others. But also the adrenaline of the race.
And what is your relationship with the competition?
On the road cycling, really to overcome myself and to be confronted with other
In cyclo-cross, it’s really fun! Of course, there is always this notion of wanting to cross the line first. But if I move on the course every Sunday, it’s for the pleasure of doing different circuits and just to enjoy!
The atmosphere of the road cycling competitions vs those of cyclocross, how is it?
The road is a sport that doesn’t always allow the strongest to win. Strategies are put in place in the races, which can allow a cyclist who has remained hidden in the wheels all the race to win the victory. You have to be strong, but especially smart. I think it plays on the atmosphere of the race (as much for the runners as the spectators).
In cyclocross, it’s like mountain biking, there is no strategy, the strongest is ahead! Except for technical issues, these disciplines are a matter of how much power you can put on your pedals. But cyclocross is also a more relaxing and benevolent atmosphere.
But these differences are not noticeable on all competitions!
How did you progress? What were the different key moments in your evolution?
I’ve been progressing thanks to the evolution of my equipment, but also by following training plans. First of all, it was my father who started giving me a training plan for the whole year. It gave me some basics and allowed me to know exercises to redo when I didn’t follow a specific training.
Since 2016, I’ve just been enjoying riding when I want to, doing the discipline that I want, and that’s how I’ve been progressing the most … no specific training! Pleasure and good vibes only!
Do you do your training programs alone or are you followed by a coach?
A friend of me offered me his advice to progress at the end of the cyclocross season last year. Since, for some purposes, he’s been helping me to train for some races.
Does Strava have changed your relationship to performance and others? Which metrics do you integrate into the tracking of your performances?
Strava is a real community. It’s a great tool to meet athletes and discover roads. But it’s also a good way to go overcome yourself by looking for QOM! There are competitions created between us, girls, we steal each other’s QOM, we laugh at it (even if it’s quite annoying to lose a crown … ahah)
I personally use Strava as my logbook, I put all my sports activities (bike or running) on it. It allows me to follow my activity and create courses for our Women outings with the BPWC (I’m gonna tell you more about it but wait a bit!).
And what are your goals for this year?
This year, my goal was the road regional championship, which was a disappointment for me with a beautiful “chocolate medal”…! My next goal will be to finish on time at the road championships in France. I have a small regional level, and a national selection like this is a real pride! The committee allows me to start a prestigious race with professional cyclists, and it’s a good way to compete at the national level.
Let’s talk about your gear! What are and were your bikes?
I started with an aluminum Cannondale. Then, my first carbon bike was an Oderen with custom paint, I was very proud! That’s when my parents also offered me my first carbon wheels with tubular tires. At that time, I did a race every Sunday.
Then, I had an Orbea Orca, which I always have! Today, I’m a Specialized Ambassador. I had a Ruby, a Tarmac Women, then a Venge. Today, I’m back on a Tarmac Disc, with the new group Sram AXS 12 speeds, the most beautiful bike I’ve ever had, both aesthetically and mechanically. I’m very lucky!
In cyclocross, I ride on my favorite bike: a Specialized CruX paired with a pair of aluminum Zipp wheels, my best friend all winter long!
In MTB, I ride with a Specialized Epic in Touraine, and a Specialized Enduro or Demo in the mountains for DH.
You are a Specialized Woman. How do you become a partner and what is your job as an ambassador?
Bike Paradise, the store I’m working in, is a Specialized Elite Shop. When I was hired, we clearly wanted to develop a female community, which would naturally echo Specialized products developed for women. So I set up 100% women crew and since the community has been growing. We are the Bike Paradise Women’s Community. Today, it’s clearly the girls who make it living! Last year, 2 of them proposed to make a women’s team for the 24H du Mans. We started at 6 in the adventure, even if I thought that I would not like it too … We created together jerseys for the community, and we proudly wore the colors of our team. In the end, this event is one of my best memories on the bike, and this year, we have re-entered, with two teams BPWC!
In parallel with the implementation of our Weekly Women rides, the Specialized Ambassador program has grown, and the brand has offered me to be part of it.
As an ambassador, it’s important for me to introduce cycling to girls who still hesitate to start. Cycling is a masculine sport, even if it changes, some women may still be reluctant to get on the saddle! There is something for women, not for men, and you can be stylish and comfortable on our bikes; this is how we will be the best performers! Our community is also made so that girls can meet, exchange, and find themselves even outside our Saturday morning rides to ride together. The community is eclectic: we have triathletes, mountain bikers, or cyclosportives but also beginners. It’s very nice because we exchange all together on our respective practices. During our rides, the rhythm naturally settles on the “slowest”. We discuss, we ride together. It’s always a real moment of sharing and fun! This is the way I love cycling!
What is your point of view on the visibility (rather lack of) of women’s cycling?
The media and the big entities of the professional cycling (like ASO for example) have a big part of the responsibility in the visibility and the non-visibility of the feminine cycling. It’s clearly these entities and brands who can develop it, or not.
Today, I think that we girls, as ambassadors and “common cyclists”, we can also play a role in this development. The goal is to make girls want to ride a bike, regardless of the practice, and that’s how it will develop. The more we will be, the more the media will talk about it, and the more we will be important. But I think we are going in the right direction; we see it with all the brands that develop their female gear. It means that their engineers work on materials, cuts, forms adapted to our morphology (naturally different from those of men, it’s a fact), so that we are better on our bike. We see it only with the brands of jerseys that you shared on your site, they all develop styles and cuts feminine, we progress!
What could change mentalities in your opinion? Do brands have a role to play?
Brands, therefore, have a role to play in this evolution of women’s cycling. As much for the products they develop as for their ambassador programs to make their brands known, and to show girls that there is no such thing as a cycling practice, everyone has their own bike practice. There are no rules, and we can always find the equipment that closely matches our practice, from cycling to equipment.
You’re working in a bike shop. Is it sometimes difficult to make it as a woman? Guys have regularly the impression that we did not necessarily know about the technique and they prefer asking male sellers. Can you tell us about your daily life? How’s it going?
Hell yes… This morning for example, I experienced this. I’m going to see a customer who said to me “I come to see the seller”. But he was busy at that time. And he preferred to wait for him and not asking me. In the end, I heard his question, quite common, and I was obviously able to answer.
So yes, it’s very complicated for women to impose themselves in this macho world. We must show with two or three or more explanations that we KNOW it and prove we’re legitimate. And after all of our explanations, the customer’s approach is no longer the same. It’s finally the same choice when you’re riding in a group and you’re the only girl. At the beginning, they look at our equipment, but nobody speaks to us. And when all the peloton starts to “really ride” and climb a hill, if as girls we find ourselves in the front group, then we acquire a little more respect from the male cyclists. It’s such a pity to always have to prove something (knowledge, puissance and skills).
“Ah, finally you know what you’re talking about! Oh yes, you kno, the prejudices blabla”,” Are you an intern?”, or “excuse me, I’m a little disturbed, a woman who tells me about cycling is are “. I heard all this stuff. First it caused me trouble and sadness, but now I’m laughing at it!
And I’ve noticed that women can say the same things. So I guess it’s also matter of clichés and not only machismo. But hopefully, I don’t meet exclusively these kinds of people!
What advice would you like to give to women who have struggled to be legitimate in this environment?
There is no rule! There is no standard practice. There are so many models of bikes and so much material today. Each one can practice in the way he or she wants! And do not trust what others (men or women) can tell us.
And to the guys who ride and allow themselves to make macho (macho man I’ve got to be a… sorry) remarks to us?
It’s like in life in general, gender equality is a huge debate. Unfortunately, there will always be idiots … and they do not show great signs of intelligence … If we can, then we press harder on the pedals to keep them quite. But in truth, “ignorance is the best answer to fools” (ahah)
And to whom or what would you like to say merci?
Thanks to my Dad who introduced me to this sport.
And merci mais no merci?
No thanks to the stereotypes of old-generation cycling that are still holding up … “the disc brakes on the road, it is useless and it sucks because it is heavier” or “tires of 26 ?! I will be stuck on the road! “Or” you have to inflate your tires to 8 bars if you want to move forward “…
Cyclists and / or IG accounts to swing that inspire you?
And what do you do when you’re not cycling?
I drink beers!
What advice would have you like to hear when you started?
The saddle pains are not a “obligatory step” for a woman who rides a bike. We do not have to suffer sitting on our saddle! There are solutions…
And what tips and tricks would you like to give to cyclists?
There are saddles adapted to our morphology and our pelvis width, it changes our practice when we are well positioned and seated!
Do not take the cabbage: there is no rule, everyone can ride the bike he or she loves, as she or he likes! A lady at the store came to inquire for a lightweight bike on which she could put small bags for long rides. Her friends had told her that she had to take a VTC because we can not put bags on a road bike, it’s not made for that. She came to the store explaining what she had been told, and finally, she left with a road bike, equipped with what she needed for her long rides. Today, she enjoys riding with her bike and equipment, this is essential! Stereotypes are persistent, but everyone can do the practice he wants!
And to women cyclists in particular?
Always this question of saddle and seat … A lot of us are or were suffering. It’s not a taboo subject!