Alison is one of the founder members of the brilliant Bella Velo cycling club and along with several of her club mates, joined us on the 2019 Tour for some hot and hilly stages. She is a total inspiration to women (and men!) of all ages – showing them just what is possible, no matter what age you are, if you put your heart and soul into it. She tells us more:
NAME: Alison Dex
LOCATION: SW London
I started cycling about three years ago when my children started to fly the nest; some people get a dog, I got a bike! From no cycling experience at all (think trainers, leggings and a yellow high-vis jacket) I have worked really hard to improve and started with a female coach two years ago. I have only entered a few big events most notably the Deloitte Ride Across Britain 2017 – the wettest in memory – completed in 9 days riding an average of 110 miles each day and camping overnight. Over the last two years my confidence has grown enough to enter a couple of 10m TTs on a road bike – one of which I won as they miscalculated my time! I also qualified in my age group for the amateur Gran Fondo World Championships in Albi. Riding surrounded by elite cyclists and semi-pros I felt like a complete imposter. I have never managed to repeat my speeds that day and I look back at that event as if some kind of miracle occured!! Back in the real world my normal riding week consists of some intense indoor turbo sessions combined with outdoor weekend club rides or interval sessions with my all-female club BellaVelo (of which I am one of the two founders). I also do some longer endurance rides on my own.
As a woman and a steady rider I think ideally I would say come along with a friend or friends who ride in a similar way and at a similar speed so you can cycle together and support each other. I wouldn’t have liked to have turned up alone as it was a bit daunting – from a cycling point of view. The best bit of the Loop (I did Stages 1-6) was the beauty of the routes. France was show-cased in all its glory and I loved seeing parts of the country I may have otherwise over-looked. I found the whole event incredibly well-run and thought the food provided each day was varied, plentiful and healthy. But it is the hardest thing I have ever done – the distances combined with the heat made it physically draining. Riding steadily and probably stopping for slightly too long at feed stations meant my friends and I arrived in late each evening meaning very little down-time as you also start early, so you need a very organised approach. It’s not an event for faffers!
WHERE ARE YOU NOW?
Myself and some fellow Bellas were invited to Ride Captain for Hot Chillee on their prestige London to Paris ride in July (500km in 3 days) and knowing that I had coped with the heat and distance of the first day in Brussels on Le Loop meant that I knew I would cope when temperatures rose to 38c on our 180km ride to Dover. Distances also seem to have diminished in scale and I am planning to cover the 400km to Cornwall at New Year in two days on my bike ahead of the family. I pinch myself when I think I couldn’t cycle more than 50km just three years ago and had to put my bike in the car to get to the start of a ride! But perhaps the biggest thing I have taken from Le Loop (and they will be blissfully unaware) is meeting Jo and Cheryl from Cowley Road Condors who rode the Grand Loop together. Their grit, determination and most of all their cheerfulness and ready laughter has really stuck in my mind. Many women doubt themselves especially as they get older, struggling to find or redefine their place in the world as family and/or work dynamics change. Seeing these two girls take on this mammoth endeavour not knowing whether or not they could complete it has inspired me to not impose limits on myself and to try more and go further. I don’t think I will ever forget them and their Herculean effort.