Eileen Roe
Eileen Roe.

A result which caught our eye during the Classics season was Valleyfield girls Eileen Roe’s third place in Dwars Door – ‘best have a word’ we thought…

Third in Dwars Door, tell us about it please Eileen.

“A very strong and unexpected result; it took a long time before it could sink in about me achieving a podium in a pretty special race.

“The race hadn’t gone in favour of our team.

“Two riders went down in the first big crash when the heavens opened – Monique van de Ree and myself, with 20km on the Garmin.

“Then I missed the break of 12 that went up the road by a couple of bike lengths on the Oude Kwaremont; the team was on the back foot from then. It took some time before other teams were convinced of taking turns to try and bring the break back, which was up the road with 1min 40sec lead.

“With a lot of work the bunch brought back the break within the last five kilometres which meant a bunch kick was on the cards if no last gasp bid for a a solo victory went.

“Monique told me “We ride for you today, I don’t feel great, follow me” – and I did. I followed her through the bunch and we were right behind Wiggle.

“Wiggle went right due to the side wind but Monique took me left with a lot of speed and somehow I managed to bag myself a podium, sprinting on the hoods looking like an amateur – but I can be ‘forgiven this one time’, says my coach, James McCallum.”

Eileen Roe
Eileen (r) on the podium with Amy Pieters and Jolien D’hoore. Photo©supplied

Where’s ‘home’ in The Netherlands and how long have you been living there?

“‘Home’ in the Netherlands is in a small village called Stolwijk, Gouda where that famous cheese you might have heard of comes from.

“I stay with the same person, Harrie van der Horst, who’s the kindest person I’ve met; willing to do anything if it’s his power, to help foreign cyclists race in Europe – he’s been involved in the cycling world since he was young and is still enrolled with a Dutch club team.

“Every year I’d come over for a couple of weeks at a time however I suspect 2016 might be the longest period I’ll have been out here due to the busy racing schedule, flights being not so cheap to keep flying back and forth with the loss of funding.”

How’s the Dutch lingo going?

“Well, it’s pretty poor to be honest.

“I went through a phase the first time I came over to Holland to try learn the lingo, however that enthusiasm didn’t last very long and now I can only remember the basics like “will je een biertje or coffee” – it’s kinda pathetic as everyone speaks English here so it definitely makes me lazy.

“However Harrie is speaking to me in Dutch in the house he says I need learn.”

What do you miss about Scotland?

“With no hesitation of course I do miss Scotland but I love the racing over here; the wind, echelons, gutter riding and the big numbers in the fields, but I haven’t been here for two weeks and I already miss how spoiled we are with the terrain we have right on our doorstep in Scotland.

“Of course the weather is a bit better over here but when you live in Scotland the weather is something you learn to live with, no?

“I’m not a lover of hills and they don’t love me but you can’t beat the benefits of training on them. I’ve also been spending quite a bit of time, when I have it up in the Highlands, Inverness at my boyfriend’s place (Michael Nicholson).

“I used to think riding in Fife was the be-all-and-end-all, however it didn’t take much persuading to agree it’s absolutely beautiful up there and the roads are fantastic – but I can’t admit it to him of course!”

Eileen Roe
Eileen enjoyed racing in Glasgow for Scotland. Photo©supplied

You started on the Highland Games – a pretty macho environment, tell us about how that was.

“Yup, that’s right I started out on the grass track circuit when I was 10 years old.

“My auld man Brendan was pretty handy at the 800m, 1600m and the Devil back in the day and I think it was only a matter of time before I followed suit.

“I used to be my dad’s “helper” and “pusher”, so I had been going to the Highland Games ever since I can remember. It was what the family did, that was the “normal weekend”.

“As for there being any other women racing against the men, that was very, very rare. So yeah, you could say it was pretty macho environment.

“When I was old enough to move into the adult competition it was definitely a bit rougher in the Devil – rubbing shoulders and boxing riders in were the norm.

“However there was one benefit of being the only women in the race, the crowd was always behind you.”

As a Valleyfield girl do you know who John Ward was?

“As a local cycling legend known as “Jock Ward” from around our parts it would be rude not to know who he was.

“Well before my time though – he stopped just before my auld man started so neither of us got to ride with him.”

[‘Wardie’ is a grass track legend and was a bitter rival of VeloVeritas‘ interviewee John Hardie ‘back in the day,’ EH]

Eileen Roe
Eileen looking relaxed on the Belgian roads. Photo©supplied

You were with Starley Primal for a season, what was the team like?

“I had a very good season with Starley Primal back in the UK racing scene; I won the Tour Series overall, fourth in Prudential Ride London, and I won my first British Criterium Jersey with this team which I will never forget.

“Starley was nothing but good to me and did pretty much anything to help me out in 2014.

“They even gave me a custom paint job frame for the Commonwealth Games with a tartan top tube.

“I made friends with that team among the riders and staff which I know I can always ask for help if I need it.

“I was given the opportunities which then lead me to be signed by Wiggle Honda.”

Just one season with Wiggle?

“What can I say?

“Unfortunately I was only signed for a year. Being a Wigglet was brilliant, I loved it. I had a good start to my season with Wiggle.

“I went to Australia and rode the Aussie summer then into the Spring Classics.

“However, two weeks out from road nationals I had a crash on a “pre-race ride” before a Belgian UCI race and broke my knuckle. After that my calendar was very bare with the team.

“I have very good relations with the girls and will be friends with them for a long time and also the staff still feel like a family to me.

“Still now at races I go talk to everyone and have the banter I had when I was in the team – but I wasn’t offered to extend my contract for 2016.

“An offer of course I would have loved to have had, but when one door shuts another opens and now I have a team where I get picked for all the big races – an unlikely situation I might have had if I had had a renewed contract.”

Eileen Roe
Eileen (far right) with her Lares-Waowdeals teammates and a certain bike supplier. Photo©supplied

Tell us about Lares-Waowdeals – how well are you looked after?

“Lares-Waowdeals is a new team for 2016 and has really good sponsors behind the team for its first year. The manager comes from a successful background with various teams, one of them being Sengers – a UCI women’s cycling team from 2012-2013.

“All the equipment is provided – two Eddy Merckx Road bikes and a TT bike both with Shimano Di2, Doltcini clothing, Edco racing/training wheels.

“If I need anything then I need only ask and the team will try to help me out. Obviously it’s very different from Wiggle in terms of the riders and how you get to races, etc.

“With no Braveheart funding this year, being ‘deselected’ off the Scottish Institute of Sport and deciding not to be part of the Scottish Cycling ‘squad’, this year has been full of change – and an emotional roller-coaster.

“Unfortunately I don’t receive a wage with Lares so money-wise I need to live like a student. But I’ve had the best start to the season I’ve ever had; If I’m not racing to help Monique then it’s the other way about – that’s a new scenario I didn’t experience last year.

“I was more a work-horse, get a job done, and if I didn’t finish up there then it didn’t matter.”

What’s your favourite kind of race?

“I used to think that I was built for crosswinds, gutter riding and sprinting however I am starting to enjoy racing with bergs in them instead of it being completely plan flat.

“I’m really loving the classic racing I’ve done recently and I’m really happy with my results. I will admit I’m still a lover of criterium racing though, and I definitely loved racing in the UK with the British Champion’s jersey.

“And during the winter it wouldn’t be a shock to see me pretending to have the skills of Sven Nys and trying to beat my auld man come the cyclo-cross season.”

Eileen Roe
Eileen in action on the Scottish boards at the 2014 Commonwealth Games Scratch Race.
Photo©Martin Williamson

Second in the 2015 Tour of Yorkshire – any ‘what ifs’?

“I was second by a tyre width… AGAIN I was sprinting on the hoods and it all came down to a lunge for the line – Louise Mahe was on the drops.

“Lousie and I have raced against each other since we were youths and juniors on the track so I know how she rides and sprints.

“I 100% believe that was the factor between winning or losing. It would seem I’ve not learned from that mistake yet…”

You used to ride the track, is that ‘on hold’ the moment?

“The track has been shelved for the moment, I’ve not yet sold my track bike from Glasgow 2014 so there could be a possibility that it could make it off the rafters of my dad’s garage maybe in the future.

“If you want to be on the Scottish Squad then it’s all centred around track cycling; which there isn’t much of – but apparently all the funding is pumped into it due to the Commonwealth Games, which only come every four years.

“So riders are supposed to commit 100% to track and travel through to Glasgow three or four days each week to prep for the next Games which may be years away.

“I also miss Graeme Herd being the voice of reason as head coach of SCU.”

Which of your results gives you most satisfaction?

“This is a hard one; if asked a couple of weeks ago I was sure I would say without a doubt when I won my British Criterium Champion’s jersey, that was special to have Jimmy (McCallum) at the finish line waiting to give me a hug in the same year I competed at a home games.

“BUT, the last couple of weeks I’ve been super happy with the way I’ve rode and how the form is coming along.

“To race to a podium in Dwars Door Vlaanderen was super special, followed by 33rd place in Gent – Wevelgem. But then yesterday I raced my first ever Tour of Flanders and I finished 37th… yeah, that gives me a lot of satisfaction.

“To even be on the start line in one of the biggest races of the year is amazing but to finish it off in a good way, I’m happy with that and I hope it’s something my auld man is proud of too.”

Any big disappointments in your career?

“I don’t know about having big disappointments but I do regret not taking it seriously when I was younger when I first came over to Europe – I’ve been racing a long time already but I didn’t really take my training and the opportunities I had laying before me.

“I would say I’ve only screwed my head on the last couple of years; having talent can only take you so far you also need to get the hard work done as well.”

You rode Qatar – how does that feel, racing in a country where women’s rights are not best respected?

“To be honest I was ecstatic that I was just racing this race.

“It was one I have always wanted to take part in – especially racing the Worlds course, and sadly it’s at a hard time being super early in the season for a Scot to be “pinging”.

“It was sad though to see no women from that part of the world taking part in this race in a country that has clearly so much money.”

Your goals for 2016?

“My 2016 season’s goals are to get UCI points next to my name; finish top 10 in British Road Race Championships and I would love to represent GB at the World Championships in Qatar.

“Perhaps a farfetched goal, I know but I don’t see the point in competing in sport if you don’t set your goals high enough.”

If you could get the UCI to change three things about ladies’ racing – what would they be?

“Well, with the experience I had yesterday racing my first ever Ronde van Vlaanderen and feeling the electric vibes from the crowds it would be amazing if the UCI, along with event organisers, ran the women’s World Tour to coincide with the men’s calendar.

“And live stream women’s racing instead of only the last 40km or a highlights only package.

“The motorbikes and cameras on the course are already set up for the men’s so why not make it available for our race?

“Lastly, I know it’s always a subject which all women speak about but teams that register with the UCI should, like the men, be able to offer a minimum wage.

“We race the same courses as the men, put in the time and sacrifices to try better ourselves in training  andraces but we do it off our own backs with the help of sponsorship and working during the winter – or very supportive parents.”

You’ve raced abroad for eight years now – how has ladies’ racing changed in that time?

“I don’t know about women’s racing changing abroad.

“When I first got here the fields were always massive and the level was always so much higher than that back in the UK.

“Racing in the UK though I can say has improved, taking on the characteristics of European racing and being more aggressive.

“I don’t think the security of women’s teams (to last for more than three years) is stable even though the popularity of the racing and riders is on the rise.

“Rabobank is finished with Marianne Vos’s team this year and if no sponsor is found then a full roster will be looking for a new team…”