Interview: Helen Jenkins (MBE) – Olympian, Mum and Two-Time World Triathlon Champion

Cycling, like any sport, is great because it brings people together, has a lasting, positive impact on all aspects of our health, and can be the medium for great personal accomplishment. We wanted to continue inspiring new and seasoned cyclists by giving them the opportunity to see what makes our key ambassadors and athletes tick and give insight into their lives.

In the first of our series of blogs, we meet one of Britain’s most celebrated triathletes, two-time world champion, three-time Olympian, Helen Jenkins (MBE). We are delighted to be a bike sponsor for Helen and part of her journey in continuing to compete and inspire a new generation of athletes. Be sure to tune into our Instagram on Sunday 21st June 2020 for a special one-day takeover from Helen as she prepares for the second race of the Super League Triathlon eSports Cycling Series.

  • What’s your favorite cycling memory?

My favorite cycling memory comes out of one of my most memorable races. I raced a World Triathlon Series at the start of 2016 in the Gold Coast Australia. I broke away on the bike with two other athletes and we got a couple of minute gap on the rest of the field, I then went on to win the race and secure Olympic selection. The cycling was incredibly hard, but I loved the feeling of being powerful and strong and working hard with the other women in the breakaway.

  • As a kid, who was your cycling icon?

We weren’t a massive cycling family so I wasn’t aware of the classics or other tours, I really just watched the Tour de France. I used to love watching Jan Ullrich, probably because I loved the Telecom kit! He was kind of the underdog when it was him vs Lance so I like that. It is all tainted with the drugs now but as a kid, I wasn’t aware of that and I loved watching the mountain stages.

  • When out on your bike, what are your three essentials?

My ‘just in case’ kit, my Oakleys, and Clif shots.

This might be cheating a bit, but I am including ‘just in case’ kit as one thing. It includes my phone, bank card, and spares/pump. I like to be able to sort myself out and not feel like I need to rely on anyone else. But with two young kids, I always need to be contactable in case there is an issue at home or vice versa.

The second thing is my sunglasses. With the amazing weather, we’ve been having in Wales the last couple of months I don’t leave for a ride without them. And lastly, my Clif shots to get me home without bonking!

  • If you had to pick one place to go cycling in the world, where would it be and why?

I haven’t done many of the world’s epic climbs, famous ones like Alpe d’Huez or Ventoux… the Alp d’zwift definitely doesn’t count! So for me, it would have to be a trip to France for some serious alpine climbing on the bike.

  • Favorite local route and why?

We live quite near the coast but can get up into the hills quickly. So firstly, I would go along the coast from Ogmore by Sea to Porthcawl then up the Bwlch mountain. The loop is around 2 and a half hours.

  • What do you think the future holds for cycling – where do you think it’s going – how do you see it developing?

Cycling has huge momentum at the moment, even more so now due to Covid-19. The pandemic has both pushed people into cycling as a safe and clean mode of transport but has also seen people fall back in love with their unused bikes as a means of exercise.

Also, with people moving towards producing fewer carbon emissions, I hope more people see cycling as a responsible way of getting around. To make this work, we need to make sure cars and cyclists can co-exist in a respectful way.

On the sporting side, I hope that women’s professional cycling continues to increase in popularity. Added to that I hope we get more equality with the men in terms of prize money plus the distances and formats available to women. Ideally, it will all become even!

As a triathlete, I have experienced more equality in pay and distances throughout my whole career and I would like to see all women who race bikes enjoy a more level field. It’s getting there but there is still work to do.

  • Who got you into cycling

I got into cycling when I started triathlon at 15. My dad used to do a lot of my training with me. He had done some triathlon before and picked it up again to keep me company.

The first time he took me out with proper cycling shoes I fell off into some bushes going up a hill, still no idea how! He was very patient with me and never pushed me or pressured me to train which I think really helped and probably why I have been in the sport for so long. 

  • When not out on your bike what other forms of exercise do you like doing?

As a triathlete, I obviously enjoy a good swim and a run. I also love to surf. I am pretty useless but give it a good go.

  • What Vitus bikes do you currently ride? I am currently using my Vitus AURO CR TT and Vitus Vitesse Evo road bike. I’ve added on Enve Wheels, Stages power meters, and Dash computers.

    Additionally, as the autumn and winter sets in I will be getting out on the Vitus Substance gravel bike. I love to use gravel riding as a way to get miles in safely without traffic and develop endurance and strength outside of the race season.
  • What’s your go-to music for riding / who’s on your riding playlist?

For tough sessions, the playlist is a mix. Currently listening to The Killers, AC/DC, and some classic dance stuff. I am into my podcasts for my easy rides at the moment. However, most days, especially if it’s sunny, no music.

  • What’s your go-to post-ride meal?

As a triathlete, we have three sports to fit in and I nearly always cycle in the morning. So lunch is the post cycling meal. I love poached eggs on toast, a big salad with avocado and chickpeas.

With kids, it’s straight back into ‘mum mode’ as soon as I’m back from cycling. This often means I don’t always manage to eat straight away, and it is important to get the protein in to start recovery. If I can’t eat straight away, I’ll have a Clif protein bar to keep me going until I can eat.

  • Any tips for riders just getting into cycling?

Take it easy to begin with and build up your training slowly. This helps your body adapt to training and will hopefully reduce any injury risks.

You don’t need to spend a fortune on kit to begin with (this will probably come later!) but a good pair of cycling shorts make life on a bike so much better!

Enjoy it! The satisfaction of the tired legs after a ride is an amazing feeling.

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