Bet you didn’t know Contiki partnered with a cycling team, did you? Meet Velo Bavarian, a team of cyclists in the UK who compete on the road and the track around the UK. Recently we sat down with Rebecca Newark from the team, a fiercely competitive 24 year old with a passion for all things sports, but especially cycling. We discussed her love of staying active, her experience as a Para-Athlete, and her wildest career dreams.
How did you get into cycling?
“Well, I used to play cricket actually. I played for Yorkshire’s women’s age groups all the way through to the senior first XI, and I thought I was going to be a professional cricketer. I was born with Congenital Talipies (club foot) which is a lower limb impairment. At the age of 19 my ankle joint started to deteriorate significantly so I had to stop playing cricket.”
“I needed something to keep active and it couldn’t be something that involved running or being heavily on your feet, so I took up cycling because it was something I could do without being restricted. I wasn’t going to throw myself into competitive cycling at first, I didn’t think that was going to happen. But, I am quite inherently competitive, so I kept cycling more and I just thought ‘Alright, this is quite good, this is pretty fun.’”
“I attended a Parasport talent ID and once I finished university I became really serious about cycling and figured that this is what I wanted. Like I said, full time competitive cycling was never the original plan, but with the opportunity of Parasport the passion developed over time.”
Have you always wanted to go into competitive sports?
“I think anyone who knows me would tell you that I’ve always been competitive across everything, no matter what sport I played. I played pretty much every sport growing up and if there was a team that needed someone else to play then I’d always fill in.”
“I’m definitely not one of those people that can just turn up to a sport and do it for fun, so the professional aspect came quite naturally. Obviously it is fun, don’t get me wrong! You don’t do what I do if you’re not enjoying it. But it would be really difficult for me not to be super competitive, and not to have a sport to be passionate about. On a race day it’s just about leaving it all out there.”
With competitive sports people often only see the highlights and the wins, but what are some of the more challenging aspects of being a professional cyclist that your average viewer may not know about?
“Yeah, it’s all the background work that goes into it. When the spectators watch a race they see the one event and someone wins at the end and you go home. But they don’t see the many months beforehand when you’re on your turbo in the garage or battling up climbs in the rain, training every day for hours on your own in order to show up for those really brief race minutes.”
“You can’t just rock up to a race and clip in and hope you have good luck – it’s rarely about luck. It’s the number of hours of training in the background as well as the discipline it takes to get up and do your ride and do your training. It’s not always the nicest session, but at the end of it I always get some kind of satisfaction: I’ve done it, and I don’t have it playing at the back of my mind anymore.”
Image source:Rebecca Newark, Velo Bavarian
On self-discipline, how do you maintain that kind of rigid routine?
“I guess it’s like any job: some people get up and head to the office for nine, I wake up and I have to train; that’s just what I have to do. There isn’t really an alternative, if you don’t do it then you’re not going to stay on top.”
“You can’t always rely solely on self motivation, you only have a certain amount of that. I’m not on my own, I have coaches who set and support all my training sessions and I meet with them for camps and races. They’re showing up for me and putting in the time for me, so I owe it to them to do the same.”
As a Para-Athlete, how is travelling to events and performing different for you?
“I can’t speak for every Para-Athlete, there are a wide range of impairments, but there just tends to be more equipment involved. We need to think of more things when we travel to different events. I’m based in the North but I race all over the country so travel is quite a big and expensive part of the sport .”
Is there anything that you’d like people to be more aware of and take into account?
“I have a lower leg impairment so walking long distances can sometimes be hard, but there are lots of struggles for other athletes, particularly visually impaired and wheelchair users.”
If you could cycle on a competitive track anywhere in the world, where would it be?
“I’d like to ride some of the stages of the Tour de France and Tour de France Femmes, I mean that’s one of the biggest and most famous races in the world. But I’d also love to ride stages of the The Giro which is also a big stage race in Italy.”
And in terms of a leisurely cycle, where would you like to go?
“Well I currently live around the Lake District so I really can’t complain, the scenery is breathtaking. Lots of amazing routes and climbs! But in terms of abroad I think I’d love to cycle in Girona, Spain. It’s where a lot of pro-cyclicts live or train for the winter season, so that’d be my pick.”
What do you get out of cycling (aside from obviously all the glory and the competition)?
“I think cycling brings a great freedom to myself and others. You get to go somewhere new and experience the place in a completely different way.”
“The deterioration of my lower leg stopped me from running and took a lot of sporting options away from me, but cycling has opened up a new door of discovery. It’s a great sport for anyone with a range of impairments, it’s got real longevity, you can do it competitively or recreationally and explore at the same time.”