Karla Boddy is one of the top UK domestic road riders and now also a rider manager for the UCI registered Drops Cycling Team. She is taking on the challenge of the Transalp this year but not just for the hell of it like the rest of us, Karla has a more personal reason for setting herself this challenge. Rachel Fenton asked her a few questions ahead of her preparation race at the Alpentour this weekend.
How did you first start bike racing?
I had done a charity ride in 2009 for a local hospice and from there joined High Wycombe Cycling Club. For two years I just did club runs, sportive’s, evening league time trials and a like. It wasn’t until March 2011 I had the courage to race. But two years of ‘old school’ club/group riding was the bedrock of being able to cope with racing quite quickly; my bike handling skills were not a total disaster (for a roady anyway!) And since that followed onto a decent bike career with some fantastic teams!
You’ve had some pretty big successes in the UK on the road, which result are you most proud of and why?
There are a couple I am most proud of; Winning three stages of the Ras na Mban in Ireland back in 2012 and then winning one of the National Series races (Cheshire classic) in 2013. The former I am proud of because retrospectively I was just so fearless! In a good way, not a taking-risks-way. I was also still very new to the sport (18 months since starting racing at that point) and the progression was really rewarding. Then as that winter progressed I knew I had to work towards something big in the UK. And I am proud of Cheshire Classic as I worked so hard that winter. I had unwavering commitment and motivation at that point which I probably took for granted as it takes so much energy to be in that frame of mind. I remember turning up at the race and a friend had driven me, he said ‘if you don’t win you’re walking home’ and I remember that sticking with me as I knew it was possible that day.
From a team perspective my most proud moment has to be Lincoln GP this year. 1st, 2nd, 3rd, QOM jersey and National Junior Jersey; it was a clean sweep and something which was just very very special on such an iconic course and for the inaugural race in the women’s series. It was a moment where I just thought ‘I am so lucky to be part of this amazing team’.
You’ve decided to take on the Transalp MTB race this year to raise money for a charity associated with an illness your sister has. Why an MTB event and not, for example a big road endurance challenge?
No one would see it as a true sacrifice if I did a road event. And I believe for it to be a challenge people buy into it needs to be genuinely difficult to achieve. It would be too ‘easy’ to go and do Haute Route or something similar on the road. Whilst it would have been gruelling and mentally challenging it is something I can do; I have been a roadie for 7 years now and I would have cheated those who sponsored me to pick a ‘comfortable’ challenge. So I picked Transalp; I can’t ride a MTB for toffee! I am technically inept! And I am acutely aware it is going to be a personal time trial every day. Which is not my strength! Doing an MTB event will be pure suffering from start to finish; I detest climbing. I detest time trialling….this couldn’t be a better challenge.
Why did you choose Transalp in particular?
I didn’t even look at other options; I knew it existed as a few people in my club (High Wycombe) have done it before. I have heard gruelling stories and knew Cape Epic existed but also knew I was too late to do that in 2016. Hence why my attention focused to Transalp. I texted my friend Nick the same day I decided and asked him to be my pairs partner; he texted back about ten minutes later to say he was in and the next day we signed up.
So this is a pretty big challenge for you. How much and what sort of MTB riding have you been doing to prepare?
Errrr, well……slight chink in the armour (if I had any!) is the lack of mountain biking I have done. Nick and I did a fair amount back in January; and by fair amount I mean 10 hours in January whilst the rest on the road. Since then we have done 4 days in the Cairngorms and I have done one MTB Marathon, and a couple of trail rides locally. I am trying to continue some sort of respectable road career simultaneously for Drops Cycling Team so it hasn’t been easy to balance; as well as a new job and moving house it has been a difficult couple of months and the training has suffered slightly. I have needed to rest a bit more than I would have liked. I am hoping a solid winter will put me in a reasonably good position and as the final 7 week sis upon us I will be riding the MTB more regularly.
As part of my Transalp prep I am doing the Alpentour Trophy on 9-12th June; using it like a mini training camp and trying to not get caught in the hustle and bustle of the racing which would be easy to do (albeit not for very long as no doubt I would drop myself!). I have taken stellar advice from Annie Simpson to ‘not go into the red’ and so this is my plan until the ‘time trial’ (isn’t it all a time trial?!) on the last day!
Karla has suffered terrible luck after her airline lost her baggage, bike included, on the way to the Alpentour Trophy. She trucked on with borrowed equipment.
Apart from this how have you changed your training from what you do for road racing?
I haven’t really. My plan was to do one two hour MTB ride a week by now but it hasn’t really happened for various reasons. In the next block of training I am refocusing onto some longer intervals. I guess my only change would be that I am confidently upping my road mileage at weekends and comfortably handling it without much change in tempo. For example I now try to do 8-9 hours each weekend and both days at similar pace. It is working as I don’t lose much on the second day. Before I was less consistent and would have a great Saturday and a poor Sunday; now I have two great days.
Many of us understand the challenges of juggling full-time work, training and racing and you have a pretty full on job, as well as being heavily involved in the Drops team. I personally have found making use of my cycle commute to be one of the key ways to make sure I get plenty of riding done. What are your tips for fitting everything in?
I have a strange theory that the more full-on your life is the more productive you are. It forces you to be more organised and makes me less likely to waiver in my commitment. When you’re time rich it is easier to talk yourself in/out of things as you can probably ‘cram’ better. But when your life doesn’t have any ‘cram’ time you must be fully committed to the cause. I have been having a tough few weeks with it all to be honest but just taking it in my stride. After some good form for most of March/April/May it is now catching up with me. And all that sage advice you give other people doesn’t resonate with yourself, and you question why you’re feeling off form, why you’re tired, why after three days off you’re still tired. But you’re like everyone else! Everyone has a saturation point.
So my tips for fitting everything in? Don’t. Don’t always fit it in. If you can then great but be prepared to only be spinning one plate not two or three or ten. But do stay committed to the cause. Taking a step back, or an extra rest day doesn’t mean you’re not effective.
Has your work supported your cycling in any way?
Yes absolutely. They have given me some of the days as our voluntary/charity days. I am really grateful for this and they have done some fundraising in the office too. Other than this I tend not to make my cycling their ‘problem’. I am pretty good at separating work and personal and so have strict rules with myself to not let one compromise the other and vice versa. Work has the same level as respect as my riding and the same level of commitment; just at different times.
Finally, there is a pretty serious reason for your taking on this challenge. Tell us a bit about your sister and why you are doing this for her.
Last September my sister came back from holiday with her husband and three children carrying a slight cold. It had been lingering and she was quite tired despite the restful holiday. Within three days of returning Anne was admitted to hospital and diagnosed with Guillain–Barré syndrome (GBS). GBS involves your immune system attacking your peripheral nervous system preventing your muscles from working. There is a whole spectrum of ways people are affected, and recover, but unfortunately Anne has been hit really hard by this. Recovery is generally good for the majority of people who have GBS but unfortunately Anne’s outlook is less certain. It has been 9 months now and no one is any more certain if Anne will recover. We are hopeful. Yet realistic that says the longer this goes on the less likely a full recovery is possible.
Anne was fully paralyzed and on a ventilator in intensive care by day 14 of being diagnosed, and whilst she has had a few improvement there hasn’t been any major developments since then. Anne is completely paralyzed; she can’t breathe independently, speak, eat, swallow, talk or even close her eyes. We communicate with a word board (much to her dismay at our articulation of her spelling!!) and by asking closed questions where Anne can signal yes or no with her eyes. Anne is 100% lucid and alert, she knows exactly what is happening and what GBS is and she is essentially locked in this life which is just so tragic. Tragic for her, her children, her husband and my parents. They all religiously visit Anne down at Redhill in Surrey despite the daily journey from Buckinghamshire and with her husband running their Café business. As a family we deal with it in different ways. And my way of dealing with it is by doing this. And helping this very small charity make a footprint in what they are doing.
Coincidentally the first day of the Transalp – 17 July – is the same day as the global Rapha Women’s 100 event where women all over the world will come together to ride 100km. For Stage 1 of the Transalp Karla and I will already be riding close to 90km, but because I am slightly insane, and also this is a great cause I decided to plan a fundraising 10km “recovery spin” to make the full #womens100. Anyone who is interested in joining us should pledge to ride on the Rapha 100 site and can get in touch with me via Twitter or Instagram @fentinator and anyone who would like to contribute to this great cause can do so through the link above.