Sammie Stuart at Garstang Fire Station where she has been an On Call Firefighter for nearly nine years. Photo: Josh Hulme.
The commitment required to race at Elite level is considerable. Imagine this level of training alongside being a full time firefighter?
This is exactly what Sammie Stuart, rider with the Crimson Performance Orientation Marketing Race Team, does every day of the week.
In the latest GC rider Q and A, Sammie shares her route into the sport, how the Crimson Performance squad took a gamble on her when she was only a Cat 4 rider and her role within the fire service as a Crew Manager Trainer.
TGC: Has bike riding always been a part of your life Sammie?
SS: Not always. I found a cheap Ribble road bike for sale and thought I would give it a go. Shortly after that, I decided to challenge myself by entering Ironman Bolton 2016. My training was based around heart rate, so I never knew my full potential. After completing Ironman, I didn’t touch my bike again until 2018 where I used cycling as rehabilitation having broken my foot.
TGC: When did cycling become serious?
SS: Hors Cat Coaching approached me to see if I would be a client. Knowing what I could achieve, without a focus or training, they wanted to see where they could get me. And I’m so thankful they did! The improvements have been incredible and I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. Cold Dark North then approached me about racing. I represented them for The Struggle hill climb and the experience made me want more.
“Crimson Performance posted on their Instagram looking for female Cat2 riders…and Matt Hallam, the team manager, took a gamble on me!”
TGC: What kind of bike rider are you?
SS: Most definitely a Climber. I love going up. The steeper the better. Although, having recently bought my TT bike, and competing in my first 50 and 10 mile Time Trial, I feel this is something I could get my teeth into. My Crimson Performance profile shows I am good at sustaining a high power for longer periods. The profiling is free and extremely beneficial.
Sammie and the Crimson Performance Orientation Marketing RT powering up Kirkstone Pass. Photo: Joe Cotterill
TGC: How did you become part of the Crimson Performance Orientation Marketing Race Team?
SS: Crimson Performance posted on their Instagram looking for female Cat2 riders. Unfortunately, because I had only raced twice by this point, I was still Cat4. I messaged to express interest anyway, not expecting a thing, and Matt Hallam, the team manager, took a gamble on me!
TGC: What have been your highlights on the bike personally and as a race team?
SS: Entering my first ever Crit race and taking the win was definitely a highlight for me. Totally unexpected and such a buzz! Also meeting the Crimson Girls in Calpe. We’d only met once previously for coffee, yet we instantly bonded and had a great week of cycling together.
“I started as an On Call Firefighter, where I responded to an alerter, and progressed to being a full time Firefighter.”
TGC: 2020 was all set as a big year for Crimson Performance with new sponsors like Porsche, Bishops, Cinelli and Giro on board. How has COVID affected the team’s plans and your year?
Sammie and her Crimson Performance teammates on a photoshoot and interview day with team sponsor Porsche Central Kendall. Photo: Joe Cotterill
SS: Our sponsors have been amazingly supportive during the pandemic and have really helped the team through this tough period. Obviously, the lack of any racing hasn’t made it easy for us as a team to make our mark on the race series. Having never raced on the road, I was hoping to use this year to find my feet. However, the training has continued and we are ready and waiting for 2021.
TGC: How would you describe the spirit amongst the six of you in the team?
SS: We actually thrive off each other. I couldn’t ask for better teammates. We are all our own individual character but we obviously have cycling in common. The support that we have for each other is unreal, and we are always in hysterics whenever we meet!
TGC: Recently, you’ve been trialling a new sports recovery drink called Enhanced Performance. How has that worked for you?
SS: I have never known a recovery drink taste so good. I actually have to refrain from drinking them all the time. The ease of them being readily available straight after a workout is ideal. Super for aiding recovery after a tough session. Would definitely recommend trying!
TGC: Your day job is in the fire service. What drew you to that career?
SS: I love a challenge and with only 5 percent of females in the brigade, and being one of the only services that requires equal fitness standards from both male and female, I decided to jump at the opportunity. I started as an On Call Firefighter, where I responded to an alerter, and progressed to being a full time Firefighter.
Sammie developing her skills with a 21.33 at Levens 10 mile TT. Photo: Ellen Isherwood
TGC: Talk us through your current role and what it involves?
SS: Currently, I am a Crew Manager Trainer. This basically means I am an instructor. I train new and current members of staff in different areas required for being a competent Firefighter. It’s a very rewarding role and keeps you very busy. I still attend incidents on call with my local station too.
“I struggle to find the energy to get on the bike after completing breathing apparatus training. We work in hot and humid conditions that can reach up to four hundred degrees.”
TGC: How do you combine this demanding job with your cycling ambitions?
SS: The Instructor role is extremely physically and mentally demanding and can put a strain on my training, however is quite flexible for racing.
TGC: How has going into extreme heat on a daily basis impacted on your cycling training?
SS: I struggle to find the energy to get on the bike after completing breathing apparatus training. We work in hot and humid conditions that can reach up to four hundred degrees. Hors Cat Coaching utilises Training Peaks, which syncs with Wattbike and Zwift, making training fun and a little easier to access. The forty mile round commute to work also supplies time for me to facilitate a workout.
“Driving under blue lights makes you more aware of the roads and assists in cycling with being able to predict other road users’ actions.”
The smiles before a hill training session around the Trough of Bowland with John Oliver of Hors Cat Coaching. Photo: John Oliver.
TGC: Do any skills from firefighting cross over into cycling and vice versa?
SS: Driving under blue lights makes you more aware of the roads and assists in cycling with being able to predict other road users’ actions. Also, looking ahead through corners and at the camber of the road. This certainly helps.
TGC: What’s it been like to finally pin on a number again as a rider?
SS: I get extremely nervous still when racing, due to being a novice, so the feeling for me is horrendous! However, the buzz afterwards is why I do it. The more races we can all be involved in the better and it’s great to see these slowly coming back into play.
“Get involved! I was dubious, as I thought I wasn’t good enough, and literally got dragged to my first race. But if you don’t try you will never know your full potential!”
TGC: Any advice for other female riders who want to ride at this level?
SS: Get involved! I was dubious, as I thought I wasn’t good enough, and literally got dragged to my first race. But if you don’t try you will never know your full potential!
The GC would like to thank Sammie for sharing her highly motivating story.
We wish her and the Crimson Performance Orientation Marketing team every success for the future. If you would like to know more about the race team please visit their website crimsonperformance.com.
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