This week we have a brilliant cyclist and person both on and off the bike. Char caught our attention with her insightful, honest and heartfelt messages and posts about a range of topics. She has a ridiculous amount of experience in a wide range of environments already and the more people that see and hear what she has to say the better. Make sure you follow her on Instagram @charbroughton.
Name: Charlotte Eleanor Broughton
Teams you ride for or clubs you are part of: AWOL Women’s Cycling Team (u23)
How did you get started in cycling and when? I started riding age 3 and then started racing when I was 4 (grass roots level) at my local club, Leicester Off Road Club. I really loved the Go Ride sessions and going over jumps in the woods with my friends and older brother, Sam.
Favourite places to ride? Any particular roads or segments? I love to ride in the Peak District (the views are amazing) as I now live in Cheshire so it’s close and a really beautiful ride out there. I also enjoy riding into Manchester, it’s such a vibrant city with great coffee.
What disciplines do you ride? Do you have preferences? The real question is what disciplines don’t I ride (sorry mum and dad)! From track to mountain bike and even cruising about on a fixie. I mainly race road and crits these days due to a lack of opportunity in the cycling world. It’s hard to choose my favourite as I don’t really have a preference: I love them all for different reasons and I enjoy the different cultures surrounding each discipline.
Give us a rundown of the riding and racing you have done up to now- you’re very young yet already have ’10 x British champ’ on your bio!
Gosh.. I’ve been apart of wins within a team in recent times which is alway so rewarding, however individually notable results have been: 3rd overall in the Tour Series in 2016 while riding for a team mate and not myself, two sage wins at the Bedford 3 Day in 2017, 2nd at European Youth Olympics road race, National record holder in the 2K IP u16, 10 time national champ as you said across cyclocross, crits and track (but all u16 so a long old time ago) and I also won the Tour of Assen twice. In more recent times I’ve picked up lots of 4th places in the Tour Series over the years but I’ve never managed to get on that podium, a slight sore topic I must admit! I now try desperately to balance training and racing alongside working which due to lack of results in recent times you can tell I’ve not done too well. But I still have time and I’ve finally found a job where I don’t work on weekends (FINALLY!) which previously meant having to pick and choose races due to work commitments.
Your posts on social media focus very much on self-reflection and honesty- which is so great for riders to see, especially those who look up to you. Is that something you purposefully focus on?
Absolutely. I found myself looking at cyclists and how dysfunctional people (myself included) were around me and I found myself comparing their real-life-selves to the facade they presented on social media and how utterly toxic it was. Not to mention the fake ‘feminism’ you come across time and time again.
Honesty is the best policy. I want people, especially younger people, to look at what I say and feel less alone. To know their struggles don’t last forever and that I see them, I see their progression, the little victories and I admire them endlessly. Being a teenager is hard enough let alone throwing social media and competitive sport into the mix. Lord knows when I was their age it’s what I really needed – a real and genuine person, flaws and all, to refer back to when my mind would try to bully me into conforming and not speak my truths. I’ve been through way too much to be ashamed of my idiosyncrasies and what I’ve been through. I want my story and truths to bring people strength. I feel a lot of women in sport attack each other, I’d say men do this to a degree too, in order to feed their own egos and fill voids. This completely breaks me to see. I just want people to support each other. Being a human being in the modern age is tough enough, we don’t need to make it any harder than it already is for one another.
I also think there’s a lot of strength and maturity in holding your hands up and admitting your own efforts weren’t good enough. For example, I know at times I’ve been too judgmental of my own peers and expected too much from others. This has been my own downfall and subsequent of my own internal battles. I’m happy to say I was wrong in doing so. I’m only human and I do make mistakes and I hurt too. All of which is totally ok and understandable. WE ALL NEED TO CUT OURSELVES SOME SLACK – YOU ARE ENOUGH!
Cycling is a sport in which winning is rare, even if you’re successful- and when you do have the taste of success, it is sometimes harder to deal with those losses. You speak about mindfulness, is this something that you work into your life to improve your wellbeing?
The desire to win has previously brought me some terrible lows. I didn’t see my own worth unless I was winning, and winning by a sizeable margin. I was so cold and miserable. It wasn’t until I started working on myself after I felt I had lost everything that I realised winning wasn’t the issue, it was my relationship towards winning that was all wrong. The only time people praised me was when I won in sport so I allowed that to become my worth. These days I know my worth is far more than that but funnily enough my desire to win has never been stronger and it’s all I’m focused on, be that in a team or individually. Yet my sense of self has also never been greater, I attribute this to extensive self reflection and time spent alone. I think it’s a great thing to sit with your own pain and get to understand it; but not get comfortable with it.
When I was younger I become far more detached and egotistical as I started to be told I’d be the next big thing. I didn’t like myself at all. I felt like my voice was only heard when I was turning heads. Apart from that no one ever really gave me much notice unless it was to poke fun at the music I listened to or the way I dressed. I had a lot of judgment and nastiness directed towards me from within cycling and within school. I remember wishing I didn’t exist quite a lot during this period in my life.
In recent times a friend who was on the British Cycling Talent Team mountain bike programme at the same time as I was on the Talent Team track programme said that she’d never understood why the girls on the track programme always made fun of me and left me out. I even had parents of some of the girls verbally trying to manipulate me. It was at this point I found food helped make me feel more in control. This caused so many issues down the line. I wore myself out, I didn’t sleep, I was no longer me. To make matter worse my school councillor failed me and then when I looked to move to the next stage within British Cycling I asked for the chance to talk with one of their psychologists, to which I was told I was too young. So I left British Cycling’s pathway. I just needed a friend to ground me during this time, someone I looked up to: I needed 22 year old Charlotte. I cannot put into words how much I’d of appreciated someone like that back then. Who knows what could’ve been if I had, I think about that sometimes. I don’t want younger people coming through to find themselves in the same position.
Winning is great, but winning won’t happen nor will it be easy to handle without a support network to keep you grounded and focused. I’m incredibly lucky to say that I have access to all of that these days in the form of my family, friends and partner. I just need the opportunities that a bigger team can offer to me now.
The past season/yearWhat were some of the highlights from last year for you? I really enjoyed lining up for Healthy Ageing Tour: I enjoy the high pressure-bigger races a lot more. Unfortunately I crashed on the first day though, so no result to write home about.
What did you learn from the season that you are taking forward? Don’t ever let work get in the way of your racing and training, put your foot down with/leave jobs that don’t suit you and honour your commitment to your sport. I wouldn’t recommend that for everyone as I appreciate it won’t be financially viable for a lot of women racing at the same level – which in itself needs addressing. But for me, I need to care less about pleasing other people – I know I’m not 20 something forever.
Which riders impressed you the most when racing? My boyfriend Matt. I’ve never met someone so naturally talented. He won Elite National Circuit Champs in 2018 on literally just messing around on his MTB and racing here and there. How is it fair for someone to be so naturally talented!? I also really enjoy watching him race, he’s a classy rider.
What were your goals at the start of the season/year?
I wanted to go to a UCI team at the end of the year. In order to progress I just really need that lucky break to be able to focus more on racing and training. I’ve never had the opportunity to be a full time rider so I know I have so much more to give. I just really need someone to see that in me and help nurture that. Previous results have shown my ability but it’s been a while since I’ve been able to really prove myself.
How has lockdown affected your plans for riding and working and what have you done to adjust? I’ve been working a lot during lockdown so no lockdown miles for me.. I work in the cycling industry which we all know is super hectic at the moment. I’m finding it very stressful but I’ve thankfully found my rhythm with training and what works with my normal work schedule.
Do you think racing and riding will change once things are back to ‘normal’? I don’t think so going by what I’ve seen the general public doing. However I’m hopeful that more infrastructure will be implemented for safer riding in the UK.
What are your plans for post-lockdown?Smash racing hopefully! I want to keep to three days a week at work to ensure I’m getting the most out of my training (plus resting) and do whatever it takes to get onto a UCI team for next year. Then in general really commit wholly to this dream and keep staying true to myself.
How do you go about choosing new goals for the next season/year? I find I can’t be too picky given the lack of money and opportunity in women cycling and the lack of results I’ve had of late. I will be ever so thankful for any opportunities that come my way and for anyone ready to support me.
Do you have any plans or aspirations away from just racing? Adventure rides etc I’d like to improve my skills on my mountain bike and maybe at some point compete in an Enduro for fun. I just completely love how unique mountain bike is and the rush it gives you.
Current bikes: Far far too many, I’m way into double figures.. I race a Liv Envie at the moment with Di2 which is my team bike and my chosen wheel preference is of course Zipps.
Kit you can’t leave home without: Glasses! My eyesight is awful so I wear contacts, therefore to avoid dust, rain and debris getting behind them I have to wear my glasses all of the time. How boring and functional of me!
Future purchases: I really really want an Isen. Such beautiful handmade bikes and based in Surrey – I’m so obsessed with them!
Nutrition and fuelling whilst riding: I try to keep gluten free with bars but I eat lots of fruit and any bars I find cheap or have been given to me as I don’t unfortunately get the luxury of free nutrition handed to me at the moment.
Quick fire round
Favourite pro and why: Sagan because he’s just such a legend and has such a love for the sport
Best bike shop and why: Dave Mellor Cycles because he’s a great guy with such depth in knowledge about cycling and he’s always done lots for women’s cycling. Thanks Dave!
Indoor training or outside? Outside, I don’t like the turbo much, its a last resort for me.
Flat or hilly? Flat.. or down hill!
Best Classic? Paris-Roubaix
Best stage race? The Tour de France of course!
Best event outside of ‘pro tour’: I really loved the London Nocturne, I’m sad it’s gone! I loved all of the different races on in the same night – that’s what cycling is all about for me, the sheer mix of different people from different backgrounds and cultures coming together to enjoy bikes!
Any songs you sing in your head whilst riding? Ain’t Equal by Megan Thee Stallion
Describe your riding and cycling style in 4 words: ‘Rides like a man’ not my words but often been mistaken because I’m apparently very aggressive.. I don’t know what they are on about!
Finally, please recommend 5 riders to follow on Instagram:
@matt_gibson96 – for the quirkiest pro in the peloton
@liamyates – for the adventures and food
@elinorbarker – for great content
@kellbellandbikes – for doggos and big bikes
@mollyweaver94 – for the dreamy gravel pics and honesty