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Spotlight Season 2: Pip Jenkins

This week’s Spotlight is coming early as I’m off paddleboarding, drinking gin and faffing about with my new GoPro for the weekend! But fear not! We have the brilliant Pip Jenkins for you to read about over the next few days instead. Pip has some great insight and certainly knows what it means to go full razz for a long period of time. She has some incredible custom machinery and is part of a special Collective with some rad people: read on and find out more. Enjoy!

Name: Pip Jenkins 

Age: 32 

Teams you ride for or clubs you are part of: 

The Æight Bicycle Cøllective, 1904RT and Southborough and District Wheelers. 

How did you get started in cycling and when?

I started properly in 2011 as a triathlete – a friend at the gym and excellent S&C coach (Dan Sims) was doing his MSC and I volunteered as one of his subjects, taking me from complete novice to competing at national and world age-group in a year. That gave me the focus to achieve more than I thought was possible and since then I’ve loved pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I love the freedom of cycling and the challenges that you find along the way. I met Glen in that first year of cycling and the adventures have not stopped since.

Favourite places to ride? Any particular roads or segments?

Sussex is the best, it’s just beautiful. We’re very lucky to live on the Sussex/Kent border with the Ashdown forest on our doorstep. Our classic “Figure-of-aeight” goes along Ladies Mile, up Black Hill, down “The Wall”, up the old “Trainsharp Test Hill”, over to Chelwood Gate, Nutley, over the Cattle-grids” and back down to Hartfield.

Off road my fav trail is called “The Mayfield Stinger”, just outside Mayfield – it is super flowey and is ace in the dust or the mud. I’ve also got a soft spot for all three ways up Mont Ventoux. 

What disciplines do you ride? Do you have preferences?

My main strength is Time-trialling, but I have done a handful of road races, a few gravel races and a mountain bike race. I’ve even done a full London and SE Cyclo-cross season. I love the old school atmosphere of TT’s, especially the longer distance ones where its just you, your bike and the road – the race of truth. Also its the only competition that you can race over the same distance as the men (and in a few races, even beat them) – it is also open to all and I take inspiration from the fact that all ages and backgrounds can compete against the best riders in the world. Yes, aerodynamics and good quality kit play a role, but the most important part is still the power and the ability of the rider – being able to control your power evenly over the given distance is such a brilliant challenge.

General

You first came to the attention of TCC with your incredible performance at the national 24hr TT, is that your main focus and passion (long distance TT) or is that a by-product of other riding you enjoy doing?

To be honest the number one thing I enjoy is just riding in general. I commute daily by bike and love being on the ‘cross bike and the road bike, but yes, my passion grew from triathlon and evolved into long distance TT. I remember supporting Glen at a 24-hour mountain-bike race and knowing that my off-road skills weren’t yet good enough I started looking into the road equivalent. I loved the thrill of pushing your body to extreme for a whole day and still managing to dig deeper than ever before to push out another lap, as the completion can be so close even over that long time. I’d already claimed a few of our club TT records and decided I wanted a clean sweep of the club record book – it was a way to compare myself against former generations as well as any current competition as most of the records had stood for over 40 years.

What sort of training goes into a 24 hour TT that differs from standard Time Trials? 

It’s more about planning and staying healthy than anything else – having a Plan A and then several Plan B’s! I’m fairly old-school in that I like to spend lots of time on the bike, backed up by a lot of strength work and time spent in the TT position. I guess fundamentally I approached it the same way as I would for shorter TT’s, but my body just naturally responds well over a longer distance. I still back this training up with some race-pace stuff, but obviously the amount is a bit of a secret – I have a good understanding of sport science as an exercise physiologist and I had selfed coach myself up until last season, but for the 24 I worked with coach Tim Ramsden from Black Cat Coaching. This gave the chance to check that I wasn’t doing too much or too little, and someone to bounce ideas off. A decent coach is more than just someone who dishes out workouts, Tim, and Glen also really helped me with the planning, timing and nutrition strategy which we adapted from the years of races he has done.

How do you prepare yourself for the mental side of such a huge effort?

It’s not a huge effort (or at least that’s what I tell myself) – It’s just 24 hours, that’s just 1 day, which is only 1/364th of a year – that sounds funny but it’s key to me to just keep breaking the times and distances down into manageable chunks. Plus I’m realistic that I’m just an amatuer that works full-time and I ride my bike for fun – as soon as it’s not fun, that’s when I’d stop doing it!

Is there any way to describe the feeling afterwards? Especially when you’ve done so well!

Surreal! When you first get off the bike you’re buzzing, 30 seconds later the exhaustion hits you like a brick wall. You need to get changed but your muscles stop working, adrenaline is the only thing keeping you standing, everything is happening around you but your body is moving so slowly. I had ridden further than the Women’s Club record, then beaten the Men’s Club record and finally beaten the previous National record – a National medal was the icing on the cake!   

Tell us about The Æight Bicycle Cøllective and your special Roberts TT Frame.

The Æight Bicycle Cøllective is a brotherhood of riders on different clubs and teams who race and ride together to improve their results collectively (and to have fun riding bikes). It was set up by Glen whittington (aeightracer) from his passion of handing down knowledge that he’s learned from his own racing and from working with Pro-teams and organisers, we each bring something to the collective – whether it be advice on strength and core work, training in general, racing prep, raceday itself or equipment for training and racing. It allows us all to help learn, develop and support each other and makes us collectively stronger than the individual rider.

The main thing for me is that there’s always someone to go to for advice, to share ideas with or just go out for a spin with. For instance I learn things from Sheila when we’re riding fully kitted out gravel bikes that help with my TT racing – I learn things on the road bike with Cameron, out on a muddy bridleway with Bryony and even from Glen on the mountain-bike. So you end up much stronger than if you became super focussed on sitting on the turbo for hours!

Also having Glen’s support at 2 am in the night, 14 hours into the race is second to none – most teammates and helpers don’t know what that feels like to be at that point of a race, and when your stopping time is reduced to 15 or 20 seconds it’s important that everything works smoothly! Glen’s vision for the #aeightbikeco is to hand this knowledge down through supporting and developing racers via his (and our) knowledge of racing and working in the cycling industry. I think he realises that his own racing could have benefited from just a tiny bit more support and knowledge. It’s a platform to grow a community alongside teams and clubs, and most off all, to have fun doing it – it’s not about watts and turbo-trainers, it’s all about taking riders to race in Belgium, or guiding people on a trip to Girona, exploring the local trails with a bunch of friends or out sprinting you mate for that next town sign.

Geoff Roberts sponsors me with frames and his father, Charlie (Chas), once held the 12 hour championship, having ridden to the course in Portsmouth from London the day before. Due to my size we had discussed a custom TT frame, so I was super pleased when Geoff offered to build me one – it’s mostly Columbus tubing except for the seat tube which is a Reynolds tube NOS from the 50s/60s. Geoff used it so we could pull the wheel in closer to the BB. It may also help with the aerodynamics – we haven’t tested that, but it did pretty good in the 24 hour helping me improve the record.  The rider makes up at least 80% of the aerodynamic, so you don’t get much benefits from carbon on a TT bike, and the benefits of this bike far out way the negatives on long distance TT’s. 


The past season/year

What were some of the highlights from last year for you?

Last year was epic. I was lucky to have so many adventures, I rode the Mallorca 312, got to guide on a Paris to Geneva trip and we rode from home to Brussels to watch the start of the Tour. The 24 was the ultimate highlight and riding further than the previous National record was a brilliant result – a bronze medal was the icing on the cake. 

One of the most stand out days was winning the Catford 10mile open TT on our local Q10/19 course and then driving to Hampshire to win the Open 25mile TT on the H25/8 in the afternoon! Racing two TT’s in one day isn’t normally possible so to win them both was awesome. 

What did you learn from the season that you are taking forward? 

1. To plan better around and before races – I lost out on a higher ranking in the National BAR and Kent BAR due to some rookie errors!

2. Dont race if you are unwell – i’m hard on myself sometimes and often push myself too far – you have to know when to kick back and take your time, just as much as knowing that when you’re on a roll and how to take advantage of that.

3. Wright lists for everything – lists make everything less stressful!

Which riders impressed you the most when racing?

Currently I think Emma Lewis is killing it and like me she has to work alongside training which I think is really tough. My two team-mates, Sheila Woollam and Bryony Fishpool, inspire me – they’ve both proved to me that you can take your body out of it’s comfort zone and discover new adventures. Historically I love reading about what Beryl Burton and Eileen Sheridan achieved and I think it’s really important when you want to learn new things to remember to look at where we’ve come from.

Are there any great adventures or stories from last year that stand out?

Probably the funniest story was when Glen and I both raced in Wales, or so I thought – so Glen was heading to Wales to race the last round of the National Points Series (Saturday and Sunday) – whenever he normal goes riding in Wales it’s on the South coast so I just assumed that’s where it was. Meanwhile I read the code and the start-time for my TT wrongly and it turned out to be in Hampshire in the afternoon! I won it which meant I had to wait for the prize giving so I was really late now, but I’d already told Glen I’d do his bottles on Sunday and Wales was only a couple of hours away right? Wrong! The race was at the Royal Welsh Showground in Mid-Wales and apparently, as I found out, Wales has no motorway network! I arrived at about half 2 in the morning and had to work out which tent Glen was in! The morning of race-day always makes Glen go quiet as he gets his race head on, but there was so much riding on this race in particular that nerves were super high. He raced really well and actually improved his overall ranking but we didn’t have much time to enjoy it before we had to jump into our separate cars and drive home! A weekend away together ended up being a 45minute dinner in a pub on the way home and two 400 mile round trips!

This year

What were your goals at the start of the season/year?

This year was to get a top ten in the BAR and to race the National Road Series. I also had a few secret goals which I’m keeping secret for now as they’ll roll over into next year now.

How has lockdown affected your plans for riding and racing?

I broke my hip and then lockdown happened so to be honest I’d have spent some time recovering from that anyway – once the 24-hour TT was officially cancelled I swapped my racing goals to Adventuer mode! I’ve found a heap of brilliant local trails, enjoyed some time off training and now I’m ready again. The next target for this year is going to be the Southdowns Way in a day – that’s a hundred miles and a lot of climbing. A couple of things like this should mean a stronger Pip for 2021! 

Do you think racing and riding will change once things are back to ‘normal’?

I hope more people will find and enjoy the sport and I hope it gives time trialling in particular a chance to step out of the shadows – so many riders see it as a dangerous or old fashioned part of our sport due to people being worried about traffic and confused by the rules and codes. I don’t want to get political because I know there’s a big debate about it but I always feel that the safest course I have ridden on are the big ones where cars pass you so far away that you normally have a whole lane to yourself. I can understand peoples worries but once you’ve done a couple you’re hooked and I don’t think people really know how hard they can push themselves until they’ve learned how to race a TT.

The future

What are your plans for post-lockdown?

Who knows? Short term, I don’t think there is going to be much racing, but I’m still keen to give the TT bike a blast this year – just before I got injured I had a fit where we changed a few things so I’d really like to test that properly and also show off the new paint job! If we are allowed back to Belgium then I think we’ll try and catch the Tour of Flanders and/or a couple of ‘cross races.

How do you go about choosing new goals for the next season/year?

Simple – they all just roll over.

Do you have any plans or aspirations away from just racing? Adventure rides etc

My aspirations would be to help continue to build the #aeightbikeco, as an exercise physiologist and sport therapist I would like to build on that side of supporting younger riders in the sport. I’m also doing a coaching course to help with this and it’ll be interesting to see just where we can take it. Also I really want to take the gravel bike to some new places – Glen’s just built me a proper adventure frame so I’m building this up once it’s sprayed and then off I go!

Gear:

Current bikes:

Roberts fully bespoke TT bike. 

Roberts fully bespoke road bike which I helped build.

Aeight Manufactory O N E (gravel/all-road/adventure bike).

Aeight Manufactory custom built Scott Solace road bike.

Anything custom/special?

All custom built – mostly bespoke geometry, custom paint, handbuilt wheels and lots of custom parts – I’m pretty lucky really! The Aeight Manufactory O N E is super special, as Glen built this, using the skeleton of his first adventure/cross bike that he built 4 years ago – the original bike was used for bike packing, gravel and cross racing all over Europe and domestically. He cut out the headtube originally to just fit a tapered head and then decided to remove the seat stays and top tube to remodel it into a bespoke gravel bike for me.  

Kit you can’t leave home without:

Tubeless tyres and handbuilt wheels – wheels make the biggest difference to the bike and the tyres are your only contact with what you’re riding on so make them the best that they can be!

Future purchases:

There is always lots on the shopping list, but I’m currently in need of some new off-road shoes for the adventure bike! I need something sky blue or rainbow camo to go with the bike!

Nutrition and fuelling whilst riding:

Depends, normally its plain water, banana bread and jelly baby’s. For proper training and racing I use Namedsport are helping us this year and there’s a few products I also really like from TORQ.  

Quick fire round

Favourite pro and why: Kate Courtney – She is just so motivating and honest, and she pushes herself to the next level.

Best bike shop and why: In-Gear for the traditional bike shop and I also really like Condor in London, but through the aeightbikeco we’re now pretty much self-sufficient! 

Indoor training or outside? Outside always 

Flat or hilly? Hilly 

Best Classic? De Ronde 

Giro, Tour or Vuelta? Tour de france 

Best event outside of ‘pro tour’: Koppenbergcross 

Any songs you sing in your head whilst riding? I count numbers (which I know is really odd)!

Describe your riding and cycling style in 4 words: Rule-5, Diesel-power, Low-cadence, Souplese

Finally, please recommend 5 riders to follow on Instagram:

@aeightracer – lots of handbuilt, bespoke and custom bikeporn mostly from #sweetsussex 

@shewodun – will inspire you to step out of your comfort zone and say yes to every adventure 

@cameronpreece – super strong road racer and training partner

@kateplusfate – crazy strength workouts and awesome ride inspiration

@ridewriterepeat – cycling journo who is constantly testing new kit

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