RIDERS Q&A: Natalie Grinczer
During the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become apparent that some riders are struggling with motivation. Obviously, this is due to various different reasons and affecting people in different ways... whether it's the uncertainty of contracts for next year, not having the opportunities to race and showcase themselves this year, or just lacking the inspiration to get into some kit and out for a pedal. Because of this, we have decided to speak to some of the people we know to provide a small insight into their lives at this current time.
Hopefully, these weekly/fortnightly Q&A's will provide you with not only that small bit of extra motivation, but an insight into the professional cycling scene and perhaps even some role models to look up to. We will be talking to an array of people... from ex-pro's, professional and semi-professional men and women cyclists as well as people who have worked in the cycling industry such as team managers, coaches, DS's etc to provide a unique and different outlook on things and provide an insight as to what it takes to get to the top level.
This weeks Q&A will be with British talent and qualified physiotherapist Natalie Grinczer from the British UCI team Cams - Tifosi. She has raced for numerous professional teams within cycling and gives some good advice for up and coming riders whilst also talking about certain issues within the world of cycling. Here’s what she had to say…
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got to where you are now?
My name is Natalie Grinczer, I'm 26. I'm from Somerset and in 2020, I signed for UK based UCI team CAMS Tifosi after being away racing in Europe for a few years before that.
You have been racing at a professional level for almost 4 years, how has your journey been so far?
It's been a roller coaster! You get the highest highs and some really low lows, there doesn't seem to be much in the middle, but it keeps me wanting more. I just like to be in the action. I haven't yet found anything else in life that I would prefer to do. 2020 has been extremely challenging, getting race fit and then having to watch from the UK as changing regs meant we could not get out to the continent.
How was the international experience compared to the national racing scene in the UK?
I was really determined from the start that I wanted to be racing at the highest level, I just needed a chance. When you're out racing internationally at the biggest races, you're racing the best in the world. It's extremely difficult, but to be competitive at that level and be able to influence the race in some way is what it's all about for me. Racing UCI is war-like, it makes you thick skinned, teaches you first how to suffer and survive, then makes you quicker.
You have raced all over the world, what was your favourite country to race in?
It's a special feeling to race at home so OVO Tour has to be up there. One of first UCI stage races I went to was Thuringen Lotto Tour in Germany in 2016. I really learned how to suffer there. I do really enjoy that race, it's achievabley-difficult. I've also raced a lot in Spain, the race organisation there can be rather relaxed ...which can be quite stressful if you like things more regimented pre-race. Races in Europe tend to be later in the day. From memory the UK Women's National Series preceded the men’s race so we were always up at the crack of dawn.
You first signed a UCI contract with WNT in 2017 when they were predominantly a British team, do you think this made the transition into professional cycling easier when you were surrounded by people of the same nationality?
It is definitely easier being with teammates and staff who speak the same language. When I raced in Spain in 2019, I didn’t speak a great deal of Spanish, although I soon learned! You miss the small things like putting the world to rights post-race and recalling all the significant, out of the ordinary things that just happened to you for the last 4 hours. Being on WNT in its first few years holds some of my fondest and funniest bike memories. I wouldn't be here racing at the level I am if they hadn't given me a chance.
In 2021 what are your goals and ambitions?
I would like to have another hit out at OVO Tour here in the UK, as well as the Tour de Yorkshire. There are a few stage races in Europe I'd like to place in within the top 15. A podium or two domestically in the UK would be nice. COVID 19 has pushed me towards the idea of investing a bit more in TT, but that's a work in progress.
What kind of rider would you describe yourself as?
Jack of all trades, master of none. At UCI level I can hang on, and I'm normally there or thereabouts at the finish so I'd be a handy domestique for a stronger rider . I'm not the best climber, tester, or sprinter but I just seem to be able to make it through when it gets really tough.
What is your favourite race and is there one race that you have always wanted to do but never had the opportunity?
I had the Giro on my bucket list and completed it in 2019. It was a struggle for someone who gets to hot and sick at 27+ degrees, when every day is above 30. My family and I saw it as a life event, I was lucky to even get the chance to go. Would I do it again? ..….. most likely.
How do you feel about the development of women’s cycling? Are there any problems you see?
Money and cycling are a problem. It’s good for the world tour riders to have a standard salary like the men, but there is very limited resource for smaller teams hence working to fund a cycling addiction and keep that dream afloat is a standard thing for those in the pro conti bracket. The biggest thing is social media and TV coverage. As a cyclist you are a moving advert. You need to be seen.
How important do you think development is? There is not really a specific category for U23 riders, do you think this affects who is at the top level in the long term?
I have been someone who has progressed through of my own accord, outside of any funded programme or federation. I don’t have much knowledge of development programmes or standalone U23 brackets. If the field is big enough and it is challenging enough then I'm sure it has a place. I'd probably prefer to get thrown in at the deep end and learn from the elites as soon as possible, that's your internship.
Why do you think that so many talented riders come out of the Netherlands? What do you think they do that other countries don’t…?
I have a lot of Dutch friends; they are all good on the bike. I don't know why, maybe it's in the genes. It is a puzzle how Holland is so flat and windy, yet they have the world's best climbers….
How is your diet? Does it differ between in and out of season? Is this something you struggle with?
I'm not a nutritionist, but I've ridden a bike for a long time.
I’ve tried various diets; it is a touchy subject with riders because being your optimal weight is important. But that doesn't mean being really really skinny is optimal. Equally, being told what to eat by other people who don't know your optimal weight is also annoying. I have found it best to eat at regular time. There is some benefit from fat oxidation and nutritional peaking before important races but being realistic and not ending up malnourished is vital. You might crash out in the neutral and think, "might as well have eaten that cake I really wanted the other day ".
How do you find motivation for those extra hard rides on rainy days, when you would rather stay in bed?
I got some Spatz and they were a game changer. If its bad rain, I always prefer loops, hide another dry jacket under the car so you can make a quick change for the next lap without the temptation of going in the house ...and not leaving again. The voice in my head says " so when it’s raining in the race, you're just going to say NOPE NOT TODAY? " . If it's dangerous rain then its split turbo, quick shower, wrap up and a few hours on road. If its flash floods, then it's long turbo with a lot of blocks and staring at a wall. No zwifting here.
What would you tell your 16-year-old self?
You have no idea what you are getting into.
What is your favourite cycling memory?
Probably finishing the Giro. It was that difficult for me physically, mentally, and emotionally.
What advice would you give a rider who was aspiring to be where you are?
Take care of your body, you only have one. It is your engine, and you need to build it to run as efficiently as it can. Take care of your mind, find something else to do outside of cycling to balance things out and put cycling into perspective. Find what works for you and your lifestyle / routine, don't force things that are not working, look to adapt and make positive change.
What are your views on social media?
Social media for sponsors is important, as is tv coverage. Remember you as an athlete are advert. Having said this, cycling is not all glitz and glamour, training particularly. What you don't see is all the hours, guts and gore that went into the money shot.
Can you see any problems in cycling these days?
I think financial support in terms of minimum salary or remuneration at pro conti level is needed, but COVID 19 does oppress this at present. Also, there a lot of new furlough pros around ;)
We really love this Q&A with Natalie and feels like she was able to provide a light on cycling from her perspective. It is not always easy to sign a contract with a team abroad and language can be a big problem, but suddenly 6 months down the line and you are learning it and making life long friends within the country your living and racing in. It can be scary, but it can be worth it too. The best things happen when you step outside your comfort zone.
We also support her thoughts on having something else to do while pursuing your cycling career, within the UK you have amazing opportunities with The Open University which will allow you to get a degree from your bed as its distance learning… perfect for recovery!! It can be a terrible feeling when you have had a bad race, or you are injured and cycling is your whole life, by enrolling on a course or having something else to do you can allow that escapism and it will in-turn benefit your mental health. It doesn’t have to be studying, it could be learning a magic trick, or a new language, or just trying to better yourself by learning any new skill.
We also highly recommend SPATZ for winter training…. This winter gear is designed by professional riders and will allow you to train in all kinds of weather without getting wet feet and cold hands!! If it’s raining… your training 😉 #NotAnAdd
The Open University: http://www.open.ac.uk/