Outdoors: Evie Richards
“The outdoors, to me, is why I love cycling so much.” Discover the extraordinary journey of Evie Richards, whose love for the outdoors has propelled her to remarkable achievements in cyclocross and mountain biking
Evie Richards, the extraordinary British cyclist, takes us on a thrilling journey through her sporting upbringing, her deep connection to the outdoors, and the triumphs and challenges that have shaped her illustrious career. From her earliest memories of cycling with her grandma at Center Parcs to conquering the world championships in mountain biking, Evie’s passion for two wheels knows no bounds. Join us as we delve into her inspiring story of perseverance, resilience, and the unwavering pursuit of excellence.
Glorious: Were you always a sporty child and what were your first memories of cycling?
Evie Richards: I’ve always been sporty since I was a child, and from a young age, I was the kid who loved being outside, playing sports, and winning. Cycling came later for me, but one of my earliest memories of cycling was when my grandma used to take us to Center Parcs. I remember us teaching my sister how to ride her bike there, and if she could ride without stabilisers, she would get a lollipop as a reward. I had been focused on hockey and wanted to keep progressing and getting better. My coach at the time suggested I pick up another sport for fitness during the winter, and cycling was the only one I wasn’t doing. My dad had a bike, and it became a way for us to spend time together. We would ride and run together, and I even used to ride my bike to my Saturday job at a farm shop. Dad entered me into a few races on days when I wasn’t working or playing hockey, and we would go on these little adventures together, it became a special bonding experience for us.
Glorious: How much did the outdoors influence you during your childhood?
Evie Richards: Where I live, Malvern, is quite unique. People sometimes find it strange when I talk about it, but growing up there, we did everything outdoors. We would spend hours at the park, making fires, rock climbing, playing tag, rugby, and whatever activity someone started in the village, everyone else would join in. After school, we would be outside until it got dark and I remember spending hours riding bikes and finishing the day with a barbecue or bonfire at someone’s house.
Glorious: So, the outdoors clearly means a lot to you?
Evie Richards: The outdoors, to me, is why I love cycling so much. I used to enjoy playing hockey, but when I started riding, I felt a sense of freedom and safety on the bike. I could explore the Malvern Hills on my own, ride and admire the town below, and witness beautiful sunrises and sunsets. It’s a special experience. Even now, when I travel to places like the Alps, I appreciate the mountains and how they make me feel before races. Recently, I had an amazing ride in Salzburg, riding by lakes and witnessing beautiful scenery. It was so incredible that I wanted to share it with everyone through calls and FaceTime. Cycling outdoors has a tremendous positive impact on my mental health.
Glorious: You’ve achieved successes in both cyclocross and mountain biking. What’s the difference and how do they compare?
Evie Richards: The cyclocross season takes place from October to February, during the winter months, while mountain bike races are typically held from March to October. The two sports differ in various ways. Mountain biking involves hilly courses with technical descents, lasting around one and a half hours, using a durable bike with full suspension. On the other hand, cyclocross is raced on a road-like bike, and the races are 45 minutes of intense effort. Cyclocross often includes obstacles, muddy sections, and hurdles to jump over. The conditions can vary, ranging from snow to mud or sunshine. Overall, they are quite distinct sports.
Glorious: What do you like and dislike about cyclocross and mountain bike?
Evie Richards: In cyclocross, I love the chaos of racing in muddy, rainy, or snowy conditions during the winter, as it creates a special environment. I enjoy the enthusiastic fans who create a lively and enjoyable atmosphere, although I find cyclocross to be less sociable, as many riders return to their camper vans or homes after the race. In mountain biking, I love the environment that comes with travelling to different locations for races, but some of the long and steep hills can be challenging, especially in hot weather, as it becomes difficult to cool down.
Glorious: Can you describe the physical and mental demands of endurance cycling?
Evie Richards: Endurance cycling places significant physical demands on the body. During a race, my heart rate averages 10 beats below its maximum limit for the entire one and a half hours. I have to constantly push myself to the limit, both uphill and downhill, while maintaining control on technical terrain, so it’s physically exhausting and requires strength and endurance. Plus, there are tactical aspects to consider while riding in a group. Mentally, endurance cycling requires pushing through doubts and maintaining a high level of effort for the entire duration of the race. It can be challenging to overcome self-doubt, but I have to believe in my abilities and convince myself to keep pushing. Nervousness is also a factor, and finding the right balance of excitement without overwhelming nerves is crucial.
Glorious: You’ve faced various challenges since becoming a professional cyclist, so how have you overcome these?
Evie Richards: Anything in life is always a bit of a roller coaster, you have some amazing times and then life hits you with something else, and being an athlete always does that. When I first started cycling professionally, I experienced RED-S (relative energy deficiency in sport). It resulted in the loss of my period for about three years, as my body didn’t have enough energy to sustain it. I worked with an amazing woman, Renee Mcgregor, and with her help, I gradually regained my period, and she continues to support and look out for me. Another challenge I faced was severe anxiety before races. I was continually sick, so this affected my performance and enjoyment of cycling. Working with my psychologist Rich, he helped me to overcome my anxiety and now we focus more on race tactics and strategies. I feel very fortunate to have met Renee and Rich, they are like guardian angels watching over me!
More recently, after becoming world champion, I experienced a back injury. It felt different from my previous injuries, like when I dislocated my knee and required surgery. Back then, everyone knew about my condition and expected me to be out of action for three months, which made it somewhat easier. I had a clear plan and knew how to recover, so I didn’t find that injury particularly challenging, it actually motivated me to regain my peak performance. But last year was a different story. My back injury was unclear and caused a great deal of pain and I felt like nobody truly understood the extent of my suffering. Despite the pain worsening, I stubbornly pushed through races, which only knocked my confidence further because I couldn’t finish and was in so much pain. Being injured for over half a year was mentally exhausting, but with support from my psychologist, my family, and the incredible people around me helped me persevere through that difficult period.
Glorious: What does the concept of success mean to you in the context of your cycling career, and how do you measure your success and achievements?
Evie Richards: In the past, I believed that winning a gold medal at the Olympics represented success. However, as I’ve gained more experience, I’ve come to realise that success is not solely determined by winning. For me, success is being happy, riding well, feeling strong within myself, and being able to compete at the highest level. It’s about being at the front of the race, enjoying the competition, and being able to play my game. Of course, I still strive to win races, but success is more than just the outcome. It’s about finding joy in the process and being true to myself as a racer.
Glorious: Are there any role models or inspirations in the cycling world that have had an impact on your career?
Evie Richards: Tracy Moseley has been a constant presence throughout my career and has had a significant impact on me. She supported me from the beginning, helping me with my bikes and teaching me how to ride. When I won the World Championships in mountain biking, we both shared an emotional moment together because she had witnessed my journey from the start. Tracy’s achievements and travels inspired me, and I consider her the ultimate inspiration. I feel incredibly fortunate to have her in my life.
Glorious: Which race or event stands out as the most memorable for you?
Evie Richards: The most memorable race for me is the World Championships in 2021. I entered that race feeling incredibly happy, coming off a family holiday and having achieved success in a previous race. Winning the World Championships in that moment was like a dream come true. It was the icing on the cake during a wonderful period of my life, and I will always cherish that memory.
Glorious: Can you share any tips or advice for aspiring cyclists who want to take their skills to a competitive level?
Evie Richards: My advice is to participate in races and see if you enjoy them. It’s important to keep riding with friends and maintain the love and passion for cycling. Trying out smaller races will help you gauge your progress and develop your skills further.
Glorious: What are some of the lessons you’ve learned from cycling that you apply to other areas of your life?
Evie Richards: One lesson is the ability to stay calm and rationalise when things don’t go as planned. Recently, I took my mum on a shopping trip to Birmingham, the train was cancelled home and for her it was like we were stuck on the moon, or during our holiday in Italy last year, when any mishap occurred, she would go into full panic like a deer in the headlights. I have come to learn that such incidents are not the end of the world. It may sound trivial, but if a flight is cancelled, I have adopted a more relaxed perspective, thinking that there will always be another flight tomorrow. I believe I possess a skill for rationalising situations, as in cycling, there are numerous challenges that arise, and if I were to treat each one as a catastrophe, it would be overwhelming. Of course, this does not apply to every situation, but I have developed a knack for finding resolutions.
Glorious: When you’re not racing, what other activities do you enjoy?
Evie Richards: I went swimming yesterday and plan to go for a run tomorrow. I love various sports, and when I’m not cycling, I focus on those. Swimming, particularly in open water, is one of my favourite activities, and I always seek out lakes whenever I visit new race venues.
Glorious: What’s next for Evie? What are your goals for the future?
Evie Richards: I’ve just spent a week training with Red Bull. I’ll then race the next World Cup in Val di Sole the last week in June and World Championships in August, which will be held in the UK. Looking ahead, my goal is to qualify for the Olympics. Paris 2024 is where all my attention is directing and I hope to have a successful ride there.