International Women’s Day – Women In Cycling

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Introduce yourself (and your bikes…) Kerry MacPhee

My name is Kerry MacPhee and I come from the island of South Uist in the Outer Hebrides. I am based in Stirling though spend a lot of time in the Hebrides for work and also across Europe and the UK racing mountain bikes as an elite cyclist. I’m currently ranked 61st in the world and entering my 6th year as a competitive cyclist. Though I started racing a little later, I’m always keen to remind people that though chronologically older, developmentally as a cyclist I’m young and it’s a great feeling year on year just improving bit by bit. I’ve learnt to be patient with the process and enjoy it rather than hurry it.

The bike I ride is called a Genesis Mantle and I’m in love with it! It’s a hardtail mountain bike which means it only has suspension at the front. It descends fast and climbs fast and I just have a lot of fun racing aboard it. In the winter I race cyclocross and also ride a Genesis bike (I’m very loyal to brands I like and have great relationships with) and again, it makes racing in the cold, muddy, wet Scottish winter a lot more fun and motivating.

Though a common thing to do, I have never named my bikes, so if you have any recommendations for a name, fire them over


What is your connection to the world of cycling?

I race “professionally” however this term is slightly misleading as I don’t get a salary for it but I live, breathe and race as such. The sponsorship I receive through Loch Duart allows me to pursue cycling as close to professionally as I can and I’m extremely grateful for the opportunities their support has afforded me. Typically my year will start off with some early season stage racing in warmer European climates. The first cross country races start in March with the main events, World Cups, kicking off at the end of May. This will be the first year that I specifically tailor my training to be at peak fitness for the World Cups as I really want to crack them once and for all. Up until the first one, I’ll have other races in Europe, the UK, and Scotland but for sure, World Cups will be my ‘A’ races.


What got you into cycling? (or back into it?)

Like most kids, I cycled when I was wee as well as being very sporty. I ran competitively and I loved PE and any sport. I’m a twin and the oldest of 5 siblings so everything was a competition growing up. It was inherent!  I really got into cycling during my Master’s degree at University of Stirling. A friend convinced me to enter a triathlon and I didn’t have a bike at the time so I went to a local bike shop that recycles bikes called Recyke-a-bike.  The bike I got had downtube shifters, it was far too big and heavy for me but I loved it. I started cycling to Uni (probably 3 or 4 miles) and then my ‘long’ ride would be going to uni via Bridge of Allan which maybe added a mile or 2. I laugh now when I think about what I used to class as a long ride! We both entered a local novice triathlon, and both did well. I guess you could say the fire was stoked and the competitiveness in me came back. The rest is history!

A year before the 2014 Commonwealth games, I entered a standalone mountain bike race in Forfar. I finished 2nd, sandwiched between 2 girls who were at that time the ‘Commonwealth Games hopefuls’ and it was at this point my triathlon coach said I should maybe consider just cycling. Unbelievably, a year later I was on that Commonwealth Games start so it all happened pretty quickly.


What would you say was your most significant achievement (so far!)?

Definitely competing at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. I rode for Team Scotland in the mountain bike race.

You could say I qualified against the odds as I was still quite a new cyclist but I threw everything at it, I was really self-motivated and determined and eventually but painfully it paid off!  


What’s your biggest frustration?

My frustrations change from week to week, haha. Sadly, right now it’s dogs, after being bitten by one whilst racing in Turkey just last week. I actually love dogs but it was extremely scary so I’m hoping besides the scar on my leg, that I’m not actually too scarred from the incident. On the whole, though, I’m most definitely learning to take frustrations and challenges in my stride.  


What’s your typical day/week of cycling? And what are the rides you dream about?

My weekly training and volume varies depending on the time of year. Right now, I’m doing a lot of stage racing which is quite a high volume and fairly high intensity. Usually following a block of stage racing, I’ll take a recovery week of easier rides. Last week’s stage race looked like this:

Monday: 1hr easy turbo then travel to Turkey

Tuesday: 2hr easy spin and recce of the Time Trial and XC course

Wed: Stage 1 Time Trial as 1 fast lap of the XC course. 30min warm-up, 16min race time, 30min cooldown. Evening stretch.

Thurs: Stage 2 point to point: 30 min warm-up, 1hr 45 race time, 30 min cooldown. Evening stretch.

Fri: Stage 3: XC race. 30 min warm-up, 1hr 32 race time, 30 min cooldown. Evening stretch.

Sat: Stage 4 Marathon. 30min warm-up. 3hr race time. Evening rollers + stretch

Sun: XC C1 race. 30min Warm-up. 1hr 40 race time.

When I’m at home in Stirling, through the week I do a few turbo’s to fit around work, and at the weekends I’ll complete longer rides or race.

The rides I dream about are definitely those big mountain rides with awesome massive climbs followed by gnarly and wild descents that go on and on and leave you absolutely cheesing! The reward of a great decent after a big effort to get up is simply amazing and to really cap it off, a cake and coffee stop with friends make it a day from heaven.


If you could wave a magic wand, what’s the one (cycling-related) thing you’d wish for?

Cycling infrastructure that you do not have to think twice about and can jump on and just enjoy. Infrastructure should inspire people to ride a bike and travel actively and I would love some more Copenhagen style infrastructure around Scotland. I think we’re moving in that direction though and I’m excited about the developments afoot in Scotland right now


What sort of advice would you give to new riders?

Just do what I did- get a cheap bike and fall in love! You don’t need fancy or expensive gear to begin, just get outside, feel those endorphins and happy vibes flow through your body and love the buzz you get from this whole new world of people, environment and experience that opens up to you. We’re extremely fortunate in Scotland that we have a freedom to roam act which allows us access to most land if we are responsible with that access. You don’t realise what a privilege that is until you are confined to bridle paths only.


What advice would you give to competitive cyclists?

Being successful really is a combination of little things done well and consistently rather than bigger, one-off things. String together consistent training from day to day, good recovery from sleep, proper diet and stretching and just watch and enjoy as you evolve. Oh, and hurry slowly! It takes time and patience to progress and you would be an absolute anomaly if you progressed without at least a few hiccups along the way so be prepared for setbacks and know they’re part of the journey.


Who inspires you?

I’m ridiculously inspired by normal day to day people around me. I have this mad but brilliant friend called Nienke Oostra who is planning to be the first woman to ride across the northern passes of Nepal as part of an all-female team she is pulling together. That’s pretty cool, right?! My other really good friend Christina MacKenzie will be attempting to break the Lands End to John O’ Groats record this year, again so inspiring to me as both these girls also hold down busy jobs. Then I have people I ride and train with like Isla Short who just keep me loving my sport. On the world stage, I’m always a big cheerleader for the underdog and I know from personal experience that you should never write anyone off.  I still make myself laugh on a world cup start line as I’m standing there lined up with my shero’s in absolute awe of the cycling prowess and success. I don’t think I’ll ever lose that!