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28th May 2017
Written by Jo O'Connell
Gina Cleere, 36 from Basildon, Essex, an Internet Shopping Manager managing a team of 150 people for Tesco, first bought a bike on the Cycle to Work scheme so she could commute to work. Her beloved horse had sadly died and so she was looking for an alternative activity. She got the cycling bug and soon joined a local club, Essex Roads Cycling Club, in order to “toddle out with friends once week”. In no time cycling took over her life and she was out riding 100 miles a day “and loving it”.
A group of riders who had never all met before decided to put a team of six together to take on Revolve24, the 24-hour cycling endurance challenge at Brands Hatch. Gina went at her own pace, did well and had such an exciting time on and off the track that she rode the event the following year in 2016 as a soloist. Gina knew of other female soloists in the event, such as previous year’s female soloist winner, Alimpaida Cassidy, and Lorena Jones, who she held in high-esteem as a result of their formidable activity on Strava. Alimpiada often sent encouraging comments to Gina on Strava and was her “inspiration”.
Gina says: “My only goal was to see if I could ride on my own for 24 hours. I went at my own pace and stuck to my plan. I don’t put myself under strenuous effort; I’m like a diesel engine, I just keep going.
“It was only four hours before the end of the ride that the organiser of Revolve24, Huw Bunn, said to me that I was so far ahead of the other female riders that I could have a long rest to save my legs. I had no idea at all that I was winning. I rested for another hour and then for the final stretch Lee Christie, my friend (and rival - we are quite competitive together) accompanied me and we chatted as we rode – it was really nice and social."
The sleep deprivation from riding non-stop for 24 hours is still something to overcome. Gina says the mind starts to play tricks on you; “When I was riding Revolve throughout the night, I was getting frustrated with the person riding in front of me with no lights. I was shocked and so locked up my brakes. It was only after a while that I realised that it was my shadow. I also spent 20 minutes looking for my other arm warmer, only to discover I’d been wearing it the whole time.”
Gina also needs to improve her nutrition and hydration. She says “I’m very fuel efficient as I don’t push myself. I don’t get thirsty either, I just keep going. I completed Revolve24 on three Muller Rice pots, a packet of Wotsits and a cake of coke! Unsurprisingly, my coach is getting me to improve my nutrition strategy!”
Gina says of winning Revolve24: “Winning was an incredible, and unexpected, achievement. It’s totally increased my confidence to take on longer and greater challenges.”
Once qualified, Gina plans to ride over 3000 miles as a soloist in the 2019 event. She will start in California, cross 12 states, climb 175,000 feet, traverse three major mountain ranges (Sierra, Rocky and Appalachian), cross four of America’s longest rivers (Colorado, Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio) and the Great Plains to finish in Annapolis, Maryland.
RAAM is about 30% longer than the Tour de France. Moreover, racers must complete the distance in roughly half the time, with no rest days.
Gina is currently riding for 30 hours / 385 miles each week and by the end of the year hopes to have ridden 20,000 miles (that’s almost the circumference of the globe).
Gina often rides throughout the night, setting off from home before midnight and cycling from Essex to Dorset, Grantham in Lincolnshire, Lydd in Kent or Ellough in Suffolk; arriving in the morning to meet up with her husband who travels the country for his go karting meets.
Gina has invested in a coach who is getting her into running and swimming. Gina plans to complete her first Iron Man in December 2017 / January 2018. Gina is also taking on Mersey Roads 24 hour cycling challenge in July Le Mans 24 in August.
To other women considering entering endurance events, Gina says to definitely try it. She says to have support off the track is wonderful, but women like Alimpiada Cassidy, who just turned up to Revolve24 last year 15 minutes’ before the start, alone and without support for the whole event proves that you can do it by yourself.
Follow Gina on Twitter: @GinaCleere1
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Inspirational Gina, keep it up!
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