Wiggo effect: Rachael Levy

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Rachel Levy
Age: 32
Bike: Giant Avail Composite 3
Where: Benson, Oxfordshire
Status: Speed queen

I learned to ride a rickety old mountain bike in a lumpy field behind my parents’ house as a little girl. Unsurprisingly, the lack of speed and the difficulty of the terrain didn’t exactly get me hooked and I didn’t touch a bike again until last autumn.

My husband eventually persuaded me to try again as we are both really active – he bought me a lovely new mountain bike so we could do some easy trail rides together.

I quickly discovered that I actually enjoyed cycling but was terrified of going on the road or riding in a group, and my bike handling skills were non-existent. So I was an extremely nervous occasional cyclist.

Then along came Bradley Wiggins. I have to confess that I hadn’t watched the Tour de France before. Ever. This year, I was instantly captivated. The vast distances and huge mountains, the sunshine, the ridiculous descents in the fog, the Lycra!

Seeing Wiggo’s historic win, and how he lead out Cav to finish it off in style, was truly amazing. So I got interested in riding on the road. I started taking my mountain bike out on short rides at quiet times of the day. I gradually dared myself to go faster and not brake almost to a standstill for every corner. Then I started increasing the distances I rode.

My husband and I cycled to watch Team GB’s valiant effort at the Olympic road race and I got my first taste of seeing a race live. I went home with fantastic pictures of Wiggo and a burning – and rather surprising – desire not just to ride on the road, but to race.

The day of the Olympic time trial my husband was working, but I decided to cycle to watch it alone. The thought of cycling on unfamiliar and busy roads was not going to stop me seeing my new-found hero win Olympic gold (I was convinced he would win). Brad’s performance that day was simply awesome, totally inspiring and it cemented my dream of racing on a bike.

Competition time
For the next couple of months I rode my bike two or three times a week and joined Strava. Before long I was riding 20km rides as fast as I could – I was loving it and getting fitter all the time. I had been secretly aiming to attempt a sprint distance triathlon at the end of September with my husband and his mates, as long as I didn’t bottle out!

In mid-September I became the proud owner of a Giant Avail Composite 3 and was amazed at the difference it made, especially climbing. Having been terrified of the road and especially of riding with other people close around me, I wasn’t sure how I’d find my first race. But with visions of Brad wearing yellow in my mind, I went for it and entered.

I needn’t have worried. The swim ensured it wasn’t a mass start and I found to my delight that more often than not it was me doing the overtaking. It was a four-lap bike course and my husband told me that every time I came past him, I was going even faster and had an even bigger grin on my face. To say I loved every second of it would not be doing it justice.

When I think of how nervous I was on a bike only a few months ago, I almost can’t believe I did it. It was wholly due to the immensely inspiring ‘Wiggo Effect’ and I am now completely in love with cycling. I’m aiming to enter sportives and next year my husband and I are planning an epic three-week Tour de France road trip, where I’m determined to attempt a few of the climbs and do lots more cheering.

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This article was first published in the November 8 issue of Cycling Weekly. You can also read our magazines on Zinio and download from the Apple store.