As long as I’ve been in Manchester I’ve usually been living with another cyclist. It’s useful sharing a space with someone that doesn’t mind you filling that space with bike stuff or find your enthusiasm for sitting down boring. When I lived with my team-mate Elinor Barker we ate together most nights, one person in charge of cooking and the other cleaning up. El preferred the nights she got to cook rather than clean because I have a flare for using every available pot.
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I preferred the nights I got to cook rather than clean because I would impress El with a multi-layered and nuanced meal, often requiring more pots than you’ve ever cumulatively seen in your life. So at least half the time, we were happy and eating well. Then El got a boyfriend in Manchester and ruined everything. This boyfriend wasn’t a professional cyclist, his daily schedule wasn’t being set by our coach, and he didn’t live with us: the dinner rota suffered badly.
El kept choosing to eat dinners with him instead of with me, the gal she was already with every hour of the day, who got flour all over the house trying to batter tofu, and who would normally be silent save for the constant low groan I emit to express the pain in my legs that makes it feel like there’s a car alarm going off somewhere in the distance. I still don’t get it. But I began eating alone.
These days I live with another team-mate, Neah Evans, who’s a vegetarian. My hedonistic meat consumption means we tend to cook separately. Last year she broke her collarbone and scapula at the same time and — this isn’t relevant I just find it funny — if she lay down the wrong way would end up trapped on her back like a beetle. It was also hard to cook.
What did she tell the team nutritionist when asked if I was helping with the cooking, since Neah was incapacitated? “Oh yeah, of course, when Katie calls in for her take-away she always checks if I want something as well.” One made me quit cooking and the other tattled on me: you just can’t get the team-mates these days.
This Katie Archibald column originally appeared in the print edition of Cycling Weekly, on sale in newsagents and supermarkets, priced £3.25.