It’s a sun-soaked afternoon in central London, and Monica Greenwood is standing on the Mall, wearing a union jack bucket hat.
In the distance, tourists gather in front of Buckingham Palace. They wade around the metal barriers, put in place for the final stage of the Ford RideLondon Classique, which is about to begin.
Loud house music blasts by the start line. There, Greenwood and her DAS-Handsling teammates dance to the race soundtrack, all in matching tricolour headwear. For half of them, Greenwood included, the race marks their first-ever WorldTour event.
“The level’s high,” the 34-year-old tells Cycling Weekly, wearing a smile that shows she’s unfazed. For the past decade, Greenwood has coached the best athletes in the country, stepping down from her role as the head coach of the GB women’s endurance squad last year to pursue her own racing career.
Thanks to the knowledge she has accrued, she has hit the ground running. “I know what a lot of the top riders do,” she says. “I know what the team tactics are and that helps.”
On the first day of the three-stage RideLondon Classique, Greenwood’s ability to read the race landed her in the front group on the road, part of a 12-rider move that lasted to the line. Alongside her were some familiar faces.
“I’ve ridden quite a lot with a few of them, because I’ve coached El[inor Barker], and I coached Pfeiffer [Georgi] as a junior for a couple of years,” she says. “I know them well. It was like being out training with them.
“I’m embracing the opportunity, really. The scene wasn’t like this when I was a youngster, so I’m enjoying the opportunity to come and enjoy these events.”
As a teenager, Greenwood aspired to reach the professional ranks, but stopped racing when she was 18 and turned to a career on the sidelines.
She joined Team GB and went on to coach at every level, becoming the women’s endurance squad coach at the end of 2020, and helping lead Katie Archibald and Laura Kenny to Madison glory at the Tokyo Olympics.
Greenwood’s racing, meanwhile, fell by the wayside. Save for the odd local event, her role remained outside of the peloton, until last year, aged 33, when she took on a domestic calendar, all the while still at the helm of the GB women’s squad.
What urged her back into the saddle? “A ticking clock!” Greenwood laughs. “It’s probably now or never. You get to a certain age, and it’s like, I can coach when I’m 50, but I can’t probably do this when I’m 50.
“I was getting up at like half five in the morning to ride my bike, so that told me everything. I wanted to ride my bike still.”
Now at DAS-Handsling, Greenwood competes alongside people she knows from the GB set-up. One of them is 20-year-old Sophie Lewis, who spent two years under the former coach's tutelage in the junior ranks.
“I think she’s a bit more of a leader within the team,” Lewis tells Cycling Weekly, “just because she has so much more experience and knowledge than the rest of us.
“I think she’s also learning from us. She’s been at a lot of bike races, she’s been in the convoy at a lot of bike races, but she’s not been within the bunch. I guess it’s a whole new experience as well.”
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Lewis is one of many who have been impressed by Greenwood’s transition to inside the peloton. This season, the 34-year-old took her first victories with the team, winning twice in one weekend in Belgium, and finished 13th in the National Championships road race, won by her former athlete Georgi.
She’s also currently leading the National Road Series, thanks to a slew of strong domestic results.
“I said last year to my husband [GB men’s endurance coach, Ben Greenwood] that I think I could win the National Series, and he said, ‘Yeah, I think you could’,” Greenwood smiles. “I don’t know whether we’ll go full gas for it or not. We’ll see what the calendar looks like with the international races, but it’s nice.
“I got married in the park where Lancaster [GP] is, so it would be really nice to ride that race.”
The Lancaster GP takes place this Sunday 16 July, and marks the third of five rounds of the National Road Series. Expect to see Greenwood on the start line, bucket hat in hand, dancing to the speakers, and ready to fight for the win.
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