Meet Natalie Grinczer, the NHS worker racing the Tour de France Femmes

Lifeplus-Wahoo's new recruit is hoping for better luck at the race this year

Natalie Grinczer riding in white Lifeplus-Wahoo kit
(Image credit: Lifeplus-Wahoo)

For the past eight years, Natalie Grinczer has been juggling two lives: one as an NHS employee, and another as a professional cyclist. 

It's all she's ever known, she tells Cycling Weekly, and since qualifying as a physiotherapist in 2015, the balancing act has proven tough. “I don’t really have time for anything else,” the 29-year-old says. “I either go to work, or I’m out training, or I’m away. That’s literally it.” 

Over the next week and a bit, Grinczer will be in her ‘away’ state. She joined British Continental team Lifeplus-Wahoo earlier this month, and is now set to race the biggest event of the year, the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift

Still, life on Tour is a world away from her life back home in Somerset. 

“If I’m not away racing, I’m working shifts,” she says. “I was away a lot in June racing in Switzerland and the Pyrénées. On our rota system, my work are quite good and will say, ‘Ok that’s fine, but all your shifts will have to be when you come back.'

“It’s worked well for me to be in the routine, but I can’t manage distraction,” she continues. “I can’t go out and see my friends, or go out drinking, or out for the day, because I just don’t have time. Which is fine for the moment because for the first half of the season I’ve been going alright. But it’s a double-edged sword, isn’t it? If it starts going badly, you start thinking about the sacrifice.” 

So far this season, Grinczer’s results have impressed. She has scored a hatful of top 10s, and finished sixth at the British National Road Championships, jostling in the front group with the country’s top talents. 

“It was a bit of a whirlwind, to be honest. I wasn’t going to go,” she says of the Nationals. “I came back [to the UK], I worked, then I flew out to Switzerland to race the Tour de Suisse, flew back, worked and then drove up really late to get to the race.

“I had no gels. I literally turned up and I had nothing. Washing bikes, I just turned to someone and was like, ‘You got a bucket and sponge?’ We were just there trying to sort everything out. It was really good, but also stressful.” 

In the end, Grinczer’s sixth place saw her stand out as the top-ranked non-WorldTour rider across the line. Afterwards, she explains, she wondered where she might have come had she been able to dedicate the same amount of time to her cycling career as her rivals. 

“I’d be interested to see, if it was a level playing field,” she says. “I’d add quite a lot into my training, just even off the bike stuff, like conditioning in the gym, or having more time to look at the TT bike and positioning.” 

Natalie Grinczer at the tour de france femmes 2022

Grinczer (right) during stage one of the Tour de France Femmes 2022. 

(Image credit: Getty)

Throughout her career, Grinczer has fended for herself. She has never had a proper coach, and has navigated her own path, which has taken her across Europe with stints at Continental teams in the UK, Spain, and until this July, France, as part of the squad at Stade Rochelais Charente-Maritime. 

“I’ve been in the sport for so long,” she says. “I’ve been on a lot of teams. I’ve not come through the [British Cycling] system, so I always feel like I’ve done this myself and I’m lucky to be here. But I almost feel like a guest in the peloton.

“It used to bother me a lot when I was younger, but now racing is hard for everyone. If you’ve had help from BC, that’s great. If you haven’t, whatever, that’s also fine.” 

Now, spurred on by her own determination, she has forced herself onto the sport’s biggest stage. And it’s not her first time there, either. Grinczer was one of the 144 riders that took the start line in last year’s inaugural edition of the Tour de France Femmes, before bad luck struck her down on stage two. 

“I hit the ground and I knew in my mind, I was like, ‘Something’s wrong with your pelvis’,” she says. “I was just thinking, ‘I’ve done so much, I’m just someone from Taunton, who’s come to the Tour. I’ll start tomorrow.’ So I started, but I was in total denial. I couldn’t sit down, I couldn’t stand up, I couldn’t lie down. I tried to ride a bike, but it was just terrible.” 

On stage three, Grinczer’s injuries left her unable to keep up. She dropped half an hour behind the field, and despite her initial stubbornness, was eventually tempted into the broom wagon. 

This year’s race, she hopes, will be different. “I’d love to have one good day, or get in a break, if that arrives,” the Lifeplus-Wahoo rider says. “I guess my main aim is to try and race my best each day and deal with situations as they arise, calmly. 

“I hope to pass day two,” she smiles. “That would be awesome.”

Thank you for reading 20 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

Tom Davidson
News and Features Writer

Tom joined Cycling Weekly as a news and features writer in the summer of 2022, having previously contributed as a freelancer. He is the host of The TT Podcast, which covers both the men's and women's pelotons and has featured a number of prominent British riders. 

An enthusiastic cyclist himself, Tom likes it most when the road goes uphill and actively seeks out double-figure gradients on his rides. 

He's also fluent in French and Spanish and holds a master's degree in International Journalism.