Monday, May 20, 2024

Sally Ashbridge – British TT Champion in the Early Noughties


HomeInterviewsSally Ashbridge - British TT Champion in the Early Noughties

When we were researching for our interview with recent CTT ‘100’ winner, Jo Patterson we thought we’d have a wee peek and see which other Scottish or Scottish based female athletes have won RTTC/CTT titles.

We’d forgotten that Andrea Pogson won the ‘100’ title before Jo, in 1998. 

And prior to that, in 1992 Sarah Phillips – who has featured on our pages – won the 50 mile Championship, adding the ’25’ in 1993 and ’10’ in 1995.

Another lady we had let the mists of time envelope was Sally Ashbridge, who won the ‘10’ in 2001 and 2002, the ‘25’ in 2001 and ‘50’ in 2002.

About times we caught up with her:

Sally Ashbridge
Sally Ashbridge took the RTTC 25 Mile TT Championship in 2001. Photo©Cycling Weekly

Thank you for your time, Sally – I believe you’re from Wales originally, how did you come to be in Aberdeen, where you were based when you raced?

“I’m not actually from Wales, I just lived there when I was a teenager – and loved it!

“My mother was Scottish (Ker/Chalmers) and I ‘identify’ as a British Scot despite my accent. 

“My first job as a vet was in Glasgow before moving to Aberdeen to work there (where the Chalmers side of my family are from).”

You came late to the sport, at 34 years-old, how so?

“I didn’t realise I could be competitive!

“I took up triathlon to regain fitness after having my son at age 32, I borrowed a racing bike (only had a mountain bike) and found I was passing people during the bike sections. 

“I became friends with Lorna Adam of Ythan Cycling Club who encouraged me to start turbo training, then moved into Aberdeen (from the countryside) where I joined the Deeside Thistle CC and began their Evening League time trials in 1997. 

“I was hooked. 

“Running hurt too much and lane swimming was boring in comparison – and as for the triathlon transitions, that’s a whole other thing!”

Sally Ashbridge
Sally Ashbridge in Deeside Thistle colours. Photo©supplied

You won six Scottish titles, two each at 10, 25 and 50 miles – which one came first and was it a surprise to win?

“I remember it was a shock when I beat the incredible Andrea Pogson. She was my hero. 

“I think it was the ‘25’ held in Ayrshire? Was it 1999? (We’ve moved so often recently my medals are all in a box somewhere & I can’t check!) 

“Anyway, I remember a (rear) derailleur cable must have snapped in transit so I couldn’t change gear and rode the race like that. 

“Luckily the gear was big and the course flat – perhaps it helped!”

[The VeloVeritas archive tells us that Sally’s first title was actually the ‘50’ at Dundee in 1999 which she won by six minutes. She won the ‘25’ in 2001 and 2002. Perhaps some reader with a good memory can keep us right on Sally’s recollection?]

Of the six Scottish titles – the ’10’ the ’25’ and ’50’ twice each, is there one which is particularly memorable?

“Probably when I beat Andrea – and I started to believe I could do it.”

Sally Ashbridge
Living in the north of Scotland meant Sally Ashbridge spent a long time travelling to races. Photo©supplied

Your first RTTC title, the ’25 in 2001, I believe that it was a marathon just to get to it?

“I had borrowed wheels (from Neil Howarth of Deeside Thistle Cycling Club) and just before setting off, Carlos Riise (Scottish and British TT Champ from Shetland) put his aero helmet on my head. 

“Maybe that made the difference?”

[Cycling Weekly of the time tells us; ‘The new champion left Aberdeen by train at 06:00 am on Friday morning, dropped off son Jack at her in-laws in York where she hired a car to complete a 12 hour journey.

I was too tired to drive the course – I hadn’t seen it until this morning” she told the magazine.]

You won the RTTC ’10’ that year too, what are your recollections of that?

“Even though everyone else seemed to have all the right gear and were behaving very professionally, I remember being quite calm at the start. 

“Ken Bryson (my coach)’s mantra was ‘ride smooth, ride strong’ played in my head and still resonates now.”

And you defended the RTTC ’10’ title in 2002. They say it’s harder to defend than to win for the first time?

“Yes, that’s true, due to expectations.”

And you won the ’50’ title in 2002 too, memories of that day?

“That was really good; but not such a competitive field? 

“I thought that because of the margins – does that sound bad?”

Sally Ashbridge
Sally Ashbridge rode strongly when representing Scotland. Photo©Cycling Weekly

How did you feel you were accepted by the English time trial community?

“Everyone was friendly, why wouldn’t they be? 

“I was only ever doing it because I loved it and had nothing to lose, so any remarks wouldn’t have bothered me anyway. 

“Also I was lucky with Ken Bryson and Sandy Lindsay of the Deeside Thistle CC who seemed to believe in me, and then also with the Scottish Cycling team (Jackie Reid and Graeme Herd).”

You never tackled a ‘100’?

“No, that’s too long – why would you do that to yourself?

“I once did a 176km event around Lake Geneva and it was hideous. 

“Then just to prove to myself how awful longer events are, in 2008 I did the Ryedale Rumble (135km). 

“Even though I didn’t do the longest event that day, it still took over 4.5 hours I remember being slightly peeved that it wasn’t a competitive race! More fool me.”

Tell us about your training, you mentioned you were coached by Ken Bryson?

“The endlessly patient and calm Ken was (and recently is again!) my coach; he’s king of training ‘smart.’ 

“I didn’t do more than about 10-12 hours a week except for once when I joined the Scottish team to do a five-day stage race in Spain. 

“That was an experience (hard, but a good one!)”

Sally Ashbridge
Sally Ashbridge lives in Switzerland these days. Photo©supplied

Did you hold down a job all through your successes on the bike?

“Yes – part time though. 

“It was enough with my young son to care for and training to fit in. 

“Hence Ken’s ‘smart’ training was essential.”

Why did you stop?

“After the Commonwealth Games my husband had had enough! 

“I also briefly spoke to David Brailsford who intimated I was ‘too old’. 

“Which I was, at 39 years-of age, but I continued with other small races like the 2005 Bennachie duathlon (just to prove to myself why running is a bad idea) and the Ryedale Rumble.

“Then, after we’d moved to France, with some cyclo sportives and La Forestière (65km only, I’d learnt my lesson).

“Before stopping a while until this year; my first (short) cyclo sportive is next weekend!”

Sally Ashbridge
Sally Ashbridge loves to tackle Strava Segments these days. Photo©supplied

Looking back, what would you do differently? And you live in Switzerland now, are you still involved in sport?

“I should have listened to my student housemate and taken up competitive sport earlier. 

“But otherwise I’ve loved it, and I wouldn’t change a thing.”

“Yes, slightly stupidly I’m addicted to Strava segments, ignoring how ancient I am! Also ski randonnée for when cycling isn’t possible and the turbo trainer loses it’s appeal…”