Last October, professional cyclist Marianne Vos launched a new initiative to promote women's cycling all over the world. By encompassing all disciplines, skills and ages, Strongher was born with one simple goal: get more women cycling regularly. I was elated when Strongher contacted me asking if I would be an ambassador with the likes of Manon Carpenter, Hannah Barnes and Juliet Elliot. How could I say no?
Being a part of a strong and growing platform of female riders has been brilliant, and exciting. I've met so many fantastic ladies, both professional and non-professional. One of my fellow ambassadors, and personal sHERO, is the delightful cross-country MTB'r, Kayley Burdine.
After following Kayley's adventures through social media, we began chatting about all things life and bikes, and I began to unravel her remarkable "rags-to-riches" story... well, Kayley went from a novice to a pro in less than a year! With her strong pro-active attitude towards riding, and women's cycling, I think she's a great role model for budding female riders, who are thinking of pursuing life in competitive cycling.
So, who exactly is Kayley Burdine?
Q. Where are you based?
A. Mobile, Alabama United States
Q. How old are you?
Q. What were you doing before your cycling life kicked off?
A. Nothing really, just getting up every day to go to work. I was miserable, I didn't have any hobbies. I've played sports my whole life, just about every sport you can think of, even full contact American football. So, I've always had something to do, and when all that ended I was lost.
Q. How did you get into cycling, and why?
A. I am a personal trainer who hates doing steady state cardio, and running! I bought a bike to ride to work for cardio during the week, and to take out to the local trails on the weekends! I went on a group ride with some friends and they told me I was fast and should try a race! I didn't even know racing existed at the time! I found one about 3 hours away from me, in Mississippi! I only had a week to train for it, and that race was the toughest thing I have ever done. I immediately knew that I wanted more, and that's where it all began.
Q. How did it feel join Easton Shore Cycles, and get a sponsorship so early on?
A. That was one of my favourite moments of my biking career. It was right after I won one of the biggest races I've ever done against some really tough competition! I became the only sponsored rider in my city, and it was a huge deal for me. I am forever grateful to Phil, and Eastern Shore Cycles for believing in me and taking a chance on me! Becoming a pro mountain biker after only a year of biking is unreal, and I couldn't be happier.
Q. What are you most excited about for 2016?
A. Sea Otter. It's a huge pro race out in California! It's going to be an amazing learning experience for me, being new to this calibre of racing, but I can't wait to go out and meet all of these amazing racers that I look up to!
Q. Do you have any international events lined up?
A. Not yet, but I hope to qualify for some real soon!
Q. I love your stripey socks! Have they become your trademark?
A. They have! I try to always wear them when I'm racing, it makes it easier to find me in pictures too. I started wearing them in football games, and they ended up being a good luck charm, so it just kind of became my trademark look.
Q. Now for the bike talk. What bikes do you own? Which is your race bike?
A. I have a 2016 Specialized Epic Pro World Cup(FS), a 2015 Specialized Stumpjumper Carbon World Cup(HT), and a Specialized Ruby road bike. I will be primarily racing the Epic this year, but I'm sure some of the courses will be better on the Stumpjumper
Q. How does it feel being an ambassador for Strongher?
A. STRONGHER is an amazing group of women really trying to promote women's cycling. Ever since I started racing for Eastern Shore Cycles, I've tried to grow my biking community here in Mobile, AL (specifically the women's community.) When I found Strongher and saw all the women involved all over the world I immediately wanted to be a part of this group! I believe it makes a difference to have a group of strong women behind you when you're trying to get more women involved! They have become like an international family to me!
Q. When you aren't tearing it up on two wheels, what do you enjoy doing with your free time?
A. I enjoy watching movies, especially funny ones, travelling, and eating out. Travelling to all of these different places, and trying all this different food has really been an amazing experience for me. I'm definitely a foodie!
Q. If it wasn't for cycling, what would you be doing now?
A. I have no idea! I guess I'd still be lifting weights and watching everything I eat, not really enjoying life! Cycling has opened up so many opportunities to do and see things I never thought I possible!
We'll be following Kayley's race adventures for 2016, catching up with her progress whilst getting tips on training plans and nutritional advice. So, watch this space!