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PEZ-clusive: Cyclocrosser Gabby Day!
It’s been a mixed day in Belgium when I get Gabby Day on the ’phone. Sunny and dry in the morning, but lashing rain in the afternoon. Perfect all-condition training for that weekend’s upcoming Cyclocross World Cup meeting in Plzen, Czech Republic. As she packed her bags for the race, Gabby gave us the low-down on Europe’s hardcore winter sport!

PEZ: Sunshine and showers. A typical Belgian, autumn day …
Gabby Day: It’s lovely today actually! Yesterday was really bad, rain storms that turned into hail. I had two sessions today, trying to get out when the sun shone but I got caught in the rain the second time. Not ideal.

PEZ: I gather you have a long journey ahead of you tomorrow.
Gabby Day: Yeah, we’re driving to Plzen tomorrow for the second round of the Cyclocross World Cup. If any of the races are in Italy I try to fly but this year we’ve been driving. The Swiss leg (in Aigle) and the Czech race are the two races that are furthest away. Plzen is just over eight hours away in the van.

My bikes are all sorted, so I’ll finish packing now. We’ll leave tomorrow morning and get to Plzen about 6pm. Saturday is the pre-ride of the circuit and then Sunday … race! We drive back after the race so it’ll be pretty late home to Oudenaarde!

PEZ: Tell us a bit about your new sponsor The Chain Stay …
Gabby Day: I’m really lucky because my sponsor has a cyclists’ house in Belgium and he drives me to races, which means I can just relax and not stress about the driving.

My new sponsor, The Chain Stay, is owned by Gregg Germer who used to write for PEZ when he was a pro in Belgium! It’s lovely, it’s a really nice house. I’m really happy here and it makes everything a lot easier when you’ve got a good base to live at and its all set-up really well. It’s helped me a lot this year, and the sponsorship means I can stay here without having to pay rent or worry about setting up things like a ’phone line and so on.

Not only that but having Gregg coming to races and doing all the pit work is a massive help, you can’t go to a ’cross race on your own! You’ve got to have so much support. Not only do you need great sponsors but you need the right people around you actually at the races so I feel really lucky with that this year.

It’s in a great area for training as well. If you want cobbles, you’ve got cobbles because we’re in Flanders! There are flat roads around but there are plenty of hills as well so there’s a great variety for training.

PEZ: Tell us about your season debut in Namur. Can you remember it?
Gabby Day: It’s not exactly what I had planned for my first race! I wanted to get the first one done and have the feeling of racing in my legs, but … I was descending, two of us descending together, and you need to be on the right-hand side. There was a very steep ledge on the left, and as we were coming down, the other girl came across my line.

It forced me left and I crashed on the descent. I thought at first I was controlling it … but I wasn’t! I landed on my face … but my bike was fine! I was knocked out. Apparently all I was saying was: “Is my bike alright?!” Like most cyclists, I was more concerned about my equipment than myself.

PEZ: Looking to the upcoming ’cross season, what are the targets?
Gabby Day: Definitely some consistent top ten placings in the World Cups. Last year, I had some really good results but it was quite up-and-down. I wasn’t consistent because I got sick last summer and I wasn’t able to train enough to get a good base in.

Also to win the National title and have a good ride at the World Championships.

PEZ: Do you have any particular favorite ’cross venues?
Gabby Day: It’s funny because last year I’d have never picked this one to be my kind of race. It’s Koksijde where I was tenth last year. Normally I’m a bit negative going into that race because it’s all sand and pretty tough, but I had a great race there so I’m looking forward to it now. There’s quite a bit of running in it and I come from a running background so that plays in my favour a bit.

We have a local race soon in the town where I live – the Koppenberg ’Cross – which should be pretty good.

PEZ: Do you have a preference for one type of circuit over any others?
Gabby Day: There’s one race not far from here, Asper-Gavere. It’s normally well known for being really muddy, with some dodgy descents if you don’t take them the right way. You also have to change bikes every half-lap because its so bad. Last year there were quite a lot of fast course because of the weather, not too many really muddy circuits.

I used to prefer to do muddier circuits because I always seem to do OK if there’s runny, but now I don’t mind either way. I don’t have a preference for one condition against another, although I went well on the snowy courses last year.

PEZ: How do you structure your week for training?
Gabby Day: Most weekends I’m racing. I manage to get good training in early in the week, up until the Thursday and then back off. Today was an easier ride. For some races, I’ll use them more as training, otherwise all the time you’re trying to peak for the races and then it gets hard to peak for the big targets.

PEZ: Away from ’cross, you’ve been mountain biking …
Gabby Day: Yeah, I just started that this year. I wanted to do something different that I enjoy. My boyfriend really enjoys it and said I should do some, too. It’s really good for me because I don’t put so much pressure on myself. In the winter, I put pressure on to get results because I consider myself a ’cross rider, but through the summer with mountain biking I enjoy it and get a lot out of it. And I’ve gone reasonably well at it …

PEZ: Reasonably well? You have a national title?!
Gabby Day: I have, yeah! That day was unusual because it was soooo hot, great weather and I won the Welsh title.

PEZ: So, might that give you an ‘in’ to the Olympics because nearly everyone in cycling has ‘London 2012’ as some kind of target?
Gabby Day: Maybe. I definitely want to progress in the mountain biking as it’s good for my endurance and skills. It will be interesting to see how I develop … maybe 2012, but there’s going to be mountain biking in the Commonwealth Games in 2014, too.

PEZ: Will you be back on the road next summer?
Gabby Day: No, I’m going to be riding with the Scott women’s mountain bike team which is really exciting. It sounds great, really strongly supported, so I’m really looking forward to that. I’ll do some racing on the road for speed work.

PEZ: For this ’cross season, you’re on Scott bikes already …
Gabby Day: Wow, they are amazing! I love them! When they arrived in the post, my postman must have thought I was a bit strange … I had to explain to him that I was so excited because my new bikes had arrived and he was like: “Yeah, the box was really light!” He couldn’t believe that there was a bike in there!

They’re the nicest bikes I’ve ever ridden. All the other teams have been great but these are lovely. They’re so light and really responsive. Especially when you have to run with the bike, it’s not an effort to pick it up and put it on your shoulder and I’m really lucky that I’ve got SRAM and Ritchey components to finish them off.

PEZ: Tell us a bit about the ’Cross fans, who have a pretty ‘passionate’ reputation …
Gabby Day: The Belgian fans can be quite ‘excitable’! Have you ever been to a Euro ’cross race? They’re massive! It’s ridiculous the number of fans that come to the races. There have to be barriers all the way round the circuit and the fans have their beer and get excited.

They’re really great and they like the foreign riders a lot so you tend to pick up a lot of fans. They’re all really supportive of cycling which makes it nice to be here. You’re not out on the roads and having to worry that they’ll try and run you off the road, they’re really respectful.

PEZ: What about the other women on the circuit?
Gabby Day: Everyone’s really friendly before and after the race, but it’s business from the startline. If you elbow someone … well, that’s just racing. For example, Marianne Vos – she’s an amazing athlete but she’s also just a really nice girl that you can chat to.

I really admire Hanka Kupfernagel, I think she’s a great racer, so strong and really aggressive when she races. She’s also been incredibly successful on the road.

PEZ: Is it easy to pick up tips from riders like that?
Gabby Day: They’ve started to show the women’s World Cups on TV now so you get to see what happens in the races, you can look at the different lines.

After my races, I go to the course to watch the men and see what they do.

PEZ: There seems a real crossover for the women in different disciplines …
Gabby Day: Yeah, more so the women than the men. Marianne has been world champion on the road, the track and in ’cross. The men in Cyclocross, and in general, get paid more so they can concentrate on one discipline.

The ’cross season is really the one where I can make some money. This year, there’s no start money for the World Cups but the prize fund is increased so it probably evens out. In the smaller races, you get contracts to start the race. The higher ranked you are the more money you get.

I’m lucky with having great sponsors, but I also have my online bikeshop. I set it up two years ago to help fund what I do, and I’m around people that cycle. It’s going pretty well.

Having only just recovered from that spectacular wreck in Namur Gabby finished just outside the top 20 in Plzen, 10th at the Superprestige Zonhoven behind Daphny van den Brand and then 13th at the Koppenbergcross. We’ll keep an eye on her progress throughout the season

Thanks to Gabby for her time when she was preparing for such a long road haul! Thanks also to Gayle Howells from Seren PR for putting us in touch. You can find out more about Gabby at her website, and you can follow her on Twitter too!


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