Q&A with Ellie Dickinson
What got you into cycling? Were you always sporty?
I first got into cycling by being incredibly jealous of my older sister. That’s how every career starts right? My grandad was a keen cyclist but my older sister (7 years older) however, was not. Grandad used to come and pick my sister up and the two of them would go for an evening bike ride whilst I, being too young, would sit at the end of the drive and watch them cycle away just wishing I could be at least 10 already! It wasn’t long until the British cycling GO RIDE programme visited my primary school and I was riding with grandad every week. Then I began racing at my local grass track every week. It wasn’t long until my poor parents were trailing up and down the M6 for Manchester track league every week. And so it began….
I don’t think I would say I was ‘sporty’ as such at school. I was always out and about doing something - I was definitely the child who couldn’t sit still. I wanted to win and I couldn’t at maths, English, geography or science. I did come close in cross country running… but cycling is where I won, and when that happened all I can remember feeling was ‘I want to try and win again’. I think it’s my competitive side that made me sporty… but definitely not my ability to play netball!
What’s the most memorable moment in your cycling career so far?
The week when I first moved up to Manchester to join the U23 academy programme I was told I would ride my first ever World Cup with some of the older girls already on the programme. The World Cup was held in Glasgow in 2016. My Mum, Dad and Grandma where watching me in the crowd. I didn’t know much then - I hadn’t ridden an elite track competition and I had no idea what to expect, but what I did know is that this was a really important experience. The four of us ended up winning that World Cup against Italy in the final. The feeling after that competition is still a feeling I always try and remember when training starts to get really tough. Our performance that day isn’t anything to shout about compared to now, but it was good enough to win an elite World Cup at 18 years old in-front of my mum and dad – completely unexpected!
What’s your go-to food for refuelling after a long day’s training?
After a long days training on the bike it is almost certain I have spent the last hour or so of my training dreaming of what I will be eating when I get home… 110% of the time I never get my cookie-dough-smothered-in-peanut-butter-with-a-drop-of-salted-caramel-ice-cream.
I do however get a protein gel or shake, which of course (not really) meets those dreams. My go-to food for re fuelling when I’m home from training is most probably scrambled eggs on toast with smoked salmon, that’s my favourite brunch/lunch. Carbs and protein. It can vary though. If it’s been a long ride, I’ll sometimes have left over meal prep from tea the evening before. Chilli con Carne always tastes better the next day. If I’m in a super busy training block I’ll have already sourced meal prep and it will be in the fridge ready for me to heat up and each straight away. These are usually along the lines of; chicken, rice and veg with a delicious topping of pesto.
What about prior to a race? What do you eat, when and why?
Food on race day at the track can be tricky with the likes of omnium day, where I compete in four different events in one day. I sometimes find it hard to get in all the food that’s necessary so will often rely on having carbs in my drink. Carb heavy snacking is recommended for days like these, bananas, rice pudding, porridge pots and of course Nairn’s Oatcakes! (On The Go Fruit and Seeds are my fave). Anything you can get down without it being too close to racing, basically.
For the likes of team pursuing it is a little easier to plan fuelling as there is maximum of two rides per day. Breakfast for me on race day looks like a big bowl of porridge with as many lovely toppings as I like. Nuts, honey, banana and a sprinkle of yoghurt would be my ideal porridge combination. That’s followed by a pre-race top up. Depending where we are, I’ll have some rice and chicken at the hotel. Nothing too funky for pre-race belly… plain is good! Or I’ll simply have another top up of porridge (carbs = power!). Post-race it’s important to get in the recovery shake and head back to the hotel where a meal of carbs and more protein for recovery will be needed.
How do you manage your energy/what you eat when you’re in training as opposed to when you’re not?
I have help from my nutritionist who works with the whole squad. Prior to race days my nutritionist will have sent over an intake plan for the day. Whether it’s a training session or recovery days at home, it’s equally important to keep my body fuelled. Recovery days are there for a reason, and my body needs energy to recover.
Breakfast on rest days as opposed to training days will, for example, change from a big bowl of porridge to eggs. So, lower carbs but higher amounts of protein. I certainly have had days where I have under fuelled on the bike and the difference it can make is massive, mentally and physically. Being under-fuelled and demanding so much from your body is draining. It’s important for me to be focused throughout competition, and doing that depends on the energy that goes into my body.
What (besides food) keeps you energised for racing?
Besides food, I get most of my energy from my friends and family... cliché I know! Surround yourself with good people, good food and a whole load of coffee then you’ll have all the energy you need!
How would you encourage people who want to start living a more active life to get out there and do it?
Living an active lifestyle has always been the way for me, since I was little. Each weekend I would be out exploring with my mum, dad and our dogs Amber and Buster. I never really needed encouragement to get up and out, and for that I am super grateful. Whether it’s getting out for adventurous walks with family, or training now for racing my bike, living an active lifestyle brings me huge amounts of happiness every day. I would say to anybody out there looking live a more active lifestyle, to step outside, go for a bike ride a walk, a trip to the gym… go on an adventure and enjoy what’s out there (and also the extra fuelling you can do with it too!).