It’s been quite a year for the British Army’s Chanel Mason. A late addition to an already powerful squad, Chanel slotted straight in to the Storey Racing line up and stepped up to a podium in the first road race of the year. Her talent in the Time Trial discipline has also been phenomenal to watch and continued progression very inspiring. We caught up with her to ask some probing questions and find out whether the 2017 road season was what she was expecting.
Q.Your route in to cycling has been quite different to many riders, can you give us an insight in to your sporting history?
CM: I’ve played a lot of sports at various levels within the British Army, Basketball, Cross-country and Canoeing to name a few and I’ve represented England at 2 Kabaddi World Championships. It was through long distance triathlons that I got into cycling, I really tried to persevere but I’m a terrible swimmer.
Q. Most people won’t have heard of your name prior to your stunning ride to take 3rd at the first round of the National Series at Tour of the Wolds, did you expect to transition from the Army Cycling team to Storey Racing and have instant success at the higher level?
CM: No, it took a long time to sink in too. I had a really bad crash at the Ras na mBan at the end of last season so wrote myself off of ever racing at national serious level for the Army, never mind a team as good as Storey Racing. I was going really well at an overseas event I took part in at the beginning of the year and thought I’d try my luck. 10 days before the official team launch, my luck was in, I fly back from the event and 2 days later I found myself on the stage at the Trafford centre in a team jersey.
Q. Talking of Army Cycling, they provide a superb platform for encouraging women in to the sport, one of your favourite quotes is “Inspiring Soldiers to Cycle” and you work in the fitness side of the Army, can you explain why cycling is such an important tool for all levels of fitness?
CM: As a Royal Army Training Corps instructor I find that sport plays a vital role in keeping our soldiers “fit to fight”. Aside from the physiological effects, sport encourages leaders, helps cohesion and promotes pride. I could bang on about the linkage between qualities of a sportsman and British Army Values and Standards. Infact our leadership code is taken from professional sports ethos.
Q. The Army have recently selected you as one of their Talented Athlete’s which allows you to gain access to a unique support package, it’s quite unprecedented for someone to receive this for the first time, once they have passed the age of 35. Do you see yourself as a trailblazer for older athletes and a role model for anyone who might think they are too old, when in fact you are proving they aren’t?
CM: Ouch, now every one knows I’m old. I’m no trailblazer, there are a lot of female cyclists of my age that are going well. The Army elite sports programmes are advised by the NGBs, there is something really motivating about achieving things that people say that you wouldn’t be able to though.
Q. You held the National Series leader’s jersey from round 2 at Essex until round 7 at Tour of the Res when you sportingly handed it on to team mate Lizzy Banks, did you ever expect to hold on to it for that long? How big a part has the team support played and especially in ensuring if you lost it, then a team mate would take it and not another team?
CM: There has been some very inspirational women that have won the National Series prior to me wearing the leaders jersey, women that I had never compared myself too. It was an honour to wear it for as long as I did, I have complete respect for the previous National Series winners and all the talented riders that contented for it this year. Lizzy has so much potential and still more to give, I’m really proud of her achievements this season and excited to see what she can produce next year.
Team support was massive, the girls themselves are amazing! I touched on British Army Values and Standards in a previous question, all riders in the team display them. I’m still in awe of the levels of selfless commitment these young girls have shown me and other team mates. I swear that in some races they worked harder than I did to get me my results, this is something I kick myself over when I don’t do so well as it doesn’t reflect the help that they have given me. I could go on all day about the girls, they are all awesome and make the tough times fun. We spend a lot of time together but its crazy how we still message each other all the time when we are only apart for 4 days at a time during the season.
The managements support goes without saying. The experience and knowledge that Sarah and Barney have is phenomenal. I have learnt so much from them this season and know that if they keep me on next year I can develop even more. As a soldier, I’d like to say that I’m good at doing what I’m told. This is made even easier to do when you have confidence in what you are being told to do will work (even though you might be so physical spent, you question your ability).
Q. Finally, this past few months have seen some incredible results for you, from being the Series Leader in National Road Series, to attacking a field containing World Tour and experienced international riders at the UCI race in Thüringen, if you have a highlight what is it?
CM: I love hard races, I’ve taken part in some very hardcore physical challenges in the past but Thuringen was super tough. Not only did I find it physically demanding but at the pace of those stages, the mental fatigue was immense.
A huge thanks to Chanel for her time and we look forward to her season finale rides at the Pirelli Supercrit at the NEC and then the Thruxton Closed Circuit Time Trial Championships in mid October.