Cycling superstitions: unlucky number 13

Grace Russell

Grace Russell


Cycling superstitions are as old as the sport itself, but surely women cyclists are more rational than to pay attention to them? We do a very unscientific experiment to find out…

Cycling superstitions are part and parcel of the professional scene, with the most famous ones including never eating the inside of your baguette (the crust is fine); always wearing the number 13 upside down if you get it as your race number, and never shaving your legs the day of a race because you don’t want to waste valuable energy re-growing those hairs. Surely women cyclists are more rational than to believe all that, though? 

To test the theory, we turned to one of cycling’s most rational competitors, time trial specialist and Women’s Tour de France winner, Doctor Emma Pooley.

“I’m conceited enough to think that I’m logical in my approach to racing, but I do have a couple of things,” she reveals. “If I really cared about the race, I would deliberately pack my race finish bag without one essential item for the podium – the podium cap. That’s because I hate caps anyway and I felt it would be tempting fate to be deliberately prepared to win.”

Multiple World Transplant Games road and time trial gold medallist Ottilie Quince says she’s not particularly superstitious, “But ever since I was a football player and now a cyclist, I always have to put my left cycling shoe on first. I don't know why, but it's a thing I have to do.” 

Helen Russell – British Quadrathlon Champion, former World and European Duathlon and Triathlon Champion – says she doesn’t have any rituals or lucky charms “But I do thank the bike and pat it when it gets me home,” she says “That’s just polite, though.”

Finally, we turn to Yvonne McGregor, who has the distinction of being the first ever GB woman rider to grab Olympic glory (she started the Gold rush by riding to Bronze in her final Olympics in Sydney at the age of 39). 

“I used to like my morning porridge in the same dish,” says Yvonne. “But once I started travelling and racing abroad, that went out of the window and I became a 'give-me-my-porridge-and-my bike-and-I'll-ride-it-with-a-vengeance' kinda gal, instead.” 

Whatever your ‘thing’, here’s to all of us being more Yvonne.

Find out your peloton personality here

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