Introducing Gina Cleere: The winner fuelled by Wotsits
She only got a proper bike two years ago, she works full time and won a 24-hour race fuelled by Wotsits. Michelle McGagh had to find out more…
Gina, 36, got her first bike through the Cycle to Work scheme just two years ago, but already has an impressive number of races and miles under her belt.
When we catch up with her, she's just completed London-Edinburgh-London on Vincent, her Specialized S-Works Venge Vias. She completed the feat in an astonishing 96 hours, putting her in the top 10% of finishers, but she isn’t thrilled. The self-described ‘diesel engine’ was aiming for 72 hours. That’s right, just three days to cover 895 miles (1,441 km). “I did 310 miles on the first day and on the second day got hit by winds and lost miles,” she says. “I thought I could go without sleep for 48 hours [trying to make up the miles] and didn’t give myself time to recover.”
The lack of sleep triggered hallucinations of “the man from Texas Chainsaw Massacre cycling alongside me.”
Despite the disturbing visions, Gina maintains that 300 miles a day is ‘doable’ and is what she’s working towards for her next challenge: the Race Across America (RAAM).
The grand plan
Gina is working towards qualifying for the hardcore ultracycling event, which sees riders cover 3,000 miles across 12 states in a maximum of 9 days. In order to secure a place, Gina must cover 400 miles in a 24-hour time trial event.
She attempted this in July at the Mersey Road 24-Hour National Championship but came up short due to the adverse weather conditions. Because of this, she then went for a second attempt at Revolve24, held at Brands Hatch on 16 September.
Brands Hatch is only a 2.4 mile circuit, but each lap racks up 213ft of climbing, and the aim of Revolve24 is to cycle as many laps as you can in a 24-hour period. Due to the elevation of the course, the RAAM organisers have agreed that Gina will qualify if she manages 330 miles. This means she needs to complete 138 laps in order to qualify.
It may seem a lot, but Gina is no stranger to Revolve24, having taken the women’s 24-hour soloist first place last year with an impressive 127 laps and 305 miles ridden, so just 11 laps less than she needs to qualify.
Gina says she barely stopped for food during the race last year, chowing down on just “three Muller pots and a bag of Wotsits”.
After sorting her nutrition and actually ditching the Wotsits in favour of a combination of carb and protein drinks, Cleere tried again to nail the Revolve24 challenge and land herself a RAAM place...
And she smashed it!
What’s most impressive about Gina is that she isn’t a professional and still works full-time hours as the manager of Tesco’s internet shopping, managing a team of 150 people.
Gina condenses her full-time hours into 3.5 days and uses the rest of the week to cycle, clocking up 30 hours a week and between 350 and 450 miles in the saddle, either out on the road or on her turbo at home.
“The neighbours are used to the noise of the turbo now,” she says. Lucky, really.
Until two years ago, Gina was used to spending time in a different sort of saddle as an avid horse rider. When her horse, Mr Darcy, broke his leg she filled the gap by taking up cycling.
Encouraged to join a cycling club (she rides with Essex Roads Cycling Club) by her husband – who incidentally “hates cycling” – she completed her first sportive within a few months and racked up her first century after six months. She hasn’t stopped since.
Although Gina maintains she’s ‘not very sporty,’ she does admit to being stubborn and willing to "put the woman-hours in." For her, cycling is also a way to give her respite from her busy life.
“Cycling is a stress relief. I don’t think about things [when I’m cycling],” she says. “It’s just me and the ride… I like that blank feeling.”
With RAAM to work towards next year, you’d think Gina has enough on her plate, but she’s buzzing with ideas and targets. She’s taken up swimming and running, and you can bet it isn’t just a dip in the local pool or a lap around the park that Gina is aiming for.
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Image: Edward Thomas Sportive Photo