Q&A with Team Vision cyclist, Monica Smith – Vision Foundation

Q&A with Team Vision cyclist, Monica Smith

“It gave me a tingly, emotional feeling that was unforgettable”

Vision Foundation’s very own cycling enthusiast, Monica Smith shares some pearls of wisdom about her RideLondon triumph in 2015.

 

Monica and HRH The Countess of Wessex smiling widely whilst cycling on a tandem together
Monica (left) and HRH The Countess of Wessex (right) cycling through Bushy Park on a tandem bicycle. July 2021

 

To get the low-down on the London challenge, Vision Foundation’s Fundraising Assistant, Olivia sat down with Monica to ask her a couple of questions about the big day and what the experience was like as a visually impaired cyclist.

Olivia: Hi Monica, how are you?

Monica: I’m doing very well thank you! Thank you for interviewing me.

Olivia: It’s a pleasure and thank you for agreeing to be interviewed [laughs]. As we approach RideLondon 2022, we were fascinated about your experience of the event from 2015. How did you find RideLondon overall, did you enjoy it and what were your emotions leading up to the big day?

Monica: I really enjoyed it. It was such a high when we finished and there were all types of emotions including excitement, nerves, and adrenaline. I was on a tandem bike [due to my visual impairment] and had trained quite a lot but not in full. I rode the 100 miles but had only practiced for 60 miles, so it was quite a shock when it came to the actual race. I was the most nervous about getting to the starting line.

We had a very early 6am start which included finding where to park and it was quite chaotic. But then once we got to the start line everything was well organised. I remember constantly thinking, I can’t believe we’re cycling through the Limehouse Link tunnel without all the usual traffic and business associated with London.

Olivia: I can imagine how intense the day was and early starts are always difficult, but it sounds like it was a very good day and a massive achievement. What was the main reason you decided to participate?

Monica: Yes definitely, I always liked to challenge myself to do something new and RideLondon was always on my target list and I competed with the previous charity that I worked for.

Olivia: Which charity did you represent?

Monica: It was the children’s charity, Variety and I competed with my friend, Ian!

Olivia: That’s so interesting. It’s very admirable that you endeavour to challenge yourself and don’t let your visual impairment stop you. Knowing what you know now would you do anything differently?

Monica: Nothing majorly. I think one thing I would have changed was the tandem bike. Maybe I would have spent more money or borrowed another one that was less heavy because the bike I had made it quite difficult to go up the hills as well as the number of things I’d put into the saddle bags.

Olivia: I won’t ask what you put in the saddle bags; I feel like that’s a blog post for another day [laughs]

Monica: We also had to leave the car all the way in Stratford, meaning we had to cycle 10 extra miles back to get the car which was exhausting if you can imagine having just ridden 100 miles, so definitely not making that mistake again!

Olivia: So really you cycled 50 miles more than you ever have in your life!

Monica: [Laughs] I know! It was great though, incredible weather apart from that. Having my sister and her three little ones at the side of the track cheering me on really helped boost my morale. Unfortunately, as we rode all day, we weren’t able to have anyone meet us at the finish line which was also a shame and something I would want if I took part again.

Olivia: That’s understandable and something that Vision Foundation will aim to do for our competitors. What was your favourite part of the day?

Monica: I would have to say coming down the final stretch and hearing everyone cheering and the whistles… it gave me a tingly emotional feeling that was unforgettable.

Olivia: I can imagine! Lastly, do you have any advice for this year’s participants?

Monica: My top tips are:

  • Make sure you try and get a long training session in before the day, not necessarily anything close to 100 miles but a new challenge.
  • Don’t do like I did and stock up too much on snacks, pack light, drink lots of water and have energy boosts like jelly babies.
  • Have a cheer team at the end, especially if you have never cycled the whole distance before and could do with a final boost.
  • Get a bike that’s suitable for the distance and do a few practices runs with it.
  • But… the most important advice is to just try and enjoy every minute. Find the joy in the once in a lifetime opportunity, such as cycling safely through a usually gridlocked tunnel!

Olivia: Many thanks to Monica for taking part in the interview. On behalf of all at #TeamVision, good luck with your next challenge!

Are you ready to saddle up with #TeamVision?

If you want to join Vision Foundation’s team for RideLondon 2022, please email Silvia on sekzarkova@visionfoundation.org.uk or call our office on 020 7620 2066.