Before the boys hop on their bikes Saturday, June 30 to compete in the 2012 Tour de France, six women will already be completing the course a day before them. Enter the Reve Project, a group of six women ranging from mothers to business owners who are riding the 2,162 mile route to help raise funds for Bikes Belong, the largest cycling advocacy group in the U.S. to get more women involved in the sport. We got the chance to chat with teammate Kate Powlison on her training, diet and nerves leading up to race day.
What is the goal of the Reve Project?
The basic goal is to inspire women to ride bikes more often. We figure by riding the Tour de France together and covering every mile of a highly male dominated sport, we can prove that women can do it too.
What made you decide on the Tour de France? Why not another shorter event?
The Tour de France is one of the most visible events for cycling. When you ask the average person about the sport, it’s the Tour de France and Lance Armstrong that usually comes to mind first. So it’s a perfect platform to reach a large amount of women. It’s a way to show women who perhaps used to ride and stopped or have never even hopped on a bike before that it’s not too late to get started.
Are you nervous? How have you been preparing for the ride?
Yes! But also excited. No other women have done this before, so it’s a little bit like riding into the unknown. We just don’t know what to expect. In terms of preparation and training, it’s been much different with us than how the pro men do it. All of the women on the team have careers or kids, so we are under a lot of time constraints when it comes to riding. For us, it’s less about training the maximum amount of hours and more training smart and coordinating with our daily lives. I usually ride about 20 hours a week, with two 8-hour rides that are usually on the weekends because I work during the week.
What about your diet? What will you be eating while you ride?
We’ve been lucky enough to work with a nutritionist at Stanford, who has set us up with specific plans and drinks while we train. Most of the exercise physiology research done thus far has all been conducted on college males, and although there are similarities between men and women, we recover differently and need different things than men do. During the race, we’ll be eating a lot on the bike. We try to eat real food, so no protein bars or supplement gels. We eat anything from boiled potatoes rolled in Parmesan cheese to a full sandwich. Learning how to eat on the bike has also taken some training, especially when it’s hot out. The last thing you feel like doing is eating a huge sandwich, but it’s important to learn how much and how often to eat.
How did your riding career start?
I was always a bit of a runner, so I like endurance sports. After I graduated high school, I bought a road bike for college. I was originally going to college for soccer and then I discovered the cycling team at my school. I loved it because it was an individual sport within a team sport, and it just stuck.
Are there any areas of the route you are excited to see?
Yes, all of it! I’ve never been to France, so this is definitely a way to see it all! The ride starts in Belgium for about two days, and I’m also excited about that as well.