The British Army Women’s Cycling Team has enjoyed another superb season in the saddle, with three riders competing in the National Women’s Road Series.
Of the forces athletes to test themselves on the civilian circuit, however, it’s been a particularly rewarding year for Captain Ejay Harris.
Just over 12 months ago she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer – but after undergoing successful surgery, she was back in the saddle for the start of the 2017.
She was selected to represent the Great Britain Cycling Team at The Prudential RideLondon Classique in July – less than a year after a collapse at the Tour of Norway in August 2016 led to her diagnosis.
It’s a tribute to her talent and tenacity – but Captain Harris was keen to stress the importance of teamwork when speaking to Forces Network’s Julian Evans:
“The thing about cycling is it’s a team sport but it’s an individual sport [as well].
“I think a lot of laypeople don’t realise when someone stands on the podium it’s a whole team effort to get them there, and actually some of the girls on the ground will have done much more work in the race.”
“It’s a really sacrificial sport and it draws on a lot of qualities that you’d want in a good team player,” she added.
Harris only took to cycling four years ago as a way to commute to work. Now, she rides for one of the leading teams in the country, Storey Racing.
The outfit, run by multi-medal winning Paralympian Dame Sarah Storey and her husband Barney, also boasts another member of the Armed Forces.
Warrant Officer Class 2 Chanel Mason had a somewhat more straightforward route to the front of the peloton, with a background in triathlon.
The biggest obstacle for the Dorset-based soldier is juggling work, family, training and competition.
Mason, who most recently helped her team to victory at the National 10-mile time trial championships, said:
“It is hard but they [my family] support me… When they can manage it they come to races – and they put up with smelly cycling kit in the house!”
Private Charmaine Porter, meanwhile, completed the season with Team Ford Ecoboost but has switched to the InForm Racing set up for 2018.
A junior runner at national level before joining the forces, she was persuaded onto the bike while serving in Germany.
Her inner engine and competitive yearnings have helped propel her on the cycling circuit, however.
Speaking about the support she and her fellow Army riders receive from the forces to pursue their sporting ambitions, Pte Porter said:
“I think they [my civilian teammates] are quite envious sometimes [of] the support we get to do the sport that we love and enjoy. It’s massive and they can’t get that on the outside.”
“We’re fortunate to have that kind of support from the chain of command and from the Army”, she added.
The racing season on civvy street is drawing to a close.
However, the winter months offer no let-off as the trio epitomise that familiar forces phrase of ‘train hard and fight easy’ by taking part in training camps throughout the winter.
International honours may be further down the road, but in the meantime the trio will be back in Army colours as they defend their inter-services road title in Devon at the end of the month.