When thinking of female cycling superstars in Britain, most people’s thoughts would inevitably turn to the all-conquering British women’s team pursuit squad – Olympic champions twice over, world champions six times in the last decade and current world record holders.
The seeming conveyor belt of talent which keeps the squad evolving is nurtured within the British Cycling academy, and one of those responsible for developing the stars of the future is junior academy endurance coach, Monica Eden.
“I work with girls aged between 16 and 18 – this is a national group, made up of the top performing riders in the country," she explained.
"My job is to help them learn the on and off-bike skills needed to become a full-time athlete when they leave the junior ranks.
“I coach the girls 1:1, create a programme of camps which we run in school holidays and take the riders to international races on the road and track. Our big focus is on their long term development rather than short term success and ensuring they have the skills, training and tactical understanding to race at an international level.
“I really enjoy working with the girls, they are all so different and have such varied strengths and weaknesses. It’s rewarding to see them progress not only on the bike but also to help them on the pathway to becoming adults.”
A former competitive cyclist herself, Monica got into the sport as a form of “escapism” while her mother was undergoing cancer treatment, taking up mountain biking and going on to achieve podium performances at national championships racing at youth, junior and senior levels.
However, she confesses to being “frustrated” by her own achievements on the bike, and admits to over-training due to a lack of knowledgeable and helpful voices around her.
After leaving the sport at the age of 21, Monica ended up deciding against studying for a degree and instead working in a convenience store, only to be tempted back to cycling in a coaching capacity.
“I was persuaded to help coach at my first club and I realised that I still loved the sport. I was soon coaching three times and week and realised that the frustrations I had with my own racing would actually fuel me to help the riders I work with achieve so much more than I could.
“I was then fortunate enough to become a coaching education scholar with British Cycling, followed by Go-Ride and talent development coaching roles before my current role.
“The dynamic of our sport is changing. There are more girls racing bikes, and more female volunteers and club coaches than ever before.
"For me, a career in sport is something that I love, and I’d encourage other women to pursue these avenues.
"As I’ve proved, whatever your background has been before the sport, if you want to make a difference, you can.”