Published: 8 March 2013
Interview: Eddie Allen
We’ve been celebrating women and cycling all week on the website and in our final piece we meet British Cycling’s National Operations Manager, Jill Puttnam.
We're used to hearing about the exploits of the Great Britain Cycling Team's star women - Laura Trott and Becky James taking over the mantle of Vicky Pendleton on the track and inpsiring millions of women to fufil their potential. However, there are many more women working behind the scenes at British Cycling to provide opportunities for women and men to get their first taste of cycling or get back into it after a long break.
Jill heads up the team responsible for British Cycling’s Breeze programme, which is empowering thousands of women through a network of local champions offering fun, free and informal rides.
We discover Jill’s cycling roots and find out more the woman heading up British Cycling’s women’s cycling revolution.
Jill joined British Cycling around three years ago to continue a career in sports development, attracted to the role of National Operations Manager at the cycling governing body’s headquarters in Manchester. “It was a great organisation to get involved in to be part of it in the build-up to 2012 and beyond,” said Jill, “particularly because it was around the recreational side of cycling which is my area of interest.”
Jill works as part of team to deliver a series of recreational cycling programmes. “Most of these are around guided rides – opportunities for people to get involved, to find new areas to ride,” she explained.
Jill has always loved cycling and it’s this kind of passion which has gone a long way to fuel the massive expansion of the Sky Ride Local and Breeze led ride programmes. “I got involved when I first borrowed my big brother’s bike when I was a little kid,” said Jill. “Every time he got a new bike I got his ‘cast offs’. From a young kid, I was always out bike riding, cycling with my friends. I carried on doing that.
“It’s a great way to get out with your friends, you can get out of the city and get some fresh air in your lungs and see lovely places on the outskirts of the town.” The influence of Jill’s formative cycling experiences can been clearly seen in British Cycling’s Sky Ride Local and Breeze led rides, which have helped thousands of cyclists discover the hidden delights of their towns, cities and surrounding countryside – the notion of the ‘urban escape’ is a strong theme running through the led ride programme.
Joining British Cycling and being part of the buildup to London 2012 inspired Jill to take her cycling to the next level, completing the Coast to Coast. “If you’d told me before I started British Cycling that there was any way I was doing that, then I’d think ‘no’,” admitted Jill, “but it was an amazing experience just to be out on my bike, climbing those hills and meeting new people.”
If you want to climb some hills and meet new people then get involved in Breeze or Sky Ride Local, and see for yourself the result of Jill and her team’s hard work.