The future’s bright, the future’s cycling… Q&A with Paralympic medallist Crystal Lane

Paralympic cycling medallist Crystal Lane was busy this week trying to inspire the next generation of British cyclists.

A silver and bronze medallist at the 2016 Rio Paralympics, Crystal (above middle) spoke to schoolchildren in Eccles ahead of the HSBC Manchester City Ride on July 23.

And if anyone can inspire school kids to get pedalling, it’s Crystal.

Born with an underdeveloped left arm, she participated in various sports from an early age including football, proving that disability doesn’t have to hamper sporting ability.

Inspired by Sarah Storey’s two gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics, Crystal took up cycling and made her international cycling debut in 2011 and has never looked back.

Her six medal haul is topped by a bronze in the c4-5 road race and silver in the c5 individual pursuit at last summer’s Rio Paralympics.

MM managed to have a quick chat with Crystal during a break in her busy schedule (words and questions by Alex Brotherton, Finn Whelan, Emily Nolan, Jasmine Thomas, Laura Greaves and Arron Kapoor)

How excited are you for this HSBC ride and to launch it in Manchester?

Today I have been here to visit Saint Patrick’s School near Eccles to inspire the next generation of cyclists.

We have had year sixes from local primary schools who will be attending this school next year and current year sevens aged between 10-12. They are the next generation of cyclists. Many of them already know how to ride a bike and have been so encouraged and had a great day so now we have been suggesting that they come to the ride in Manchester next weekend.

At the end when it was announced Chris Hoy was going to be there – and there was going to be face painting and a simulation on the velodrome with Jason Kenny – they were so excited.

It’s been a worthwhile day, I think all the kids have really enjoyed it and they’ve been engaging with us, asking me some fantastic questions as well.

Do you get inspired by the energy and enthusiasm kids, volunteers and spectators have for sport nowadays?

Yes, I mean today so many people have worked so hard to make this event the best it possibly could for the students that have been listening and I’ve been listening to them and hearing how encouraged they are.

It’s a long time ago but I do remember being younger and being inspired and I think every athlete at some point was inspired by somebody and you never ever forget that. And that’s not suggesting that somebody has been massively inspired by me today but even if one person was or just loves riding a bike, they’ve been with the other two riders Rebecca and Abbie and they’ve actually been out on the bikes with them. So if they’re inspired by them then it’s definitely worthwhile.

Since you’ve become a professional, what’s been the most enjoyable aspect of your career?

I think having the time to do all the training and all the recovery. Being a full time athlete gives me the time to have a full recovery so I’m able to do what I did yesterday but better today.

At the same time what’s been the least enjoyable aspect?

I think things don’t always go really well. There are periods when you’re training really hard but it just doesn’t quite work well. You’ve got a lot of time to stew over the fact that maybe you’re not at your best. In that respect time is both the positive and the negative.

As a Paralympian and world championship athlete, how do you balance your time, a healthy lifestyle and diet so that you can compete at the top level?

I guess a lot of it is periodised. So there’ll be periods like now when we’ve got the world championships in seven weeks’ time, so everything has gone into planning just for that event. My diet is really good but I’ve been planning that diet for a few weeks really. And also the training as well, that’s all kind of structured and planned towards that as well.

Can you find interesting healthy diet options to fuel your training and performance?

Yeah, yes you do. If I’m not on the bike training (I’ll look at social media). That’s why social media is so good as well, going on social media and looking at what other people are doing. People love putting their meal ideas up and generally they’ll put up their meal ideas when they’ve cooked a really good looking healthy dinner.

I do spend a lot of my time between training and when I’m not training, constantly looking to better my diet and my nutrition or just keep it interesting.

How do you feel the sport of cycling is doing in the UK at the moment?

Every time I go out there’s more people cycling! I think there’s been a big push for women to cycle, I see a lot more women cycling at the moment as well. There are more grass roots as well I notice.

The way I got into it was straight into an Olympic/Paralympic level though the EIS and at that point I wasn’t riding. Now, especially with the HSBC UK ride, there’s a lot more grass roots coming through and I think it’s in a really healthy place.

There are more people coming into schools to do exactly what we’ve done today which is to inspire the next generation.

What other sports would you like to compete in if you weren’t cycling?

Well the first sport I played was football but I naturally stopped that. Actually the kids were asking what other Olympic event I would do now.

I wouldn’t be very good at this event but I love watching the Winter Olympics and the Biathlon. So I think if I could choose any and be good at it, it would be Biathlon.

Biathlon’s a really hard sport isn’t it?

Yeah I know I think that’s what interests me! I really enjoy the test, that’s what I really like. I like setting myself a goal, and I don’t mind how long it takes either, and just trying to chip away at it. I guess the harder that task is the more rewarding it is in the end.

Do you have any plans or aspirations of what you’d like to do after you’ve stopped competing?

While at Loughborough University I did a Masters in sports nutrition. I’ve always kind of planned that once I finish cycling that I would hopefully move onto becoming a sports nutritionist really.

Would you consider yourself a role model or inspiration to the children you’ve spoken to today? Do you try to motivate the children?

As a kid I do remember being inspired, I think every athlete was inspired by someone at some point. You never forgot that. This doesn’t necessarily mean I’ve inspired anyone today, but the kids have been out riding with the other two today Abbie and Rebecca (Great Britain Cycling Team Senior Academy) so if they’ve been inspired by them then that’s great as well. But yeah it would be lovely to think that I did, fingers crossed! 

HAVING A BALL: MM’s young reporters ask the questions to Crystal in the interview room

The Manchester HSBC UK City Ride takes place in the city centre. Sign-up for free at

HSBC UK City Ride includes:

  • ‘Go-Ride taster session which is British Cycling’s developmental programme for young people. Go-Ride provides the first step onto the Performance Pathway – over 60% of riders on the Great Britain Cycling Team started out at Go-Ride Clubs.
  • Street velodrome which offers anyone who can ride a bike the opportunity to experience the thrill of Olympic-style track pursuit racing using an innovative pop up banked track setup right in the heart of their community.

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