Louise only came to cycling six years ago, but has been on a steep trajectory in the cycling world ever since. Riding for Team GB and now heading up the Internationelles, Louise is on a tireless mission boosting and fighting for equality in women’s cycling. Last year saw her and the Internationelles team on a covid-adapted challenge to prove women can ride the Tour De France too. Inspirational and powerful, read below for an account of their challenge and learn more about the Internationelles fight.

My story into cycling

I’m fairly new to the cycling world, before then running was my real passion. I started running at university simply to keep fit and I really caught the bug.

I loved the freedom running gave, but not the injuries. Firstly sore shins, and then sore knees and when it moved to my hips I knew I had problems. Training for my third London Marathon something gave way in my hip, I had ruined all the cartilage around the hip joint. I had to have surgery where they shaved down the bone, my surgeon told me it was time to stop the running otherwise I was looking at four hip replacements before I was an old lady.

That’s when I turned to cycling, I was fairly apprehensive at first thinking how boring it would be. But slowly after some spin classes in the gym, I got a bike and I just started riding. It was a difficult time for me mentally so I put all my effort into cycling, going out like a bit of a head case, a way to get out of my depression. I finally entered a sportive and I won, people kept asking what club I was in, while I was there in my London Marathon t-shirt because I refused to give up the runner in me!

It was after that, I start doing more competitions and eventually bucked up the courage to join a cycling club. Then I got a coach and now I take it super seriously. I’ve represented Great Britain twice at Gran Fondo World Championships and run the Internationelles Team. Part of me wishes I started cycling earlier, but then I think all the circumstance happened for a reason. If my headspace wasn’t in the exact place it was I would have pushed less and been less determined.

I was willing for this.

Louise Gibson Cycling

The Internationelles

I’m so proud of what the team stands for. We were inspired by a French team, Donnons des Elles. They started their campaign six years ago riding the full route of the Tour De France before the pros, to prove that women could do it. Their campaign kept growing, and when they opened up their team for applications, a bunch of non-French people applied. They put us all in touch with each other and we formed our own team. Now we’ve got five in Great Britain, one Aussie, three Americans and one girl in the Netherlands.

It’s about doing it for equality and to make a difference within women’s cycling.

Internationelles Team

Our 2020 Challenge

Like most things COVID threw a spanner into our plans for 2020, we quickly worked out a Plan B and wanting to be able to do something all together, online was our only option.

We thought we’d race the distance of the Tour De France on the Turbo in a relay and then do the elevation of the Tour De France by Everesting.

After training for quite a few months, we were sure doing the distance, a couple of days on the turbo would be the easy bit. However, we realised quickly how knackering racing on the turbo can be on your legs. It was probably our biggest unexpected challenge; with the turbo there’s no let up. When you're out and about on a ride, if the road goes down a little bit or you slow down for junctions that eases the pressure on your legs but the turbo is just flat out. Then it becomes a mental game trying to dispel the voices in your head; if we couldn’t do this how could we get through the Everesting.

I was worried about us going into the Everesting tired, but we managed to race through the relay so we had a day and a half to rest before the challenge. That was amazing, some of us did it on a hill in South Wales and some of us online on Zwift.

It’s always something I’ve wanted to do but was a bit daunted by it, I knew it was going to be huge. We all managed to do it, starting at 4am and by 9pm when we finished the mixture of emotions were pure relief, hunger and happiness.

I was so proud of everyone. It was a huge 16 hours of cycling with almost 9,000 metres of elevation. In the face of coronavirus, and everything that had to change, we’d still manage to come together to do something massive.

Internationelles achievements

“They should have the same opportunities their brothers do”

Women’s cycling is doing well at the moment, we’re starting to get a bit more coverage of races but it’s not enough. We’ve got to keep the pressure on, keep talking about women’s cycling and keep people interested in it. If you drive the viewing figures it just makes it more populous and there’s more chance of sponsors being involved.

The racing is amazing, the pros are so talented and it’s so exciting to watch. It’s amazing to see the tactics, sprints and teamwork.

There are so many inspiring stories in women’s cycling and we’ve got to inspire people all the way up. So little girls on bikes know one day they can be a pro cyclist. It does’t matter that they’re a girl, they should have the same opportunities their brothers do.

I hope by 2022 we’ll have a women’s Tour de France, it doesn’t need to be the whole three weeks, but it needs to be longer than La Course which is one day, and less than three hours of racing.

Men aspire to be part of the Tour De France, we need something of similar stature for women, it has to be something and something prestigious.

How Premax helped me

I’ve used loads of different Chamois Creams over the years and Premax’s Chamois Cream is the best I’ve tried. You know quickly whether the consistency or smell is right, I wouldn’t go back to any other now.

We really put it to the test on this challenge, we had 17 hours in the saddle, and not one saddle sore from it. It would have been a game changer for us if we hadn’t used a Chamois Cream so good. It is just perfect.

Premax’s Warm Up Cream has also become part of my routine, during the challenge I would wake up at 2am, have some porridge and massage my legs with the cream. It was an important step in getting ready, even mentally. It made going from the cold to powering on the turbo a much easier transition. I could tell the cream was really helping, we weren’t taking it easy!

Follow Louise on Instagram: @loukew

Follow the Internationelles on Instagram: @internationelles

Photo credit: Attacus cycling