Women from across the country turned out in force to join an Olympic medallist for an all-female bike event.
Hundreds of women shunned a lie-in to join Olympic silver medallist Emma Pooley for a 50k and a 100k ride around Preston on Sunday.
The two Breeze Challenge Event bike rides started and finished in autumn sunshine at Preston’s UCLan arena, Tom Benson Way, Preston.
Regular cyclist Kathy Jones, 48, from Preston, completed the 50k ride, and she revealed she signed up to the all-women event because she often finds it intimidating cycling with men.
She said: “I joined because it is nice to have something just for women – it is a bit less intimidating
“At most cycle events, it is like loads of blokes in their 20s and 30s who are super fit – it is a bit intimidating to go in as a woman.
“So it is nice to cycle around other women and we’ve been really lucky with the weather – it was good fun.”
Emma retired from professional cycling after winning a silver medal in the time-trial at this summer’s Commonwealth Games.
She rode the 50k at the event and enjoyed the friendly atmosphere.
She said: “It’s really good to have a non-pressure environment where people can help you out and talk to like-minded people about it.
“There was such a positive and lovely atmosphere at the event.”
Great-grandma 64-year-old Maz Bradley travelled to Preston from Huddersfield to raise money for a cause close to her heart.
She said: “I just wanted a challenge. I knew it was a ladies only race and a fair distance, the 50k one.
“And I thought I’d do it sponsored for Brain Tumour Research, because my best friend’s husband lost his life to a brain tumour.
“I’ve raised over £300 for the charity. I think I’ve done a decent time too, just under two hours - not bad for a great granny with new hips.”
Rebecca Phillips, 30, from Halifax, Yorkshire, cycles once a week and praised the friendly mentality of the bike ride.
She said: “It was excellent, a women-only event takes the competitive edge out of things – women don’t need to be competitive against other people all the time.
“Everyone was watching out for each other on the paths and being helpful.
“It’s quite flat compared to Yorkshire, but it is stunning countryside – I didn’t realise it was this nice.”
The events are part of British Cycling’s Breeze Network, which is designed to encourage more women to cycle.
The ultimate aim is to get a million more women cycling by 2020, with rides organised every week, across the country.
And Emma urged more women to get into cycling.
She said: “I think it is important for more women to cycle because it is so healthy and so fun.
“The Breeze network is a network for women to get into cycling – it is basically trying to get women into cycling in an easier way.
“The Breeze Challenge rides – like the one on Sunday– are like a step up a bit. It’s not a race, but they are timed.
“So if you are worried about riding alone, can’t find a group or don’t know where to go you can find people to ride with through the Breeze Network.”
For more information on the Breeze Challenge see: http://www.breezechallenge.com/|www.breezechallenge.com}