Eight things Rozanna Purcell has learned about cycling

Steely ambition and hard slog has prepared Rozanna Purcell for the Ring Of Kerry cycling event, she tells Ed Power

ROZANNA Purcell is one of Ireland’s leading models — and a regular in the gossip pages. But behind the glamorous exterior the 24-year-old Clonmel native is also an accomplished athlete. At school she excelled at tennis and GAA; today she is making an impact as a competitive runner and cyclist. In May she and her boyfriend, The Voice’s Niall Breslin (aka Bressie), completed the Ironman 70.3 event in Austria together (a 1.9 km swim followed by a 90km cycle and a 21.1 km run).

Now the former Miss Universe Ireland is training for the 180 km (112 mile) Ring Of Kerry bike event, taking place this Saturday. She is taking part as a guest of Škoda Ireland. Here are the important things she’s learned in the run up to the event.

1. You’ll Discover a A Hidden Competitive Streak

While she and Bressie are a perfect couple off road, once they don their cycling gear the situation is very different.

“I’m quite competitive,” says Purcell. “I’d be upset if I’m not coming first. I think that’s a positive attribute.

“If I’m not good at something I keep going until I get better. If I have a bad day, I’ll work at it until I get better.

“A group of us go out on the bike together — I’m constantly surrounding myself with people a little bit better than me. They teach me things about the bike I wouldn’t know.”

2. You’ll Realise Just How Important Diet Is

As a model, Purcell has to think about what she eats. But when she has a big race coming up, her diet changes radically. Out go the salads and juices, replaced by pasta and energy bars.

“Your body relies on carbs so you are upping your carb intake in the run-up,” she says. “Being a model eating that way would not be my first choice. You have to learn the science of eating: for instance if you don’t ‘reload’ after training, you are going to lose muscle.

“Two days before you compete, you’ll be doing your carbs and while you’re on the bike, you are looking at eating every 45 minutes, to keep your glycine levels up — so you’re talking carbs and sugars.”

3. You’ll Come To Understand It’s All In Your Head

Excelling at sport is a question of mental fortitude as much as physical prowess. “There is a mental game you play. You could be on the bike three, four hours – a voice in your head will say ‘I can’t do it’ — you have to convince yourself you CAN do it.

“I think that applies to everything in life, actually. You have to know you have the ability to do something – you can never think you aren’t good enough.

4. Free Time at Weekends Will Become A Fading Memory

One piece of advice she wishes to impart above all others is that you have to put the hours in. Winging it is not an option. You’ll just free-wheel into a world of pain.

“I’m out on the road most days and most weekends,” she says. “When I did the Iron Man, the training was extremely tough. I was on a six-month programme. I had to learn to treat my body differently. You were putting in long hours — I was flat out six days a week. The challenge isn’t so much the day of the event — it’s the training and work you have to put in before hand.

5. The Importance of Setting A Target Will Become Clear 

“Pick a goal and work towards it,” says Purcell. “It may be six months down the line — the Ring of Kerry or a Sean Kelly cycling event. Whatever it is… work towards it. And if you can get someone to help you, it’s going to be easier to stick with.”

6. Find A Friend

In addition to training with other half Bressie, Purcell recruited her sister to help her prepare for the Ring of Kerry. “Finding a training partner who is a friend or family member is a good move,” she says. “I got my sister to sign up to the Kilkenny Triathlon. Now she’s amazing at running, really good at swimming. I’m starting to get nervous. Maybe she’s going to pass me out!”

7. It’s Not Supposed To Be Fun

Competing in an event such as The Ring of Kerry is rewarding — .a milestone you will remember forever. Still, it’s not exactly a romp through the buttercups. If you’re having too good a time you may not be preparing adequately.

“If I said to you that cycling is always fun — I’m probably not pushing myself hard enough,” says Purcell. “I’m the type who, if I go out, I’m going to go at it as hard as possible. I want to get the best out of the time I put in.”

8. You Won’t Care What You Look Like

“Cycling isn’t the most flattering sport. You’re wearing lycra, which tends to come in crazy colours — not the most ideal outfit. But if I was worried about things like that I wouldn’t do it. I don’t care if I’m sweating loads — especially if people are going ‘oh my god, she’s just passed me out’. Anyway I’ll be wearing a helmet or glasses. I’d rather be first up the hill rather than worry about how I’m look.”

About the Ring of Kerry Charity Cycle

In its 31st year, the Ring of Kerry attracts cyclists from across Munster, and further afield. In 2014 demand for places has been at record levels — requiring the organisers to offer 200 openings through a lottery as not everyone wishing to compete can be accommodated.

The race starts at Mission Road Killarney, passes through Killorglin, Cahersiveen, Sneem, Kenmare, Torc and back to Killarney.

A 180 km (112 mile) dash around one of Ireland’s most spectacular attractions, it has so far raised some €6.9 million for charity (this year’s nominated charities included Kerry Hospice Foundation, Pieta House and the Irish Red Cross).

The race officially starts at 8am on Saturday, though some competitors set out as early as 6am. It is recommended you start no later than 8.30 am to avail of traffic restrictions. The event officially finishes at 8pm.

There are two food stations en route.

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