LEAH Kirchmann is a Canadian pro cyclist who rides for Team Sunweb. Gearing up for the forthcoming Tour de Yorkshire, she took time out to speak with me

The Northern Echo: Leah Kirchmann in action Picture: Vincent Riemersma/Team Sunweb

Leah Kirchmann in action Picture: Vincent Riemersma/Team Sunweb

Where do we find you now in the lead up to the Tour de Yorkshire?

I am currently in Belgium preparing with Team Sunweb for the upcoming cobbled classics - Gent-Wevelgem and Flanders.

What is your role in Team Sunweb and what is the main thing you bring to the team on the road?

I am an all-rounder with a good sprint. I can fill a lot of different roles out on the road, whether that is working hard for my teammates, or being a leader for the team. I am always very committed to whatever role I am assigned to in a race.

What are the team’s aspirations for the Tour de Yorkshire and who are your rivals?

We hope to bring a strong team and to go for the best result possible. I have not seen a start list for the race so do not know which specific riders will be there, but there will be some other big teams on the start line that will provide us with a high level of competition.

Have you competed in the north of England before or at the Tour de Yorkshire?

I did compete in the Tour de Yorkshire two years ago. I really enjoyed the race, the organisation was very professional, the course was challenging, and there were thousands of fans out cheering us on! I was in a long breakaway with Lizzie Deignan and Doris Schweizer, which was caught just two kilometres from the line. My teammate Floortje Mackaij still placed third in the sprint, so it was a good race overall for the team.

What will your training regime consist of in the run up to the event and do you like putting in the hard miles?

After the cobbled classics, I will race the Amstel Gold race and Liege-Bastogne-Liege as my final preparation races before Yorkshire. I believe the short steep climbs encountered during the Ardennes week are perfect preparation for the terrain around Yorkshire! I do like to train hard because I know that it will pay off for when I am competing.

How important is it for your sport that the women’s race has been increased from one day to two days?

I am really happy to see the race increased to two days this year! It sends a strong message that the women are strong and capable of competing for multiple days. This extra day of racing also adds value for the race, as more fans will be able to see us out on the road in different cities, and on television for another day. A stage race will also create an even more exciting narrative for fans to follow.

Do you think there will come a time when we see parity across men’s and women’s cycling?

I am optimistic and dream of the day where we will see parity across men’s and women’s cycling. There is still a lot of work to be done, but I see improvements every year. The races in the UK give me the most hope for the future! Races like Tour de Yorkshire, The Aviva Women’s Tour and Ride London are setting the bar for other events by treating the women as true professionals. These races receive tons of media coverage and are shown on TV. These races also do a fantastic job getting fans out watching, and facilitate a lot of community engagement, especially with school kids who I hope we impact in a positive way. The equal and generous prize money is also greatly appreciated by the peloton and sends a strong message that women deserve the same recognition as the men.

You have spoken at length about doping in cycling, how damaging do you think the recent controversies have been and do you worry about the future of the sport?

I am a strong anti-doping advocate and believe that it is possible to compete and perform at the highest level of sport without the use of performance enhancing drugs. Being part of Team Sunweb, a team performing and winning at the highest level of women’s and men’s cycling, and a team that takes anti-doping seriously has me even more convinced that this is possible. The stories of doping are never good for the sport, but I think it is best to instead focus on celebrating the clean heroes of the sport, and continue to develop ways to deter and punish those who break the rules.

Finally, what are your personal ambitions for this season and beyond?

My ambitions are to continue to develop and pursue excellence in all aspects of my life. This year I hope to support my teammates to victories, and also go for some of my own results in some Women’s World Tour races. A big goal for this season is on the Team Time Trial World Championship in Austria. We are looking to repeat our winning performance from last season in Norway! Longer term, I have my eyes set on performing on the 2019 World Championships in Yorkshire and 2020 Tokyo Olympics.