3 Favourite Things:
Thank you for talking with CYPRUS GIRLS CAN today Andria!
How old were you when you started cycling?
I was 12 years when i first got on a bike. Some cycling coaches visited my school to advertise the opening of their new Cycling Academy. Some of my friends and I got excited and joined the academy to learn cycling.
Where there any girls there? Tell us about your training in the Academy?
We were a total of 100 kids and 30 of us were girls 9-13 years old all from Kornos, the village where I am from. The Academy was a collaboration between 3 coaches. One of them told us that his dream is to send a kid to the Olympics and that kid ended up being me!
I started with mountain biking, riding on my uncle’s bike that was too big for me and I even raced with that bike. I was the last person in my team to finally buy a my own bike.
When did you start taking training more seriously?
I was 16-17 years old when I met my current coach, Mike, on a training day by total chance.
He took me for one round on the cross-country route and he spotted I had talent. He asked if I wanted him to send me personal sessions for training, I said yes and he has been sending me sessions every Monday since then!
To make it to the group training I would have to ride by myself from home for 30 minutes to meet the group. I had to lie to my Dad, saying that they were meeting me from home. Until one day he saw me alone in Alambra cycling by myself. He forbid me from going again alone after that. In the end the coach Eftihios used to come and get me from home and take me to training.If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t have been able to continue and I would never have continued to elite level. I owe him a lot, he still checks up on me to see how I’m doing.
Then you made it to the Olympics! Tell us about the first time you represented Cyprus at the Olympics!
National team mountain bike 17 Youth Olympics – Singapore 2010 – forst ever YO.
I went really well. Expand
After I finished school I went to Athens Uni of Athens to study Biology then I came back to U Cy as it was hard for me to train well in Athens.
What is your next race?
Israel next week 2 day races UCI points for national qualifications, road cycling
International cycling TT 21km road race 70km 3 10km hills.
Tomorrow (day after Interview) going to Turkey same as Israel. Similar events in different countries.
You go to as many of these races in different countries as possible to get qualifying points for the olympics. The top 100 athletes go through.
What barriers do you face as a female professional cyclist in Cyprus?
There is no national female team, there are no other athletes at the same level as me. I can only race if I am in a mixed team or my UCI team, so there are restrictions for me which women in other countries don’t face.
Cycling is BIG in Europe. For example, Australia made a cycling base in Italy for their professional cyclists to live there with their families, so they can be close to the big cycling events. So athletes moved there because the cycling culture in Australia is limited. Now the next big country to do that is Columbia that is also moving their athletes to Europe.
How do people react when they find out what you do for a living?
When people ask me what I do, I tell them I’m a cyclist. They say yes, but what do you do?
You have a young son, tell us what impact did having a baby had at your cycling career?
My son is almost 4 years old, his name is Pavlos. I was in my 4th year studying Biology in Athens when I got pregnant. I decided to take a year off so I could finish my studies and not because I was told not to.
How did you get back into training after the birth?
When Pavlos, my son, turned 4 months old I got back into training again. I started going cycling with my husband, Marios, whenever our son was sleeping trying to lose some of the weight I gained during my pregnancy. I remember saying to Marios that there is got to be an easier way to lose my excess weight because I found cycling to be exhausting!
How did you balance being a mother with training full time?
I am really lucky because my son has very young grandmothers and aunties! I get a lot of support from Marios and my family. Moreover, I try to make my daily planning accordingly so I can fit spending time with my husband, my son and also train.
How supportive are your family?
Extremely supportive! Marios helps me with training issues, competition topics and cycling in general. And the rest of the family helps me with the baby! Whenever I have to go away on a competition I am certain that the baby is in very good hands with his grandparents and that helps me concentrate on my goal!
Your partner also competed at the Olympics, do you find people treat you differently than him regarding this?
For me Marios is the greatest cycling athlete that Cyprus has ever had. The success of qualifying and the results he got at the London 2012 Olympic Games speak for themselves. Back then, cycling was not as popular as it is now, therefore the media coverage was less and the state's support was minimum. These factors were definitive on Mario's limited popularity and recognition. In my case though, things were different. During the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, me and the rest of the Cypriot athletes got a lot of media exposure and also cycling was becoming more popular as a sport in general. So me, as an athlete, experienced greater recognition and adoration from people than Marios.
How can we make drivers in Cyprus more aware of the rights of cyclists on the road?
I am certain that promoting cycling and Cypriot cyclists will have a positive impact on people's driving behavior. If we start showcasing the success that athletes achieve on an international level, or make cycling events in Cyprus more popular, people will start accepting cyclists on the road and become more aware on their rights as well. Drivers must learn how to share and respect the roads with the cyclists so we can all live along.
Why do you think there is such a huge difference in participation in cycling between women and men in Cyprus?
Cycling is a very hard sport because it requires long hours of training from a young age. We have some girls in the cycling academies, but at tome point they all stop training because of school and studying. Boys are easier to keep in the sport. Additionally, we don't have a women's team and girls don't get to have a role model they can be inspired by and look up to.
I was really lucky because I got to grow up with Elina, a great woman cyclist who also had the same coach, Michalis, as me.
What advice would you give to women and girls who are interested in getting into cycling?
They should definetely try it! Cycling has something unique to it in comparison with other sports. It gives you freedom! You can change your route everyday and discover new places! Moreover, there are numerous competitions around Europe you can participate in; and if someone cycles professionaly they will have the chance of visiting so many places around the world and meeting tons of people. I think I have a friend in every country!!