FEATURE: Sian Marsh: Most improved female of 2021

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After turning to cycling as a way to stay fit and active during the first Covid-19 lockdown, Sian Marsh made remarkable improvements and ended 2021 as the most-improved female according to the Spindata national ranking system.

The 29-year-old from Shipston-on-Stour in Warwickshire has benefitted from a coach, a nutritionist and a new bike, and seen her 10-mile personal best improve by more than three minutes in the space of a year.

Always sporty, Marsh played football from a young age but a ruptured ACL in 2010 and broken leg in 2017 contributed to her hanging up her boots in 2019.

Nevertheless she retained a competitive approach to life, and kept going to the gym to stay fit which helped with her job in the fire service.

But when the pandemic hit and gyms closed she began cycling with her fiancé.

“Things escalated quickly!” she admitted. “After upgrading my road bike, and just going out to try and smash Strava segments, my competitive nature found me searching for local cycling clubs so I could test myself against others in real life.

“I rode my first club 10-mile TT on my road bike in July 2020 clocking in at 28:12. Within a few months I had purchased a second hand TT bike and was riding local open 10s, clocking a 25:36 on my first run on the K11/10T.”

She found a coach later that year, upping her mileage and working to a time trial-specific plan. By early 2021 she had knocked more than three minutes off her time of the same course.

“There are multiple things that I know contributed to my quick progress,” Sian explained. “My highly competitive nature being one, and the fact that when I commit to something I go all in… borderline obsessive some may say!

“Having a coach helped massively, the structure and insight from someone with way more knowledge and experience than me was so helpful. I also continued with strength training, being lucky enough to have access to a gym at work.

“Not wanting to do things by halves, I started working with a nutritionist in early 2021 which confirmed that previously I was not fuelling properly. This input enabled me to train so much harder, lose weight safely and see performance improvements at the same time.”

Winter training can be hard for many, but Sian’s job means she is able to train during the day and make the most of the daylight.

“I train alone 98% of the time, I just find it easier,” she added. “When I have easier rides I often try and get out my fiancé Paul, with friends or sometimes the local cycling club. But I really enjoy the solitude of being out on my own.”

Her progress hasn’t gone unnoticed – she has signed for Team Boompods for 2022, and will target road races as well as time trials.

“Signing for Boompods has really opened up my race calendar for 2022. I am looking to develop my experience in road racing, with some big time trialling targets along the way.

“I want to ride a bigger variety of courses this year, a lot of events were cancelled last year and I ended up riding the same courses quite a few times. If I can knock another few minutes off my 10-mile time that would be ideal.

“I recently spent some time at the track with AeroCoach for a testing session and we have optimised my position a fair amount, having not been very aerodynamic previously! This is something I’ve wanted to do for a while, so I was glad to get this done in 2021 to allow me to train in my new position over the off season. I’ve also upgraded my strength training programme, using heavier compound exercises to help increase my power.

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