CHERIE PRIDHAM INTERVIEW
Talking with friends -by Nadezhda Pavlova
Talking with friends -by Nadezhda Pavlova
From being a pro cyclist to the first-ever female director in the men’s World Tour with Israel Start-Up Nation (ISN), Cherie Pridham is here to make history.
It is only right to have female sports directors at World Tour level, but this is the first time a woman leads a male-dominated peloton. Because of this, Cherie has been receiving lots of attention from the people in the cycling world. Although Cherie is not new in the cycling sport, not at all – because she was a pro-rider for 15 years, having more than eight Tour de France Féminin. However, like others in our sport she had to stop cycling due to a hit-and-run accident.
After her accident, Cherie shifted her career into managing and directing sports teams. She first became a director of iconic Team Raleigh in 2011. During this time, she was able to lead the squad to success domestically and internationally. Tour de Normandie, Tour Series, and the Premier Calendar series were just a few tournaments and races that her team won under her meticulous planning, direction and leadership.
After some time, she changed the squad’s name to Vitus Pro Cycling after gaining full ownership. However, that squad had to be closed due to financial reasons when the pandemic hit – a decision that caused Cherie some sleepless nights. Conversations with close friends and colleagues helped her to realise that this was the right decision, and thankfully they gave this amazing women the confidence to stay focused and to keep driving forward – only in a new direction.
Due to her accomplishments, known people in the cycling sport, such as Kjell Carlstrom and Sylvan Adams, only have praises for her, and Cherie is one of the most respected people in world cycling. Having recently joined Israel Startup Nation, Carlstrom believes Cherie has what it takes to lead and that she will positively impact the team. At the same time, Adams mentioned that Cherie was appointed as the Director because of her experience and skills.
Here at Pedalnorth, Cherie is a very close and personal friend, and we wanted to catch up with our friend and find out her own thoughts on her cycling life and its new direction.
Well, you know, for me, it’s, I’m a sports director, first and foremost. I am, of course a woman, and clearly in a position that we have not seen at this level, and I feel privileged and honoured to have that as I guess – the title as the first female in a men’s World Tour. However, as I say, I’ve always seen myself as a sports director and never seen myself as a female sports director. And clearly if you are good enough for the job, whether you are male or female, then it doesn’t matter. Ultimately if you are male or female is irrelevant, because you are good enough for the job.
Well, it became increasingly worrying about the team’s progress into 2021 in my old position as sports director and team owner. And I struggled to find partners and sponsors. I was concerned obviously about the direction for me personally and it wasn’t long before I was applying for real jobs. And then I thought, you know, why can’t I email world tour teams. I actually selected four or five that I felt would be open and obliging and willing to listen to my career plans, my direction, my aims, and my ambitions, and my dreams and my goals. Of course, one of those dreams and ambitions was to be part of a world tour team. It wasn’t too long before I actually had my first response. And that was Israel Startup Nation. And Gil kallstrom reached out to me, we had an email and then a phone conversation. And it wasn’t two to three months later, and I found myself with a contract offer. And it was a bittersweet day because the irony was that I actually decided to close the doors on my previous chapter as a team owner and as a sports director at continental level. However, when I got the offer, almost on the same day, as closing one door, and a new door opened, so it was a very emotional day when I was given the contract offer.
Well, for me, it’s not something I think about because actually. I’ve been doing the role of sports director for over a decade. My position at World Tour level is a little bit more simpler in the fact that I have so many experienced staff members and colleagues, coaches, performance directors, head sports directors that make the job that I do for that particular race or stage race, just that wee bit easier. Now I can focus deeply on performance strategy and delivering a great result for the team, without the burden of multi tasking. So I don’t see that as something too different.
This is a difficult one for me because I just see myself as Cherie a sports director. It’s something I’ve done, like I say, for over a decade now. But one thing I have realised since being given the opportunity and also to be given the title of cycle sports first female sports director on a men’s World Tour team, I guess is the significance of that. It’s the fact that I’ve had so many private messages and personal messages from girls of all ages, woman of all ages, saying “well done” and “thank you for opening the doors”. Messages like “Thank you for showing us the way”. And so, yes it took a while to sort of realise that actually I have a responsibility. But you know, nonetheless, I’m super proud of what I’m doing – to be given that title if you like of being inspirational, where for me, well I’m just me and I do what I love. And I dare to dream – I dare to dream big.
That’s a good question and I get asked a lot about this. And I guess, I started my direction working with the junior men and then the under 23 is the amateurs and then into pros and it’s the direction that’s carved my way. I’ve never worked with a woman’s team. And I guess I’ve always done a job in our sport simply for the job, and been involved in the men’s calendars, owning a men’s team – and now I’m working with the men at world tour level. I will never say never; for now though my focus is at world tour level with Israel Startup Nation.
Well, I guess it’s the satisfaction of seeing your riders perform; and potentially, hopefully, you know, winning the race on the day or being competitive over the stage race; but also equally, watching the young riders develop and seeing their progress, particularly as we’re an Israeli team. And, you know, our focus is and our mission I guess is to change Israeli cycling and inspire the next generation and inspire the Israelis to take on upcycling. Yeah, it’s a mission that I feel proud to be part of and, and talk about. So Yeah, that’s a big focus for me is to and to be a part of a successful team. And which I believe we will be successful in.
I guess as a bike rider, and it’s the injuries and the illnesses that we have to contend with in your career. You know, making sure you recover and come back stronger. Sometimes this is more difficult than we realise. But as a team manager and a team owner, for me one of the proudest moments was being asked to lead Team Raleigh as a sports director. But when those partnerships close, I guess it’s reinventing and recreating a new team within the management structure and making a successful team – and for me having a successful team at continental level here in the UK has been a challenge but a rewarding one, nonetheless. But now I have an even bigger challenge and a superb opportunity. Here it is about Israel Startup Nation.
I like to keep fit still. I do some Zwift riding, sometimes with a group. Sometimes I choose to do the odd race on Zwift. But I also enjoy running three to four times a week. And we have a good group at Israel Startup Nation; the ‘running group’ we call it can get quite competitive, but it’s great to be able to go and release those stresses and strains by running with your colleagues. The other thing I enjoy the most when I’m home with my little family. I have Sasha, a long haired German Shepherd. I have rocky the Rottweiler and I have two new additions in Bentley and Winnie my miniature Dashes. So they keep me busy having to walk in and exercise them. So not much time for spare time but I enjoy the running and the dog walking.
Personally, I want to learn the flow and the rhythm of the World Tour. And I want to be part of a successful team. I want to enjoy the victories and work through the challenges when we are not so successful. But ultimately, if I can get to a result for myself with the team that I’m sports directing on that particular race, and we can have a win and a podium, then it’s a great direction and a great start for me. So yeah, I would like to win as much as every other sports director – but it’d be great if I can get to the end of 2021 with a win.
Hmm.. Got to be careful on this one. So, yeah, I’ve obviously my family and my partner and my four dogs. And then of course, for me everything is to be a part of a successful Israel startup nation. And guess five of them five priorities or to be healthy, to be happy to be able to I don’t know. Well, this is difficult. I don’t think I have the five priorities and family. My dog, my job with Israel Startup Nation – healthy, happy and successful.
Well, for me, all I can say is, I have, I have two or three philosophies that I focus on and always have done. And I’ve always said that, you know, if you have a dream, you dream big. You take the risk or you lose the chance. It’s all these kind of philosophies that focus you, meaning that you don’t need to be afraid to challenge yourself. And, be diverse, be open, be diplomatic. Listen, be able to share your knowledge, be able to work with people – being a people person is key. And being part of a team – that’s critical. It’s not about one rider. It’s not about one boss, director – it’s a complete team. You have to be able to work hard and to just take every opportunity that you can. And, if it doesn’t work out for you, then you can’t say that you didn’t try. What I’m saying I guess is “you just go out there and grab every opportunity with both hands” – take it, , grab it and take it on.
Look where it’s led me – I’ve achieved my dream, and I know that whilst I’m the first, I won’t be the last.
Cherie Pridham is a really inspirational woman. She took the lead in a male-dominated sport to continue the job that she has always admired, bringing new interests, background and skills to the position. Ill be watching closely as this amazing woman continues on her journey in some of the worlds great races, managing the best riders in world cycling – and leading from the front.
Note: Israel Start Up Nation images all copyright of Noa Toledo Arnon Photography. Remaining images copyright Vitus Pro Cycling & Brother U.K. via Cherie Pridham Racing