Interview: Catching Up with Joy McCulloch


SoCalCycling.com caught up with Joy McCulloch, who currently rides for the KHS-Maxxis pb JLVelo Team and is also is the owner of  Big Wheel Coaching, where she coaches fellow cyclists.  Joy just came off a stellar 2014 season, where she won the SoCal Cup title, as well as the  SCNCA Criterium Championships and SCNCA Time Trial Championships.  Joy gives us her insights on her goals for 2015, training and women’s cycling. 

SoCalCycling.com:  How did you get into cycling and how long have you been riding for?

Joy McCulloch:  I have used the bike for transportation, fun and entertainment since I was five. After teaching mountain biking at summer camp in 1998, I was hooked for good!

SoCalCycling.com:  Did you compete in another sport before cycling?

Joy McCulloch:  I played softball and basketball through high school. I continued playing basketball during college where I learned what commitment and suffering are all about.

Photos © Christy Nicholson / EchelonDesignPhoto.com

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SoCalCycling.com: Congratulations on a great season in 2014, winning the SoCal Cup title, as well as the  SCNCA Criterium Championships and SCNCA Time Trial Championships! Tell us about your wins and any special strategies or preparation you had going into each event.

Joy McCulloch:  Thank you! This past season was very successful and I attribute that to my awesome team and sponsors, husband Brian, coach Paul, and all our teammates. Although I race solo, I am extremely lucky to have a very high level of support on and off the bike.

Winning the criterium championship was one of the most exciting days I can remember. I was ramping my training up for the TT championships, so I was feeling really solid on the bike and I had progressed to a place mentally where I was ready to really tackle the mental aspect of racing. I remember that Sunday as one of the few days in 2014 that I truly felt fresh, focused and ready for battle all at the same time. I was very confident in my preparation which allowed me to focus on making the right tactical decisions that led to the win.

Winning the Time Trial Championship was a different kind of victory because I had set my eyes on the jersey back in November. This is the first time that I have allotted such a large percentage of my training and workouts to accomplishing one specific goal. At the event, I knew I had done my best ride possible, so when the results said I had won I was super excited.

Winning the SoCal Cup overall was not an achievement I initially had on my radar. However, I was placing in the top 5 consistently at the races and having won 2 championship events, I realized the overall win was within reach. I had to milk my motivation and fitness for every last drop of racing effort in order to maintain momentum until September. But it was well worth it in the end.

SoCalCycling.com:  You finished your season at the Las Vegas Pedalpalooza  Criterium during Interbike. How have you been enjoying your off season and how is your training coming along as we head into the 2015 season?

Joy McCulloch:  I love the off season! We have great hiking/MTB trails right by our house, so I put them to good use. I also had a blast going to TRX classes with my non-cycling friends, but I soon realized these activities were wrecking me and I was not getting recovered from the long race season at all! I pulled the plug, took a week totally off so I could truly decompress before getting back at it on the bike. I did, however, fall in love with yoga and that is an activity I am excited to keep on the training plan through out the upcoming race season.

Training for 2015 is really going well. My training has become very specified over the past few seasons and it is really exciting to see all the hours of work starting to take hold. With just two snow days this winter, I sure can’t complain about my training conditions. My tan lines are still intact!

SoCalCycling.com:  Which events would you like to do well in and what are your goals for the 2015 season?

Joy McCulloch:  Let’s win some more championships! My time trial bike and I are becoming close friends and I would like to test my abilities on the TT bike at the national level. I would also like to compete in several more of the NCC criteriums around the country. My race season always includes a solid mix of national level events and local racing, and  2015 will be much the same.

SoCalCycling.com: What are your long-term goals in cycling?

Joy McCulloch:  This isn’t the end of the tunnel? It is crazy to be 10 years into racing mountain bikes and on the road and to still be challenged and motivated to improve. I have reached many long-term goals as well as eliminate some along the way because I realized they were bananas or not for me. I would like to become a smarter and more savvy bike racer which takes patience and commitment to the craft. One day I may head to Masters Nationals, but in the meantime I would like to continue to be a positive force within the local and national cycling communities.

SoCalCycling.com: You have gotten to race some of the NRC races, such as the Nature Valley Grand Prix and the Redlands Bicycle Classic the past few years. How do these races compare to a local women’s race and do you have any tips for riders looking to make the jump to competing in the bigger NRC races?

Joy McCulloch:  This is an topic that I am very passionate about. I race an almost full NRC schedule for the past 4 seasons and I realized quickly that local racing does not prepare you for these events. The main differences are the speed and intensity of the races as well as the volume and duration of the events.

At NRC and NCC events, the racing is fast and aggressive and there is a lot of contact within the peloton. Being physically and mentally prepared for the stress of this type of racing is key. You also must be a competent cyclist and be able to handle your bike in adverse situations. Developing the depth of fitness to be competitive in this environment takes time as well.

SoCalCycling.com: What advice would you give women that are looking to make the jump and take the next step to becoming a better racer?

Joy McCulloch:  Race, race, RACE! And when you do race, race your bike hard and with a purpose. I encourage all athletes wanting to go to the next level and race multi-day events to race as much as they can. This includes lots of criteriums, big group rides, and riding with experienced cyclists who can teach you how to handle your bicycle. Always look for a situation where you can be challenged and encouraged to grow. Also be willing to race in all conditions and on courses that may not suit you or be your first choice. Being able to race in all scenarios will make you a much more well-rounded cyclist which will pay big dividends down the road. I have even jumped in mens races to get an extra boost in my fitness and intensity to better prepare for big events.

SoCalCycling.com:  What would you like to see to improve in women’s cycling to get more women into racing?

Joy McCulloch:  Race! I know, I have already said it, but the more women we have showing up to the races and racing well, the better off we will be. The SCNCA has an extensive race calendar which allows us to race January to September which is something many regions do not have. Our promotors are beginning to take heed and add money to our prize purses and give us better race start times which is really exciting. Now it is up to us in the women’s peloton to show up ready to race.

SoCalCycling.com:  In addition to being a cyclist and bike racer, you also have your own coaching business, Big Wheel Coaching.  Can you tell us more about Big Wheel Coaching and your coaching philosophies?

Joy McCulloch:  I started BWC in 2010 as a way to combine my passion for cycling with teaching. It has grown to a full time job with clients ranging from a novice 70 year old cycling enthusiasts to young professionals in the road, MTB, and CX fields. I am able to custom design each individual athletes training plan to specifically meet the client’s lifestyle, goals, and capabilities in a way that is attainable and sustainable. Being able to utilize structure, feedback and accountability, it has been really rewarding to help so many awesome people reach their goals ranging from their first century ride to competing in NRC events around the country.

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Photo  by Eric Reed

SoCalCycling.com: We have been enjoying your fun and informative newsletters with training tips and encourage our audience to “Join your Mailing List” or read your articles directly on your new web site at BigWheelCoaching.com.  Are there upcoming topics you can share?

Joy McCulloch:  I could create an article for every one of the above questions, that’s for sure! But I have also conjured up many articles in my head while training. I am going to write about my love/hate with Strava, how to break up with your powermeter and be OK, the importance of carbs and coffee in a cyclists life and much more. Make sure to subscribe to the newsletter so you can receive the latest news straight to your inbox!

SoCalCycling.com:  Is there anything else you would like to add?

Joy McCulloch:  For me, bike racing represents an opportunity to examine my weaknesses, reinforce my strengths, and meet incredible people through the process. This sport has given me so much enjoyment, but most importantly a friend network that I now call my family. What a great gift! Thank you to the SoCal peloton and cycling community for so many great experiences. Now let’s race some bikes!

SoCalCycling.com:  Thanks for your time Joy and best of luck in the 2015 season!

Interview by Christy Nicholson, SoCalCycling.com 

Top Image – Joy McCulloch attacks the peloton at the 2014 Dana Point Grand Prix.  
Photo by Christy Nicholson / EchelonDesignPhoto.com

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