Building sisterhood with Lifeplus-Wahoo

Episode one of the Lifeplus-Wahoo 'Made This' series documents life in the team house leading up to the biggest races of the season

This article was produced in association with MAAP

Backflips on trampolines in bright green and purple lycra, ‘dad cams’ filming laughter and banter between teammates, and microphone muffs being used to bop people on the head. In only the first few shots in episode one of ‘Made This’ – a series following Lifeplus-Wahoo’s progress through the season – it’s clear that this is a cycling team like no other.

The uniqueness of the British team manifests itself in more ways than one: there’s the fact that they are the longest-running UK-based British UCI team, having fought for survival on numerous occasions. Then, there’s the plucky commitment they have shown to developing young talent, punching above their weight in races time after time again. Watching the team interact in ‘Made This’, a unique behind-the-scenes look at what goes on between competition days, it becomes clear that the bond and sisterhood between riders is another key element of what makes Lifeplus-Wahoo special.

Gosia Jasinska, Lifeplus-Wahoo’s sports director, is crucial to helping build trust and friendship between the team she manages. A former professional rider herself, the Polish woman has an acute understanding of what riders are going through during the season.

“When they have a problem, the riders know they must come directly to me, but I always want them to talk to each other honestly. I always say we shouldn’t talk behind each other’s backs,” Jasinska explains. 

“When I look back at my career, I remember how it was hard when you work for other people and you don’t have victory yourself. This means I can understand both the mentality of the leaders and also the girls who have to work for them and don’t get results themselves – it’s not always easy but I say to the riders that it’s about getting experience.”

The riders themselves echo Jasinska’s sentiment, believing that having her as a sports director is imperative to ensuring camaraderie and trust among the Lifeplus-Wahoo organisation.

“What she brings to the team is that real fighting spirit. As a rider, she was well known for being someone who if you knocked her down three times, she'd get up four times. She gives 110 percent to everything she does,” Eluned King, a rider for Lifeplus-Wahoo, explains. ”It makes a massive difference having a female DS for a female team and understanding how everything works in the female peloton.”

King also credits the time that Lifeplus-Wahoo spent living together in a team house in Belgium at the start of the season as important when it comes to building relationships between the riders. While some teams opt to go into hotels for the Classics period, the British team has a house in Flanders which they use as a base in between races.

“We have a smaller roster so we spend more time together in the team house and don't travel home as much,” King explains. “It's always difficult in the Classics because everything's so extreme. The weather's always quite extreme and you don't really get a chance to decompress between races. Once it’s over, you finally feel like you can breathe again. But I think what stayed constant throughout our Classics was how we all wanted the best from each other, which is quite special.”

As documented in the opening episode of the ‘Made This’ series, King remembers the jokes and games between the team while living together. Jasinska argues that keeping things light hearted in between race days is important to ensure that a busy few months are as stress-free as possible for the riders.

“When we were in the house in Belgium and weren't racing, the rider's life could be very stressful because you don’t know if you will get a good result or crash, or if the weather will be shit,” Jasinska says. “In the team house before or after the race I wanted to make sure we were always easy joking, not always thinking about cycling. It’s important when the girls spend three or four weeks in the team house, they need to pass this time easily.”

In order to make the experience of living in shared accommodation with teammates as smooth as possible, King explains that the riders had a rota when it came to chores like cooking and cleaning.

“Two people cooked and then two people cleaned. By the end of the Classics, Gosia ended up just setting a timer and saying: ‘Okay, you have five minutes to clean.’ It would be kind of a race and it would be really funny. She gave us a minute less everyday to clean that whole kitchen, which is like an industrial sized kitchen. You'd have 10 girls running around behind them behind each other which was hilarious,” King explains.

While so much focus is placed on race results and performance in professional cycling, Lifeplus-Wahoo’s approach is much broader than that. Building friendship and trust within the team and ensuring a positive environment for everyone is almost as important as the physical side of training for races, and this comes across in the ‘Made This’ episode, with the sisterhood between riders standing out as unique compared to other teams.

“This team is more like a family, you can see that from the contact with sports directors and managers,” Jasinska explains. “It’s not a business – there’s more passion and more heart. It’s not about results or money. That’s unique and important in this work.”

Watch ‘Made This’ Episode One: Sisterhood, on YouTube now

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