Balancing Motherhood and Elite Cycling
By Aaron S. Lee
When it comes to finding time to ride their bike, few people have more obstacles than Ruth Corset.
A typical day for Corset starts in the wee small hours of the morning and does not end until late in the evening after a heavy day of training, taking the kids to and from school, working as a massage therapist and getting the family fed.
“Balancing work, family and sport can be a struggle,” Corset tells Sportette. “When I was racing overseas it was obviously a lot harder just being away. Now racing in Australia, I only have to be away for three or four days at a time which is a lot easier on the family, but when I am at home I work a lot as well.
“I am always rushing, and usually eat while standing up.”
The 37-year-old Queenslander started racing on bikes when she was just 19 and competed at local races, including the Noosa Triathlon, just for fun. Corset, who won her age group in her first triathlon in 1996, still likes to mix it up with an occasional triathlon or mountain bike race, currently rides for the Melbourne-based women’s team Total Rush Hyster after having spent the past season riding for the Holden Cycling Team.
“I still love triathlon and when I am training extensively on the bike, I miss running and swimming,” says Corset, who took first place in the 70km RRR (Rural, Rainforest and Reef) Mountain Bike Challenge at the Cairns Airport Adventure Festival last May and finished third at the Sue Bell Memorial Saunders Beach Triathlon in her hometown of Townsville a month later.
“I find training for all three disciplines liberating and enjoy the balance all three sports give me physically, mentally and emotionally.”
Corset is no stranger to success.
At the turn of the decade, Corset lit up her palmarès finishing 12th at the 2009 UCI World Championships Road Race, a day before fellow Aussie Cadel Evans won the men’s world title in Mendrisio, Switzerland. That same year, Corset also won a stage win at La Route de France (2009), and the first of two straight silvers at Tour Féminin en Limousin (2009 and 2010). Corset followed that season with a stage win at Tour Cycliste Féminin International Ardèche (2010), an Australian national title (2010), and the NRS crown in 2012.
While with Holden last year, Corset returned to the same peak form that catapulted her onto the national and international women’s cycling scene as she won the Cycling Australia’s 2014 Subaru National Road Series (NRS) and was a finalist for the Jayco Australian women’s cyclist of the year award.
What’s more impressive is that during Corset’s dominant performance last season, she literally skipped two races while holding a tight lead over her rivals in order to put family first.
“I missed the Tour of Murray River in August, as my youngest daughter was competing in a gymnastics competition and I really want to go and watch her compete,” admits Corset.
“Later that month my twin sister, Esther, was expecting a baby on the weekend of the King Valley Tour and I think she would have killed me if I missed the birth of her baby.”
But just how does Corset fit it all in? The wife, mother of two and full-time worker explains.
“It’s pretty hectic,” she says. “I’m lucky I have my husband Jason, as he is very supportive. I’m up every morning at 4am during the week to train because I have to be home by 7.30 to get the girls to school and then start work at 8.30.”
A typical day for Corset consists of working as a massage therapist from 8.30am-2.30pm during the week with an occasional half hour lunch break in between. She then picks the up her two girls, Stephanie, 12, and Caitlin, 10, from school at 3pm.
Her husband – and coach – is a school teacher and trains in the afternoons as he is a cyclist as well. From 3 o’clock onward, it’s a never-ending hustle of shuttling the girls from swimming to gymnastics to cycling and violin.
“I don’t have any free time and if I do I’m normally doing housework or washing or something that needs doing,” says Corset. “But I wouldn’t change a thing. I love being a part of their lives.
“I don’t race over in Europe anymore because now my priority is the family, so I don’t want to miss any birthdays anymore or any of their sports carnivals.
“If I miss a bike race, so be it as it’s not as important now. It’s more important to be with the family.
“Don’t get me wrong, I still want to win and do well,” she continues. “But it’s not all consuming like it would have been earlier in my life and career.
“I just have to balance it all now.”
However, Corset is quick to point out that women cyclists are at a considerable disadvantage in terms of resources and support compared to their male counterparts.
“It is very different because the men pro cyclists who have kids can travel all over with them as they have the money to support their family,” she says. “Women cyclists don’t earn nearly any money in cycling, so we can’t really do that.”
Obviously influenced by her mother, both Stephanie and Caitlin are following in mom’s wheeltracks and taking to the bike with weekly track sessions in the local velodrome.
“Both girls are riding on the track,” says Corset. “Stephanie has just started doing a little bit of road cycling and comes with me every now and then when I have an easy ride.
“I love having her ride with me and she loves it, too.
“I think it’s good for kids to start on the track as it’s safer to develop good skills and techniques if they decide they want to then take up road cycling later.”
As far as those who make excuses in regard to finding time to exercise or ride their bike, don’t expect Corset to empathise.
“If I can fit in the training, I think anyone can,” says Corset. “For me, it’s just a matter of sacrificing my sleep time to get up early and train.
“I do get tired, but not everyone has to train like a pro cyclist or athlete. Just getting out and riding your bike for 20 or 30 minutes a day, you will feel so much better and you will enjoy your life and family a lot more.”
Sportette guest contributor Aaron S. Lee is Sydney-based American sports journalist and a columnist for Eurosport, and can be followed on Twitter @aaronshanelee