GROWING up Charline Joiner wanted to be a PE teacher or a pilot, she says. “Well, now I’m flying on the bike and I’m also coaching people so, while it’s not quite the same, you could say I’m doing a little bit of both!”
The Scottish Commonwealth Games cyclist has had an eventful year. In the build up to Glasgow 2014, she was pretty myopic in her approach to life. Everything was geared towards performing at her home Games. That blinkered dedication was taken to a whole new level when a training crash left her with fractured vertebrae and threatened her plans. She battled back, though, and through sheer dedication and unflinching discipline she managed to get on her feet, then on her bike and, eventually she got her dreams back on track, qualifying for the Scottish team to compete at the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome and on the road circuit. There were no medals but there were also no regrets, as she knew there was nothing else she could have done.
“It has been one of the hardest years of my life – even tougher than last year”
Since then she has been forced to reassess her targets, personal and professional, both short-term and those that will safeguard her future.
“Last year was all about one thing, this year has been completely different,” she laughs. Switching cycling teams, moving to fledgling outfit WNT who are better placed to help her with travel and competition expenses, she has been finding ways to improve her results and performances while also launching a couple of other career projects.
Taking on the role of a personal trainer, she is also doing some coaching, offering tutelage to both novice and elite cyclists. “It has all been very new to me, working on everything from the marketing and finances, learning about cash returns and building a client base and I’m doing all that while still trying to manage my time so that I can train and compete and also get some rest when I need it. There hasn’t been much rest, though.
“It has been one of the hardest years of my life – even tougher than last year – but I’m enjoying it and the hard days make the good days even better. I’m doing things I enjoy and I’m just having to be more careful about how I use my time, when it comes to races it’s quality not quantity.”
The approach has served her well, thus far. As well as slowly but surely building a rewarding sideline which she hopes will sustain her once she quits competitive cycling, she is also having one of her most successful seasons on the bike. Still combining track and road racing, it is the latter which has benefited from the more dedicated training. Given that she missed more of that last term she felt it was the correct plan and it is paying off. She has already won three races this year and added several podium finishes. She is also lying second overall in the British National Road Series, ahead of household names like Dani King, Sarah Storey and Laura Trott. The next point scoring event is today, with the Curlew Cup being staged on the roads of Northumberland. The hope is that another strong display could elevate Joiner into first place, providing a massive confidence boost ahead of the British National Road Championships which will be staged in Lincolnshire this week. The programme, which includes time trials as well as the road races, starts on the 25th, with Joiner in action on the 28th, where she will race in a world class field of athletes, including Trott and Olympic silver medallist Lizzie Armistead, who finished third in the event last year and hopes to be recovered from injury in time to compete.
Joiner will also be up against fellow Scot and last year’s under-23 silver medallist Katie Archibald.
“I would be over the moon if I could finish in the top ten. That would be amazing because it is a really strong field and some of them are competing at the very highest level so I can only do my best but I need to stay with them as long as I can and then the sprint specialists like myself can maybe have a think about what we can do at the end. It is a very technical course and there are cobbles, which not everyone likes but I love so we will have to wait and see but I am riding well and if I can build on that this weekend then I will go into the Championships with a lot of confidence.”
It will help the other career as well. In an environment short on female coaches Joiner is desperate to be a positive role model and mentor to the next generation of Scottish female cyclists. Keen to preach a message of health and fitness she is a worthwhile poster girl, someone who walks the walk as well as talking the talk. And when it comes to the business ventures she can talk, passionately and at length. But it’s no surprise given the absorption levels for the past number of months as she nurtured a germ of an idea into a full blossoming business.
But at the moment it is all about keeping things realistic and manageable as she continues to chase her own ambitions on the road and track as well. The onus, she says, is on the females to continue their improvement, to provide greater strength and depth, race more aggressively and generate more excitement in races to attract the broadcasters and the sponsors. If that sponsorship rose to such a level that it increased the number of professional rides available, she would be delighted. She would definitely consider such an opportunity if it were to come along as reward for her efforts. But life has evolved and she is focused on more than one thing.
Joiner is more than simply a cyclist, she is a businesswoman and, now, she says those things will have to dovetail.