Words by Sophie Smith | Photo by @noa_arnon
Cherie Pridham had to establish a website and task a friend to manage the interview requests that came through it such was the interest in her historic appointment at Israel Start Up Nation at the beginning of this year.
Pridham made headlines when she was named the first female sports director in the WorldTour and very soon after guided Mads Wurtz Schmidt to a stage win at Tirreno-Adriatico in March.
“If you’d asked me if I was going to have a win that early I just wouldn’t have dreamed it,” Pridham said. “But that was a full team effort that was. I was working with [sports director] Nicki Sorenson and [team manager] Kjell Carlstrom was there as well so it was a nice race to start at.
“It was one of those races we took by the scruff of the neck because we’d lost Dan Martin and Mike Woods through illness, so we really did have to adapt to taking the race on by getting out there and racing.”
The sight of a female behind the wheel in the convoy is so rare that Pridham has heard fans remark in surprise as she has rolled out of stage starts but her transition to the Israel Start Up Nation team, she says, has been seamless.
“It’s like I’ve known them for years, you know, and there’s sports directors on there that I’ve looked up to and [in the past was] like, ‘One day when I grow up I want to be like them’ kind of thing. It’s just amazing that I’m working alongside guys that I have so much respect for and now I’m one of them, you know,” said Pridham.
The 49-year-old was speaking from her base in Derby, England ahead of the Tour of Alps where she’ll for the first time meet in person and direct Chris Froome.
Four-time Tour de France champion Froome as well as Martin, who is preparing for the Giro d’Italia, headline the squad that will start the five-day race on Monday.
Pridham didn’t talk strategy before a scheduled Sunday night team meeting but was kind about Froome’s slow start to the season as he continues a comeback from a career-threatening injury, which you could fairly say was set back with a competition shutdown last year. The 35-year-old, like Pridham, is also adjusting to being in a new team following a long and prolific tenure at Ineos Grenadiers.
“We should be just grateful that he’s back racing at this stage,” she said.
Pridham, a retired racer and former Continental team owner and manager, has described her move to the WorldTour as a step-up in her career as she navigates the season amid the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The biggest race I would do probably at Conti level is Tour of Yorkshire, or Tour of Britain. But even Tirreno-Adriatico and stuff like that, those are proper WorldTour races. You’re in it aren’t you. You can’t see the smile on my face, but it just makes me smile. I just want more,” she said.