Question Time with Team BikeExchange-Jayco's Alexandra Manly

After an incredible season on the road, the Team BikeExchange-Jayco rider talks about how her cycling career started in an Australian swamp, the mountain paradise she wants to escape to, and the power of the mind

What type of a rider are you?

I like the Tours, but I do think I could see myself performing well in races like Amstel where it’s been quite hard, then it flattens out before the finish, but you have to kick, recover then go again. I’m still learning myself, because I’ve never really been in this position as the person who everyone is riding for. When you’re working for someone else, you’re not really sure if that course suits you because you use all your energy before the finish.

Road or track?

I get that question all the time. I can’t pick! I’ve enjoyed how the road is a bit more relaxed; the track environment I came from is quite focused.

What’s your earliest memory of riding a bike?

I was with my mum and we were riding around this lake which had little islands in it, joined together by foot bridges. It was more of a swamp, actually. I was riding on an old mountain bike – I don’t know where we got it from, probably the tip or something – and I slipped and fell in the water. That was the last time I remember riding before I was cycling seriously, and I’ll never forget it, I was so mortified.

Which result are you most proud of in your career?

My 2019 World Championship points race win. It came after a pretty tough time, as six months before that I’d broken my shoulder. I proved to myself I can do this and that it’s more in your head than your legs sometimes.

What’s a weird habit that you have?

I lose my train of thought quite easily so I’m not very good at telling stories. I often go round in circles. I probably have more that I can’t think of. I’m definitely a weirdo!

When the off-season starts, what’s the first food or drink that you have?

Definitely Sangria. I like to go on holiday and have a Sangria somewhere fun.

What do you think you’d be if you weren’t a cyclist?

I always wanted to do something in sport but I didn’t really think you could do that. When I was growing up, I didn’t see women on TV very often in sport, I just saw them at the Olympics every now and again. I thought I might go into the police or army, but nothing sparked my interest like cycling did.

Where’s your favourite place to ride a bike?

The Adelaide hills are pretty good. I’m definitely biased, as that’s where I’m from, but it’s really got everything and I like it there.

If you could be a fly on the wall and listen in to a conversation, where would you go?

I would love to listen to behind-the-scenes stuff within cycling teams. Like the management and high-up levels, how do they function? I don’t know what that’s like. When they’re making big decisions, how are they choosing it? When we get the messages about a big decision, we don’t know how they got there.

Where’s your dream vacation?

The Lofoten Islands in Norway. I don’t think I’d take a bike, I’d just go hiking and backpacking.

If you could pick one race to win in your career, which would it be?

The World Championship road race. That would be the coolest thing ever.

Who did you look up to growing up?

I didn’t have somebody who I really wanted to be, but I had a lot of people I took inspiration from. I feel like I learned a lot from my two older sisters and younger brother. I was inspired by them and my parents. From a sporting perspective, I think Cathy Freeman. When she won the Olympics, everybody got inspired by that. It was in 400 metres running, so not cycling, but just her doing that put that spark in my head. 

What’s your most used app?

I’d say WhatsApp, being from Australia but living in Europe. That’s how I communicate with everyone.

What’s the toughest thing about bike racing?

I think it's dealing with setbacks. In cycling, you lose a lot more than you win. You have 120 people starting a race and only one person wins. You’ve got to have the right mindset as well as physical ability.