Kasia Niewiadoma races for Canyon//SRAM. The 25-year-old Pole has been victorious at the Bira, the Trofeo Binda, Amstel Gold Race and Women’s Tour during her short and impressive career. We caught up with her at home in Girona to talk about her home life during this unprecedented period. Watch the interview – recorded via Zoom – or read in full below.
Rouleur: Good morning, Kasia.
Kasia: Good morning! How are you?
I’m good, thanks. And you?
Yeah, also doing good. I woke up not that long ago, I’m on this really late schedule where I wake up around ten, sometimes even eleven. Time is so irrelevant right now so there’s no point stressing or being nervous about something. Maybe even this thing of going to bed and knowing there’s nothing waiting for you tomorrow makes me want to sleep so long, with peace on my mind.
Where are you in the world right now?
I’m in Girona, Spain. In full lockdown.
So only going out for petrol, essentials, food?
Yeah, I have a daily routine where after breakfast, I go to get groceries and stroll around. Because what I like about Girona is the fact we have so many little stores and we have to visit all of them in order to get our necessary products. It gives you extra time outside – you go to the cheese store, the yoghurt store, the vegetable market. So, it’s a little journey you can take in the morning.
That’s really nice; you can get some more sunshine and feel a bit normal.
Yeah, definitely. Normally, Spanish people are very welcoming and always happy, and now they do not even say hola anymore. Now, everyone is looking at their feet and being very distant.
People in the UK have to stay two metres apart. What I take from it is that it’s strangers showing they care about another stranger. By keeping their distance, they’re saying I really respect you, I respect the rules, and it has to be this way. It’s kind of nice as strangers didn’t interact in anyway before – in London anyway.
I agree with that.
What is the new Kasia routine at home? Finding yourself with more time to be creative or develop more skills?
Definitely, I feel that I have time to also think about things I wouldn’t think for. Or paying more attention to little details that normally I would only ignore. I definitely spend more time cooking and baking. I feel like I’m getting obsessed with it; sometimes I wake up during the night thinking about different recipes I just read before going to sleep, how could I combine them or what could I do different.
I feel like my mind is all about cooking and baking right now. And I’m lucky to share a house with quite a big guy [boyfriend Taylor Phinney] who loves to eat. So whenever I cook or bake, he always eats it. That’s a good sign for me ‘cos it makes me feel as satisfied as winning a race. Like, yeah, I did something well!
It’s so weird but I feel I’ve been racing for six, seven years and I feel like [after] a certain amount of time, you kind of lose the real passion that drives you so crazy to be doing it with so much love and life. I feel like baking kind of reminds me of those feelings you can get by doing simple things for yourself and for others.
What have been some of the best dishes you’ve been preparing?
What I love especially about baking is, like when I make muffins or sweet potato bread, is the fact that you can experiment in the kitchen. I didn’t want to follow the recipe, I always feel that way, even in training – never following exactly what was written down. And then you can add one ingredient or take something out. It’s just playing around and then waiting for the result.
Usually, I make a lot of different bread, sweet potato bread or banana bread. When it comes to cooking, I always try to clean out the fridge, never leave any leftovers or waste the food. Especially in these times, it wouldn’t be fair.
Experimenting – sometimes I even don’t know what to call the dish I just made. I feel like I tried to combine Polish kitchen with international cuisine.
I’m assuming you’re living with Taylor; what’s it like with the fusion of American and Polish cooking?
Yeah, he loves Polish cooking. It’s pretty heavy so I try to change or ad-lib it, with the oil or whatever, but our special occasions are based on potatoes and meat. We’re vegetarian right now, so we tried to introduce pierogi, for exaple, or potato pancakes that he loves.
Or I ask my mum in the morning, what is she going to make for lunch and dinner that day, then I steal her idea and combine it.
This is another thing about the situation we find ourselves in; have you found yourself more in contact with family, friends, team-mates?
To be honest, I wouldn’t say I get bored during the day or don’t know what to do with myself. I’m pretty lucky to live with Taylor ‘cos he’s a very entertaining guy, he always finds something to do and is great at inspiring me to do something with my time.
He makes music and, as I said before, I spend so much time in the kitchen so then after cooking a meal, of course you have to clean up, then I still try to take care of my body, I go and ride on Zwift, and then go do yoga, or I just sit down and learn some English or try to write things down. There’s always something to do.
I feel like I’ve been talking with my friends quite a lot, but I wouldn’t say I spend every day chatting with them for two hours. It’s more like normal life I would say, nothing extraordinary.
I feel like people in these times realise that you don’t need that much to be happy. If you’re in the right place and you’re the right person, it’s not that you need to have all these objects or crazy things. It’s finding peace in simplicity.
Well, hopefully we’re gonna come out of this scenario with even more value placed on some of the people paid the least who do the most: doctors, nurses, key workers, teachers. Suddenly it’s like modern society is only just waking up to how important they are for life.
I can say I feel really sorry for our police officers, sometimes they are walking round the street, it’s raining and they’re out there, making sure that everyone is staying in and not taking any risks. And then as you said, we have another level – of nurses and doctors who really risk their lives.
Can you recommend a film, a book, a podcast, an App for our readers?
I do not watch that many movies or listen to many podcasts, but I have a couple of nice ones. I’d divide them into a few categories – kind of intense movies like Seven Pounds or Green Mile, old classics. They break my heart, but I just love them.
I love comedies, of course; every comedy with Adam Sandler is my favourite. I also love romantic movies, I’d say like The Message in the Bottle, or all the movies from Nicholas Sparks [Ed – best known for The Notebook] are the ones that stole my heart. By the way, I’m very bad with movie names – I can forget it ten minutes after watching so I’m a bad person to ask for recommendations!
We should mention cycling too: what does this big change mean for you personally and for women’s cycling in general?
I read this article saying we might be racing the Ardennes Classics at the beginning of August, then I realised that would be super sweet actually, because you prepare for the Classics and then you have World Championships, so it’s not like you’re doing a bunch of different stage races; for them, you’re preparing for one-day races.
To be honest, I kind of like starting racing really late. And then you basically race every weekend. Maybe it’s difficult for people who want to target all those important races like Flanders, Ardennes, or Giro and Yorkshire – that wouldn’t be possible to be racing three months, non-stop, full gas.
For now, I haven’t been thinking that much about cycling. I haven’t been thinking about myself as a cyclist. I was more worrying about everything around us, realising how small we are, how irrelevant everything can be. You can’t change anything if a virus like this appears, for example.
I’ve realised it’s so important to just live in the present, which I wasn’t doing for so many years. Every day, I’d always be thinking about the next day – about the next training, the next effort, the next Strava. And my mind would always be 24 hours ahead.
Now I’m realising, it feels so nice to be calm in your head with the people around you – right now, it’s pretty limiting as I have just one person, but if you have friends around you, it’s so nice to listen and talk to them, and not be thinking in your head what you have to do, or jumping away and completely ignoring them.
At the end of the day, it’s all about love and light, nothing more. I know it’s also so easy to lose yourself in a change of career, and money, and achievement. Buying a house, building a house, things like this. As I said before, none of that really matters.
We never know what’s possible; there could be a career change for you – maybe you’ll have your own YouTube cooking show and you won’t even be a pro cyclist.
I know! Sometimes I add five Instagram stories about me cooking, I wonder whether I’m annoying, whether people like it, but then it’s my page, so it’s like: this is me.
And a final question; what are you most looking forward to when normal life continues?
Just being outside, I feel like I grew up in nature, being outside almost all the time. I feel like that thing has been taken away from me and now I realise it’s like being in the open air and going wherever I want – I’m talking about being on the bike. I don’t feel trapped [right now], but feeling like there are no limits. That’s the thing I’m really looking forward to.