The following is an excerpt from an interview with the author (me):
The term ‘wheeler’ (‘Rouleur‘ in French) describes a type of cyclist who is good at many aspects of the sport. A majority of the women pros are Rouleurs, meaning they’re good at climbing, can sprint to the finish line and have the ability to endure many fast miles in the saddle in support of their teams. In contrast, in the men’s peloton, riders are often specialists: climbers, sprinters, time trialists, etc.
Wheeler has the hallmarks of a romance, while mixing in women’s fiction and sports fiction. The story follows American pro cyclist, Loren Mackenzie as she competes with her British trade team, Innovative Design Cycling, through the UCI Women’s World Cup Tour across Europe. The racing calendar culminates with the UCI World Championships in Richmond, Virginia.
A reader doesn’t necessarily have to be a follower of cycling, as I do go into a bit of detail about some of the finer points of the sport without getting too technical. While the racing is a major plot and is very exciting, the focus is the relationships between Loren and her teammates and competitors, showing her true character to the reader.
The whirlwind romance between Loren and British actor, Graham Atherton is the second plot line. Their love affair starts off with a ‘bang’ and while physically separated by a continent and several time zones, they try to make it work. Like any long distance relationship, it has its ups and downs, sprinkling in emails, text messages and video chats. It isn’t until the third plot line comes to a head when their relationship solidifies.
I try to shine a light on professional cycling from a different angle. The vast majority of novels that delve into the pro peloton, whether in the US or Europe, focus on the male riders and are either biographies, autobiographies, documentaries or romances with female fans/journalists. This story takes the women’s peloton into the realm of fiction by creating a strong female protagonist, riveting racing scenes, coupled with a romantic storyline.
The novel also delves into ‘women’s fiction’ by dealing with issues that many women face in a male-dominated sport: discrimination, sexual misconduct and assault. Many athletes admit to using their anger and painful memories to fuel their performances. As Shakespeare so eloquently puts it: ’One fire burns out another’s burning. One pain is lessen’d by another’s anguish’. Mackenzie is no stranger to this, and traumatic events also dig up Loren’s own personal demons.
Like so many others who have read Wheeler, you’ll be cheering for Loren by the end.