Francesca Eyre. You may have heard that name a few times, especially if you have read Living France, The Argus and The Telegraph in the past few years. Francesca is quite possibly one of the busiest people in France at the moment with her booming chalet business, her exceptionally talented family and taking on some of the most challenging amateur cycling competitions.
Francesca moved to Morzine, France to work one winter break in the chalets as a chef and this is where she met her husband to be, Paul. Twenty two years on, Francesca and her family have created Chilly Powder, a ski resort with a heart and beyond exceptional facilities for everyone.
Hi Francesca, thank you for doing this interview with Essential Cyclist, it is very lovely to speak with you all the way from France!
Shall we get started with talking about how you compete in amateur cycling. You live in one of the most scenic areas of the world, but what has been the best route you have had the chance to cycle?
Last year I did the Cyclotour du Gruyere in Switzerland, it was114km of stunning scenery and 3 cols! Another amazing race was 'La Scott Cimes du Lac Annecy' which I shall be doing this year again. I shall also be doing the Cycotour again.
Wow, we have heard they are very hard! What has been the worst or most difficult route?
I have a bit of a mental block about the 'Col de La Ramaz'. There is a 12% climb over 15km- 1400m in ascent - the small loop is 58km in distance but there are 3 other cols that you can add onto this loop. I've climbed a lot worse but I think each time I climb this one it's boiling hot or I'm not quite on form.
Well I think you certainly are putting us to shame! You must have had some of the most amazing experiences with these races. What have been the best moments?
When you have finished a race! No, I love the adrenalin and as I am quite a strong climber, I love overtaking people on the Cols.
No doubt you'll overtake us! And congratulations on your recent participation in the Cyclo Tour du Lac Leman, how did you prepare?
It is really difficult to train in the winter because of all of the snow - I hate the turbo trainer as the pleasure of exercise for me is being outside so I do a lot of cross-training and in the winter I ski tour and take part in Randonee racing. This is when you put skins on the bottom of your skis and run up the mountains instead of taking the lifts. This will help massively with your cardiovascular.
We also went to Lanzarote a couple of weeks before the race so that we could do some training.
All of that training must mean you burn an enormous amount of calories. What do you recommend as a good diet for amateur cyclists who want to keep nourished when training and during events, but also don't have much time due to work?
A good diet is essential - If you put cheap batteries into an electric toy, it won't last. I am in the middle of trying to change my diet to add in more protein as I tend to have too many natural sugars (And unnatural sugars-chocolate!)
I drink a smoothie made with rice-milk, fruits, vegetables and whey after I have trained. I don't eat any processed food and I cook with a lot of spices, like ginger and turmeric. It is very quick to cook a Thai or Indian vegetable curry that you can serve with brown rice, quinoa or barley if you get fed up of pasta or rice. I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis 3 years ago so I either had to start taking steroids or change my diet - I changed my diet dramatically so that I can climb mountains again. Food and a good diet is one of the most important factors.
That must take a great effort on your behalf, as well as having three children, a successful business and a great cycling career. How do you manage it all?
I have a really good team behind me - I get up early to train if I haven't got time during the day - Quite often I have to 'wing it' and hope that I have enough miles on my legs!
'Winging it' – you're braver than us! How do you keep everyone and everything organised?
I shout a lot! I throw 10 balls into the air and sometimes they all come down but occasionally only 8! I take it in turns with my husband to train, sadly we can never train together.
So let us in on your magical secrets, what advice would you give to our readers who want a fulfilling career and a sports life?
To make time.
I know that sounds easier than it is but I train early if I don't have time during the day, Strava is a great motivational tool. Entering into races makes you have a goal to work towards. I never watch TV, I use any spare time to train, be it running, cycling or trekking up a mountain. Cross training means you don't get bored and you use all sorts of muscles.
No television, right we shall certainly keep that in mind, after the Commonwealth Games!
The Cystic Fibrosis Trust is very close to your heart, do you plan on doing any more sporting events to raise money for the charity?
I am doing the Manaslu Mountain Challenge race in Nepal which is a trail running race. It is 220km in distance, 15,000m of climbing with the highest ascent of 5400m. This is going to be a massive challenge! Hopefully it won't break me!
I lost my brother (aged 34) and sister (aged 15) to CF so 'I do these crazy adventures because I can and they can't'.
That is very inspirational and we wish you all the luck in the world for the Manaslu Mountain Challenge!
Your son I hear is going pro for ice hockey? That must be amazing, tell us about it?
He started playing when he was 3 years old and lives, sleeps, breathes ice hockey. He goes to a sports academy in Austria which has an international section for ice hockey. He plays and trains alongside 28 different nationalities and he will being doing his International Baccalaureate in two years time. If this goes well, he will then join a college team in the States and go to university over there. He is very determined and knows that it is a really hard career to get into but in the meantime he will come away speaking German as his 3rd language, he will also have a basic knowledge of Russian (a lot of his contemporaries are Russian) and an amazing experience living and working in a different country. The best thing of all is that he is a confident 17 year old who absolutely loves his life and knows how incredibly fortunate he is. He's not bothered about partying when he is training as it will affect his play, so as a mum I know he looks after his body and is not getting up to mischief.
Always good for a Mum to know! You are originally from Sussex, why did you choose Morzine to open your beautiful chalets?
I came to Morzine to chef over the Christmas period after my mother had just died from cancer. I was 22 at the time and had moved back to London from Dublin after mum had died, bringing with me my two younger siblings. All my friends were beginning to settle down and get careers and I knew that I needed to live life more, Morzine came up and I jumped at it.
What were the key things you wanted to consider when you founded Chilly Powder? Fantastic name by the way!
Thank you, I came up with the name driving across London on my way to chef for some directors. At that point I had no intention on setting up a chalet company in the Alps, which is quite strange.
The key points were that we were ski to the door. We built the main chalet so that we were totally within the health and safety laws and so that the chalet was exactly what we wanted. The Chalet was built so that it has 'A home from home' feel to it, so guests can immediately relax. It is an all year round resort so that we could settle here and eventually bring up children here. We built up a successful business so that we could afford to live in Morzine and work for ourselves. Families that stay with us have great facilities so they can have a real stress free holiday.
It all sounds great and you employ a few British people, do you take on seasonal workers?
All of our staff are seasonal except for the key workers. We are open from December until the end of April and then from the middle of June until the first week in September. We employ people from all over the world and the key fact is that they have to be hard workers with great hospitality skills.
Your website shows a fantastic array of things to do including some great sports, are you able to do all of these sports?
It is a lot harder now with the kids as they are very sporty themselves so I am forever being the taxi mum! Eloise was 22nd in the whole of France for her ski racing this year so I am often on the side of a race course in the winter while Paul, my husband is on the side of a hockey pitch with Jamie our youngest. The sports I concentrate on are Ski Touring in the Winter and then Trail running, Trekking and Cycling in the summer. We also kayak, play tennis, ride, white water raft, rock climb, golf when we can squeeze it into our schedule.
Were you excited about the Tour de France?
There are very, very strong rumours that the Tour de France is coming through Morzine next summer which will be exciting. We would love to have Team SKY to stay with us. It's a great couple of days and amazing to have such elite athletes to stay with us.
You had Team Astana stay at the chalets, what was it like catering for them?
Is this a trick question? The year Alberto Contador won the Tour de France he had his drug test with us, this was the year that got him banned!He blamed it on the beef! Luckily it was their chefs that had supplied the beef.
The ASO give us a set menu that we have to feed the teams and depending on the teams we either cook for everyone or the riders have their own private chef. The menu is very lean but lots of food. It always surprises me that the riders are allowed to drink a certain amount of alcohol.
We have had Gerolsteiner, HTC, Lotto Belisol, Astana and then teams from the Tour des Aveniers and Dauphine Races staying with us over the years.
Thank goodness it was the beef!
Were you able to catch a glimpse of the cyclists this year?
I sadly didn't as it has been very busy in the chalet. It has been a shame as it looked like it was a very exciting Tour this year. Our manager went down to the Oyonnax to see them.
Can you give our readers some hints and tips for cycling in Morzine, or Sussex for that matter?
I left Sussex when I was 16, so I have never sadly cycled over there. If you are coming over to this area just be prepared for lots of Cols - It's a great place to get your hill cycling legs working.
How do you keep motivated in the harsher months of the year?
I ski tour, which is just beautiful and hard work too but you get to climb stunning mountains without having to get in the way of lots of people skiing down pistes.
Last but not least, what has to be the best moment you have experienced to date?
I think climbing Mont Blanc, a few months after my brother had died.
My 70km Ultra Marathon.
Trekking through the Himalayas over the Kuri pass with my eldest son and husband. Every time I summit a mountain, be it by bike or by foot it is very special for me.
An incredible insight into not only Chilly Powder, a fantastic all year round chalet resort, but also into an inspirational strong woman and her family. Thank you to Francesca Eyre for this great interview. Also for taking away the 'no time' excuse for not taking up a difficult challenge. A very big Good Luck from us all here at Essential Cyclist.