Governing body marks International Women's Day ...

British Cycling is marking today’s International Women’s Day with the announcement of Jess Varnish and Lizzie Armitstead as the new ambassadors for its Breeze programme of female only rides.

Breeze, launched in 2011, aims to help women overcome some of the barriers that prevent them from cycling and its 3,000 local rides in England have had some 17,000 participants to date, with the governing body training 400 riders to become Breeze champions.

Armitstead, winner of the silver medal behind Marianne Vos in the Olympic road race in London last summer, said: “Jess and I are encouraging as many women as possible to get on their bikes and go on a Breeze bike ride. Cycling is a big part of my life and I want as many women out there to experience the fun and social side of riding a bike.

“It’s not as scary as you think because Breeze is here to help you start your cycling journey. From advice on learning how to ride through to local bike rides, Breeze is fantastic and accessible.”

Varnish, who rode the individual pursuit at London 2012 with Victoria Pendleton – the pair’s gold medal dreams were dashed after they were relegated due to an illegal changeover – added: “Cycling gives you a sense of freedom like nothing else. I’m proud to be involved in Breeze as it’s doing such a great job in breaking down the barriers and empowering women to get on their bikes.”

You can find out more about Breeze rides here – typically, they start and finish at a café which gives them a strong social aspect, are aimed at being friendly and informal and mostly include traffic-free routes, are suitable for all ages and abilities, and are described as being perfect for busy mothers or women who haven’t been on their bike for a while.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.