The former Spice Girl on taking on Victoria Pendleton at triathlon, Liverpool’s title challenge and tracksuits
Hello Melanie, you have sold millions of records around the world. Why would you want to add in gruelling training for the Shock Absorber WomenOnly Triathlon? I only started doing triathlons in 2011 and I was just bitten by the bug. It was something that I quite fancied having a go at, but I was scared of the unknown. Then I thought, “No, sod it, I’m going to do this.”
One of Small Talk’s own mantras. Any regrets? The beginning of the swim is pretty hairy because everyone’s trying to get the shortest route, there’s a few arms and legs and punches and kicks and things. But it’s not actually that bad, the odd foot in the face is all right!
Underwater punch ups, blimey. Do you give as good as you get? No! [sounding horrified] I’m too, like [mimes inching her way through a crowd] ‘Oh sorry! Sorry! I don’t want to hurt anyone’. I’m actually more scared of the bike, because you can really hurt yourself if you fall off.
It all sounds horrific so far. What do you actually like about triathlon? I love the range of people there. Women of all ages, all shapes and sizes, all fitness levels. You know, there are women doing the bike ride on their shopper bikes! It’s fabulous. Everyone is welcome, everyone is treated the same. And it’s supporting a brilliant women’s charity in Breast Cancer Care.
Do you ride a shopper bike too, Melanie? I’ve got a fab bike. It’s a Rose bike, which is a German company. It’s super light, it’s got electronic gears, it’s amazing. One of the guys I train with – he still competes in triathlon – and he spec-ed it all up for me. So I’ve got a really super duper bike now.
More importantly, what colour is it? White.
Ooh! Yeah, it’s very stylish. I can’t change a tyre on it though. You know the old adage: ‘all the gear and no idea’ … well my triathlon trainer taught me a new one which is: ‘all the kit, still shit’, which very much applies to me. I’m just a newbie to the sport, but I’m loving it.
You’re captaining a team that will be going up against two-time Olympic cycling champion Victoria Pendleton. Who is more competitive? Well, I’ve eased up a bit since I’ve got older, and when you’re competing against a multiple gold-medal winning champion you tend not to be quite so competitive … [sounding somewhat unconvincing].
But Vicky P’s only doing the run leg – without her bike, you might be able to take her down! Well, I don’t want it to be too competitive because we’re trying to get women to take part.
[Small Talk blushes] Oh yes, well of course. We should at this point say that female readers can win a place on your team, where the run and cycle legs are up for grabs … I would love to have someone in my team who’s never done it before and who’s going maybe to take ages but will have the satisfaction of achieving something for the first time. I think that’s really special.
Is it true that you have always been sporty, and not just Sporty? At school I did everything gymnastics, athletics, hockey, netball. But bizarrely, now, I’m sportier than ever.
Even though you don’t wear tracksuits anymore … I’d kill to be in a tracksuit on telly now!
Did you actually wear tracksuits in real life, or was it all a Spice marketing invention? Absolutely I wore them. I was at dance college, and where I grew up that’s just what kids wore anyway. On street corners, going out in parks, drinking cider, that’s just how it was growing up in the 80s. So that was never a construct. People don’t know that about the Spice Girls, the marketing was genius, but it was real. It really was us. Of course we played up to it, but it really wasn’t contrived.
Are the other Spice Girls into sport? Not like me. I suppose Victoria [Beckham]’s had to become interested in football … which she can let go again now.
You were brought up a massive Liverpool fan. It all seemed to be going so right this season, until Crystal Palace pulled off the mother of all comebacks on Monday night … I didn’t watch the game thankfully [Melanie shakes her head sorrowfully] I was out. It is really sad. They could maybe do it still but just to see them back up there and doing so well and just getting excited for the club again is really nice. Because it’s been a tough few years. It’s 25 years since Hillsborough, and the families are getting closer to getting justice for the victims so that’s something which I think has made it a lot more emotional this season with Liverpool doing so well. It may not be the fairytale ending we would have liked but it’s still a step in the right direction. We’re back in Europe. It’s a good thing.
With the rivalry between Liverpool and Man Utd, were you cross with Victoria for going out with David Beckham, then a Man Utd player? Absolutely! I still haven’t forgiven her. It’s funny, it’s so deep seated it’s genetic almost, you grow up with it. Even to the point where I didn’t even like shopping in Manchester as a kid. Growing up someone would go, “You going Manchester shopping?” You’d go, “No I’m going Southport.” [Although Melanie is at pains to point out she can, now, joyfully shop in Manchester, and a lovely place it is too.]
What were Liverpool v Man Utd derby days like in the Spice Girls era? There was always a bit of banter, definitely. I used to pretend that me and David [Beckham] didn’t get on. But David’s such a lovely guy you couldn’t do that for long. [Suddenly a PR lady interrupts Small Talk, anxiously looking at her watch and demanding the interview come to an abrupt end. But Small Talk is having none of it, Small Talk fights back! Waving the dictaphone in the air, Small Talk rants wildly about there being a full six minutes and 21 seconds left of our allocated time to speak. Melanie C politely pretends to ignore the hiatus.]
Ahem. Sorry Melanie but there are still some very important questions to ask you. Such as, who would win in a fight between a lion and a tiger? OK, let’s find out. A lion and a tiger, has this been trialled?
Small Talk isn’t sure, it’s possibly not legal … Underground. Got it. Right, why am I even thinking about this? [Small Talk shrugs unhelpfully.] I’m going to have to say lion, because the lion’s king of the jungle.
Touché. Who is most likely to win a triathlon out of all the Spice Girls? Me! [Indignant] Can you imagine if I didn’t? I would be so annoyed. I’m not very good at losing.
OK, so who would give you a run for your money? I think Mel [B] probably trains the most out of everybody. Victoria runs, Geri does her yoga, Emma does a reluctant workout – she just hates it – but yeah I think Melanie would be the hardest to beat.
Finally, if you were a footballer who would you be? I have no idea … that is a really hard question.
Small Talk likes to think this is a space for challenging thought and debate, hence the tiger question … Well, over the last few years Steven Gerrard has done so much for the team, he’s so well loved, and he’s stuck there even when time’s have been difficult so I would say Stevie G. Everyone’s got a lot of respect for Stevie G.
And he’s got a single letter for his surname, just like you … Yes!
And on that bombshell Small Talk will depart. Good luck in the triathlon Melanie! Thanks, bye!