Orla Chennaoui is the best dressed journalist in cycling, and while you might think that would be something to celebrate, it turns out it's actually a source of constant annoyance for some viewers of the opposite sex. It's this Neanderthal approach that, amongst other things, Orla exposes in her roles as print journalist and podcast presenter.
Because, you see, she's not just well dressed, she's also a very smart cookie. As if a degree in Law and French, and a postgrad in Journalism wasn't enough, she also speaks five languages and has two decades worth of experience under her (no doubt very fashionable) belt.
Orla was born in County Derry and, ever stylish, her first bike was a BMX Aero, complete with chequered crossbar padding. While she may have attempted (and failed) a few BMX stunts, the bike was mainly used for idyllic countryside adventures with her cousins. As the child of Gaelic Football fans, her childhood was immersed in sport, whether it was heading to games with her parents, or dabbling in it herself. A brief foray into camogie, an Irish variant of hurling, was soon superseded by her passion of track and field and a dream of becoming an Olympian.
That's something that Orla doesn't regularly mention – As a sports journalist, not only does she talk the talk, but she also walks the walk. Or at least hops, skips and jumps the walk as twice All Irish Triple Jump champion!
She knows the dedication needed to be a professional athlete and is fascinated by the ambition that drives sportspeople. Similarly, she knew she didn't have that dedication herself. Whether that was due to her own ambition, or lack thereof, or whether she simply had no frame of reference of what a woman was capable of in sport, is still a question she ponders.
So, it was off to University in Belfast. Studying Law (because she “likes a good argument”) and French (because she “loves chatting”) were the perfect basis for the journalism career she had now decided on. Stints at Scotland on Sunday, and Edinburgh Evening News led to heading south and a broadcast journalism job with what would go on to become Heart Radio. Staying in England, Orla flexed her presenting muscles with the ITV News Network before heading back up to Scotland to present Scotland Today for STV.
Although she started her career hoping to become a foreign correspondent, working up to that meant starting off covering hard news including court reporting. It was after working on the trial of a notorious serial killer that Orla realised she needed a change and, when the opening at Sky Sports came up, she jumped at the chance to report on her first love instead.
Orla finally moved into the field she is now synonymous with, and started a position with Sky Sports. In the twelve years she has worked for Sky Sports and latterly Eurosport, Orla has been on the ground at multiple editions of the Tour de France, Giro d'Italia, Vuelta a Espana and Olympics, and in the studio for many more.
She is the face of cycling coverage as the presenter of Eurosport's Grand Tour studio show The Breakaway, presents a sports podcast called The Breakdown with Olympic long-jumper Greg Rutherford, and is an unabashed active campaigner for women and children in sport.
And we can't wait to welcome Orla to our Ibiza adventure, just as much as she can't wait to be there. The last time she visited Ibiza was only days after she gave up drinking alcohol and she claims that even though all her friends thought she was mad, it was one of her favourite holidays ever. “I figured if I could love it in those circumstances, it must be a special place. I’m so buzzing to go back.”
“Some of my very favourite humans in cycling [are] coming together to ride, dance and eat wonderful food! I’ve genuinely been looking forward to this all year. I also get to scope out some yoga and paddle board spots for next year. It’s my dream trip!”
Ours too, Orla!
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