OVER the deafening drone of a derny engine, the sound of laughter echoes across the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome.
Between laps on the track Eileen Roe and Kayleigh Brogan, amid some hilarity, are trying to describe the dynamic that bonds them and their team-mates Jane Barr, Laura Murray and Anne Ewing.
"Jane is the mum of the group," says Roe. "She is super-organised. Me? I'm not so organised, which I think can annoy poor Jane sometimes. Kayleigh is the youngest and like me when it comes to organisation, or lack of it. We tend to think, 'Ach, it will be fine'. Laura is pretty laid-back, too, while Anne is a doctor and the sensible one in the team."
Brogan chips in. "When you've had a bad day, Anne will be the one to tell you it's not the end of the world and that tomorrow there's always another race," she says. "Jane is great for that, too. We all seem to have a calming effect on one another."
Brogan, 21, from Paisley, is reigning Scottish road race and criterium champion, while Roe, 24, from Fife, took the Scottish Cyclocross title a fortnight ago. This Saturday the pair head to Omloop het Nieuwsblad, the big Belgian season- opener of the early classics calendar. They will be joined by Barr, 31, from Cambus, Stirlingshire, a former middle-distance runner who only began cycling in 2009 through sportscotland's Gold4Glasgow scheme but is already a two-time Scottish road race champion.
"To even stand on the start-line of Omloop het Nieuwsblad is living the dream," says Roe. "We get to ride cobbles and bergs, a course that traditionally the men do. We are talking fields of 120+; in Scotland you'd be lucky to get 30. It's the best racing you can get."
As they converse theirs is the feisty camaraderie and us-against-the-world energy you may expect of a fledgling girl band. There are undoubtedly similarities: large chunks of their lives spent living in one another's pockets, travelling to obscure locations and bunking in cheap hotels as they attempt to conquer the world but that's where the comparisons end. There is no starry fluff with these women. Tenacious, determined and ambitious, they share a common goal: a Scottish medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
The quintet will spend the next 18 months on the roads of Britain and mainland Europe wearing the colours of the newly formed Breast Cancer Care team. Scottish Cycling is a major partner in the 16-strong professional road-racing outfit, an investment tailored at helping the five in their preparation for the Games.
Murray, 28, from Banchory, Aberdeenshire, like Barr, found her path through the Gold4Glasgow programme, while Ewing, 25, juggles training with working as a doctor in Edinburgh. The team roster includes 11-time Paralympic gold medallist Dame Sarah Storey, 2011 Danish national road race champion Julie Leth and British under-23 time trial champion Elinor Thorogood.
At the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, Roe, Barr and Ewing rode for Scotland in support of Kate Cullen, finishing 20th, 35th and 37th respectively. It is their belief – shared by Scottish Cycling – that a podium place in Glasgow is a realistic ambition. Following the classics, including Le Samyn and Gent Wevelgem, their 2013 race programme will move to multi-stage tours: all geared towards strengthening the Scottish challenge for medals.
For Brogan and Roe, it's something that seemed out of reach only a few months ago. They, along with Barr and Ewing, were part of the now-defunct part-Scottish Team Ibis Cycles, which collapsed last autumn when their Dutch backers withdrew. Their tone grows serious. "When Ibis folded it was sudden and the transfer window for other women's teams was pretty much closed," says Brogan. "It felt as if we had been left with nothing."
Roe started cycling aged 10 after her father coaxed her to make up the numbers in a youth race, while Brogan was 13. Few things irk them more than the suggestion that women's cycling is somehow inferior to the men's sport. "Women race just as hard and technical as men," says Roe. "We have lead-out trains, domestiques and riders who go on breakaways. People seem to have this idea that we bowl around for a bit then sprint at the end, but that's simply not true."
They are equally sanguine when the political hot potato of money is raised. Lizzie Armitstead, the Olympic silver medallist, recently voiced her frustration at gender inequality within cycling but then backtracked on the issue. Roe and Brogan have no such qualms. "Unlike in the men's sport, only the top women in cycling get paid," says Roe. "The team provides our equipment, racing programme and transport, which is fantastic, but we pay all our living expenses. We don't get a salary; we are doing this off our own backs, all of us working through the winter months to fund our racing season."
By their own description they are "pioneers" for future women coming through the sport. "It's important to speak up," says Brogan. "We know what it's like day-to-day: going to races, struggling and not having any money. If we can help change things for the better, it will have been worth it."
"It won't be in our lifetime," adds Roe. "We are not going to get paid for what we do. To push the issue, though, I see that as our job so the youngsters coming through the ranks don't need to fight like we have. Lizzie [Armitstead] said something, then felt she had to retract it. It shouldn't be like that."
Asked what keeps them going, Brogan grins. "The hope of a medal in Glasgow," she says. Roe nods. "I want to win a medal for Scotland," she adds. "That's the ultimate goal."