RIPON Grammar School pupil Abi Smith has had a great 2018. She chatted with me about her 2019 plans

The Northern Echo:

Abi Smith, middle, with her teammates

How did you get into cycling?

I got into cycling just through my family, who have always been generally quite keen on sport. My mother was a county cross-country runner and my brother, Nathan Smith, 18, is a national and international triathlete, as well as recently joining a cycling team – Wold Top Actif – to try and get more into cycling like myself. I used to enjoy going out for mountain bike rides all the time around the local lanes and woods with my dad, and my brother if I could keep up – something of which I still struggle to achieve. Watching people such as Sarah Storey, Lizzie Deignan and Laura Trott on the TV was also really inspiring. Having the Ryedale Grand Prix at Ampleforth College just five minutes down the road is incredible too, National Roads Champs there in 2012 and the Mountain Bike World Cup in 2011 at Dalby Forest.

Which club did you ride for and when did you realise you had a talent for the sport?

At around age ten or 11 I started doing triathlons and was doing them for five or six years. I first rode for Clifton Cycling Club (CCC) in York, since about the age of 12 or 13 when I first got a road bike, to improve my cycling within triathlon. While there I really developed a passion for cycling. Another girl went through the GB cycling programme a few years before me – Anna Docherty, Senior Academy – and this inspired and motivated me. I found that in triathlon my bike was evidently my strongest discipline, which is a contributing factor to switching to just cycling this year, as well as not having to juggle 3 sports at once! 2018 has been incredibly successful for me as I have competed for GB in triathlon and England for mountain running, but have since changed my focus to just cycling as I realise that is where I have the most potential – but least experience. In 2018 I also joined Moonglu CC in Ripon when I started boarding at Ripon Grammar School and now go out on rides with them as part of my training programme, which has been really beneficial and very handy should I need my bike fixing. My new racing team is Racescene Female Development Academy (RFDA) which is a new national team set up this year for riders in Yorkshire in particular.

Earlier in 2018 you were selected to join the British Cycling Junior Academy, tell me about the call and what it meant for you?

In 2018, I was doing national triathlon racing as a main focus, but some national road cycling events as well just to see how I would fare against the competition – it turns out quite well. In the first national event, it was a two-day four stage event called the Youth Tour of London in which I managed to initiate a two-person break away and finished second overall in the General Classification – this was unheard of for a triathlete that nobody had ever seen before! This was where I was first spotted and invited to come to some of the Cycling Apprentice camps later in the year. The other national event I competed in was the North West Youth and Junior Tour (NWYJT) in Lancaster where I finished second again and won the Queen of the Mountains (QOM) competition as well. At the end of August I was accepted for a place to the trials to get onto the Junior Academy, where we completed power tests, velodrome sessions and road rides. A few long weeks after that I received a phone call telling me that I had got a place on the Junior Women’s Endurance Academy. I was completely overwhelmed and was jumping up and down after the call before I realised that there were probably people trying to do some homework in their rooms below me. I was really shocked to get in, I wasn’t really expecting it as you have to be both a road and velodrome track rider, and I haven’t done much track riding at all. But they said they could see potential, particularly based on my power test results.

Since being selected, I understand you have been overseas to a training camp, what did you and what was it like?

We have about one camp every month, so it’s not too bad as I can do most of my training at home or at boarding in Ripon. The camps vary from Derby, Manchester and abroad but they’re always hard work and often require a lot of planning. It is very hard being away from home so much however, particularly with boarding, but will set me up well for the future regarding organisation and independence. I have just got back from a Mallorca training camp where we could utilise amazing mountain roads and good weather to get lots of road work in. We also saw loads of pro teams out there and even tagged along with Team Sky for a bit.

How will you balance cycling and school life?

It’s quite a challenge to be honest! I’ve had to drop one of my A-level subjects this term which was quite sad, but I just couldn’t stay on top of everything, with 13 hours weeks of training each week and lots of revision notes to make. I am a hard worker both on the bike and in school but it’s just finding a balance of both that I can cope with.

Have you a race plan for 2019?

Yes, I’ve got most of my races in the calendar already. I’m looking forward to the national road and circuit races in particular as I’ll be able to compete against the women as well as juniors. I also have some Nations Cup races for the GB team in European countries such as Holland, but they’re all on flat roads which is not my ideal terrain – I much prefer the hills as that’s just what the roads are like around Yorkshire and what I’ve grown up with. The next event however is some track racing in Holland at the start of January, so I’ll need to get ready for that soon. The main goal for this year is to get on to the Junior Team for the Road World Championships which are in Yorkshire in September, but only five can be selected for that so I won’t hold my breath.

What are your ultimate dreams and ambitions as far as cycling is concerned?

The Olympics would be the ultimate dream, but that is definitely not a realistic one at the moment. It would be amazing to get a pro contract but I am aware it’s difficult for women to make a living out of being on a pro team unless they’re the very best of the best, due to the disparity in funding for men and women’s cycling opportunities.