Abi: 'I feel incredibly lucky. The crowds will be electric.'

RIPON Grammar School student Abi Smith says she feels incredibly lucky and privileged as it’s revealed she’s been selected to compete in the 2019 UCI Road World Championships in her home county of Yorkshire.

The fact that she will be riding to Harrogate from Doncaster as part of the GB Junior Women’s team makes it extra special, she says, adding that it will be her toughest competition yet.

“I think the crowds and atmosphere will be electric and completely unparalleled to any other major events I’ve done,” said the 17-year-old boarding student from Oswaldkirk. "It's amazing to think there will be people I know among the crowds lining the streets in Harrogate."

“The competition will be the toughest I’ve ever faced. Every country will be doing their all to get one of their riders to the line first so it’s going to be really hard!

“It’s not so much winning but just being selected is such a huge deal and hopefully as a team we can deliver a great performance.”

The A-level student, who is juggling her schoolwork with training, while also taking part in an international stage race with Team GB in Holland this week, will be racing from Doncaster to Harrogate, starting at 8.40am, on September 27: “It’s a flat route but with a bit of a kick at the end.”

She explained: “My training schedule will be structured so that I can peak at the right time for the race. It’s Yorkshire’s last race of the season, so no holding back!”

A former triathlete, Abi, who loves cycling in the North Yorkshire Moors and Dales, only became a dedicated cyclist just over a year ago: "I started cycling because I enjoyed it, I didn't see it as a career. It doesn't seem that long ago that I was just enjoying cycling on the roads of North Yorkshire and now I'm in the World Championships. I can hardly believe it."

She added: "All my teachers have shown great support, particularly Mrs Stevenson, my form tutor, who always encourages me to have a positive attitude, particularly after a hard early morning session or brutal training week on the bike! We have equally supported each other as she has taken up running and triathlon again so I am very proud of her as well and how motivated she is to do well.

"I'd also like to mention all of my other teachers and sixth form team for allowing me time to catch up and support me when I miss lots of lessons for racing."

Despite her intense ten-to-18-hours weekly training schedule, covering an average of 230 miles a week on her bike, Abi still managed to achieve two As and a B in her recent AS levels in PE, geography and biology: "It's all right considering I was trying to do lots of racing at the time as well," she said. 

She has already had to miss a lot of school so far this year, but has kept on top of her academic studies: "I like to try to do well in everything I attempt. My cycling is a bit like having a fourth A-level. I firmly believe that the amount of work you put in corresponds to what you get out of it."

Although her British Cycling Junior Academy team is based at the Derby Velodrome, Abi does most of her training in North Yorkshire, embarking on road rides from school and with the local Moonglu and Clifton cycling clubs. 

She says being on site at school all week is ideal: “The good thing about being a boarder is I can use all the sports facilities at school if I have to and because I don’t have to travel every day, I have more time to spend on homework and in the gym. There are some good hills in these parts that I'm really enjoying exploring, like Lofthouse and Brimham Rocks.”

Mrs Stevenson praised Abi's work ethic: "She manages to maintain strong training alongside fantastic A-level achievements, which is a true testament to her commitment and intellect. 

"Abi is a delightful student with a positive outlook and high level of humility that encourages both her peers and myself. I am so proud of her achievements so far and have no doubt that with her level of determination Abi will continue to go on to great things."

Headmaster Jonathan Webb congratulated Abi on her tremendous achievement: “It’s been an exciting day for staff and pupils. We are all incredibly proud of Abi and wish her every success in the World Championships.”

Abi thanked British Cycling for selecting her: “I feel incredibly lucky and privileged to be able to ride a home county World Championships.”

It was after seeing Lizzie Deignan in the Tour de Yorkshire at Lofthouse that Abi was inspired to pursue her cycling: "She was my role model and it's amazing to think that we are now on the same team."

Abi gained her first National Champions jersey at Newport Velodrome during the summer and also claimed the North West Youth and Junior title (above) at the end of August.