ELITE teenage cyclist Abi Smith has described her training schedule as ‘like taking a fourth A-level’ as she juggles her schoolwork with preparing for the UCI Road World Championships.
The Ripon Grammar School sixth former, who will be racing from Doncaster to Harrogate, starting at 8.40am, on September 27, is taking A-levels in PE, geography and biology.
Although she has had to miss large chunks of school due to training and racing commitments, she is determined to keep on top of her studies too: "I like to try to do well in everything I attempt. My cycling is a bit like taking a fourth A-level. I firmly believe that the amount of work you put in corresponds to what you get out of it.”
A former triathlete, Abi 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."
The 17-year-old praised RGS staff for their support: "All my teachers have shown great support, particularly Mrs Stevenson, my form tutor (pictured), 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."
Abi excelled in her recent AS levels and is planning to apply to study a sports-related subject at university “It will be something to fall back on. It can be pretty stressful combining A-levels with cycling and I suppose I’m missing out on a lot of typical teenage things but it’s just for this year.”
She covers an average of 230 miles a week on her bike as part of her intense ten-to-18-hours weekly training schedule, mostly in North Yorkshire, embarking on road rides from school and with the local Moonglu and Clifton cycling clubs.
As a boarding student, Abi says being on site at school all week is ideal: “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.”
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."
It was after seeing former world champion 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."
She says the fact she will be riding into Harrogate from Doncaster on Friday as part of the GB Junior Women’s team makes it extra special, adding that it will be her toughest competition yet: “"It's amazing to think there will be people I know among the crowds lining the streets in Harrogate. The atmosphere will be electric."
Headmaster Jonathan Webb congratulated Abi on her tremendous achievement: “It’s very exciting for staff and pupils. We are all incredibly proud of Abi and wish her every success in the World Championships.”
Abi pictured with Mrs Stevenson