A TALENTED Ripon Grammar School student is celebrating being selected for the elite British cycling team.
This means 16-year-old triathlete Abi Smith, who has also excelled as a mountain runner for England, is among the top eight junior cyclists in Great Britain.
The teenager, from Helmsley, will now be competing in a series of prestigious international races while committing to an arduous schedule of around 100 days a year training.
Abi, who joined RGS sixth form as a boarder in September, said she was thrilled to receive the call from the British Cycling Junior Academy: “It’s very exciting but nerve-wracking too, knowing I’ll be training with the best in the UK.”
As part of her selection, Abi had to compete against 60 other riders in a national series of 30km races over three days in the North West Youth Tour and again in the London Youth Tour. She came a close second overall, just ten seconds behind the winner.
“It is so competitive to get into the national team, with 60 top athletes every year applying for a small number of places,” said Abi, who is getting to know her new team mates at an induction training camp in Manchester this week.
“I was 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 really done much velodrome riding. But they said they could see potential,” she said.
Abi, whose mother Ruth is an events organiser and father Stephen a forester, had to keep quiet about her news for several weeks, until the official announcement was made: “I was at school when the Academy called and couldn’t tell any of my friends. That was difficult,” she says.
Although the team is based at the Derby Velodrome, Abi will do most of her training in North Yorkshire: “I’ll be spending about a third of the year training on my bike, doing road rides from school and with the local Moonglu and Clifton cycling clubs.
“I have spent the past six years doing sport every day, training around ten hours a week, so I’m used to it and will give it a go.”
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, like Lofthouse and Brimham Rocks. It’s a new area that I’m really enjoying exploring.”
Also a keen cyclist and swimmer, Abi has been competing in triathlons since the age of ten, taking part in National Super Series events all over the country, and regularly finishing in the top five.
She recently led her England team mates to a bronze medal win when she was first to cross the line for her country in the Under-17s Home International Mountain Running Championships in Ireland.
But she will be now putting running on hold to focus on cycling: “It’s a bit sad about stopping the running. But out of the three sports in triathlon, cycling is definitely my favourite. And I think it will be easier to concentrate on one sport.”
Taking PE, psychology, biology and geography at AS level, Abi hopes to study a sports-related subject at university: “I am quite a hard worker in school and have always enjoyed relaxing and letting off steam by going for a bike ride. But I am very competitive too.”
PHOTO CAPTION: Abi heading off on a training run to Brimham Rocks from her boarding house at Ripon Grammar School