Abi shrugs off the pain after biggest race of her life

It was a thrilling race, marred by a series of crashes but Team GB cyclist and Ripon Grammar School sixth former Abi Smith did Britain and Yorkshire proud. The Yorkshire Post's PETER SMITH spoke to her just after the biggest race of her life at the UCI Road World Championships

SOAKED, mud-splattered, battered and bruised, Yorkshire teenager Abi Smith nevertheless felt every pedal turn of the junior women’s road race was worth the discomfort.

The 17-year-old Ripon Grammar School pupil – from Oswaldkirk, near Helmsley – rode strongly in support of Great Britain team leader Elynor Backstedt, who was fifth on the same time as gold medalist Megan Jastraab of the United States.

In the biggest race of her life, Smith was the 34th rider to finish, 67 seconds down on Jastraab.

That was despite twice hitting the deck during a race which was marred throughout by a series of spills.

“I went down twice and then I got a friction burn from a tyre on the back of my calf,” Smith confirmed after she and her teammates received their award for finishing second in the Nations Cup, based on results over the entire season.

“I did well compared to some people and I hope they recover quickly. It is just about being in the right place all of the time, which is the hardest part.

“It’s not that it’s physically challenging, which it is in some parts, it is just about positioning.”

Despite the cuts, bruises and burn, Smith insisted: “It was worth every one of them and all the training and everything.

“It has been incredible and I can’t wait to watch the other races that are going on.”

The flat 86 kilometre course from Ripon to Harrogate made for a fast pace and Smith, in her first year as a junior, admitted: “It was really scary in some parts.

“The first 50k was okay because it was fairly steady, but once one crash happens people get nervous and you get more and more.

“You have to be really vigilant all the time, which makes it difficult.”

Slovenia’s Metka Mikuz was among the early fallers after, ironically, colliding with a safety marshall. He was quickly back on his feet and gave the rider a push start back into the race.

At the feed zone with 40 kilometres remaining, the USA’s Ava Sykes was brought down by one of the Polish squad’s roadside helpers.

Jastraab sprinted home ahead of Julie de Wilde (Belgium) and Lieke Nooijen (Netherlands). Russia’s time trial gold medalist Aigul Gareeva was fourth.

Backstedt’s top-five finish was a good result for Great Britain and Smith played her part, working hard to control the pace and deal with breakaways.
“I knew my role,” she said. “I think I delivered that pretty well and I am really happy.

“I feel proud I am helping the team and the way I am supposed to and learning from the experienced riders.

“I am really pleased.”

Abi and her teammates did get to visit the podium when the team's strong performance carried them into second place in the Nations Cup, based on results over the whole season - a useful consolation prize for Great Britain.

“Obviously the win was what we were hoping for,” stressed Smith.

“But when you are racing abroad in the Netherlands they have home advantage, flat roads et cetera. We are really pleased with second.”

Jastrab was, understandably, delighted with her gold. She said: “I can’t believe it. I’m just smiling ear to ear.”