Peloton Watch
  Evie Richards claims first ever under 23 Cyclo-cross world title in dominating style  
  February 17th 2016  
  18-year-old Evie Richards made history as the first ever women's under 23 Cyclo-cross world champion in a dominating performance in Heusden-Zolder, Belgium, Belgium on January 30.

Ahead of the Championships Richards had 11 wins from 11 races in the 2015/16 season but had never competed in the discipline outside Great Britain.

Not having competed internationally resulted in a low ranking and Richards was forced to start on the third row but that was about the only time she wasn't at the front of the race. Following a strong start Richards made her way through the field to the front of the race catching Chiara Teocchi of Italy. While unaware of it at the time Richards had actually taken the lead but continued on thinking there were more riders to catch.

After the first lap Richards had built an 18 second advantage as she continued to extend the gap over the following two laps. Starting the final lap with 39 seconds on her closest rival. A strong final lap allowed Richards time to celebrate to the line, as she became the first ever under 23 women's Cyclo-cross world champion.

The win made it 12 from 12 for the season and wrapped up a hugely successful year for young British talent who had earlier claimed silver in the junior cross country race at the Mountain Bike World Championships in September. Making the success more remarkable is the fact her cross season was designed around building fitness for the year ahead. But instead has established her as one of the top talents in a second discipline.

Two weeks on and a down to earth Richards still isn't sure what the win means to her. "It feels like I won the race but it hasn't sunk in how big the race was!

"After the race people were queuing for photos with me and I just couldn't stop laughing as I couldn't understand why they wanted a photo with me."

With a successful season behind her Richards has her eye on next season and finding a team to support her racing internationally. Before that comes the mountain bike season for Richards who is on British Cycling's Senior Academy.

You had a training camp in Majorca ahead of the World Championships how did it go and what was your preparation like?

I had an amazing time. We did lots of steady long miles and bits of motor pacing, my coach Julian Winn, was making sure we got a good training load whilst trying to keep us as fresh as possible. I did find this hard at times, as if we road 90 miles I always wanted to do another 10 miles to get it to 100, but he kept reminding me that more damage than good would be done. We were very lucky to be sharing the same accommodation as Team Sky, so we were living in luxury. With the Sky chef cooking for us and having access to all the facilities they were using it felt surreal. We lived like true athletes and all we had to do was train and rest. Although I snuck out for a couple of walks and swims, as I haven't got my head around resting in the day yet.

Started in the third row what was your approach at the start?

I knew I wanted to get ahead and stay out of trouble from crashes. The start was very quick so I didn't move up on the initial start straight, but I was happy to just drop back off the wheels of the girls ahead, so that I had a bit of room to move if there was a hold up in front and getting close to the wheels ahead wouldn't gain anything apart from gritty eyes! As the course went through the first few corners, gaps opened up where I went wide and cut in tight, here I was able to slowly move up.

You worked your way to the front of the field on the opening lap and started the second with an 18 second advantage how did that first lap go for you?

In the race I didn't think it was any thing special, I remember coming down one of the first descents and thinking that the race was going to be harder than I thought, as it was really difficult to move up. When I watch the race back now I don't think the first lap could of gone any better! I avoided crashes and moved up and closed down a pretty big gap. I made a big decision coming into the end of the second lap to push on and make the gap bigger, this was a risk as the wind was strong and I was scared that the girls behind would be able to work together to pull me back but it paid off. Luckily!

You said after the race that after you took the lead you didn't know it? When did you realise?

When I race I lose track of where I am and I couldn't hear my name being mentioned by the commentator, although I rarely am actually able to hear what they are saying anyway. I moved into first position on the muddy descent after the bridge. Here I got in sight of the Italian girl Chiara Teocchi and I didn't even hesitate to stop behind her as I assumed there were many more girls ahead I needed to catch. I had asked various people to shout splits to me as this it what I like to here when I race. As I came into the start finish start Antony, shouted my split and I looked up to see how many laps to go to realise I was leading!

Once you took the lead you never looked back and started the final lap with a 39 second advantage what was going through your mind on that final lap?

I knew what my split was and I knew that a small crash or a puncture would cost me the race, so I was just thinking about looking after my Trek Boone as much as I could! As I came round the first bend, I remembered how much I suffer and how hard I push myself when I do efforts with Liam Killeen, and I was trying to push myself like it was a new 10 minute effort with Liam. As I came over the final bridge I had such a big smile on my face as I knew I had done it, but I still checked a few times to make sure somebody didn't suddenly appear!

Had time to celebrate as you crossed the line. How did it feel standing on the podium wearing the rainbow jersey?

When I think back to the podium the first thing I think of was how cold I was! I was just laughing at my mum, dad and sister who I could see. I just could not believe it as I just found it funny that I really had become world champion! I know how long the British Cyclo-cross community has been waiting for a world champions jersey, and I always feel so proud representing them on the podium, and always get the same sense of pride wearing the kit.

How did you find the course? You looked at ease on the harder uphill sections how much of a benefit do you think your mountain bike background was?

I loved the course it was so exciting to race on. It had everything from the muddy puddles to the steep climbs to the tight twisty corners. I love running, but the sandy climb in the race was something else, it was like quick sand, for every step forward it feel like you sank back down to where you initially were. My mountain bike experience helped me out so much on the rutted descents, as it gave me confidence as I knew I had ridden harder sections on the mountain bike last season, and this is really important as I struggle on descending so having that bit of confidence instead of fear coming not those sections relieved a bit of pressure.

How important was the introduction of the women's under 23 category?

It is so important as without it I wouldn't of become world champion and I might not have even had the chance to race in the world championships, as it would have been a big risk entering someone who hadn't raced in any international cross races. It's such a key category to allow female riders a bridge to step on into elite and allow them to gain experience. We had such a strong finish from the entire Great Britain under 23 female riders, and it shows that this category is needed.

Ahead of the race you had 11 wins from 11 races in the UK but the World Championships was your first cross race internationally. What does it mean to win your first ever Cyclo-cross race outside the UK and do it at the World Championships?

I just can't sum up how amazing the feeling is! I am so shocked that I have had such a good cross season as it was only suppose to build my fitness, doing well has just been a massive bonus!

To finish the season with 12 wins from 12 race is quite an achievement. Are you looking forward to next season? Looking to race more internationally?

I can't wait till next season! I have loved racing cross so much this season. I am already planning races for next season with my dad who is also very excited about doing cross, as he loves doing my pits. Hopefully I will find a great team who can support me with the races. The atmosphere was so amazing abroad I will defiantly be racing in lots more international races, but of course will also still be doing a few of my local leagues.

Ahead of Worlds you said "I am just going to Zolder with no pressure on me, with a poor grid position and do the same as any local or National event, and to give it my all." How much of a benefit do you think this approach was?

Although it sounded like I was going in to the race pretty chilled, I have to have this approach as I put so much pressure on myself I try and say that just to remind myself that its only a race and nobody else is putting pressure on me.

Silver medal in the junior cross country at Mountain Bike World Championships and now gold in the under 23 Cyclo-cross big year for you has it had a chance to sink in yet?

It feels like I won the race but it hasn't sunk in how big the race was! After the race people were queuing for photos with me and I just couldn't stop laughing as I couldn't understand why they wanted a photo with me. I feel so honoured to of had the chance to get these results, and I have always tried to do my best as a thank you to every one who has supported me, and of course to make my family proud.
 © 2016