Peloton Watch
  Evie Richards looking to continue development after outstanding 2015 in Mountain Bike and Cyclo-Cross  
  January 24th 2016  
  18-year-old Evie Richards has been involved in sport all her life but when she took up cycling to boost her fitness for hockey she was hooked and hasn't looked back.

Richards' talent on the bike has been evident since early in her career and over the last two years has developed in to one of the top junior talents in cross country mountain biking. In 2014 Richards found the podium in all five rounds of the British Cycling National Cross Country MTB Series including winning the final round. Before finishing an impressive sixth in the junior cross country event at the UCI World Championships as a first year junior.

2015 her final year as a junior brought more success but it was not without challenges as a break in her right arm forced Richards to miss the British Championships as well as the European Championships impacting her preparation for Worlds.

Despite winning three rounds of the National Cross Country MTB Series and finding the podium on the international stage four times at the UCI Junior Series Richards headed to Vallnord, Andorra for the World Championships lacking confidence.

The nerves quickly disappeared following an excellent start as she opened a lead of 20 seconds. A crash on lap two cost her the lead but a defiant Richards was able to remount and continue on for the final two laps to cross the line arms aloft to claim silver.

Following the conclusion of the mountain nike season Richards started her Cyclo-cross season and has take an impressive 11 wins from 11 races. Including claiming the inaugural under 23 national title on a muddy course in Shrewsbury earlier this month.

Richards has spent the past week on a training camp in Majorca as she prepares for the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Zolder on January 30th. Despite being the British Champion Richards heads to Belgium without any pressure on her shoulders as she looks to make the most of the opportunity for her long term development.

PelotonWatch: How did you take up cycling?

Evie Richards: I have always been very sporty and its was always my dream to get a representative sports jersey hung in the hall at my secondary school Chase High. I tried all sports, athletics (800m) rounders, rugby and cross-country running, I got to county level at a few sports.

I started playing at a high standard of junior hockey and was told to pick up another sport for my fitness. My dad had a cycle to work scheme bike and after him spending lots of weekends being bored on the side of a hockey pitch, biking was a great way to spend time with him as a thank you for all his driving around. I quickly fell in love with riding a bike, I didn't need to travel to an astro turf or be restricted to a particular time. I could just roll out of back door anytime and ride with my dad or friends.

I remember watching Mountain Mayhem at Eastnor one year and it was a mud bath, I had a go on the British Cycling Go Ride Mini Mayhem and kind of loved it, then at Mayhem Gatcombe I was sneaking in night laps because I was too young! When I went back to hockey I realised that I had fallen in love with cycling.

PW: Ahead of the Mountain Bike World Championships you had four podiums in the UCI Junior Series what were your goals and expectations heading in to Worlds?

ER: If I'm being really honest I was not very confident going into the Worlds. After having a small break in my right arm before the National Championships, I felt like I had lost a lot of fitness and skill. When I look back now though I was back on the turbo with my road handlebars flipped upside down after just three days.

My coach Simon Watts took me to Euros even though I didn't race, whilst the others did course practise I was smashing out efforts to try and get my fitness back. My first race back was the junior series in France where I put a lot of pressure on myself to win, despite having a heavy training load the week coming into it in Livigno, as the girls who had previously beaten me were not there. I was frustrated with myself when I came second, as I knew I could have beaten the winner. So when Worlds came I was very nervous and normally for a race I have a podium bag ready (after learning after a muddy CX Bradford race) because a muddy podium doesn't look very professional! The World Championships was the first race in the whole year I hadn't got a bag ready.

PW: Silver at the Junior World Championships how did it feel with your arms in the air saluting across the line knowing you had just claimed the silver medal?

ER: I couldn't believe it I was so happy, and I felt relived that I had made all my family, friends and club happy, as so many had come to watch me in Andorra. I just remember seeing my grandad and big sister crying which meant the world to me. It felt like I gave them something back for the late night turbo sessions and roast dinners I had missed with them!

PW: Four months on has it had time to sink in what does the silver medal mean to you?

ER: I think its one of those things that doesn't really fell real until someone else asks me about it. I have amazing memories from worlds but I am always looking in the future for new opportunities.

PW: You have been selected for the British Cycling Senior Academy for the coming year how important a step is that in your career?

ER: The Academy provides everything a rider needs to be the best they can be, and that is why I was so excited to be selected. It meant having to leave my team, TMO Racing and move to 100% Me, but the package is great and the opportunities to race as a first year under 23 are far better than a team could provide an 18 year old. I have found the jump difficult. Going from working, school and training to being a full time rider in Manchester has been something that has been really challenging, the Academy is all new for me and we are working though any difficulties. I know that the programme will help to develop me into a whole athlete for a pro team and allow me to represent my country all around the world.

PW: Since Mountain Bike Worlds you have been focused on Cyclo-cross picking up wins in Great Britain how did you find the quick turn around from mountain bike season?

ER: I'm not great at resting so I was pleased with the quick turn around, as I get a bit moody if I'm not on my bike! My new coach Julian Winn was really keen for me to train through cross races and use them as a training session, racing most weekends, even twice some weekends. This season I have had 11 races and 11 wins, but I have always really struggled with races as I get so nervous before and I haven't always enjoyed racing. Cyclo-cross has taken away so many nerves, it has made me fall in love with racing and the start line is now less daunting. There have been some great CX events laid on this season and racers, supporters and volunteers at these events are so positive, I can only see CX continuing to grow more and more.

PW: Claimed the British Under 23 Cyclo-cross national title over the weekend what does it mean to you?

ER: I feel honoured to of got the jersey against such a great set of girls in the new under 23 category. After missing MTB Champs because of my injury I was so excited to battle for the jersey and I couldn't stop smiling when I won. I love my first Jersey.

PW: How did you find the course and conditions?

ER: It was claggy on the Saturday then rained heavy during the night, this changed the course and improved the Sunday races. I struggled initially with grip, so I just got off and ran as much as I could then I found my rhythm on the bike. The course had everything it was great! From the technical riding sections in the woods, the huge steps and concrete finishing straight made it an exciting course to ride. The conditions made it feel like a really short race, and I was surprised when I came through and the bell went. Dave Mellor and Shrewsbury did a great job.

PW: UCI has introduced an under 23 category for women at the Cyclo-cross World Championships how important is the introduction of the under 23 category for you?

ER: I think this is a really great step forward for Cyclo-cross and has given me and so many other girls a chance to race in a World Championships. If there was no under 23 category then the chance of so many of us racing would have been greatly reduced. It bridges the gap between junior and elite women so will keep more girls involved in cycling and keeps us young ones out of the elites way as well!

PW: What are your goals for the rest of the Cyclo-cross season?

ER: Unfortunately I only have one more cross race left, which is Worlds on the 30th Jan. As I haven't raced in any World Cups this year, 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.

PW: Looking further ahead what are your longer term goals?

ER: Last year the main goal my coach Simon Watts set me was to have fun and continue to love cycling and this will be my main goal heading into the future. As long as I'm enjoying the sport and putting in the hours, the race results should hopefully reflect my training. Stepping up to race in under 23 is going to be a big jump, I am going to aim for some top 10 finishes at the World Cups next year, but I think every child dreams of going to the Olympics, so Tokyo 2020 will be a long term goal, but that's a long time away so for now my goal is a National Champs jersey in different disciplines.
 © 2016