Peloton Watch
  Grace Garner excited to make Ronde van Vlaanderen debut as first year professional  
  March 31st 2016  
  18-year-old Grace Garner in her first year as a professional and in just her second race will line up at Ronde van Vlaanderen, at the beginning of April. Having started cycling when she was eight following older sister Lucy and her dad.

"It's crazy that I will be riding Ronde van Vlaanderen," said Garner with a hint of excitement. "It means so much to be able to compete a Women's World Tour event in my first year in the senior category.

"I know it will be such a shock to the system but I feel like it's best to be thrown in the deep end. This will be a good benchmark so I can improve with everything I learn and come back stronger."

Despite in her own words being thrown in at the deep end, Garner is not letting that deter her as she prepares to race one of the biggest events on the calendar.

"I'm really excited. I'm a racer in my blood, so it gives me a real buzz to actually get the numbers on my back again. I know there is no expectation for me, so any result would be a bonus."

The dream of riding Ronde van Vlaanderen during their career is one many riders hold and for Garner that dream has come true earlier than for most.

"I'm looking forward to being right in the centre of the top level of our sport," continued Garner. "Being on the start line with such big names is going to be something to remember and just being part of such an iconic race.

"The whole race will be a challenge, but I know I don't have half the experience on the cobbled bergs as most of the women, so this will really push me out of my comfort zone, which is a good thing."

Garner's appearance at Ronde van Vlaanderen comes after her professional debut at the Pajot Hills Classic, her first ever UCI race. While the results may show a DNF next to her name Garner is taking as much as she can from the experience as she looks to the future.

"It was a really hard race, really tough and a hard one to be my first senior race. I felt good at the start but the course was wearing and there were really big teams there.

"I definitely learnt a lot and can take a lot of positives from it too. Hopefully it will only get better from here."

The past two seasons as a junior has seen Garner combine both track and road ambitions. While successful in both the majority of Garner's success came on the track. "I really enjoy racing on the track and I had some really nice results," said Garner who's success includes European Champion in the team pursuit in 2014, two omnium silver, four national titles in addition to the Revolution Future Stars series win.

Despite the track success Garner elected to forge her own path on the road outside the British Cycling Academy system.

"I did consider a place on the British Cycling academy. However I really wanted to put my focus on myself, and doing what I thought was right by putting my focus on the road," Garner who finished seventh in the junior road race at the UCI Road World Championships in Richmond last year explained.

A path similar to that of her sister Lucy, a dual junior world champion who currently rides for Wiggle High5 on the road.

"Lucy has helped me a lot. From mid season last year, she has really helped me decide where I need to be and what team would be best for my development.

"We are close so it's nice to have her experiences to relate to. I look up to Lucy and she has done a lot for me and I know her experience will continue to benefit me," said Garner.

For riders who have achieved success as a junior there can often be a level of expectation on them as they move in to the elite ranks but that is something Garner is quick to put to one side as she focuses on long term progression.

"I thought it was a nice step up from the junior ranks. It's the teams first year as a professional team so we aren't such a high profile team; there is a no pressure environment," Garner explained of the decision to join Podium Ambition Pro Cycling p/b Club La Santa, who step up to the UCI level for the first time.

"I am still able to live at home and do national races and I thought it would be great to experience the UCI races in a familiar atmosphere."

"I really want to have a good start and find my feet in the pro peloton," Garner added on her goals for 2016. "Mostly I want to enjoy everything I do, absorb the experience that is around me and hopefully get an opportunity at a race the team seems fit."

While her race schedule for the rest of the season is yet to be determined she hopes to line up at Festival Luxembourgeois Elsy Jacobs at the end of April.
 © 2016