Talking Shop: Lucy Garner, World Champion

VeloUK talks to new Junior World Road Race Champion Lucy Garner about her race, how it compares to the UK races and more …

After a lot of wins in Senior British Women’s road races this year, first year Junior Lucy Garner topped the season off on a real high with victory in the Junior Women’s World Road Race championship in Denmark.

In the track centre at the British Track Cycling championships recently, there was the very same young lady sporting the rainbow stripes on her fingernails! Lucy Garner is rightly proud of her world title, the first by a British female junior since Nicole Cooke (2000/2001)but she was still in shock.

When a person achieves greatness, everyone wants to know them and to congratulate them and Lucy Garner is no different. Lucy’s Twitter account suddenly saw her number of followers grow from double figures to four figures. Unsurprisingly, Lucy admits her life has changed completely!

“It is just mad! Everyone has been coming up to me and congratulating me and it’s been really good. Crazy but I’m enjoying every minute of it.”

As well as having the TV cameras from the BBC and ITV go to her college which she admits was quite strange, Lucy was also given the honour of helping with the opening of the Cycle Show at the NEC and then spent time on the stands of the sponsors of her Motorpoint team that she has ridden for so well this season.

This was not the first time VeloUK has spoken to Lucy this year and like all those who follow the women’s racing scene in Britain, we’ve seen the first year junior in winning form all season. Lucy was in great form at the Bedford Two Day and also in the Women’s  Grand Prix at Hillingdon where she had to share the victory after a tie for first place.

Lucy was also successful in the Women’s Johnson Tour Series and a Women’s race in Blackpool. She also found time to go to Portugal for GB and finish fourth in the Junior Women’s Omnium at the European Championships. All year, Lucy and her Motorpoint teammate Hannah Barnes have been delivering the victories for their team and the two were also in the mix in Denmark for the World title.

Recalling her hopes prior to the race, Lucy admits that she knew the course was going to suit her and that a top five or even a podium may be within her capabilities.

“The strategy was for me to sit in and Amy (Roberts) and Elinor (Barker) were to lead me and Hannah (Barnes) out but they did so much in the race and were so strong, that in the sprint, I just tried to position myself as well as I could. Once the gaps opened, I was able to pick my way through and try to get up there in the sprint.”

It all sounds so simple but the race was far from that and a crash early on didn’t help the nerves of Lucy and her supporters. There are just some crashes you can’t avoid and when a rider falls in front of you, sometimes there isn’t a thing you can do to avoid it and so it was that Lucy took a tumble over the handlebars. She wasn’t alone in the crash but she did show how experienced she is when she was able to get up after the crash, put the chain back on and get going all without chipping a fingernail! Class Lucy, class!

Lucy in winning form so long ago at the Bedford Two Day. Little did anyone know she would be in the rainbow jersey at the end of the season!

There were more ‘moments’ as the race went on and the speed increased as did the typical argy bargy as a bunch kick loomed in the distance. Lucy collided with a rider, almost losing the spokes in her front wheel but again, her experience held her in good stead.

As well as racing a lot in the UK, Lucy admits the ODP have taken her to a lot of races abroad and she singled out races like Assen as having helped give her the experience to know what to do in races like the Junior Worlds and cope with such challenges.

“Racing at Assen (Youth/Junior Tour in Holland) has helped me so much. If I hadn’t had done them when I was younger, I don’t think I would have had the skills that I do now and have the rainbow jersey at home.”

Having managed to get to the finish unscathed, the bunch kick was time for Lucy to put the strategy outlined by her coach Matt Winston into practice. “We’d done two laps before the race and Matt (Winston) had told us, ‘you can’t go early or you will blow’. There are the signs like 200 to go, 100 to go and so on for us to use as our markers”.

“Prior to the sprint, there were two riders away and we only caught them at the bottom of the hill with a K to go. It was then that I realised I could have a go in the sprint and maybe do something. But, because I was quite far back, I did have to make an effort to get to the front but once I got there, sat in the wheels, recovered a bit and then went again when the time was right.”

“When I got the gap on the others, I was shocked but kept sprinting and then winning the title was a surprise, I was totally shocked and couldn’t believe what I had actually done. I still can’t believe it and even now, I am still shocked.”

Prior to the sprint, Lucy had also spent time alone off the front of the peloton chasing the riders in front. Asked about that, Lucy explained, “I don’t think that chase took a lot out of me to be honest and it just warmed me up more than anything! I hadn’t done anything in the whole race as I had just sat in and I wasn’t going to attack but at that point, I was racing for third so I thought I might as well and see what happens. When I was caught, I just got back in the wheels and tried to recover as fast as possible.”

Recover Lucy did and in the sprint, the Leicestershire girl showed the World just how fast she is by not just winning the race but blitzing her rivals. Asked to compare the Junior Worlds race to those she has ridden here in Britain, Lucy replied “I wouldn’t say the Worlds race was harder than the races I have done here. I think with the seniors, the pace is always on but the Worlds race was a lot of on-off.”

“It wasn’t the hardest race I have done but not easy either… It was all about positioning yourself on the right wheels.”

As a first year Junior, Lucy has another year to complete on the Olympic Development Programme and despite being World champion, admits that she doesn’t take anything for granted, not even being given another year on the programme. After that, Lucy may find herself the target for the pro teams like so many of the top British girls such as Nicole Cooke, Emma Pooley and Lizzie Armitstead.

Lucy says it was amazing to be around the professional riders at the Worlds and going on rides with them. “They were always there if you had a question” Lucy says before adding “for sure, I’d like to be a professional like them but I know it will be hard”.

One of those riders Lucy got to ride with pre race was the same rider she has emulated by being World Junior RR Champion; Nicole Cooke. Lucy says she hopes she can follow in her footsteps and that of others like Marriane Vos and Lizzie Armitstead.

Like a certain Mr Cavendish, who as a junior in Britain showed signs of what was to come, Lucy too has improved so much this year after coming out of the Youth ranks and straight into racing with the seniors where she has been one of the fastest sprinters, even on the gears that Juniors are required to ride.

Just how much stronger she will be after another year training as a junior rider on the ODP is anybody’s guess  but the new World Junior Champion is for sure a future star of the women’s pro peloton with a capital S!

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