Interview: World Class Cyclo-Cross Rider – Gabby Durrin


VeloUK interview with British rider Gabby Durrin (nee Day) who is one of the Worlds top female cyclo-cross riders

RST Cycle Clothing & Trigon Bikes

Gabby was 7th at the recent European championships which was won by Helen Wyman. Asked whether she was pleased with the performance, Gabby replied “It was a tough race. Extremely muddy but I liked the course. I always want better and always set my expectations high.”


Gabby racing at Koppenberg recently. Photo: Thomas van Bracht (

“I finished 7th last year, so I wanted to place higher but competition is high. I was very close to making it to the group but I punctured on the last lap and so lost a lot of time.”

There seems to be a lot of travelling with events. Would that be fair to say?
Gabby: Over the last few months, there has been a lot of travelling. Especially for me as I spent the first part of my season in the US and I flew to quite a few races when I was over there. And then with the second World Cup in Czech and Euros being in Czech, the following week that was a lot.

[pullquote]I had my first UCI win and lots of podiums which was awesome. I have come into my Euro season not quite as hot as last season but my results have been good and I know there is more to come which is great because there are lots of important races to come and that is the perfect time to be on fine form![/pullquote]

How has the season been for you so far? Highlights?
Gabby: The season started slower for me. I had a busy stressful August. I got married and that certainly stressed me out and after such a wonderful celebration, I got sick and so was unable to train. So this set me back when normally August would be a good month of training.

But you only get married once! I definitely had some exciting results in the US. I had my first UCI win and lots of podiums which was awesome.

I have come into my Euro season not quite as hot as last season but my results have been good and I know there is more to come which is great because there are lots of important races to come and that is the perfect time to be on fine form!

What is the ultimate goal for the season for you?
Gabby: I really want to have a great Worlds ride. I had bad luck last year and crashed out hard on the first lap. So for me, the Worlds would be the race I want to get right and put the demons aside. Obviously, also to have a good ride at the nationals is important to me too.


The warmup for Gabby. Photo: Thomas van Bracht (

How did you spend the summer before the ‘cross season? Picking and choosing your races like the crits I saw you in?
Gabby: This summer I decided to race on the road instead of MTB which is what I have done for the previous two years. I got the opportunity to ride on Stef Wyman’s Matrix Fitness team which was perfect for me as it enabled me to race the Tour series and some other crits and road races. Crits are great preparation for cross they are a very similar effort to ‘cross. Fast and punchy with lots of attacking. You have to be able to handle your bike well.

Do you race as many races as you can in the winter or pick and choose carefully the races you do?
Gabby: This season I am being more selective in the races I choose to race. Previously I have done many races and it does take its toll on you mentally and physically and it really starts to affect my racing. I did a lot of races in the US so I am making sure I do not race too much in Belgium and have more quality instead of quantity. It is easy to get carried away and race lots in Belgium.


Is there a different approach to this season compared to others? Do you tweak your strategy for each season?
Gabby: The strategy is simple – to be faster than the season before! Stay healthy and mentally and physically fresh as possible. I am doing my season a little different this year. I started out the first part of my season in the US and did 10 races which is a lot. I am going to be racing a little less in Europe and going to Spain for some warmer weather training before I come back for the busy December block. This is something I have never done before but something that I think will make a difference.

Your bike, what is it and is it full carbon?
Gabby: I ride the Focus Mare’s disc bike. It is full carbon and is finished in the striking Team Rapha Focus colours. The bikes are equipped with SRAM Red Hydro 11 and Easton finishing components. I use the Easton EA90 carbon wheels and Dugast tubulars.

If you had a choice, would you prefer canti or disc brakes?
Gabby: To begin with, when I was told I would be on discs this season, I was a little unsure. I have never had any issues with canti brakes so I didn’t really see why I would need to ride disc brakes. But having used them, I think they are awesome. And I don’t think I would go back.


Photo: Thomas van Bracht (

I use the SRAM Red hydro 11 disc brakes. They are very powerful so you know when you are going to stop. They give you more confidence and you feel as though you can ride faster. In the US, a lot of the courses are very fast with lots of corners. The disc brakes enabled me to approach the corner faster and then pull my brakes on a lot later because you know you are going to stop. They are responsive and light to use. The hydro system works really great. I would definitely recommend them.

Does your bike remain the same from race to race or do you tweak things for specific courses?
Gabby: My bike setup in general does not change. Once they are set up for the season, they stay the same. The things that change from race to race is obviously tyre choice and tyre pressures. Choosing the right tyre and pressure to run makes a big difference.

How many bikes do you use at a muddy cyclo-cross event two, three, more?
Gabby: I get four bikes from the team. Three of them come to the races with me and I have a training bike for home. It is awesome to ride for such a great professional team. The riders get very well looked after.

We see riders changing bikes when the course is muddy? What’s the main reasons for changing bikes?
Gabby: The main reason for changing bikes when it is really muddy is to be able to have a clean big to do your next lap on. Dragging lots of mud around on your bike is not fast and just makes the bike heavier. You also run the risk of breaking your rear mech and putting a strain on the mechanical parts of the bike. Never a good thing to have a mechanical issue half way around the lap. Also, changing to a clean bike means you get mud free tyres which of course means better grip in the mud which makes a lot of difference.


What sort of tyres do you use, brand, width and are they clinchers or tubs?
Gabby: My team use Dugast tubulars 32m . We use the Rhino for muddy conditions and Typhoon in dry, tacky conditions. The Smallbird in dry dusty races.

What sort of gearing front and back does a pro cross bike like yours have?
Gabby: I run SRAM equipment with Wick Werks chain rings. I am on 11 speed and I run 34-44 and 11-25 or 11-27.

Is it mainly resting between races or is there a structured training programme behind the racing programme?
Gabby: When there are two races a weekend, the training is more about maintenance and recovery. It is very important to get as much recovery as possible otherwise tiredness can soon catch up and then you start to lose the snap in races and just ride flat.

I have some weeks where I have planned to not race so that I can get some hard, more specific training in. I think this is important to keep the form good. My coach Alec Donahue ( is great to work with. He lives close to me in my US home and so we get to ride together and he gets to see me racing in the US lots which I think is important. And he understands the female athlete which again is a very important factor.


Tough going here for Gabby in the mud.Photo: Thomas van Bracht (

Have you seen any changes in the growth of cyclo-cross in Britain since you came into the sport.
Gabby: There has definitely been a growth in cyclo-cross since I first started. It is really great to see. I think it is a very accessible friendly sport so it is great for young people to get involved in. You can start by doing it on a mountain bike like I did. It is a good family sport too. Cyclo-cross is becoming a lot more talked about and people are choosing to take this sport as something they want to pursue rather than actually using it as something fun to do in the winter to keep fit.

There are more opportunities now too as there are specific cyclo-cross teams which is awesome. I just think it needs to continue to grow positively and have more media presence. It is an exciting sport and GB has a very strong presence on the women’s side. We were ranked top nation last season. This needs to be publicised more to encourage more young women into the sport.

Do you do any special training for cross like skills work or is the racing enough?
Gabby: I make sure I get a good cyclo-cross skills session in during the week. It is important to keep on top of skills. You can never do enough skill riding. When I have a race heavy block, I don’t tend to ride off road as much because of all the races.

What do you enjoy most about cyclo-cross?
Gabby: I love cyclo-cross racing! it is exciting and addictive! I love that it is an all out 40 minute effort. You race for yourself and give it your all!

Who would you like to thank for their help in helping you live the dream
Gabby: There are a lot of people to thank for my successes so far. But if I just focus on this season so far… obviously I am extremely happy and proud to part of Team Rapha Focus. Being part of such a professional team makes such a huge difference. It has enabled me to really focus because I am taken care of so well. I have a really great team and network of people when I am in the US, I am very lucky.

I also need to thank the Wymans, Stefan and Helen for helping me out. They are a great team and have always been there for me when I have needed them. They are great friends. My coach Alec Donahue ( for believing in me and keeping me fast! My awesome friends and family. And of course this list would not be complete without the mention of my husband Jeremy Durrin. He is truly awesome and is amazing for me. Meeting him made a huge positive impact on my life. I couldn’t be happier.


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