Interview: Q & A with Abby-Mae Parkinson


Still only a first year junior, Yorkshire lass Abby-Mae Parkinson is breaking records and making her own mark on the sport of cycle racing

RST Cycle Clothing & Trigon Bikes

During the winter, a first year junior was giving the country’s top cyclo-cross women a run for their money and Abby finished the series fourth overall and first Junior. The Hartshead rider then backed that up with a Silver in the Cyclo-Cross Championships after being in the Gold medal position for most of the race.

2013_Day 1_BritishCyclo-CrossChamps_16Girls_Parkinson

The look of disappointment on her face said it all – the young lady needs to win and that’s the mark of a champion in the making. Being so young (first year junior), you’d think the palmares would be a little thin on the ground but not Abby! The RST/NFTO rider has achieved so much already that it is clear she will continue to star in Women’s racing.

Her mum, Lisa Brambani was a high achiever during her career as a racer. As well as having represented Great Britain in the Olympics Games (11th) as well as a 3rd in the Tour de l’Aude Cycliste Féminin in France, Lisa was also second in the Commonwealth Games Road Race (New Zealand) and between 1986 and 1989, Lisa won the British Women’s RR title each and every year.

Abby started racing only about three and half years ago though. “I started properly as a second year Under 14” explained the young champion. “Prior to that I mixed cycling with swimming, running and triathlon.”

Abby then explained that despite all her success, her mum Lisa doesn’t really talk much about her racing but Abby knows she was good. “Funnily enough, the starters at time trials always want to tell me about her career highlights as they are counting down…5, 4, I remember your mum, 2, 1, she… It’s really quite amusing, the testers love her!”


Asked what was it about cycle racing that made Abby take it up, she replies “I’m not sure really. Maybe because I won the first national series race I entered. No one knew me and I just rode off the front to win. Grace (Garner) told me a while after that they just thought I’d get tired and die… they never let me do it again (well not without a battle!)”

Abby is part of a very youthful and talented RST/NFTO racing team where the ethos is helping young riders fulfil their potential. Asked what were her highlights from 2013, Abby replied “It was a good year! Three wins in the National Series including the North West Tour and an overall win of the series is something I never thought possible. My selection to represent GB at the European Youth Olympics was obviously fantastic and an amazing experience as well.”

Abby did a lot more than that though with rides in World Cups (Cyclo-Cross) including one against a rider she admires, Marianne Vos and a race in China where Abby was 13th (Adela Carter was 3rd & Hannah Payton 7th).

But cyclo-cross is just one string to her bow. Abby has had success in many cycling disciplines and asked for a favourite, she replies “That’s tough! I don’t like circuit races at all and will be glad to see the back of go-kart courses. I do enjoy a 10 mile time trial because it’s just down to you, it’s a real test and a good indication of where you’re at.”

“I think my favourite type of racing is open road with hills but as a youth the only place that is possible is the Ellersley course on the Isle of Man. I love that type of race because it sorts out the pack!”


Abby racing at Otley in 2013

And the most fun race she did in 2013? “Ummmm…. probably a Madison with my team mate Grace (Garner). We have a laugh and it’s a bonus if we get it right. I do the chasing down and get G in for the sprints. Sometimes we fail and I end up sprinting…I’m working on my sprint!”

VeloUK: How did you feel your cyclo-cross season went when you were challenging the seniors in the National Trophy events?
Abby: I felt I had a good season. I didn’t expect to be up there with the women but it was great fun. I haven’t been specifically training for cross at all (my training programme is based on track) so any result was a bonus I guess.

VeloUK: What do you enjoy most about cyclo-cross?
Abby: I enjoy the camaraderie involved with cross. I love how everyone is so friendly and will help out if you have a problem; it’s like a big family who meet up every weekend. Chris Young is fantastic, he rode at the same time as my mum and he has taught me so much about cross. He has so much patience and his enthusiasm is infectious!


Abby-Mae Parkinson representing her country in cyclo-cross. Photo: (Thomas van Bracht)

VeloUK: Do you have any tips for young girls who have not done cyclo-cross?
Abby: I would say, give it a go! Borrow a bike and go with no expectations. You will get muddy, you will fall off but you will also learn how to control your bike and this has helped me so much for road events and even track racing.

I am not a girl who enjoys getting muddy but cyclo cross gets under your skin and the next thing you know you can’t wait to get out there slipping around on two wheels!

VeloUK: You rode a Trigon (from Cycle Division) with disc brakes in cross – did you feel they were better than the calipers?
Abby: Well everyone has an opinion, but for me I love them. I was not confident at cornering and the technical parts but the disc brakes enabled me to really work the corners and 100% know that as soon as I touch the brakes, I will stop! I am told that they are harder to maintain, but I couldn’t comment on that LoL!

VeloUK: You have a women’s team for 2014 – how exciting is that for you?
Abby: The RST/NFTO Girls Team is so exciting! We all know each other and are all juniors, three first year and three second year. Of course Grace and I have raced together for the past two years (in RST colours) so know each other very well. We complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses… G is one of the best sprinters around and she knows I can deliver a strong lead out. We are all really close, we talk to each other on an almost daily basis. We want to have fun, learn and hopefully pick up a win! That would be great!

VeloUK: Do you have any goals planned yet for what you want to achieve in 2014?
Abby: I do have some goals, yes! A mix between track and road and Time Trials.

VeloUK: You have some pretty special bikes riding for RST – what is your favourite?
Abby: That’s a tough one. I love all my bikes! My Trigon road bike for last year was amazing, so light and a perfect fit! I am very small so getting a bike to fit is quite a task!


For a girl who doesn’t like getting muddy, Abby is in the thick of it here at Derby

This season, the girls team are riding Swift bikes. Grace and I are getting the XXS size and we are both looking forward to that, they look amazing! Also ‘The Shed’ are in the process of building my new Time Trial bike which is just awesome… I am beyond excited about it!

VeloUK: Who chose the set up for your bikes?
Abby: My dad usually chooses what goes on my bikes because he’s a bit of a bike ‘anorak’ and he likes all the bling stuff. The set up for the new bikes has been chosen by the team management as a group. The stuff for my TT bike has been a joint effort between my dad and John Wood (NFTO Boss). I think they set out to make it the best bike on the road!

VeloUK: Are you still at school?
Abby: Yes, I am at sixth form at Bradford Grammar School studying A levels in Biology, Geography and PE. I have been there since I was 7 year old. The Brownlee Brothers and Adrian Moorhouse went there so the school really goes out of their way to help accommodate my sporting commitments.

VeloUK: How many hours a week do you train at the moment?
Abby: This varies from week to week depending upon what events or races are taking place. I did a lot of miles over Christmas, but usually don’t do anything over four hours.

VeloUK: Who coaches you?
Abby: My coach is Matthew Winston. This year I am on the GB ODP. It’s the first time I have been on a BC programme, as I wasn’t selected for Talent Team. I am enjoying working with Matt, I think he understands me and has a great sense of humour, which helps!


Abby on the track in 2012 riding in NetApp-Endura colours at Revolution.

VeloUK: Do you train with a chain gang and if so, do you feel that helps you improve
Abby: Yes. I have a great chain gang and I really enjoy it. It’s the same chain gang which my mum and dad went on and some of the guys that go rode with them. The lads really look out for me. They are interested in my racing, sometimes they set me up for the final sprint with a lead out… the best I have got is 2nd! I was buzzing, then I got dropped the week after! That’s what it’s all about though isn’t it…

VeloUK: What is your long term goal in the sport – to race on the road in Europe?
Abby: Well, short term I would love to stay on ODP for two years which will take me to the end of the Junior ranks and the end of my studies. Long term, riding on a European or American Team and living abroad is something which appeals to me.

All the best for 2014 Abby and the RST/NFTO racing team. Find out more about Abby here on the team’s website 


Despite wanting the Gold a whole heap, Abby (left) manages a smile for the cameras at this years British Cyclo-Cross Championships at Derby

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