Q & A: Junior Cross star Elspeth Grace

A feature question and answer with Junior cyclo-cross star Elspeth Grace of Welwyn Wheelers

RST Cycle Clothing & Trigon Bikes

Q & A: Junior Cross star Elspeth Grace

Is cyclo-cross your main focus or are there other cycling disciplines you enjoy too?
Elspeth: I race cyclocross from September until the end of January, and the rest of the year I ride mostly on road. As these two disciplines don’t really overlap much in terms of when the races are on, I don’t really think I have a focus as such. During the summer, I’m targeting the road races, but in the winter it’s all about cross. I like them both, but by the end of either season I’m ready for change.

1. What was the highlight of 2016 for you and why?
Elspeth: For me, the highlight was the Dave Rayner fund road race at Scarborough in the summer. On the way to the race, we stopped at a service station and my bike was stolen off the back of the car. I managed to come second, which was my best road result of the season, on a bike borrowed off a friend! It was definitely a roller coaster weekend.

2. What was your favourite/most fun race of 2016
Elspeth: I really enjoyed the regional championships at Cyclopark in Kent. The course had everything: hurdles, run up, sand, road, and plenty of technical sections. I was on good form and just loved racing it!

3. What was the toughest race of 2016 for you and why?
Elspeth: I would say my toughest race was Shrewsbury, where I had my worst national result of the season. It was really frustrating to have the fitness but not the mental toughness that is really vital in cross.

4. You rode a World Cup for GB  – how did it feel to represent your country?
Elspeth: In October I rode the European Cyclocross Championships in Pontchateau, which was a massively exciting opportunity. It was amazing to experience the GB setup, and to have a complete pit crew was a bit of a treat- not that a bike change was needed in 18 degree heat! I was really proud to put on the GB skinsuit and even though my result was unimpressive, just being there was enough for me!

5. How different was a world cup to a national trophy?
Elspeth: The key difference for me was that there was an under 23 women’s category, so I didn’t have to race against the elites- that would have been really daunting! I also now know that, in foreign races, they aren’t nearly as polite in the gridding- I was left at the very back as everyone else surged to move up before the start. You wouldn’t get away with that in the Eastern league!

6. What is the best piece of equipment (clothing/bike/gadget) to do with racing you are proud of most?
Elspeth: I recently got help from Isla Rowntree of Islabikes, in setting up some 36cm bars on my bike. They’re straight off an Islabike, and I find that the control I have over my bike has really improved by having them. I’m only 5 foot, so often the kit that comes on bikes is oversized for me.

7. What is your warm up routine for races – rollers or turbo? Music or no music?
Elspeth: For a cyclocross race, with about 30 minutes before the start, I like to do one last lap of the course, to make sure I’m familiar with the conditions and know how churned up it has got since I last rode. Before a big race I’ll do a few Rev outs on the rollers before gridding, to try and get really warm before the off.

8. I assume you are at school/college? How do you balance that and training/racing?
Elspeth: I’m currently in my first year of A levels at sixth form, doing biology, chemistry and maths. I train in the evenings, at Welwyn on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, then I might go for a run or do a turbo session on the other days. I think exercise helps me switch off after school, and when I can’t train I don’t feel as sharp in lessons.

9. What is you main goal for the 2016-17 winter season?
Elspeth: As a first year junior, I’ve just been trying to do my best, without much expectation- I was surprised by how well I did! I approach every race with a mindset of, I’ll be happy if I know I’ve done my best.

I wanted to win the Eastern League, so I’m really pleased to have got a clean sweep there so far. It’s been great to get my first experience of racing with the elite women in the Nationals, and although I had ‘racing for Team GB’ as a long term objective, I never thought it would happen. I’ve got three races planned for the rest of the season, including the championships at Bradford. It’s a course I’ve not ridden before, but from what I’ve seen, it looks like it may be a bit of a slog, which I like.

10. Are there long term ambitions in cycling and if so, what are they?
Elspeth: In the long term, my main ambition has to be keeping my riding going- I’m planning on going to university in a few years, and I know it will be difficult to find the time to train as I begin to get other responsibilities. At the end of the day, I just love riding my bike, and the independence it gives me- I want to do some bike touring, and obviously I’ll keep doing cyclocross!

11. What will the goals for 2017 be?
Elspeth: I’ve only done one cross race outside the UK, so I’d like to get across the channel to try some of the famous courses, and see how cyclo-cross is done in its ‘spiritual home’. It would be fantastic to improve on my results from nationals, as this year I had a couple of races that I felt I didn’t show my real capability.

I’m also going to be riding for a team for the first time on the road- with Kinetic Welwyn I’ll be doing some circuit races and hopefully quite a lot of long, hilly road races- I like the look of the CiCLE Classic, and being able to take part in the new Junior Women’s series will be a highlight.

12. Do you do any skills work between races?
Elspeth: On a Tuesday night, I go to Welwyn and spend a muddy couple of hours doing laps on the hill next to the running track- it’s all off camber, and although it’s been dry for most of this year, it’s beginning to get a bit slippery. We work on our technique for hurdles, corners, stairs and anything else we might come across- my current challenge is perfecting a bunny hop!

13. Does winter training/racing consist only of riding the bike or do you do running/swimming/gym work
Elspeth: After getting a knee injury earlier in the season which left me hardly able to walk at the end of races, I’ve been doing a lot of strength and conditioning- every morning I do about 20 minutes of exercises for my legs and core, with some push ups as well. I also like to get a run in once a week.

14. You ride for a famous club finally, one with a very famous young lady in Laura Kenny (nee Trott). Does her success help motivate you to follow in her wheelmarks and to fulfill your potential in cycling?
Elspeth: It’s definitely valuable to have a role model in cycling, showing that hard work really can pay off. My coach will occasionally talk about how driven she was in her training, which inspires all of us at Welwyn to push ourselves that bit harder. It was great fun during the Olympics when we all got together to watch her win the Omnium- there was no stopping her!




Send your results as well as club, team & event news here


Other Results on VeloUK (including reports containing results)

Other News on VeloUK