Feature Interview: Lizzy Banks

Women’s national series winner Lizzy Banks talks to VeloUK about her breakthrough season on the road

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Feature Interview: Lizzy Banks

In only her third season cycle racing, Lizzy Banks has added a very prestigious series win to her name, that of the Women’s national road series for 2017 (honours list since 1981 follows the interview).

Winner of the Tour of the Wolds at the start of the season, then third in the last two rounds Ryedale and Newton Longville, as well as 5th at the Tour of Reservoir, Lizzy has showed she is a quick learner!

At the Ryedale Grand Prix, VeloUK spoke to the series winner who explained when talking about getting to grips with this tough sport, “I think was fortunate I learned the ropes quite quickly but there is still a hell of a lot I have to learn. Every day is a school day!”

A key moment in that learning experience for Lizzy was a UCI stage race in Germany. “I am very fortunate that this year Storey Racing took us across to Germany to ride Thüringen Rundfahrt der Frauen (UCI/2.1) and that was a huge learning experience for me both in terms of riding in a pro peloton and also what I can psychologically achieve as it’s a mental game and overcoming that mentality of what you think you can do and how far you can push your body is a really big game. So that was good for me.”

“The biggest thing I have learnt this year though is you have to believe in yourself.”

There are however many basics that any newcomer to the sport will have to learn and one of those is being in a peloton with riders all around you, bumping, braking, turning, in and out of the saddle (bike comes back at you when they do that) and so much more.

How did Lizzy find that aspect of cycle racing? “Riding in the peloton is something you learn and you pick up things in every single race. When I first started riding, yes; you are thinking there are lots and lots of riders close to me but I got used to that pretty fast. I’m not that easily fazed and that is an important quality for a bike rider. The safest thing is to relax in the peloton and as long as you don’t twitch and react, you won’t cause a crash. It becomes second nature.”

From learning the ropes as a bike rider to going from local events to national series events is also a learning experience, mentally and physically for riders new to the sport. “I think the Curlew Cup race was my first national series round” Lizzy explained “and I’d only been riding for three or four months.”

“Then last year I missed quite a few of the series so this is the first year I have done the whole series. It was great to start the season with a win (Tour of the Wolds) and getting off to a flying start followed by a few eventful rounds. I came off on the final climb at Lincoln, but that is bike racing. I am pleased I was able to show consistency and recover well in the series to win it overall.”

The racing wasn’t the only thing Lizzy had to overcome – changing teams mid season was also stressful. “It was a bit difficult for me changing teams mid season but Storey Racing have been brilliant and took me on and been really welcoming. At first during my time with the team, we were protecting the lead for Chanel (Mason) and then at the Tour of Reservoir, I took the lead on and it’s been good to take on that responsibility”.

Asked about performances that pleased her, Lizzy picks out the win at the Tour of the Wolds. “For me, the Tour of the Wolds was a turning point. I’d only won my first bike race the weekend before that (Capenwray) and then winning the Tour of the Wolds was a turning point for me realising what I am capable of and how much I have stepped up in two years.”

“I remember the win at the Tour of the Wolds so vividly because I was in a break of six riders and they were all really good riders so I was trying to convince myself that I could sprint past them. Then just before the finish, Nikki (Juniper) had her awful crash and to be honest I thought I was going down too when I had to squeeze between her and the gutter.”

“After I managed that, I put my head down and went for it. I just could not believe it. Not just to win it but to be in the break and with a really great field as well. It was quite overwhelming. Then, to be able to wear the series leaders jersey was a real honour and gave me the confidence I could do it.”

“The series overall then allowed me to show that I can be consistent from April to August.”

Away from cycling, Lizzy explained she is at University. “I have been at Sheffield Medical School since 2010 doing my degree in medicine but then took a year (2017) to do a Masters and was supposed to go back to doing the degree but have decided to leave medicine because I wasn’t enjoying it.”

“As of September, I will be focusing on cycling full time and I am fortunate to have my other half to support me.”

Asked what training Lizzy has been able to fit in with her University commitments, to race at the level she is at, Lizzy replied “I have been pretty consistently doing 12 hours a week which isn’t much compared to what a lot of riders do but I have had other commitments”.

“I am hoping to step that up during the winter. Because I am relatively new to cycling as well, it was important not to do too much too soon as my body is relatively unconditioned compared to those who have been doing this for years and years.”

“So twelve hours for me was probably all my body could take last winter but I am hoping to be able to step that up to 16 hours. At this time of year, there are intervals and stuff where as in the winter, its longer miles with intensity. The one thing I would say is you have to be consistent and work hard; there is no getting away from that.”

“And you need to be determined and have that positive support around you as there will be tough times.”

I then asked Lizzy about crashes. It’s not good to see anyone crash and get hurt, male or female, but Lizzy was quick to stress that she feels women are just as tough, if not tougher, as men when it comes to the school of hard knocks.

“You know as a bike rider, crashes are part and parcel and it’s an unfortunate thing and I have been unfortunate to crash a few times this year but thankfully not serious. I did have one of those last year at the Tour of Reservoir, and I broke a rib and had concussion. The latter injury affected me for a few months and getting back on the bike after that was mentally more tough than physically.”
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“But you have to believe in yourself and while it is hard, you can come back and last year I showed that.”

“Then I had another bad crash when I split my scalp open six days before my wedding so I was covered in plasters but never mind! So, you have to be determined and have supportive people around you.”

“I would say if you want to go for it; and you believe you can, and you don’t have supportive people round you, get rid of them and listen to the supportive ones when you know in your own mind you can do it”.

Asked what winning the national series means, Lizzy replied “I don’t think I have quite got my head around it yet. It is such a step up from last year and I look at Nikki Juniper for example who’s won the last three years and is such a great rider and people are saying to me; ‘Lizzy, you’re going to win the series’. And you think ‘me’, ‘really’.”

“So, it is an incredible achievement but I haven’t got my head around that it’s little old me that is doing it! I hope this will be a catalyst for me to step up to UCI racing which I think I showed I can do in Germany and make that step up after another winters training and take on that challenge.”

While the national series season is done, Lizzy is still intending to do the National 10 time trial championship and is also hoping to get a guest ride in the Irish Women’s stage race as well finish her degree. I thank Lizzy for her time and wish her well in the challenges ahead being a full time cyclist …

The 2017 Women’s National Road Series Honours List

Tour Of Wolds:  1 Lizzy Banks     2 Anna Christian   3 Chanel Mason
 Essex Giro:    1 Grace Garner    2 Charmaine Porter 3 Chanel Mason
 Lincoln GP:    1 Alice Barnes    2 Emily Nelson     3 Lydia Boylan
 CiCLE Classic: 1 Katie Archibald 2. Laura Massey    3 Nicola Juniper
 Curlew Cup:    1 Julie Erskine   2 Hannah Payton    3 Georgina Panchaud
 Otley GP:      1 EJ Harris       2 Annasley Park    3 Melissa Lowther
 Reservoir:     1 Melissa Lowther 2 Hayley Simmonds  3 Laura Massey
 N/Longville:   1 Melissa Lowther 2 Joscelin Lowden  3 Lizzy Banks
 Ryedale GP:    1 Laura Massey    2 Alice Sharp      3 Lizzy Banks

Overall 2017
1 Elizabeth Banks Storey Racing 172
2 Laura Massey Drops 140
3 Melissa Lowther Team Breeze 135
4 Chanel Mason Storey Racing 112
5 Natalie Grinczer Team WNT 107
6 Hannah Payton Drops 101
7 Julie Erskine Cycle Team OnForm 84
8 Sian Botteley Cycle Team OnForm 84
9 Joscelin Lowden Aprire Bicycles/HSS Hire 76
9 Hayley Simmonds Team WNT 76

Role of Honour – Women’s National Series Winners

1981: Margaret Swinnerton
1982: Margaret Swinnerton
1983: Cath Swinnerton
1984: Linda Payne
1985: Lisa Brambini
1986: Lisa Brambini
1987: Sally Hodge
1988: Maria Blower
1989: Linda Gornall

1990: Maria Purvis
1991: Louise Jones
1992: Maria Purvis
1993: Maria Purvis
1994: Julia Freeman
1995: Maria Lawrence
1996: Angela Hunter
1997: Sally Boyden
1998: Angela Hunter
1999: Louise Jones

2000: Rachel Heal
2001: Sara Dean
2002: Diane Moss
2003: Angela Hunter
2004: Michelle Ward
2005: Helen Wyman
2006: Joanna Rowsell
2007: Alice Monger-Godfrey
2008: Jess Allen
2009: Claire Thomas

2010: Kara Chesworth
2011: Lucy Garner
2012: Sarah Storey
2013: Hannah Barnes
2014: Nicola Juniper
2015: Nicola Juniper
2016: Nicola Juniper



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