Feature: April Tacey (vTDF Stage winner)

Cooking up a great win in her kitchen last weekend was 19 year old April Tacey (Drops cycling) who made history by being the winner of the first stage of the Virtual Women’s Tour de France

Feature: April Tacey (vTDF Stage winner)
brought to you by trainSharp

Cooking up a great win in her kitchen last weekend was 19 year old April Tacey (Drops cycling) who made history by being the winner of the first stage of the Virtual Women’s Tour de France. If ever there was a way for an up and coming talent to make a name for themselves, it’s by embracing a new discipline and taking the race to the biggest talents in the world. April did just that last Saturday.

This weekend, April has two races to do in the Virtual Tour de France and when asked has the victory on stage one sunk in, April replied “a little bit although on the day it didn’t sink in. A few days after it did and it’s mad! It was a really good opportunity for the Drops girls to be able to actually ride the event let alone win the first stage. That was amazing, and everyone in our WhatsApp group was like congratulations, you smashed it…. Nobody could quite believe it.”

Like Joss Lowden (interview here ), April is not a seasoned Zwift racer as she explained. “My brother has an account and has been using it quite a while, but I didn’t really start until the beginning of this year really. I used it a bit after I broke my knee (end of last year) so I was on the turbo but my first proper race was the ‘Tour for All’ in May. So I have not been doing it that long but I learnt from the ‘Tour for All’ and a crit race that followed that the more you do, the more you learn. I have been practising quite a bit and my brother helps me with the power ups.”

The performance by April is all the more remarkable because she is only just returning to race fitness after a big injury for a cyclist. “I broke my knee in December and I had three months off the bike. I didn’t get on the bike until March and then I was just doing a lot of steady miles to get the winter base I didn’t get during the winter. I then went back to working with trainSharp (coach Alex Welburn) and they have been giving me specific efforts to do. I didn’t want to do too much and over do it with the knee injury I had”.

April comes from a cycling family where her dad used to time trial along with her mum and her brother also races the road and track. “We can all go out together so lockdown was quite good” she says of having her own private ‘chaingang’.

Asked was she nervous when the team got to compete against the big teams, April replied “I was a little bit nervous coming into it but I had a little confidence from the ‘Tour for All’ where I two top tens in the races that I did and then a week after, I came fourth in a crit so I had some confidence in my Zwift racing. I was just a bit nervous of all the big teams that were doing this race.”

April has three stages left to do, a double header this weekend (stages 3 and 4) and then the final one on the virtual Champs-Élysées the weekend after. Looking back at stage one which she won, April says “stage one was hilly with a short hill at the beginning and it was like a 10% and then it went down a little bit and the actual QoM (Queen of the Mountain) wasn’t that steep. It was only like 3% but was quite a long drag. So that suited me and then we had a nice downhill section where I could freewheel and get into my aero tuck”.

Having seen these aero tucks on the YouTube coverage, I asked April how that works in eRacing? IE, what is a rider on the turbo doing when we see them in an aero tuck on the screen? April explained “When you hit either 50 or 60 you can literally stop pedalling and the avatar goes into an aero tuck for you so you can have a breather and rest your legs”.

April explained that racing three weekends in a row makes it feel like normal racing. “I’m looking forward to stage four as its quite similar to stage one in that it has a hill in it that’s a bit longer but it has a downhill and flat finish which is similar to the first stage. The final stage is flat all the way though so it will be full gas from the beginning. The flatter stages I think are harder than the hilly ones!”

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I remember reading reports of the race and how well she used her ‘power up’ and it turns out she had some help to get the timing spot on. “I was hoping I’d get an aero boost just before the finish which I did manage to get with a lap and half to go and I kept hold of it.”

“Powerups are random and you don’t know which one you are going to get and so I wanted to save my aero boost and save that for the finish as I was feeling alright and confident in my ability to stay in the top 10 coming into the finish. My brother then clicked my power up for me with 300 metres to go so I could concentrate and focus on my pedalling and I just gave it everything I had then.”

I remember April well from the Curlew Cup in 2019 where she sprinted to second just behind Elizabeth Bennett. “Last year was my first year as a senior and I worked a lot on building my sprint up. I was with trainSharp for a year and then had break from them when I was injured. They really helped me work on my sprint before I was injured and my peak power. So I have more of a kick now than I used to have which helps my sprint.”

Winning a sprint at Naseby (Team Series) in 2019 –  pic @sfblackwell

April says her training is quite normal and it hasn’t had changed to suit eRacing. “I am doing kind of the same stuff I would be doing for the road. I do a mixture of drills. So I do some sprints on the road and some on the turbo. I like to do the more specific stuff on the turbo so I can give it my all and concentrate on the efforts”.

“If it’s raining, I would do my session on the turbo even if it’s a three hour ride but in general I do the longer rides on the road like on the weekend I do two long rides and then I do two long rides in the week as well plus some turbo sessions. The training is different from week to week which is good”.

“It’s good here (Leicestershire) because if I want to do a flat ride I can and if I want some hills, I can go over to Melton Mowbray and find some long hills there. I am constantly training, building my fitness and I still have things to work on like going up hills on the road, I need to build up the muscles in my legs because I am bit unsteady out of the saddle at the moment after my knee problem so I’m focusing on weaknesses.”

Talking about trainSharp and her coach Alex Welburn, April says “I had a year with them and I found last year I did progress as a rider. I was feeling good for the national champs and stuff and I feel like I work well with them. I like how they focus my training specifically to my power because before last year, I never trained to power so it was a new thing for me. It has progressed me as a rider and made me stronger and given me that kick for the finish”.

April in training mode – photo: @april_tacey 

Asked for a little insight into what it’s like for her in an eRace (vTDF) when she’s in the selection with a load of big names around her, April explains “when you are in the top 10, you can see who is in there as well and what ‘watts per kilo’ everyone is pushing. So if I am pushing too many watts per kilo, I’ll ease off a little and concentrate on staying in the top 10 or top 15 and concentrate on what everyone else is throwing out so I can kind of keep a similar watts per kilo as them”.

Being part of a cycling family, I asked does April have her own Tour de France style crowd cheering her on at home? “They are” says April, adding “sometimes they go into the other room and watch it on YouTube so they don’t distract me and then they will come in at the finish and encourage me”.

With racing resuming in England, I asked April whether she’s planning on going back to racing on the road? “I will probably do some local time trials when they go ahead and probably some local circuit races but I’m not sure when they will start.”

When asked has eRacing filled the void left by no racing outside, April says “yes, I think it has given me something to go for. Breaking my knee in December was a really low point for me so coming back to cycling and building my strength up again has given myself something to motivate me and look forward to. The eRacing has given me confidence for when we get to do some UCI races and confidence I might be able to stick in there as I might have the required power.”

Finally, how has April felt about all the media interest in her since he historic win? “It has been really good to get my name out there and it’s been great exposure for team Drops and our sponsors.  Not many people knew who I was and this year would have been my first year racing UCI so it’s been good to get my name out there so they can remember me.”

April is looking to make a career out of racing professionally doing what she enjoys and we wish her lots of luck this weekend, the one after and onwards onto the road after that. Thank you April for your time.

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