Ladies get on their bikes!
ŠKODA UK, in partnership with cycling legend Dame Sarah Storey, has selected four new female riders to join the prestigious ŠKODA DSI Cycling Academy.
Originally there were two places in the Academy available to aspiring female cyclists, but the standard was so high that Dame Sarah Storey has awarded four riders a place on the programme.
Maddi Aldam-Gates (18) from Trowbridge in Wiltshire, Gwyneth Parry (19) from Pontesbury in Shropshire, Lucy Ellomore (18) from Harrogate in Yorkshire and Olivia French (20) from Wilmslow in Cheshire will join Academy Principal, Dame Sarah Storey and complete the university-style programme that aims to provide ambitious female cyclists, aged between 17-22, with a route to the elite level of the sport.
More than 100 aspiring female amateur riders applied to join the Academy in 2021 by providing details of their cycling experience, ambitions, and training schedule. Seventeen riders were then shortlisted to attend the second stage of the selection process, a testing day at the Lee Valley VeloPark in London.
Each of the riders were put through their paces in a series of cycling tests that included a peak power test, a three-minute maximal test and a 12-minute steady state challenge. The riders also completed laps of the outdoor closed circuit to test their physical handling and pacing abilities.
Dame Sarah Storey, Academy Principal, commented: “The standard of the riders we tested far exceeded my expectations and it was such a tough decision to narrow down the selection. Given the talent we saw and the potential within the group we have decided that limiting the selection to just two riders wasn’t enough. ŠKODA is committed to furthering the opportunities for female riders and it’s a testament to their dedication to the sport that we’re expanding the intake this year.
“I’d like to thank everyone who attended the selection day and gave it their all. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, it was clear that these young women have stayed super fit and incredibly focused, and they should all be proud of how they performed.”
The Academy programme will provide each rider with the opportunity to experience the life of a professional rider, covering the performance, nutrition and media profile required to be a modern-day pro-cyclist. The 2021 schedule offers the chance to race in the Women’s National Road and Circuit Series and attend ŠKODA sponsored events, which include the Women’s Tour and the Tour Series.
Dame Sarah Storey commented on each of the new Academy riders, three of whom first took-up cycling during lockdown.
Maddi Aldam-Gates, 18, from Trowbridge, Wiltshire
Aldam-Gates, a keen club swimmer, took up cycling during the first lockdown when the pools closed and she needed a new sport to concentrate on.
“Maddi set herself apart from the moment she arrived because it was clear she had planned meticulously and rehearsed what she would do to get the best out of the tests. Her recovery between the tests was exceptional and she excelled on the road bike test, far exceeding my expectations for someone who had only started cycling just over a year ago.”
Gwyneth Parry, 19, from Pontesbury in Shropshire
Parry, a former runner who represented North Wales in track, cross country and mountain running events, took up cycling when leg stress fractures during the first lockdown meant she required a new sport that wouldn’t affect her injuries.
“Gwyneth impressed everyone with her calm and controlled approach to the whole day. She rode the tests with a fluid and relaxed style that made it look effortless despite the power she was putting out. On the road bike test, it was clear she has the capacity to be a well drilled member of a team with a huge potential.”
Lucy Ellmore, 18, from Harrogate in Yorkshire
Ellmore has been riding competitively since she was 13 years old and recently took part in the Yorkshire Road Race Test Event, finishing third out of over 60 riders.
“Lucy had an exceptional day at the test day, producing some of the biggest numbers across the group and also demonstrating an incredible ability to suffer at repeated high intensity. She shows all the potential of someone who could climb with the best riders in the world and was unfazed on the road bike test despite the storm that whipped up just as she was lining up as the last rider off!”
Olivia French, 20, from Wilmslow in Cheshire
French is a former tennis player who competed at national level and in international tournaments. She took up road cycling during the first lockdown when the tennis courts closed and she was encouraged to get out on a bike with her dad.
“As a tennis player it was clear that Olivia has an incredible self-discipline and drive for fitness tests and her ability on the Wattbike was incredible for someone who took up cycling last year when other sports facilities were closed. I was impressed with how keen she was to understand more about what she could do better, and it was clear from her application form she is a very driven and focused individual who works methodically with her coaches and support network.”
Storey continues: “The ŠKODA Academy offers a unique opportunity to develop young riders in a way that is rarely available to the peloton. From race opportunities and non-race events, there is a broad range of activities throughout the year to inspire and challenge a rider to find their next level. The camaraderie of being part of a female focused setup and the links in with the senior and experienced riders of the Storey Racing team and their support staff, make the ŠKODA Academy a place to develop and excel.”
The four new riders will join four existing senior Academy riders who joined in 2019. Morgan Newberry, Rebecca Richards, Megan Dickerson and Meredith Gilbert are starting the final year of their Academy experience and hope to graduate at the end of 2021 by joining a professional cycling team.
ŠKODA started life as a bicycle company in 1895 and the brand continues to honour its heritage. In tandem with its headline sponsorship of key events in the cycling calendar, ŠKODA is championing gender equality in the professional tour series.
For more information on the ŠKODA DSI Cycling Academy, please visit: www.skoda.co.uk/discover/cycling-academy