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Four riders selected to join Dame Sarah Storey's academy

Will Strickson
28 May 2021

Despite initially offering two places, the standard of the applicants meant four were chosen to join the Škoda SKI Cycling Academy

Dame Sarah Storey has selected four young female riders to join her three year Škoda DSI Cycling Academy programme.

Although two places were initially offered to amateurs aged 17-22, the ability of the applicants at the testing day at Lee Valley VeloPark led to four being chosen.

Storey said, '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.'

The three year, university-style programme will give riders the opportunity to experience life as a pro cyclist, including the chance to race in the Women's National Road and Circuit Series this year.

Storey also offered insight into each of the four prospects. 

Firstly there's Maddi Aldam-Gates, an 18-year-old club swimmer from Trowbridge, Wiltshire who only took up cycling during the first lockdown when swimming pools were closed.

Storey said, '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, a 19-year-old from Pontesbury, Shropshire, also took up cycling in the first lockdown, making the switch from running having previously represented North Wales in track, cross country and mountain running. A stress fracture in her leg led to her looking for a sport that wouldn't affect the injury.

'Gwyneth impressed everyone with her calm and controlled approach to the whole day,' Storey said. '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 huge potential.'

Clearly lockdown worked wonders for the sport because Olivia French, 20, from Wilsmslow, Cheshire, started cycling last year when tennis courts closed. She'd previously competed at a national level in tennis tournaments.

According to Storey, '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 focussed individual who works methodically with her coaches and support network.'

The final rider to join the academy is Lucy Ellmore, an 18-year-old from Harrogate, Yorkshire. Ellmore has been riding competitively since she was 13 and finished third in the recent Yorkshire Road Race Test Event.

Storey said of Ellmore, '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.'

They join the four existing Academy members – Morgan Newberry, Rebecca Richards, Megan Dickerson and Meredith Gilbert – who hope to graduate at the end of 2021 by joining a professional team.

For more information visit skoda.co.uk/discover/cycling-academy

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