We are lucky enough to be welcoming a new batch of riders to our rider journal series in 2021. We have picked ten riders to give us an insight into life at the Continental and elite-levels of racing, both at home and abroad. We are introducing each rider through December. So far we have revealed Abi Smith, Red Walters, Charliiy Berry, Joe Nally, Charlotte Broughton, James Jenkins, Lizzy Bennett and Tom Portsmouth.
When Chrissie Slot first rode a bike just three years ago, it was love at first ride. Since then, she’s been steadily working towards her dream of turning professional as a cyclist, whilst balancing studying at university.
I think learning how to race is a process everyone has to go through, whatever age you start
As a late starter, she’s on a steep learning curve. From bike handling skills to tactics, Chrissie admits she still has plenty of room to develop. One asset she appears to have already mastered, however, is resilience. This year alone she’s faced countless setbacks: injuries, concussion, heatstroke, fatigue and a 30mph crash, to name just a few. And yet, as she says in the interview, she’s learned how to adopt a positive mindset, accepting setbacks as part of life.
2021 will be Chrissie’s first year of racing at the national level, a big step in her fledgeling career. She will ride for Brother UK – Team OnForm. With links to the UCI Continental CAMS-Tifosi team, it is a team that has provided an excellent pathway to the next rung of the racing ladder, including Anna Henderson, Leah Dixon and others. Chrissie will no doubt be hoping it will provide her with an environment she can thrive in.
Before she begins her journal account, we asked her to tell us more about her whirlwind cycling journey. Here is what she had to say…
Tell us how you got into cycling…
It was a strange one for me. I’d grown up surrounded by cycling – my Dad used to ride, my brother’s been racing for years – but I never saw the appeal. At the end of my first year at university in 2017, however, I was searching for a sport to fully immerse myself in. Honestly, I’d tried everything – from frisbee to kickboxing -and nothing grabbed me. But on holiday that year in the Lake District, my brother persuaded me to join him for a ride. He was on his race bike, I was on an old basic bike and despite getting dropped… I loved it. As soon as we got back, I bought myself a road bike, joined my university cycling club in Durham, and it went from there.
Has coming into the sport relatively late presented you with any challenges?
I’d say the biggest one is bike handling skills. Learning how to properly ride at 20 years old is very different than it is at say… 10! You’re more aware of the consequences of crashing so, naturally, you’re a bit more cautious. It can put you at a disadvantage in big bunches and crits, as you can waste a lot of energy if you’re not confident moving through the wheels. But I’m not worried. Some of the best cyclists in the world, like Emma Pooley and Tayler Wiles, started riding at university. They’ve shown that with enough hard work, it’s possible to gain that confidence, despite starting later.
Figuring out when to chase down attacks sometimes resulted in me getting dropped in my first season
Tactically I’ve had to start from zero, which to begin with was a challenge. Figuring out when to (or typically, when not to) chase down attacks, sometimes resulted in me getting dropped in my first season. But I think learning how to race is a process everyone has to go through, whatever age you start. I’ve found watching races has really helped, as well as learning all I can from my coach, Josh Hunt, who’s given me some great advice.
What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned so far?
One of the biggest lessons has been getting to know and listen to my body; knowing when it needs rest, when it’s good to go, and being honest about it. That can sometimes be hard, but is so important. I learned the hard way that resting is just as important as training.
The process of picking myself up again and again taught me that the only way to get out of a negative situation is with a positive mindset
Accept setbacks as part of life, and refocus as quickly as possible; that one’s not really a lesson, but more a mentality that’s helped me through some low moments this year, particularly after I had a nasty crash at the end of off-season. The process of picking myself up again and again taught me that the only way to get out of a negative situation is with a positive mindset.
Last one – when you can’t train, be wary of Instagram and Strava. No one ever posts about how their legs feel awful, or that they’re lacking motivation. If you read too much into what people say on there, it’s easy to start resenting everyone and think you’re the only one going through a rough time.
What you would say is the achievement you are most proud of in cycling so far?
One that stands out is podiuming in a men’s circuit race back in 2019. What made it all the more special was the fact that I had to persuade the organiser to allow me to race alongside the men in the first place, so it felt like an achievement to even be on the start line. Not only this, the commissaire thought it was necessary to announce, whilst looking at me, “Now ladies, if you get lapped, stay over to the left”. So, to then beat most of the field, crossing the line third, felt sweeter than any win I’ve had!
Tell us about the team you’ll be racing for in 2021?
I’ll be racing for Brother UK – Team OnForm. They’ve got a great reputation for development, with riders like Anna Henderson, Leah Dixon, and Jess Finney all having ridden for them in the last few years. It seems like a great bunch of girls, all motivated to do well, and with a really positive environment, it’ll be exciting to see what we can achieve as a team.
What will your race programme look like?
We’ll be targeting the National Road Series, the British Womens Team Cup, the Rás na mBan, and hopefully some UCI races. I recently bought myself a time trial bike, so I’m planning to fit in some time trials around those, with events like the BUCS Time Trial, the National Road Championships Time Trial and the RTTC National Closed Circuit Championships being targets.
What are your goals next season?
I’d love to win a road race and aim for some top 10s in National Road Series races. But saying that, with it being my first year racing at national level, I’m not going into it with expectations. I know that with any step up, comes a lot of learning. I’ll keep working hard and grasp as many opportunities as I can, whether in a support role or personally, and see what happens.
Featured photo: Aaron Smith
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