Journals Riders

Abi Smith journal: new starts

Rider journals 2021: Abi Smith #1/January

Abi Smith and nine other cyclists are keeping rider journals for The British Continental in 2021. First-year senior Abi rides for Great Britain Cycling Team’s Senior Academy this season. In her first journal entry, she looks forward to the year ahead…

Hello! I’ll start with a little introduction: I’m Abi Smith, 18, recently recruited for the GB Senior Academy for track and road in Manchester. Home is God’s Own Country (if you know you know) but controversially birth rights go to Scotland which is probably best not discussed in polite conversation. Naturally outdoorsy, in love with long rides and cafe stops – you’ll most likely find me on top of a hill somewhere I imagine. Many who have come across me would probably say slightly mad… but you’ve got to do your own thing right?!

We will have to be patient and adapt to whatever comes up

I was wondering what to write in my first ever journal and, I suppose being 2021, it might be a good time for a ‘new start’. This past year brought far too much of some things and barely a sniff of others (e.g. racing, socialising, A-Levels, etc.). I could go on for pages and pages about how many personal and global hardships we’ve all been through, but I think the important thing here is that, well, we got through 2020. Yes, I know there are plenty more hardships still to come, but we should be proud of surviving and hauling ourselves through what has been for many, one of the worst years of our lives. Scary I know. 

HSBC UK British Cycling National Track Championships 2020 – Eluned King, Madeline Leech, Sophie Lewis, Abi Smith GBCT Team Pursuit. Photo: Simon Wilkinson/

So thinking of ‘new starts’, one of my goals this year is to get better at them. I mean the Manchester traffic lights are pretty decent for practising a few standing starts every ride, but it’s always been a weakness that gnaws away at me all the time on the track. Always ‘man 4’ (last to start) in the team pursuit, zero explosivity, doesn’t stop at junctions because it takes ten minutes to get back up to speed; the list goes on. But it’s OK, I’ve come to terms with it now and luckily found my strengths in other areas, which I have found really helps with confidence from having something that you feel is really ‘yours’.

Going from doing time trials and hill climbs all year to being thrown into knee-crunching squats and unbudgeable gears takes a lot of adjusting to

But I plan to make progress this year. I don’t have to be the most explosive rider in the blocks, but I want to do myself proud and reach my own personal best with it. Going from doing time trials and hill climbs all year to being thrown into knee-crunching squats and unbudgeable gears takes a lot of adjusting to.

We did power testing last November, my first on the senior programme. My 3 and 12 minute tests were pretty good, about as expected. Peak power? Fairly disastrous. A solid 2/10. One of my lowest ever and not great for morale with it being the first of the 3 tests that we did. I remember feeling myself sink at the time, embarrassed that when I had put out quite a lot more power as a junior, that I was allegedly a good deal weaker now, especially in front of my new coaches and teammates. But once it was put into context, with all the strenuous load we’d been doing in training over the past month and slight decrease in weight, it made sense that this had taken its toll on my muscles a little bit. 

So my goal: I intend to hit 100W more by this time next year

So my goal: I intend to hit 100W more by this time next year. A bold statement I am aware, one I may not achieve, but I say it here and now anyway to give myself an aim written down on paper! 

Snow on Blakey Bank, North Yorkshire, on Christmas Day 2020. Photo: Abi Smith

We are – and have been – very fortunate to have the gym and velodrome available to us throughout the lockdowns of 2020, which is where I’ll be putting my focus into for improving on peak power. Also doing some focused track sessions around starts, speed work and explosive efforts should hopefully set me on the right path to achieve this. Racing-wise, I’m honestly not sure what’s coming up, fingers crossed as much as is safe and possible, but we will have to be patient and adapt to whatever comes up. I guess that is partly the reason that one of my targets is focused objectively, on something I can definitely schedule into my year to do, even if it comes to having to doing it in the deepest darkest corner of the garage to Highway to Hell by AC/DC. Needs must.

It was lovely to be able to go home for Christmas from Manchester to spend time with my family and friends, for a peaceful end to a difficult year. We were even treated to snow up on Blakey Bank, which for those of you who don’t know it, is enough to strike terror into the heart of the bravest cyclist, even in dry conditions.

Christmas-themed Strava-art, by Abi Smith

So here’s to 2021. It better not be like the last one – I’m running out of ideas for my Strava art so I need some group rides back, please. Apologies if this has bored you to death, it’s my first time writing since my Pride and Prejudice essay at GCSE. Well, I suppose you probably wouldn’t have made it this far down the page if it had, so thanks for sticking with me. All the best to everyone with their plans for this year (or lack of them!) and I’ll hopefully be back with another instalment very soon.

Featured photo: Pauline Ballet/ – 2019 UCI Road World Championships – Women’s Junior Road Race – Yorkshire, England – Abi Smith of Great Britain.

Find out more

Rider journals 2021: introducing Abi Smith

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1 comment on “Abi Smith journal: new starts

  1. Trish Rowston

    Loved reading this Abi, and love the strava route, you will get to your goals, I know how determined you are when you set yourself a target, look forward to the next instalment.

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