Journals

Journals 2022: introducing… Flora Perkins

The 18-year-old Le Col-Wahoo rider is the second of our journal contributors this season

We are welcoming a new batch of journal contributors in 2022. We have handpicked a number of riders, coaches and sporting directors to bring you a unique insight into life at the Continental and elite levels, both at home and abroad. We introduced first of our new contributors, Ollie Hucks, earlier this week. Next up is one of Le Col-Wahoo’s exciting new signings Flora Perkins, who moves up to the elite ranks this season after her two years at junior level…

In our eyes, 18-year-old Flora Perkins is one of the brightest young British road prospects. Hailing from the same club – VC Londres – that has catapulted so many top talents to the sport’s top in recent years (think Ethan Hayter and Fred Wright for example), Flora has shown the kind of promise at junior level that suggests she could follow in her clubmates’ wheel tracks.

She first came to our attention with a win at the Banbury Star Women’s Road Race in May last year, beating top elite-level opposition in one of the first national road races in what was a late-starting season. That kickstarted an impressive run of results that saw her finish second in the CAMS-Basso road race, 3rd overall in the Junior Women’s Tour of Yorkshire, 13th in the Women’s CiCLE Classic and 3rd in the national junior road race. She capped her road season by winning the UCI stage race, the Watersley Challenge Juniors, and finishing 12th in the junior road race at the world championships, won by her GB teammate Zoe Backstedt.

I think bunch racing is where I thrive the most. I get real enjoyment out of the tactical side of racing

This season will be her first as a senior-level rider. Her results and potential have earned her a two-year contract at Britain’s leading UCI Continental team, Le Col-Wahoo, as well as a place at the GB Senior Academy, enabling her to combine road and track goals this year.

Before she begins her road – and journal – campaign, we asked Flora to tell us a little bit more about herself. Here’s what she told us…

Photo: Le Col-Wahoo

Tell us how you got into cycling

I’ve always cycled with my family. We used to go on family cycle rides when away on holiday. But the way I got into cycling, as a sport, would be through the Herne Hill Velodrome holiday clubs. The story goes that my mum was looking for some cheap childcare and so my brothers and I were packed off for a day at the velodrome. I really took to it and so began going along to sessions every Friday. It just grew from there. I started out with some local racing in the summer, Crystal Palace Crits and track league. Then went onto regional and national events.

How would you describe yourself as a rider?

I would say that I’m pretty rounded as a rider. I’m perhaps not the best in one particular area but I’d like to think I’m pretty good across the board. I think bunch racing is where I thrive the most. I get real enjoyment out of the tactical side of racing.

You’re a member of VCL, a club that has supported many talented young riders in recent years. What is it about the club, do you think, that has made it so successful in developing talent?

For me, VCL had been just brilliant. I consider myself super lucky to have started out there. I think the reasons for this are twofold. Firstly, the coaching there is superb. When I first started out I was young and I rode completely for the love of it, with zero ambitions of going anywhere. But as I look back now there are things that I learned through racing and skill exercises in those early sessions that really helped lay the groundwork for the future. As an older rider, I see the ways that the club goes above and beyond for their riders to ensure that we have the track time, knowledge, equipment and race opportunities to perform and develop. The level of support they provide for riders, as a club, is somewhat staggering.

As a community, it encourages everyone, no matter what their cycling ambition or ability may be

Secondly, what makes VCL so great is the people. My Dad and I were pretty clueless about cycling when we first came to it. One thing my Dad said at the time, which I think really rings true, was that ‘we didn’t know what we didn’t know’. The coaches, and other parents, were really great at welcoming us into the club and guiding us into the world of cycling. As a community, it encourages everyone, no matter what their cycling ambition or ability may be. Rocking up to a race or going out on a club run with a whole load of lovely people makes all the difference, it’s why I love cycling. I’ve definitely been proud to wear the VCL jersey for the past few years.

How would you rate your 2021 season out of 10? And why? 

I would rate my 2021 season pretty high, maybe an 8 or a 9. It exceeded all my expectations. It began with a win at the Banbury Star, which is always a great way to start. This was a huge confidence boost. There are definitely things I’d do differently, races I’d ride differently, but on the whole, I come away feeling really pleased with my year and excited for the one to come. 

Photo: Le Col-Wahoo

How did your move to Le Col-Wahoo come about? Why Le Col-Wahoo over, say, the GB Senior Academy?

Well, actually I’m doing both! My trade team will be Le-Col Wahoo for the next couple of years and I’ll race with them on the road whilst also on the Academy and racing for GB on the track. I don’t yet train with the academy in Manchester as I’m still living at home whilst I finish my A-levels, but I hope to get some track racing in later on in the year. I’m really pleased with where I am now, as I’m in a really great position to continue progressing and racing on both the road and the track.

It slightly feels like being thrown in the deep end but in a very exciting sense

This season will be your first as a senior rider. How are you feeling about the year ahead, and why?

I’m really looking forward to the year ahead. I don’t have many expectations because I really don’t know what it will be like in the peloton. I think I’ll have a better idea of things after my first race. It slightly feels like being thrown in the deep end but in a very exciting sense. 

What are your goals this year?

My primary goal for the first half of the year is to get a decent set of A-Level results. For the track and the road, I hope to perform well at Nationals and also hopefully at the U23 Euros. 

You are clearly a very talented rider, judging by your junior results. What kind of rider do you want to be in the future? What kinds of races would you like to win?

Ooo that’s a tough question. On the road, I think I’d like to be a one-day/classics style rider. I think the aggressive, tactical style of racing and punchier climbs suit my strengths more. But I also think I’d enjoy being a domestique-style rider, especially in stage races. On the track, so far it’s been bunch racing all the way. But I haven’t done a whole load of TP training yet, so I’m willing to see how that goes. 

Featured photo: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com – 25/09/2021 – Cycling – UCI 2021 Road World Championships – Women’s Junior Road Race – Leuven, Flanders, Belgium – Team GBCT’s Flora Perkins.

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