Journals

Journals 2022: introducing… Abbie Manley

Introducing the 20-year-old cross specialist, who will turn her attention to road racing this season in Belgium, supported by the Rayner Foundation

We are welcoming a new batch of journal contributors in 2022. We have already revealed three of our new ‘signings’: Ollie Hucks, Flora Perkins and Nathan Hardy. Our fourth is Abbie Manley, the cyclocross specialist who this season joins Isorex-No Aqua to focus on the road.

20-year-old Abbie Manley has just completed a stellar cyclocross season. After an injury-interrupted summer, the Montezuma Race Team rider put together an excellent string of results in the cyclocross National Trophy that saw her pick up three podiums on the way to winning the U23 series win, as well as second overall in the elite category.

Backed by the Rayner Foundation, Abbie will now turn her attention to her first full season of road racing. She will base herself out in Belgium with the Isorex-No Aqua team. It’s a team that has regularly featured Brits in recent times; fellow cyclocross specialist Josie Nelson rode for the team last season before turning pro with Team Coop-Hitec in the summer. Her journal account should therefore be a fascinating insight into a season of learning and adjustment, both on and off the bike.

It will require adjustment in all areas – speed, distance, and intensity – but I am excited to throw myself into the deep end and learn on the job

We caught up with Abbie before she headed out to Spain to meet her new team ahead of the road season. Here’s what she had to say…

Photo: Bastien Gason

Tell us a bit about how you got into racing bikes… 

I started racing triathlon when I was about 9, two sessions a week at a local youth club that involved swimming lessons, running sessions, and cycling. More relay races and fun games than training but I would come home and fall asleep at about 6 pm I think –  my parents loved it!

Once I began competing in triathlon it became very apparent that my cycling was not great (I only learned to ride without stabilisers at age six or seven, so quite late). I decided to start going to a Go-Ride Cyclocross session once a week to help and as I developed, and my skills improved, so did my results. I started doing some cyclocross racing locally as a U12/U14 and it kind of snowballed from there.

Eventually, I realised that I enjoyed the cyclocross more than the triathlons so I focused my attention on that when I was 14. I started racing more and attending more sessions, and then as a second-year U14 raced my first national. 

I think the intensity of the racing is something that I love about it. It’s 50 minutes all-in

You’re a talented cyclocross rider. What is it about ‘cross that you love? 

With cyclocross when I was younger I think I really enjoyed just messing around on my bike in the mud, slipping and sliding all over the place. As I’ve grown up I think the intensity of the racing is something that I love about it. It’s 50 minutes all-in and although at the time it may not feel amazing at 198bpm, it makes for great racing! I also think the unpredictability of cyclocross racing is something that always keeps me interested because although it can be through mechanicals, crashes and mistakes, its helter-skelter nature can lead to the kind of breakthrough performances that really make careers.

Tell us a bit about your cyclocross team, Montezuma’s… 

Montezuma’s Race Team was a team I watched at national events for years (at the time it was the Hargroves Race Team) and I always wanted to be a part of it. As I developed through Solent Pirates as a youth and my results started to pick up the connection between the club and team emerged and I took the chance to race for the team and loved it. The best part about the team isn’t only the amazing sponsors and support but that the people on the team are really all very good friends of mine. We always support one another and cheer each other on like you wouldn’t believe. Simon Pattinson is our team manager and he’s put a lot of effort to help us get where we are as a team and as individuals and that support means a lot to all of us. 

You seem to have had a successful 2021-22 cross season. How happy are you with how it went, and why? 

Yes, this cyclocross season has been a big step forward for me. After a summer on and off the bike with a knee injury I dedicated the couple of months I had before racing started to solid training. With the lack of racing I found it hard to gauge my form, so turning up to the first National Trophy round at Derby I really wasn’t sure what to expect. Gaining two podiums (one each in the Elite and U23 categories) was the best start to the season I could ask for. To repeat that feat in several National Trophy rounds whilst earning the green U23 leader’s jersey and the yellow Elite leader’s jersey (briefly) really gave me confidence in each race.

Racing in Belgium was one of the highlights for me during the cyclocross season and I managed to get across several times this winter, gaining some amazing experiences at races like Overijse World Cup. Unfortunately, many of the World Cups I was selected for I couldn’t attend as travel restrictions came into place for the latter part of the season, which was frustrating. I hope there will be more opportunities in the future, however. 

Abbie dons her new Isorex-No Aqua kit. Photo: Abbie Manley

We’ll see you riding for the Belgian team Isorex-No Aqua on the road this year. What prompted the move? 

Having dabbled in road racing during previous summers, something I have always wanted to do is to dedicate a whole season to road. I think I would have done this sooner but with Covid, racing opportunities have been few and far between for a couple of years. I have followed Isorex and their riders for a while now and the concept of racing abroad has been a goal of mine but was not possible whilst at school. When the opportunity arose for me to join the team and work with some amazing athletes I was so excited and decided to go for it. 

I have a lot of support around me from people who have been in similar positions and those on the team to help me so I feel comfortable with making that jump up

Have you raced much on the road in Europe before? Is that something that you think will take some adjustment? 

I have raced only a handful of road races abroad including the Assen Youth Tour and Junior Gent Wevelgem to name a couple so my experience is not huge in that respect. I think the standard of the racing I’ll face will for sure be a big step up and it will require adjustment in all areas – speed, distance, and intensity – but I am excited to throw myself into the deep end and learn on the job. I have a lot of support around me from people who have been in similar positions and those on the team to help me so I feel comfortable with making that jump up. 

Where will you be based this year (and why)? 

This year I will be largely based in Oudenaarde, Belgium. I will be staying in the team house out there with a couple of other girls as well. The area we are in is beautiful and right in the heart of Flanders so exploring those roads is something I am looking forward to. 

I think that’s the best way to enter the season, with not a lot of expectation and a lot of excitement

What would a successful 2022 road season look like for you? 

This year my goals are all focused on learning as much as I can. Hopefully, by the end of the season, I will have developed and enhanced my road racing prowess. I am not sure what a good result looks like for me right now but working for my teammates and helping them gain results is also what I hope to do. We have a calendar filled with various types of races so I would like to figure out what terrain suits me and the style of racing I am best at and then also work to improve what I am not so good at. It’s really open because I am only just getting started and I think that’s the best way to enter the season, with not a lot of expectation and a lot of excitement. 

And will it be full-on for cyclocross again next winter? 

As for cyclocross next year, I absolutely hope to be competing all season again and at a high standard. My improvements this season have given me a lot of confidence that I can continue to move my way through the ranks. Having had a short time off the bike I have reflected a lot on the season and now knowing the areas I can improve on, I have a lot of time to put the training into place for next season. 

Featured photo: Monument Cycling/Joe Cotterill

Find out more

Follow Abbie on Twitter.

Follow Abbie on Instagram.