We are delighted to welcome back 19-year-old Flora Perkins as a journal contributor!
Since her last entry, the promising Fenix-Deceuninck Development Team rider has switched teams, moving from the British Le Col-Wahoo setup to the Belgian Fenix-Deceuninck Development Team. And, after finishing her A-levels last summer, she has been able to focus full-time on racing for the first time in her young career. She certainly hasn’t wasted any opportunity to race; she has racked up 31 race days already this season.
I come away pleased with my ride, and hoping that one day I’ll hang on a little longer with the front group
She is in the midst of an impressive run of form too. At the end of June, she finished in the top ten of the National Road Championships road and circuit races, as well as a bronze in the under-23 National Time Trial Championships. Then a second place at the Ilkley Grand Prix was followed up with 4th last weekend at the Grand Prix Stuttgart (1.2).
Before she re-opens her journal account, we were keen to catch up with the Londoner she that she could fill us in on what she has been up to over the last twelve months…
When we last caught up with you, you were racing for the Le Col-Wahoo team. How do you look back on your first season out of the junior ranks?
Honestly, I don’t think I could have asked for a better introduction to the pro peloton. I learned so much in that first year. This came partly through exposure from the race opportunities I had with the team, and learning things from being in different scenarios and taking on different roles. But I probably learned the most from the leadership of the experienced riders I was surrounded by, and from the direction of some really quality DSs.
I spent the year trying to soak up all the knowledge I could and truly just loved racing my bike
We always raced to try and get a result, we were never there to just participate, and as a result, we always punched above our weight. I spent the year trying to soak up all the knowledge I could and truly just loved racing my bike. I look back on it with great fondness.
Tell us about how – and why – you ended up joining the Fenix-Deceuninck Development Team.
As a result of some uncertainty about the situation with Le Col-Wahoo at the beginning of the year, I had to look at other teams to see if I could find a ride elsewhere. The opportunity arose to move to the Fenix-Deceuninck Development Team. It was a stressful time for everyone I think, and it all felt like a big shame. But I’m glad to have the security I now have with Fenix, and to be in the position to continue racing.
What are the main differences between your new team and the Le Col-Wahoo team?
Fenix feels a lot bigger. I went in knowing that. It’s a much bigger organisation than my team last year. This has both positives and negatives. It provides a level of stability, as the team’s backed by big sponsors. But it also means you need to be on the ball with sorting things, as the team is trying to organise a huge number of staff and riders and equipment, that constantly travels all around Europe.
You’ve had a busy season already, your first full year of racing. I make it 31 race days so far. How are you finding it, training and racing full-time?
It’s flown by. It’s felt busy at times, when I’ve been racing and traveling more. And then in other periods it has felt a lot slower, which I’ve been able to appreciate after a hectic year last year. I also moved away to Manchester in October, which I’ve enjoyed, but that also takes some adjusting to.
Up until the nationals, what would you were the highlights of the first half of your season?
I think my highlight of the season so far was the stage race in Valencia at the start of the year. I was excited as it was the first race of the year and my first race with the team. I was keen to give a good impression and do a good job for the team, which I reckon I did. I climbed much better than I was expecting to and so I surprised myself a bit too.
I think it’s important to be in races where you are going for the win, because I reckon you can lose that instinct a bit when you are working for others in the bigger races
Can you tell us why you decided to race the Women’s CiCLE Classic (where you finished third), and what you made of the race?
I think racing in the UK is great. When it fits well in the calendar and it’s a course I’m excited about, I’m keen to keep racing at home. It also gives me an opportunity to race a bit more for myself. I think it’s important to be in races where you are going for the win, because I reckon you can lose that instinct a bit when you are working for others in the bigger races. I was pleased that the race split up, as I’m not the biggest fan of negative racing, or just sitting in for the sprint.
Ideally, I wanted an even smaller group to come to the line with, but I wasn’t able to get away from that group of 7 or so. I was then focusing on saving energy where I could, and positioning well into that last bend. The finish line is still a fair way away from the last corner, so I didn’t want to come out of it first. I knew I did better to sprint off a fast wheel, so I sat in second wheel. I was positioned well, but I think it came down to legs more than anything, and others were a bit faster.
And the nationals. 3rd in the U23 time trial, 8th in the circuit race and 9th in the road race. How satisfied are you with the way it all went?
Yeah. The TT was a lovely surprise and a good confidence boost. It’s not a discipline I’ve always excelled at. But I know it’s important to build it as a skill, both for the physical engine it helps to develop, but also because time trials can be so determinative in stage racing. I wasn’t going in with a result in mind, but more focused on the performance and giving a good account of myself. Looking back I reckon I went a bit too conservatively with my power, but I was pleased with my position on the bike, and a national podium is a lovely bonus.
I didn’t love the crit quite so much. With the race being disrupted by a crash, my plan of getting away as others fatigued in the back end of the race became less possible. I then messed up the last lap a bit and was never quite in contention. That being said, I stayed upright and didn’t mess my chances up for Sunday. So nothing lost, I don’t think.
Sunday was a tough day. Didn’t matter where you were in the race, you were probably hurting
Sunday was a tough day. Didn’t matter where you were in the race, you were probably hurting. I was feeling pretty good to begin with, and being able to react to moves that were made on the climbs gave me confidence. I made the front split which was a great feeling, and my target heading into today. I then tried to recover in the wheels, as I was feeling it in the legs and with a group of hitters like that, there was no expectation that I should pull.
I also knew they wouldn’t like a ‘hanger on-er’ so would go again to further whittle the group down. What I didn’t anticipate was how soon this would happen. I was on the back up a climb and they went for it. I got shelled, and although I could see them dangling out in front of me for a while, I never quite got back on. I was caught in no man’s land for a lap or so, trying to stay ahead of the group behind. They eventually caught me and it was a drag race up that final climb to the finish. I come away pleased with my ride, and hoping that one day I’ll hang on a little longer with the front group.
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