AN exceptionally talented 17-year-old Ripon Grammar School student blew the competition away at a prestigious regional cycling championships.
Abi Smith won both the junior and women’s titles to be crowned Yorkshire champion, but also was the overall women’s race winner, which included top cyclists from all three northern regions.
This is Abi’s first season of dedicated cycling, as she was a triathlete up until last year, so, she says, she felt she had nothing to lose.
“I knew there were some really good competitors in the race but, in a way, I had less to lose as I had no past results to measure myself against. I felt really nervous because I always put pressure on myself, but I thought I’d just go for it, because I’d regret it if I didn’t.”
Abi, who was selected for the elite GB cycling team last year, was racing against around 40 other competitors in the Yorkshire Road Race Championships, some of whom were more than twice her age, and with many more years of cycling experience.
The event, held at Terrington, also incorporated the North-East and North West championships: “I had ambitions to win the juniors. I didn’t expect to win the women’s race overall,” says Abi, who has only just turned 17. “It was amazing. I was a bit speechless.”
It was a particularly hilly 33-mile course and Abi, who is from Oswaldkirk, won the slight uphill sprint finish by a few bike lengths: “The course suited my strengths really well,” she explains.
“I felt strong early on and so I put in around six or seven attacks to try and break the field up a bit more each time, and we ended up with a group of six on the final lap. It was comfortable towards the end but I had to go full out. It was a hard sprint uphill at the finish.”
Abi’s brother, Nathan smith, 18, who is in his first year at Leeds University, came seventh in the elite men’s race. And former RGS pupil Ben Mewes, 19, who is in his second year at Loughborough University, finished a very respectable 16th in the same event.
Boarding student Abi, who has also competed for her country in mountain running championships, trains on the hills of nearby Nidderdale after school: “There are some good hills in these parts, around Lofthouse and Brimham Rocks. And the good thing about being a boarder is I can use all the sports facilities at school and not having to travel every day gives me more time.”
Taking PE, psychology, biology and geography at AS level, Abi hopes to study a sports-related subject at university.
*Yorkshire’s only state boarding school, RGS’s Year 5 Open Evening is on June 24, 5.30pm.