From Škoda’s DSI Cycling Academy to joining Canyon//SRAM Women’s World Tour team as the winner of the Zwift Academy 2022

By We Love Cycling

By Alex Morrice

I’m still in the process of absorbing everything that happened in these last twelve months. I began 2022 in my final year back at the University of Bath to complete my Natural Sciences degree in Chemistry with Physics, after taking a Covid-affected placement year at Morgan Stanley. I was definitely focusing on enjoying my final year as a student. However, I was immediately faced with a setback, with a cycling accident on a wet commute home in the first week of term, breaking my shoulder blade.

Fuelled by even more determination to get back on my bike outside, I was soon riding with friends in the University of Bath Cycling Club and training under the guidance and support of my coach, Dean, with the goal to start racing in 2022. Since my first race as a Category 4 British Cycling rider at a Winter Series race at the Odd Down cycling circuit, I built up my confidence and love of racing quickly, thanks to back to back wins. I went to Calpe in February for a week of cycling with my Uni friends after the unbelievably exhausting semester 1 examination period. My passion for the sport was reinforced when riding the well-known Spanish climbs and grabbing a Strava Top 10 on the famous Coll de Rates.

I applied for the Škoda DSI Cycling Academy in March and prepared for the testing day at Lee Valley Velodrome for one of the three spots. It was my first experience of power testing, but I was happy with my results inside and outside on the outdoor circuit. Most memorably, I loved meeting so many like-minded and talented girls on this day, many of whom I remain in close contact with! I knew the academy was perfectly suited to me, giving young female riders the opportunity to gain insight and experience in the sport of cycling, thanks to Škoda’s longstanding presence in the sport. This is combined with the invaluable mentorship from the Programme Principle, Dame Sarah Storey. I was thrilled to be selected for the Academy, and have experienced so many opportunities last summer which broadened my knowledge of race environments and assisted in my next step towards professional racing. We went to watch the Women’s Tour in Essex in June which was inspiring to see the pros race on our home roads. My favourite memory of my year was watching the Tour de France Femmes. After our own bike tour exploring Paris, we headed to the main event at the Champs Elysée for the first stage of the inaugural women’s race. The atmosphere in the crowds was electric as we watched the women fly past us on the cobbles in the heat of the French summer. I certainly want to line up for the TdFF in the future.

My experiences in the Academy helped me to clarify my goals in becoming a professional bike rider. Even just walking around the pro cars as the teams warmed up made me even more motivated to follow my dream, and join them on the other side. The support from Dame Sarah Storey, as well as our mentors, Katie Kookaburra and Chanel, was a huge stepping stone for my confidence as I began racing. I’m looking forward to supporting the academy as I move on from it this year, and race as a professional cyclist for Canyon//SRAM.

After I graduated with a First Class degree in Bath, my summer was filled with riding my bike across the country. I won the first road race I entered and soon after, I was invited to race for the UK Elite Development Team LDN – Brother UK in July. My first race for the team was at the Lancaster GP National Series road race, my third ever road race, and first time at this level on closed roads. I went into the race relaxed as I put no pressure on myself, and came away with a close 2nd place. I was absolutely thrilled with this result and was excited for big things to come. Another highlight of my first season this year was the Stage Race Ras na mBan in Ireland, an extremely wet and tough six stages of racing. I learnt so much from my team mates at this race and was so happy to finish 2nd on the third and longest stage of the race, finishing 8th overall on GC, after a heavy encounter with the road on the first day.