Despite the strange start to life as a pro cyclist that 2020 has offered, some new faces are rising to the occasion and making a name for themselves on the virtual stage that is currently at their disposal. One such budding talent? April Tacey. The 19-year-old British rider just pulled off an outstanding performance at the Virtual Tour de France, where she claimed four podium spots, two stage wins, and helped push her team, Drops, closer to its goal of WorldTeam status.

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Coming off what has been the biggest win of her very young career, We Love Cycling talked to April Tacey about what it was like going from starting her first pro season with an injury, to adjusting to life under the pandemic, to ultimately winning the first stage of the Virtual Tour de France. She also told us about her hopes for the future of women’s cycling, and the real-life race that she can’t wait to try her hand at.

April Tacey
April Tacey in her Drops jersey © April Tacey

What a whirlwind the last couple weeks must have been! Can we go back in time a bit and talk about how you started cycling, April?

Cycling has pretty much always been in my blood. I grew up in a cycling family, so it was a natural sport for me to take up. I did my first cyclo-cross race when I was 11. My chain actually snapped halfway through, hah, but I wasn’t deterred! The following year I started road racing and the rest is basically history.

They got you young!

Yeah, I was in love with it right from the beginning. I really enjoyed spending so much of my youth on a bike. I was always having fun, trying something new, and meeting interesting people. I’m just really obsessed with racing.

I can imagine! Do you have any cycling icons? Who did you look up to as an aspiring pro?

Because I rode different disciplines and really wanted to be a well-rounded cyclist, Marianne Vos was always such a clear role model. She’s just an amazing athlete and performs so well in so many kinds of races. She’s a smart tactician with skills in both climbing and time trialling. She’s had such an impressive and solid career, and she just keeps going. I’ve definitely always looked up to her.

She really is incredible, and also got a young start! How did it feel to get signed to team Drops?

Amazing! I really felt ready to take my cycling to the next level and was so eager to see how I would do at the big races. I was thrilled to be able to learn from more skilled riders and have a whole new experience. It was something I had been wanting, so I was very excited going into the season.

It obviously hasn’t been quite the season you had expected though.

Hah no, not at all. Actually, it got off to a tough start for me. I broke my knee at a team camp in December and realized I was going to be missing most of the season. I was, of course, totally gutted. I just had to make myself accept it though. I was totally off the bike for three months and finally got back on with my team at a training camp in March. I had a lot of support, and our team and physio staff were amazing, ensuring I was taking it slow, being safe and feeling good. So, I had just started riding again just in March.

Right before the lockdown. What a drag – how did you manage?

Honestly, it wasn’t too bad. I was with my family and training wise – I started focusing on Zwift. It was great to have goals and events to motivate me. I did really well at the Tour for All in May and that gave me the extra confidence I needed to push myself to train harder for the Virtual Tour de France.

Yes – congrats again! It’s a huge breakout performance for you. Taking the victory ahead of the likes of world time trial champions like Chloe Dygert and Chantal Van den Broek-Blaak must have been pretty crazy. How did it feel?

I was kind of in shock at first. Obviously, it was a great experience and really, really exciting. I went into the first stage hoping to get into the top 10, so when I won – well yeah, I couldn’t really believe it. I had my brother there helping me, my DS on the headphones, and my family watching in the background. We all started yelling, it was pretty surreal. I had a nice dinner with my family after to celebrate, but we really couldn’t stop talking about it. Like “wait, what actually just happened?!” Since then, it has been very overwhelming and heartening to get all the messages and calls. I’ve had to learn to adjust to the influx of attention really quickly.

It must be a lot to take in. It’s so nice that your family can be there with you though, one of the perks of virtual events! How is virtual racing different for you?

Really, I just think of it as another independent discipline. In being a well-rounded rider, I want to excel in virtual racing too. You have to understand the different aspects involved and play to your strengths. Virtually, it’s much easier for me to stay with the lighter riders on the climbs, giving me the chance to best them in the sprint finish. And in terms of the organization of virtual events, it’s been amazing to see women get equal coverage and stages. It has been a great opportunity and I’m so proud of my team and what we’ve accomplished.

Definitely. It will be interesting to see how the role of virtual racing evolves. As a young rider who is just starting her career, what do you think are the biggest issues we should be talking about in professional women’s cycling?

Well, I hope the precedent being set at events like this one will carry on. The women are definitely capable of doing everything the men can, so I hope we will just keep having more opportunities to show off our talent. The sport is only going to keep growing, improving, and becoming more exciting. Even over my early career, I’ve seen how the competition is becoming fiercer. When I first started attending events, there were maybe 40 participants, and within just a few years that number had doubled. It’s a very exciting time for women’s cycling.

Do you dream of racing a real-life women’s Tour de France? What real-life race are you most eager to participate in?

I grew up watching the Tour de France and was always amazed by what a challenging and beautiful race it is. It would be amazing for the women to be able to race it too and show just what we’re capable of! In the meantime though, I’m super excited about Paris-Roubaix. It’s a historic event as it’s the first time that women will be racing it, and the race is very suited to my style.

No doubt it will be an incredible event and we will be waiting in anticipation to see you race in October! Thanks, April Tacey, and all the best!

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