With the final criterium of the year being held this weekend, we caught up with our first year U23 rider, Monica Dew, who most recently scored her first criterium podium for the team at the Copenhagen Nocturne in August. With a rocky start to the season behind her, Monica has progressed at a superb rate during this tricky first year at U23 level and is looking to further build on this as the season draws to a close. Read on to find out more.

 

Q: You’re coming to the end of your first year as an under 23 rider, how have you found it?

MD: I have really enjoyed my first year as an under 23 rider. I have learnt so much being with Storey Racing this year and the girls in the team have been so encouraging and have also got me through the ups and downs of elite racing. I knew my first year as an under 23 would be a massive step up and a big learning curve and I have really enjoyed it and am really grateful that I could experience it with the team.

 

Q: Last year, as a final year in the junior ranks, you were part of the Boot Out Breast Cancer Cycling club, working under the guidance of Barney and Sarah in their previous set up. Do you think that year of transition and learning helped you with the set up to under 23?

MD: Last year for me was crucial to how I took on this year in under 23. The setup we had in BOBC was brilliant; it allowed me to see what it was like to be in a woman’s elite team which prepared me for what was going to be expected in my first year under 23. Also the set up running alongside the pro team ‘Podium Ambition’ opened my eyes to what the racing would be like. I learnt a lot last year from other riders in the team and from Sarah and Barney in terms of the development and more importantly to focus on the process goals, rather than outcome goals, along the way as elite racing can be quite daunting and this allowed me to focus on being a team player and learn from other riders and I feel this was a massive lesson.

 

Q: It’s not been all plain sailing for you this year, what kind of attributes do you think a rider needs to tackle the unexpected adversity that can be thrown their way by illness?

MD: I was unfortunate at the beginning of the year to have suffered illness and injury all at the same time when I really wanted to be getting stuck into the early races. This for me was quite a challenge to cope with however I feel that I was in the best place possible with having such supportive team mates and support/knowledge from the team and staff and sponsors. Developing these problems was hard however the best advice was to just focus on getting better rather than looking back and thinking how rubbish it is. By focusing on what I could control and having small controllable goals I knew I could make progress. Once I took this approach what I thought was a major issue became more of a small ‘bump in the road’ and this helped me toughen up and come through the other side mentally and physically.

 

Q: Aside from playing roles as a domestique in the National Series and Tour Series, you have been an integral part of the Time Trial team, contributing to team victories in several events and then placing 10th in the Under 23 National Champs, is there a specific type of racing that you enjoy the most?

MD: Sarah and Barney both introduced me to Time Trials last year when I was part of the BOBC. I had never sat on a TT bike in my time cycling however I am so grateful for them showing me the ropes because it is currently my favourite discipline! Time trialling is definitely a ‘love it’ or ‘hate it’ situation and luckily I loved it. This helped my confidence and self-belief enormously as it is a solitary discipline, that’s what I like most about it as there is nowhere to hide. Continuing to work on my time trialing skills this year has massively improved my confidence in road races too because it made me believe that I am capable of being in the races alongside girls I look up to. For me Time Trialling is the racing I enjoy the most because it’s just me and the clock, it’s so honest and I like that. I can also notice peaks and falls in fitness more easily and this allows me to concentrate on what I need to work on in training and this I find has helped me become a better all round bike rider.

 

Q: Having come from initially a track and field hurdling background and into track cycling sprint, you have only been focusing on endurance for about 20 months now, does it feel like you have learnt a lot in a short space of time? What have been the highlights or significant parts of that endurance learning journey?

MD: First of all I know that my progress in this space of time is ultimately down to the support and knowledge I have had from Sarah and Barney and how they have allowed me to experience elite woman’s racing at my own pace and not rushed my development. Highlights have to be racing my first ever UCI stage race in Germany at the Lotto Thüringen Ladies Tour, even though the race got the better of me and I didn’t complete the full length this for me is something I will always remember because it opened my eyes to how hard you have to train and race to be at the level of these professional riders. Having had this experience I now understand even more the relationship of what I am doing in training and the physical requirements for future stage races I hope to be a part of. The main highlight is being able to experience the beginning of this crazy fun journey with the most caring and bonkers team mates and staff, this has made my first year under 23 so enjoyable and has inspired me to make that jump to super-elite level but most importantly to not rush it, I’ve still got to take the time to enjoy it and take it all in along the way.

 

Q: Has the Storey Racing team ethos of providing as many learning opportunities to the younger riders as possible been helpful?

MD: Yes, to me this has been vital to my progression. The team have not only offered me crazy amounts of opportunity on the bike but they have offered me experience off the bike too. For example, being in the Team car in the convoy for Tour Of Yorkshire this year alongside Barney allowed me to see the bike race from a different angle and learn from other riders were doing. I can’t thank the team enough for these opportunities as they have made me hungry to better my performances next year.

 

Q: After almost a season of working your socks off for team mates, you found yourself in an unexpected leader role at the Copenhagen Nocturne. Can you talk us through that event?

MD: Copenhagen Nocturne is one of my favourite races this season. I went into the race with one other team mate with a plan for one of us to win the race ideally. We were both very confident the day of the race having had a good look round the course and it suited us both very well; fast and technical with most of the course being cobbled. Our aim was to get one or ideally both of us off the front of the race early on, however the pace was high and this made it difficult to get away. A few laps into the race my team mate suffered a puncture followed by an unfortunate mechanical so this immediately changed the dynamic of my role within the race as now I was unsure if she would make it back into the race. I immediately had to switch roles and take more of a dominant role as leader in the race knowing we were down to one rider as the closing stages of the race approached and still aiming to win.

I was very relaxed and slipped into being active at the head of the race however it was still very tricky to get off the front with the other girls in the race jumping on everything and not letting anything get away. So this meant I had to just think about positioning in the final 2 laps. I was sitting 4th wheel with 2 laps to go and the girl in front just lost the wheel slightly meaning it made a bit of a gap for me to close and with the circuit being only 900m this made it very hard to close a gap with not much time so I had to settle for 3rd in the end.

For me this result was a massive achievement, at the beginning of the year I would have never have thought I would be getting 3rd in a bike race a few months after suffering injury and health problems. This was another opportunity I can’t thank the team enough for because it allowed me to experience having a leadership role within the race and to finish it off with a podium made me incredibly proud, especially as I knew my legs were good enough for more with better luck in that final.

 

Q: This weekend you are part of a 3 man team headed to the Pirelli Supercrit at the NEC, what are your expectations for the event, have you ever raced something like this before?

MD: I am excited to be a part of this event at the NEC because of the atmosphere and the fast racing. After success in Copenhagen I have a lot more belief in my skills in circuit races which makes me quite excited to get really stuck in. Being a part of a strong team is also exciting to see what we can do to animate the race. We go to bike races always wanting to win so this will be how we approach this race too. I’m expecting the race to be a little like Copenhagen, fast and technical just the classic nature of circuit racing. I’m really looking forward to what the race will be like and giving it my all.

 

 

Q: Your final race of the season will be at the Thruxton closed circuit Time Trial champs, a rare chance to race on closed roads without traffic, do you have any tips you can share about closed road riding compared to having to deal with traffic?

MD: I am really looking forward to this race because it is last race of the season so you can really get everything out. Also I’m excited to see how my form is as I feel I have only improved fitness and strength this year since having a late and rocky start to the season. I’ll be on the hunt for a good result to end the season on a high!

This race is unusual in terms of it being on closed roads, this is exciting as I will be able to focus on just riding smoothly and getting everything out of my performance and use the full stretch of road with no restrictions. Usually traffic is something that I’ve needed to be switched on to in most time trials this year so knowing this will be eliminated is a massive advantage to how I will perform. The last time I raced a time trial on closed roads was the National TT championships in the Isle of Man in June, it was great to be able to focus on using the whole of the road, picking the fastest and smoothest line around corners and not having traffic to contend with. I learned a huge amount about the benefits of “straight-lining” the road and taking the most efficient line to maximise speed in to and the transition out of corners.

Thruxton is 5 laps on a relatively non-technical closed circuit, but the wind will be a factor and there is a kicker of a rise towards the finish which will need digging in for.

 

A huge thanks to Monica for sharing her insights in to the season she’s had and the lessons she has come away with. Transitioning into the senior women’s peloton is never easy and everyone has been so delighted to see her step up and make the necessary progression to getting some fantastic results.

Keep an eye on the team social media accounts for updates from the race this weekend!

Thanks to @chrismeadsphoto for the images.