CYCLING star Abi Smith says making her debut at a major championships tomorrow will be a dream come true.
The Clifton Cycling Club product will compete in the Commonwealth Games for the first time in Birmingham tomorrow morning (10am) as one of England’s three participants in the time trial.
Smith’s selection by her nation represents a remarkable career trajectory from her first road race season aged 16 to appearing on one of the sport’s biggest stages at a home Games at 20.
“I’m really excited,” enthused Smith, who grew up in Oswaldkirk but now lives in Harrogate.
“Alongside the Olympics and the World Championships, the Commonwealths is one of the big ones that I’ve always dreamed of being part of.
“To do it at 20 and with it being a home games as well, it’s something that only comes round every four years and may never come round again for me, so I feel really lucky and I want to make the most of it.
“To represent England will mean so much. Once you’ve got the skin suit on and you get on the bike, I’m sure I’ll be thinking ‘I’m here now’. That gives you such an adrenaline rush.
“I had the same feeling in the Junior World Championships (at Harrogate in 2019), with the home crowd giving you that extra push, having that feeling of representing your home nation in front of a home crowd.”
The time trial is one of two disciplines that Smith is competing in at the Games, the other being the team-event road race.
Each discipline utilises “completely different bikes”, explained Smith, with the time trial being a solo timed event “all about aerodynamics and power.”
Smith will be one of six members of a team in the road race, with England creating a strategy built around one of its riders in the “quite chaotic” event.
“I’m still working out what type of rider I am,” admitted Smith. “I’m working on my time trial still and I was a bit surprised but very honoured to be given a spot on the time trial.
“I’ve been improving in that area and I’m going in the right direction, but I’m still developing and learning. This Games is definitely a big development opportunity for me.”
Continuing her current path of growth is key for Smith, who began her sporting career aged eight in triathlon, although she “didn’t really get on with the swimming.”
“Things have progressed pretty quickly,” she said. “I started properly at 16, I was in the Junior World Championships at 17, which was unbelievable, and after a few years off for Covid, this is the first major Games we’ve had since.
“Everything has moved far quicker than I could have imagined. I feel really grateful to have been selected.”
At the same time, Smith is keen for success in Birmingham and to make the most of her opportunity on centre stage.
“In the time trial, I’d like a top 10 or, being optimistic, a top five finish would be really satisfying," she outlined.
“I’ve got two very strong team-mates, who will no doubt be going for the win, in Jos (Lowden) and Anna (Henderson).
“A less objective goal would just to be satisfied with how I’ve ridden.
“In the road race, I’m not a sprinter, I may well be working for another person on our team, and I think the goal will be either to help them earn a podium spot or secure a win, whether that be through lead-outs or breakaways, which will probably be my job.”