A golden future ahead

TOUR DE FORCE: Maddie Gammons in her champions' jersey and with the medals from her national cyclo-cross exploits during the winter.  Photo by Tim Wilson.
TOUR DE FORCE: Maddie Gammons in her champions' jersey and with the medals from her national cyclo-cross exploits during the winter. Photo by Tim Wilson.

Bourne’s Maddie Gammons never gives interviews. In fact, the day when she won the National Trophy under-16 girls cyclo-cross series in Derby three months ago, her mum Vanessa claims her daughter ran away from the interviewer as soon as the microphone came towards her.

But Gammons, 15, has taken some time to talk about her astonishing progression in cycling that has resulted in her being made an honorary life member of Bourne Wheelers Cycling Club.

“I feel more confident when I’m on my bike and I talk a lot more when I’m out riding with my friends,” Maddie said.

“You can go out on a nice day and enjoy the fact that you have a really nice friendship with other girls in the sport.

“I get really competitive when I’m in a race and I can get really annoyed with people.

“But afterwards, I can laugh and shake hands with the other riders.”

Maddie’s steadily emerging talent is testament to the success of Go Ride, British Cycling’s development programme to introduce young people to the world of cycling.

Mark Botteley of Bourne Wheelers, whose son Adam (15) and daughter Sian (18) are also highly thought of as potential cycling superstars, said: “It’s not a massive club as we have about 70 members, with 65 per cent of them under-16s.

“It’s all resulted from the success of the London 2012 Olympics and the Tour de France.

“After London 2012, a lot more members have come on board and people have seen cycling as a sport where us as a nation has become more successful.”

Maddie was introduced to cycling as a pupil at Bourne Abbey Primary School where Mark ran some taster sessions for children.

“I went to the Go Ride sessions as a ten-year-old and I was quite excited when I first went along because it was really enjoyable,” Maddie said.

“It wasn’t just about riding a bike, but there were fun activities as well.

“Then I started cyclo-cross racing in summer 2011 and, a year later, I started doing road racing and then track racing.”

In her first season of competitive cyclo-cross racing, Maddie won both the Lincolnshire League series and Lincolnshire Championships, earning her a chance to prove herself on the national stage in 2012.

Maddie said: “I enjoy cyclo-cross a lot because you do a lot more on the bike.

“It’s more technical and interesting to ride, but cyclo-cross riders have to be really strong and quite good technically as well.”

Expanding further, Mark added: “It’s always easier in a cyclo-cross race if you can go into a corner first.

“There are certain times when it’s good to be in front, but other times and on faster courses, it doesn’t matter.

“Having a good start is very important as well because if you have a bad start, you can lose about 20 to 30 seconds.

“Maddie is definitely one of the top six under-16 girls in the country at the moment in cycling overall.

“But there’s a lot of sacrifice involved, including time and her parents taking her here, there and everywhere.”

In 2012, Maddie was tenth in the National Road Race Series, fourth in the National Cyclo-Cross Series and won the National Time Trial Final for 12-year-old girls.

Further success came for the Bourne Grammar School student in 2013 with bronze in the under-14 Regional Mountain Biking Championships, gold in the East Midlands Road Cycling Championships for under-14 girls and a sixth-place finish in the National Trophy Under-16 Cyclo-Cross Series.

Maddie’s glory season started on the road in March 2014 when she was the first girl to finish the Darley Moor Circuit Race, following it up with a fourth at the Youth Tour of Scotland in April and a third-place finish at the Mallory Women’s Race in June.

The teenager’s focus then switched to the velodrome where she took part in the Sainsbury’s School Games in Manchester as part of the East Midlands team coached by seven-times British cycling champion Jeff Snodin.

Maddie said: “The first time I went to Manchester Velodrome, it was really scary because of the steepness of the track and you see all the stars training there.

“But even though you’re riding in the same place, you get used to it and now when I ride at some events, the stars are sat next to me.

“The Sainsbury’s School Games were really good fun because it was nice to experience an event that was really well set-up and you got to stay in a hotel before your event.”

The National Cyclo-Cross Trophy Series offers no such luxuries, just six rounds of hard slog in Shrewsbury, Southampton (where Maddie earned her first-ever National win), Durham (another first-placed finish), Milton Keynes, Bradford and Derby.

But Maddie came first and she followed it up with second place in the one-day, winner-takes-all National Cyclo-Cross Championships in Abergavenny, Wales.

Mark said: “In cyclo-cross, there’s never a guarantee and halfway through the final race in Derby, Maddie had to dig really deep to finish in front of her rival for the series title.

“The National Championships in Abergavenny was a different race, a one-off where anything could happen.

“To come second there was as good a race as Maddie could have ridden because of the really bad luck she had when the leader of the boys’ race lapped everyone but the leader in the girls’ race.

“But a national medal is a national medal and after not having a great road racing season, everything came together in the last three months of the year.”

Maddie is currently in the early stages of another road racing season where more national success could result from a disciplined training regime.

“I usually train five times a week, then race,” Maddie said.

“I have a strength session on the turbo for track cycling and cyclo-cross, a roller session for my speed on the bike and then long rides of between 50 and 60 miles for endurance.

Maddie is also combining her first year of GCSE studies with work towards her Bronze Duke of Edinburgh Award, no surprise for someone who named Dutch cycling legend Marianne Vos (with 12 world titles and two Olympic gold medals) as her favourite rider.

“I’ve met Marianne in person and she was really nice,” Maddie said.“She rides because she loves it and for me, cycling is enjoyable rather than tedious.”