Words: Maria David
Photos: Wiggle High5 and Maria David
Wiggle High5 sisters Grace and Lucy Garner have got their 2017 season underway with races in Europe and in Australia.
Grace, who is based in Leicester, has had some solid results, working for a few team-mates including World and European Track Cycling champions, Annette Edmondson and Jolien d’Hoore, while Holland-based Lucy is getting into her stride and is eyeing victory this season.
We caught up with the sisters, along with fellow Brit Amy Roberts, at their training camp in Mallorca.
How are you finding life in the Wiggle High5 set-up, Grace?
Grace: I’m enjoying being on the Wiggle High5 team. Obviously, it’s a bit of a step up, but I spoke with all the staff beforehand, so I felt that it was a smooth transition. Rochelle [Gilmore] has been very supportive as well.
Lucy: I’m not just saying it because I am on the team but the bunch of girls are so nice, and we all get on really well. We will be racing a lot in Belgium over the coming weeks, but we can also have a good time off the bike.
Grace, how does the set-up at Wiggle High5 compare your previous team (the former Podium Ambition team)?
Grace: It was good fun at Podium Ambition, but we were all less experienced riders, whereas coming into Wiggle High5 which has a few multiple World Champions and Olympians is crazy for me.
Also, we have a lot of full-time members of staff so I feel like everything is done for me. We get a lot of help and support, and the travel is all organised. We just have to turn up at the right time at the right place.
How have your seasons been so far?
Lucy: I did the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, which was very tough. I worked for Elisa [Longo Borghini], and Jolien [d’Hoore] who wanted to do something special, particularly as that race went pretty much past Jolien’s front door! We didn’t get the win, but we got top 10 places for the two women.
Amy: I did a few races in Italy, and the Semana Valenciana in Spain. I was working for Giorgia [Bronzini] mainly, and then for Claudia [Lichtenberg] on the hillier days. That one was a nice race and really hot, but we didn’t quite get the result we wanted.
Grace: Things went well in Australia, but then I did Omloop van het Hageland, and that wasn’t so good! In the first 30km I crashed but I got back on, and then it was going really well and I followed Jolien up the climb, but then I fully wiped out on the flat bit at the top of the climb and that was my race over.
I banged my head quite a lot, got whiplash, broke my wheel and my helmet. I was a bit confused and my head was hurting a lot. When I rang Lucy she was a bit shocked, but I was okay later. At least she was there to look after me when I got back.
I had to have some easy days after that and got massaged until I could move my neck again, and then I was all right. Things were okay after that because I had a good race at the Samyn des Dames on the following Wednesday.
Do you get nervous about crashing?
Grace: It’s always a bit nerve-wracking in the peloton, especially when you have club riders who are less experienced. I think once you find your place and free up a little bit the nerves go away.
Lucy: If I see a big crash during a race I do get worried though and wonder if Grace is in it. It was tricky last year when we were in different teams. I always want to look out for Grace, being her older sister, but it was hard because I wanted to stop and help her even though I was racing for a different team. This year it’s good that we race for the same team, and anyway Grace knows what she is doing.
What are your targets for this season?
Grace: My goal for this year would just be to settle down in the team. I’m not yet sure of my capabilities within the team, and it’s a completely new environment for me. So I just want to find my place and do as much as I can for the riders.
Lucy: I am still currently in the process of stepping up, but this year I’d really like to get a top 3 result – it doesn’t have to be a World Tour race, where the level is really high. But for me to get a top 3 result would be really good.
What race are you most looking forward to this year?
Lucy: It would be nice if I could race the Tour de Yorkshire again. I had a nice result last year coming second so it would be good to repeat that or go one further, though the course is very different this year. It’s a lot hillier with the Côte de Lofthouses included, but it would still be nice to race on British roads again where we get so much support.
Another race I would like to do is the Ronde van Gelderland, though I don’t know if the team is doing it. It’s a local race to where I live, in Holland. Every year I’ve done it, and I’ve had okay results there so it’s been a really good race for me. We don’t know our race schedule after the next three races so we have to wait and see what’s coming.
Which has been the hardest race for you?
Lucy: The hardest race I’ve ever done is the women’s Giro d’Italia – the Giro Rosa. That was really tough. I’m not very good at climbing and there was a lot of climbing there so I did suffer a lot during the races – hopefully, it’s made me stronger. Italy is beautiful but it is very tough riding over there!
Grace: The Hageland race wasn’t great for me!
How do you decide on team tactics?
Amy: You have to know what sort of scenarios can happen. We go over different things and hope that it goes to plan A, but we do have different plans just in case.
Grace: It never goes according to plan though! If we want to achieve something in the race – for instance one rider wants to break away they’ll be given the opportunity to be in the early break. If say, Jolien or Elisa or another top rider has that as their goal in the early season then the plan would probably be to go for that.
On the road, during the race we usually have a captain, so they make the decisions. There’s one person that will say yes or no, and at that point we then go ahead with our plan (or not as the case may be)!
Lucy, how does it feel having your sister in the team with you compared with last year when she was in an opposing team?
Lucy: It's good that we are on the same team now so we don’t have to race against each other. There’s no sibling rivalry anymore, so one day I can work for Grace and another day she works for me. It also pushes me on when my sister is there. So, it kinda works out pretty well.
Grace: Knowing Lucy is on the team and that she has been there for a year has not made me feel as daunted as I might otherwise have been to be with Giorgia Bronzini or Annette Edmondson. I wasn’t that scared going to Australia for the Tour Down Under either, as I knew Amy [Roberts], who was there as well. Also, I know that in a race or on a ride I can ask Lucy for help if I’ve run out of food or water. It’s nice to know that someone’s always got your back.
Lucy: It works for us, as we are sisters and also friends so if we both need someone to speak to and something that’s not to do with cycling for instance then it’s nice to have someone as close as your sister, but then like all sisters we have our moments. Yeah, sisters sometimes fight – we haven’t been in that situation this year, but I am sure it will happen at some point!
In view of the reports of bullying, and allegations made by Jess Varnish against British Cycling, do you think that joining a professional team is a better way to develop your cycling career rather than the strict set-up that exists on the British Cycling development squad?
Grace: What is being discussed around the events at British Cycling is not expected at all. It’s not a light subject, and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. It was a surprise because you never want to hear of a woman being treated the way that Jess is alleging. It’s sad to hear about it. Obviously, I have chosen not to go on the British Cycling route, and at the minute everything’s going really well.
But I think, as they say, the cream always rises to the top. If you are a good enough rider you’ll make it whether you go through British Cycling or if you go through a different route.
Amy: It depends what type of cycling you want to do, and if you are suited to it as well. British Cycling is track based, whereas I have chosen to do more road stuff and this choice seems to be working for me.
What are your ultimate goals?
Amy: Obviously, the Olympics is always a long-term goal – which route, I am not sure yet, but that’s what I am looking to, and where I’d want to be – at the top end of women’s cycling.
Grace: It’s always hard with the Olympics because it comes around every four years and then the year it comes round, and you are at your peak it might be the wrong type of course for you. So you are lucky if it lands on a year that you are on form and on a course that suits you. The Olympics is just that one day in four years, and everything has to go right on that day. So I guess there is also a lot of luck involved.
Would you have a preference for a World Championship title?
Grace: I don’t have a preference, I just want to win everything!
Lucy: Well, I’ve got two World Junior titles, a senior title would be great - and although it feels like I’ve been doing it for years I have still got a few years in me yet.
Number one international cycle retailer Wiggle is the proud sponsor of Wiggle High5 women's pro cycling team. You can follow the progress of the Wiggle High5 Pro Cycling Team on Twitter, and by heading over to their website.