Having spent three years racing in the purple and green of Liv-Plantur, Lucy Garner announced today that she will be signing with Wiggle Honda for 2016.
Despite early season injuries, the soon-to-be 21-year-old has had a triumphant year. She's rubbed shoulders with Wiggle-Honda more than once - beating Nettie Edmondson at the opening stage of the Route de France and coming second to future team mate Jolien D’Hoore in the first stage of the Boels Rentals Ladies Tour.
Garner has been considered a promising young rider for years - she was the first since Nicole Cooke to be Junior Road Race Champion two years running, taking the title in 2011 and 2012 - and she took a memorable stage victory at the Tour of Choming Island aged just 18.
We caught up with her to find out more about her past season, her hopes and dreams for the next year – and to get her winter training advice (because it’s coming…. sadly…)
Garner has been riding with Liv-Plantur for three years - so crossing into the Wiggle Honda camp will be a big change. She said: “I’ve been with the team from when I was a junior… so they sort of brought me into the senior peloton and worked with me. I really appreciate everything they did, and the belief they had in me as a sprinter.
“I will miss the girls [on the team] a lot, because actually we’re really good friends off the bike as well. I’m sure I will keep in good contact with them, I’ll definitely miss them."
She’s making this step for good reason, though – riding with Wiggle Honda Garner will be able to learn from experienced riders. She said: “It’s a new step, a new challenge for me. I think it’s really that time now where I need to make that step. I feel maybe I’ve not really developed as much as a I wanted this year and I really hope in the next two years I can learn a lot from the experienced riders at Wiggle Honda. I hope I can sponge up a lot of information and hopefully I can get some nice results as well."
She’s spoken to other Wiggle Honda riders at races before, and says: “They’re a really nice bubbly team, always smiling and they always seem to have good fun so I’m really looking forward to being a part of that."
This season has been one of highs and lows for Garner. Despite a recent win at the Route de France, she struggled with injuries over winter and in spring: “I had knee problems in both of knees – I had that throughout the whole winter and going into the first races of the season. It set me back because I wasn’t able to do the training that I wanted. But at the moment everything’s going really well.
“I’ve been really motivated, had no injuries or anything like that, I’ve been getting the results which has been really nice. My win in Route de France was definitely the highlight of the season."
Garner has been included in GB’s team for the Road World Championships in Richmond on Saturday 26 September. That will be her last race of the season, and she remarks: “This week will be really hard training. Then I’m flying out on Monday to Richmond and that’s it... It feels to me like the season has gone really quick this year."
Next year, Garner expects to spend more time working for others during the races – but she hopes that will help her ‘develop her engine’ for future years. She said: “It would be good to work for the other sprinters in the team. I think that can really help me in the future, making me a lot stronger, and just building my engine so I’m as fresh as possible for the sprints that come up in seasons to come."
At just 21 (as of next Sunday) Garner is young within the peloton, so it’s understandable that she hasn’t built up an engine quite the size of some of her colleagues – she admits she can’t “throw herself into the deep end" and do the hours and miles that more experienced riders can.
However, this winter she’ll definitely be working on her endurance. She says: “This winter, I’ll be really getting as many base miles in as possible and sort of upping the pace with those base miles. At the moment, I know that my sprint is pretty ok, but I just need to be as fresh as possible in the final… and I think that’s what I miss maybe compared to the other girls who are contesting the sprint.
“I’ll still build the power [over winter] and of course I’ll be working in the gym to work on strength to make sure I’m keeping on top of my power for my sprints."
Asked to share her gym training advice, Garner warned against upping the weights quickly, saying: “The most important thing is just really getting to know your body. That’s really important for anyone, athlete or someone who wants to tone up or get fitter. I think that’s why I had the knee injuries over winter… I think I just upped the amount of weights too quickly and was doing too many reps too soon.
"Every body is different and everyone copes with weights differently - so I think it’s really important to start off really light. The first 1 or 2 years I was just using my own weight, but year by year I progressed."
Winter training is tough – especially as the cold creeps in and illness is hard to keep at bay. Garner gave us her advice, there – too: “Keeping healthy over winter is important – when you go out, make sure you dress correctly, and make sure you’re eating a lot, because you’re burning a lot more as it’s colder, especially when you’re doing the long miles."
Motivation isn’t always easy to find – and Garner suggests mixing it up a bit with some MTB action if you can: “For me, it’s nice that I’m a road rider, and I get out on the road, but I’m also working in gym and sometimes I like to go out on the cyclocross or mountain bike – it’s something I really enjoy over winter. Sometimes when it’s really raining and its 0 degrees and you’ve got 4 hrs to do… it’s really hard, so it’s nice to mix it up and do different things."
Garner is training with a purpose, and already has some dreams for 2016. Though it's early days, she hopes to target the 2016 Women’s Tour, saying: “I’d really like to perform well in the Women’s Tour. It’s a great race, on home roads, I really like the racing there and it suits me - so I would really like that to be a goal."
We wish Lucy all the best for the World Champs, the off season, and the year ahead!