Lovett’s dreaming big after signing for YRDP

Victoria Lovett on a photo shoot with Portsmouth-based online tri-sport retailer Wiggle, who have shown a commitment to using and supporting real riders in their campaigns. Picture: Wiggle
Victoria Lovett on a photo shoot with Portsmouth-based online tri-sport retailer Wiggle, who have shown a commitment to using and supporting real riders in their campaigns. Picture: Wiggle
The group enjoyed coaching across the South Downs

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Joe Truman, right, in action in the team sprint at the Commonwealth Games

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  • South Downs College student prepared for new challenge
  • Horndean racer salutes support of Watson and i-Team
  • Teenager made her UCI debut in Holland on Saturday
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Victoria Lovett is aiming for the top.

And in the Young Rider Development Programme (YRDP), the Horndean road racer believes she has found the perfect team to chase that dream.

Lovett has flown from the i-Team nest following five seasons under the wing of coach and mentor Guy Watson.

Graduating from the Portsmouth club’s junior race team, the goal was always to find a senior outfit to continue her ascent.

Now the former Havant & Waterlooville swimmer has achieved that target, securing one of 11 spots on the exciting new British-based YRDP squad.

And with experienced team manager Rene Groot at the helm, Lovett reckons she is well set to continue her cycling education.

The Dutchman’s previous roles include leading the Breast Cancer Care team, which featured cycling star Dame Sarah Storey.

More recently, Groot has been helping talented young riders from the UK access high-quality racing on the continent.

And while Lovett was unable to link up with one of his touring parties last season, the coach was in no doubt of her talent.

Groot invited the South Downs College student to join his YRDP squad last autumn but the team’s official unveiling did not happen until last month.

I always trusted Guy’s word and that was important as I didn’t have a clue what I was doing!

Victoria Lovett

Now the cat is out of the bag, Lovett is keen to get stuck into racing in a season which promises to be a real eye-opener.

The 19-year-old, whose ultimate goal is to race with and against teams such as Wiggle High-5 on the Women’s Word Tour, said: ‘It is so exciting.

‘I had known for quite a long time but couldn’t say too much.

‘It was really frustrating not being able to tell people but it has been worth the wait.

‘I was contacted by Rene last year. I never got to go away on one of his trips because my races kept clashing but I got across with my parents one weekend and he was so helpful.

‘When it is your first race in a foreign country and you’re on your own, you don’t really know where to start.

‘But he was so helpful and luckily I did quite well. After that he kept in touch and told me he was setting up a team for this season.

‘Having always taken talented riders abroad, I guess he now wants to focus on a small group. He is going to be a great team manager.

‘There are not too many opportunities for female riders in the UK, unless you are on the British Cycling programme.

‘He understands the challenges we face. So while we will be trying our hardest this season, he is not expecting us to win massive races.

‘It would be lovely if we did. And we’ll be trying our best. But the aim is to develop us, so the focus is not solely on results.

‘There will still be pressure, though. You never go into a race not wanting to do well. I always want to win at everything I do.’

Alongside regular trips to the continent for UCI races, the YRDP squad will lock horns with Britain’s finest riders in the seven-round National Women’s Series, which begins with the Lincoln Grand Prix on May 13.

They are also eyeing an invitation to the Women’s Tour Series – an eight-race, team-based criterium championship which takes place next month.

Lovett rode a support race when the competition visited Portsmouth in 2016 and admitted she would love to take to the grid for the real thing.

However, she is under no illusions about the size of the challenge facing her new team as they bid to make their mark.

Lovett added: ‘It is going to be a massive step up but I’m prepared for that.

‘I’ve only just turned 19, so I’m still very young. And the way I see it is if you throw yourself in at the deep end you are only going to get stronger.

‘I have still got some races I will do as an individual. Events like the southern crit champs where I can be competitive and hopefully get results.

‘But a lot of my calendar will be team races and they are going to be very hard. I believe I am ready, though.

‘I’d love to ride in the Tour Series. The atmosphere and the fact it is on telly makes it a really, really fun event.

‘I rode a support race when it came to Portsmouth. It was so good.

‘And then I remember watching in the evening thinking I want to be in that race. It could happen this year and I’d love that.’

Lovett made her debut in the YRDP jersey at the UCI 1.1 EPZ Omloop van Borsele – won by Italy’s Elisa Balsamo – in Holland on Saturday.

Racing the team’s KTM Revelator frame, she gained valuable experience in a race previously claimed by Women’s World Tour stars Kirsten Wild (four times), Ellen van Dijk and Chloe Hosking.

The stand-out result of Lovett’s career to date – and one which caught Groot’s eye – was her second place in the Grand Prix Joseph Leboutte in Romsee, Belgium.

Lovett, who was named East Hampshire District Council’s sportswoman of the year in February and handed a grant from their elite sports fund, was only beaten by Belgian national junior champion Lotte Rotman.

The teenager had recorded her first significant success, aged 17, when beating adult opposition to the Ride 24/7 Cricklade Kermesse crown in 2016.

With the boost in confidence that delivered, Lovett backed it up with glory in the ØVB Junior Women’s Road Race in Plungar, Leicestershire the following week.

She insists her rise to the YRDP squad would not have been possible without the guidance of Watson and the support of his i-Team club.

Lovett, who is now trained by Mark Dolan at EPiC Coaching, said: ‘Guy has been a huge help. I don’t think I would be where I am without him. He has been so good.

‘He coached me from about the age of 15. He is such a good coach.

‘He knows his stuff and has the experience. If you listen to him, you’ll do well.

‘When he first started coaching me, he said right, when you’re a first-year senior we are going to get you on a team. That was always the goal.

‘I’ve always been really competitive, so having something to work towards helped a lot.

‘I knew at 15, if I worked hard and I trained, this could happen. I always trusted Guy’s word and that was important as I didn’t have a clue what I was doing!

‘It is nice for it to pay off, to be on a team where I am really happy and one I believe will benefit me a lot.

‘There are a lot of other people at the club as well.

‘There were always people encouraging me and making sure I was working hard.

‘I am lucky to have a lot of really supportive people around me. I intend to keep working hard and see what happens.’

Alongside their KTM bikes, the YRDP squad have been decked out in eye-catching Jakroo clothing with EKOI UK providing aero helmets and sunglasses.

The team’s other partners include Sponser Sports Nutrition, from Switzerland, and Cyclingshorts.cc, while the Fred Whitton Challenge have backed the team with a grant.

Find out more about YRDP at team-yrdp.com or follow them on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

• Victoria Lovett: In her own words...

During our interview with Victoria, we quizzed her on many other topics which didn’t make the final edit. Here are a selection.

• How did you get into cycling?

I must have been about 13. I had grown out of my mountain bike and my dad, who is also a cyclist, was watching some race on the telly.

I thought I fancy a road bike! I must have spent about a year just going out on rides with my dad. I was still doing a lot of swimming at that point.

Dad then messaged me on a Saturday and said someone from the club is bringing a load of the youths out, so I should come along.

I went along, really enjoyed it and from then on I did all the Saturday club runs and the Portsmouth School of Cycling Racing sessions on Friday nights.

• How well do you know your new team-mates?

I don’t know a huge amount about my team-mates but I have raced against a lot of them.

I met up with two of them (Sophie Enever and Savannah Morgan) for a ride in Calpe during a recent block of training.

That was actually the day we all got a message to say everything was official. It was such good timing and really cool to share the news with them.

• What is your cycling highlight so far?

Second place in the Grand Prix Joseph Leboutte in Belgium is my biggest result so far.

The Belgian champion just beat me. I didn’t realise it was her during the race. I should have known, it was all over her kit!

She got called to the front on the start line. I got racing and thought she was good but it wasn’t until afterwards someone pointed her out to my dad.

They said it was an outstanding result because she was national champion. So that is my highlight.

• What is your long-term goal?

I would love to turn professional one day. That is the goal. I’d love to just cycle all the time.

But unless you get to a really, really high level you are not going to make much money.

Whether that will change by the time I get there, I don’t know. I’d like to think I can do it. I will try my hardest.