By Jim Golden
Former public school math teacher Emma Silversides became the first British rider to sign with Belgium's top women's pro cycling team Lotto Belisol. The 29 year-old from North Yorkshire who has been supporting her racing ambitions with her work as an artist, will join her new team-mates including Athens Olympic road race champion Australian Sara Carrigan. Silversides expects to open her racing season in Lotto colours in Italy, although she already knows she will not be among the team's Het Volk line-up.
She attributes her form in part to her boyfriend, fellow pro racer Hamish Haynes, who rode for DFL- Litespeed in 2007 and will be riding for its 2008 incarnation. The couple is training in the Marina Alta area of Spain through the end of February. "I know that I would not have gotten to the point I am now and have got the chance to join a team like Lotto without Hamish. I tend to be rather negative, whereas he has taught me to set myself a target in each race and always learn something from each race experience. We support each other."
Silversides, who spent four years teaching math at the Dean Close Girls' Boarding School in Cheltenham, said "I am proud to be the first British rider to get signed up by Lotto Belisol. They approached me; that is the ultimate respect. They understand that I have gone to Belgium to try to make the grade in their country and try to adapt to their way of life."
Her new team's director sportif Dany Schoonbaert noticed Silversides after she finished fifth in a stage race in Brittany after riding in a break. "That was a real breakthrough for me. The trouble was I was not always getting picked for the stage races and was riding a lot of kermesses. I was getting regular top tens, including two seconds and three thirds. These rides got me noticed as at times I was getting into the action and getting places back to back."
"Lotto rides all the big events. I know that not being Belgian I will have to fight hard to get into the top races there. I will fight for selection," said Silversides who considers herself a strong climber, although she's also done well in flat races in The Netherlands.