Having won just about all that she possibly could in the youth and junior ranks, Britain's Lucy Garner is now looking ahead to her first training camps with her new Argos-Shimano team. The first of the Dutch team's two camps takes place next week in the Spanish resort of Altea, and the 18-year-old who won back-to-back world titles as a junior has been training hard on her home roads in Leicestershire in order to be ready for the big step up to elite level.
"I have been doing a lot more training out on the road during this off-season. When I was still at school I would just be on the turbo afterwards. But I want to hit it hard when I get to the training camps abroad, so I'm trying to get in as many hours as possible. I'm trying to get more groups together as it's pretty tough going out for four hours in this grim weather on your own," she told Cyclingnews.
Garner explains that the reason she accepted the offer from Argos-Shimano was because the Dutch team have said they will bring her on slowly, working together with Paul Manning, her coach at British Cycling's academy. "It's important for me to be on a team that's focused on developing me and is not looking for results in the first year so much. This first year is about gaining as much experience as I can," she said.
Although best known as a sprinter, Garner is hoping to become more of an all-rounder. "I want to improve my time trialling because I'm pretty rubbish at them at the moment. Stage races are generally won in the time trial, so I want to improve that aspect of my riding, although sprinting will remain my main asset. I do a lot of work on the track to maintain that speed, and I've just started working in the gym on the sprint stuff as well as the endurance stuff just so that I'm keeping it fresh."
With the European as well as two world junior titles to her credit, the British teenager believes the Classics and other one-day races will suit her best initially, "or at least until I improve my time trialling. However, I won't be aiming for anything specifically next year, although I will want to get the best results I can. More than anything, I want to help the rest of the team because we've got some very good riders who've got lots of experience. It is a very strong team and I think we are going to get some good results. One race I am looking forward to doing is Flanders. I'd love to do that."
Although Garner already knows that her pro career is set to start in South Africa at the Tour de Free State in February, her programme much beyond that has yet to be decided. Much will depend on how she copes with the difficult leap from junior to the elite ranks. "It is going to be tough to step up," she acknowledged. "I think it's the distance that's going to be a bit of a shock. We don't do long races. The longest is probably 80k, but it's 140k for the women. The pace is going to be different, too. But I feel like I'm ready for it now."
In the wake of the success of the London Olympics and with British riders becoming an increasingly potent force on the road, Garner believes that this is a good time to be launching her pro career. "We've had phenomenal success on the women's side this year and people are realising that women do produce exciting racing and are committed to doing it, and I think it will build to something really big over the next few years."
She's also fully behind the commitment that Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins has made to the future of women's racing. "I think it's great how Bradley's helping out. He's creating some real public awareness and it's a big step having someone like him being interested in women's cycling and wanting to progress it."