Neve Bradbury will leap straight into her first European race as a professional rider with Canyon-SRAM at Dwars Door Vlaanderen after the 18-year-old Zwift Academy winner joined the team in Belgium last week.
The Australian has stepped straight out of the junior ranks and secured a spot on the Women’s WorldTeam by becoming the fifth winner of the online training programme that gives amateurs a chance to prove themselves worthy of racing at the top level. Bradbury has already gathered some experience racing alongside seasoned professionals in 2021 at the Santos Festival of Cycling, where she raced with Team Garmin Australia, and at the Australian Road Championships where she raced as an individual and took two medals in the U23 category.
Racing with her new top-tier team on the roads of Belgium, however, will be a big step up.
"Obviously I've never been a part of an international team before let alone a World Tour team so it's all new," said Bradbury. "It's exciting to be around people who have so much experience in cycling and I want to learn as much as I can.
"It's really helpful riding course recons with the team as I am very unfamiliar with the cobbles, and relentless wind. I'm already learning a lot from my teammates. Considering tomorrow is my first race with the team, and it's the warm up race for Tour of Flanders for most of the peloton, I'll set myself relatively low expectations. If I can help out the team in some way, that will be a win in my eyes," said Bradbury.
Bradbury will be racing Dwars door Vlaanderen alongside Alice Barnes, Elise Chabbey, Kasia Niewiadoma and Alexis Ryan while 2019 Zwift Academy winner Ella Harris also rejoins the squad in Europe at the UCI 1.1 race.
Harris had an impressive start to 2020, taking her first professional win at the top of Falls Creek in Australia while racing for the New Zealand national team at the Women’s Herald Sun Tour. Though, her season restart was interrupted last year after she broke her femur in a training crash just before Strade Bianche. Harris also had another crash in January of this year, where she sustained a pelvis injury.
The 22-year-old said her return to European racing at Dwars Door Vlaanderen in her third year as a professional felt like releasing a pause button that was hit last year.
“I'm really excited to be back in Europe and I'm definitely ready to race again, but also quite nervous. I haven't been in a large race for quite some time, especially where positioning and 'fighting' will be imperative,” said Harris. “I'm not quite as fearless and confident with my bike handling as I used to be, so I hope that getting my first race out of the way will improve these aspects.”
As for the rest of the season, the biggest hope is for no more injury interruptions.
“I don't know if it's too much to ask, but I'd really like to have a smooth season without too many negative impacts on my own physical health – I'm not sure how many times I can keep crashing and get back up if I'm perfectly honest,” said Harris. “I haven't set my sights on any particular races at this stage, but I know that I really want to be in good form come the Ardennes and the stage racing in May.
“My fitness right now is good and I'm pleased with where I'm at, but I'm taking things one step at a time. Getting to a decent level again after all the setbacks was the first and now starting to race again is the second. With a few races and my race fitness starting to develop, I'll then start to hopefully get a better idea of what I can aim for.”
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