Rising star Evie Richards
One of the rising stars in cyclo-cross is 20-year-old Evie Richards from Malvern, Great Britain. Two years ago she won the inaugural Women’s U23 category race at the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships, and this season she surprised with a solo victory in the Women Elite category at the Namur round of the Telenet UCI World Cup. Coming off a victory in the U23 at the British Championships she headed out for a training camp in Mallorca to prepare for the 2018 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Valkenburg (Netherlands). During her rest day, Evie Richards takes stock of her exploits and sets clear goals for the future.
“It’s exciting to be regarded as a rising star but I never see myself in that way. To me, I’m still a little girl that just loves to ride her bike. Of course, it’s great to see that hard work pays off; I train so hard,” Evie Richards said from the British Cycling taining camp in Mallorca. “We’re here for ten days. From here, we head back home and on Saturday we drive to Hoogerheide for the World Cup. Afterwards, we’re heading out to Valkenburg.”
At the UCI World Championships in Valkenburg, Richards will be racing in the Women U23 category. That makes sense, but then again not, since she’s beaten the best women in the world in Namur. “I’m not good enough for that just yet. Namur was a good race but I need a couple of years. I don’t have that much confidence.” Last year, Richards finished third in the U23 category at the Worlds in Bieles (Luxembourg). She’s keen on getting her title back and that makes her nervous. Richards avoids watching old race footage from Valkenburg in order to keep the nerves under control. “I avoid it. I know that it’s hilly and quite similar to Namur. That’s good.”
Back in 2016, Richards wasn’t feeling very confident when weighing in on her chances to win the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Heusden-Zolder. That was until she found out that the UCI had introduced a separate race for the Women Under 23 category:
“It’s amazing. It’s so good. There are so many young girls wanting to race. It’s a chance to show how good they are and not having to fear getting lapped. In a mixed race they might finish top-20 and that’s amazing but the people at home don’t often realise how good that is. Now they can do the full race and get a clear result. For me, for that race I didn’t do any cross racing. If there hadn’t been a separate category I wouldn’t have gone. It was perfect.”
Evie Richards had a back-row start position in Heusden-Zolder due to her lack of cyclo-cross racing that season. It was cold and raining. Nevertheless, Richards was keen to have a good race. “It was a hard winter. It was really hard. When I came I just wanted to give it everything. I didn’t know where I would end up but I was in a really good mood. On the start line I remember it was so cold and I was so far back but I kept taking them off one by one. On the long finishing straight I couldn’t believe I was leading the race. As soon as I got to the front I wasn’t slowing down, I was just in a race within myself.”
It was the first time the cyclo-cross world got to see her typical racing style, pedaling with a very high rhythm, seemingly with an endless amount of energy. “My riding style? A bit crazy - a bit random - there’s no tactic,” Richards said, clearly having heard before that she’s displaying an atypical racing style.
My riding style? A bit crazy - a bit random - there’s no tactic
The upcoming World Championships race will be held up and around the Cauberg, a steep climb that has become iconic in the cycling world due to it’s often decisive presence in multiple road World Championships races and the Spring Classic, Amstel Gold Race. “I don’t know it. I didn’t grow up in cycling and I’m just starting to learn all about it. I just like to ride my bike,” Richards said. “I used to play hockey and started combining it with cycling to up my fitness level. My father and I headed out training, one of us rode the bike and the other ran. I only started with competition in 2014.”
Straight away, she showed a lot of talent and got selected for the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Norway: “Luckily, I didn’t know it was such a big race. I finished sixth and my friends said it was amazing. The year after that I broke my collarbone after finishing 2nd or 3rd in the Junior series so I missed nationals. The next day I was on the turbo and tried to keep training. Then I finished runner-up in Vallnord, Andorra. I was surprised that I got that result,” Richards says of her silver medal in the Junior category of the XCO race at the 2015 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships. The year after, she stormed to the front of the cyclo-cross scene.
In the near future, Richards will be combining disciplines: “I do mountain biking and cyclo-cross and next year we’ll squeeze in a bit of road racing too. The team supports me with all of that. I’ve just signed a contract with the Trek Factory Team and they help me out a lot. It’s not about the money. I just want to ride the races that I love. Nick is my mechanic. I have a really good group around. My dad is my taxi driver and bike washer, my mum is the chef,” Richards said. “Back home in Malvern, I’m very lucky to train with Liam Killeen and Tracy Moseley who live on top of the hill too.”
Apart from riding her bike, Evie Richards loves to spend time with her family, go shopping, do her make-up and bake. She’s not a big fan of her smartphone. During her rest day in Mallorca, she’s been sending postcards: “I don’t like using my phone all the time. Sometimes, I even switch it off for a couple of days. I enjoy spending time with my family, my grandparents. My sister loves watching movies so we get to spend hours on the couch in our pyjamas. I moved out for two years. Then I moved back in. I do everything with my family,” Richards said. Her family is often around when Evie is racing, like at the World Cup round in Namur. “They love the atmosphere, and the beer of course. My mum loves it because it’s not as risky as mountain biking. She likes the music at cyclo-cross races too,” Richards said, referring to the typical Belgian Schlager music that is played in the huge beer tents.
The 2017-2018 cyclo-cross season will gradually draw to an end after the Valkenburg UCI World Championships, and Evie Richards has set some clear targets for 2018.
“The goals are CX worlds, then the XCO at the Commonwealth Games in Australia and finally the XCO at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Lenzerheide. In 2019, my dream is to do a classic cyclo-cross season. I want to go back to Zolder, race on New Year’s Day and take part in races like Las Vegas. I love cyclo-cross. Of course, we’ll have to see what happens in 2018,” Richards said.
For 2020, there’s one clear goal. “My dream is just to go and race in the Olympics, in any sport, and mountain biking allows it.”