Top junior cyclist Tiffany Keep did not let gear restrictions get in her way while mixing it up with the elite ladies in her recent road races.
These restrictions have been implemented to make racing fairer for youngsters as they all develop at different rates, as well as to encourage them to use tactics.
“My gear range is not as great as the elite riders and when I get to flat sections and long downhills I spin out much more easily,” she said.
Keep also had to make sure she was in a good position to draft some of the other riders, because she could not compete with them on high-speed sections as she could not pedal as fast.
“The final sprint was chaotic to say the least, because with about three kilometres to go the ladies bunch was caught by a vets bunch. They basically swamped us and it was extremely confusing to see who was in which bunch.”
When Keep reached the last straight section, which was one kilometre long, she knew she had to be in a good position and wait for the sprint as opposed to going too early.
“It was very intense, there were ladies all around me and I managed to spot Kim [Le Court] who is a renowned sprinter in the country. I decided to stick with her for as long as possible. When she opened up her sprint, I gave it my all.
“When I eventually crossed the line and realised I came second overall I was really overwhelmed and excited,” she said.
“My main goal on the road this year was to try and gain as much experience as possible, and I wasn’t really looking for results as such. I was trying to gain experience from riding in the elite women’s bunch and to learn about their tactics and how they race.
“It’s quite motivating for me to know that I can compete with them at the level they’re on at the moment,” she said.
Keep, who was introduced to the sport at the age of three, said she had a very good upbringing thanks to the support of family and friends.
“Kevin and Cian [Leveridge] are some of my close friends who I often cycle with. Riding with boys has really helped me improve a lot and learn how to race aggressively, as well as position myself well in a bunch.
“I have never really been able to put down any excuses like ‘oh no, I’m feeling tired’, or ‘I can’t do this’. I have to just suck it up and deal with it. That has helped me become a better rider.”
Keep, who rides for mountain bike-based team Silverback Volvo, said she would like to focus on both the road and mountain-bike disciplines.
“The mountain-bike scene has been a bit quiet so I’ll return to that, but I’ll definitely continue with road racing. Something that I’ve had to deal with though is not having a team when I race on the road, so I don’t have anyone supporting me.
“But it’s been a busy start to the season and I’m really looking forward to the rest of it seeing as it’s only been the beginning.”