Racing in Belgium helping Norfolk cyclist Isla Rush climb towards her professional dream

Young Norfolk Sports Academy cyclist Isla Rush competing at Zwevezele in Belgium in March 2015.

Young Norfolk Sports Academy cyclist Isla Rush competing at Zwevezele in Belgium in March 2015. - Credit: Submitted

The latest of our monthly updates on the Young Norfolk Sports Academy comes from cyclist Isla Rush.

Young Norfolk Sports Academy cyclist Isla Rush riding the Coll de Pal in Spain, a 2,070 metre high P

Young Norfolk Sports Academy cyclist Isla Rush riding the Coll de Pal in Spain, a 2,070 metre high Pyrenean pass/climb that's 19km long. - Credit: Submitted - April 2015

The 16-year-old, from Kelling, near Holt, is one of 14 young athletes receiving coaching from the YNSA, led by Norwich School.

The Reepham High School pupil hopes to become a professional cyclist and has been competing for the WyndyMilla team in Belgium recently.

Now that I am entering my third year of competitive cycling, my dad and I decided it was time to venture further than the UK and start racing on the continent.

Young Norfolk Sports Academy cyclist Isla Rush competing at Kortrijk in Belgium in March 2015.

Young Norfolk Sports Academy cyclist Isla Rush competing at Kortrijk in Belgium in March 2015. - Credit: Submitted


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Belgium is the indisputable home of road cycling, hosting many infamous races such as the Tour of Flanders and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

I've always loved cycling, due to my parents being keen on both competing in and helping with triathlons when I was younger. At a triathlon show when I was nine, I spotted the gleaming pink bikes of WyndyMilla. At that moment, I loved everything to do with cycling. And I'm very proud to say I have been racing for WyndyMilla for the past three years.

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Belgian racing is a bit of a law unto itself; it's brutal, fast and relentless. The races are longer than here in the UK, which does suit me as I am an endurance rider.

I have raced there three times this year, with some results I'm really happy with. My favourite race I have ever ridden was my most recent even in Heule, Flanders. Considering we were racing 70km, the group didn't hang about; we averaged 23mph for just under two hours on a completely flat course. However, I was delighted to finish as the ninth girl in my age group amongst a quality entry field.

I'm happy to say that my training has been paying off; I had a hard winter's worth of riding, as well as a brilliant week in gloriously sunny Spain at the end of March.

Cycling is one of those sports where you always get out what you put in; it takes hours in the saddle to be contesting a podium. My training has paid dividends lately and I've achieved personal best times at local time trials. I'm really hoping this year will be full of good results.

As I'm in my last year of high school, I have to balance training with revision for my GCSEs that are looming over me. It's really important to find time to do work, and in my case, it's often in the car or at the Calais Euro Tunnel terminal.

I think a lot of people misunderstand the sacrifices young sports people have to make, though. It's definitely challenging, but so worth it when you win or get the results you want.

The Young Norfolk Sports Academy has helped me so much. One lecture in particular has offered me a lot of advice, though. Our psychology talk taught me how to overcome one of my biggest fears; nasty crashes.

Unfortunately, at a race last August I skinned the majority of my leg in a bad crash at the end of a race. However, I have been able to get over this by telling myself it's just in my imagination and I'll be absolutely fine. Little things like that can be the difference between winning and losing a race.

My favourite thing about YNSA has to be meeting the other athletes; I now have some great friends from across Norfolk competing in a variety of sports – nothing can top that!

It makes me so proud to be involved in such a great scheme with some amazing young athletes.

What is the YNSA?

The Young Norfolk Sports Academy (YNSA) is aiming to bring together young talent from different sports, to offer coaching in the various aspects of life for an elite athlete, as well as expert support, training and education.

The YNSA athletes will be part of a physical tracking programme and will develop their understanding of topics such as nutrition, psychology, injury rehabilitation and handling the media.

Norwich School completed a successful pilot scheme with their own athletes during the last academic year and has now extended the opportunity across the county. Applicants for the YNSA needed to be between 15 and 18 years old and ranked in the top 10 of their chosen sport in their home country in their age group, and also have a proven record of performance.

For more information, go to www.ynsa.org.uk.

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