Destined to Soar: An Interview with Olivia Smallshaw, Cyclocross Rising Star

Destined to Soar: An Interview with Olivia Smallshaw, Cyclocross Rising Star

Celeste Kocabay

 Destined to SOAR.

This interview series is aimed at celebrating, recognising and promoting the incredible talent and ferocious courage of our young women of tomorrow. 

Let's recognise the magnificent effort of girls' in sport across all codes!

Today our interview is with Olivia Smallshaw, Soar Active had the privilege to catch up with Olivia and chat about her love for Cyclocross.

1. Olivia, tell us about your early life?

Olivia: As a young child, I started playing football and played for my village team. About a year later I began cycling around my village with Dad which led me joining a cycling club on a Tuesday night to meet other kids and help me develop skills (going in and out of cones and changing gears etc.)

After a while, I had to choose one sport as it became very difficult to do both my hobbies, due to them clashing. I decided to quit football and began permanently training at my cycling club at UCLAN sports arena. I went every Tuesday for years, until lockdown hit. The club was closed and I was stuck with no training!

Due to me doing home-school, me and my dad started our own PE lessons. At first we just did small tootles around the village at a steady pace, but as time went on I began to get faster and faster and more confident on the bike. During lockdown I rode 300KM a month for a children’s charity raising £400.

2. So how did you discover trail cycling?

Olivia: I started road first, just simple rides for ice cream in the summer. Cyclocross is a winter series of racing to keep competitors fit over the winter while road is for spring and summer. I found cyclocross by accident after the road season, my friends invited me to my first cyclocross race.

I’d never done it before so didn’t expect a win or a podium. I loved the race and I wanted to do more so we began to  train in our local fields. As I kept training, I fell more in love with cyclocross and this year came 3rd in my age group against taller and bigger girls,  I was unbelievably happy with that result!

3. What was your next step?

Olivia: Plans for 2023 begin with training for the upcoming road season, this includes practising key skills that will be necessary for a successful and competitive season against experienced riders, racing at my very best and seeking every opportunity I can.

I will also look to do some summer cyclocross to prepare myself for the next season in October.  I am also hoping to do the youth tour over in Assen, Holland where I will get to chance to race girls my age from all over the world! The experience and competitiveness that this competition will bring will be brilliant. I am looking forward to my 2023 season, I believe I have the skills and tactics to be successful competitively this year. 

4. How do you balance your competitive training and managing school?

Olivia: In September I started High School and it's a little tougher now to juggle than it was but I do think the balance is about right. Depending on the time of year and the discipline I’m racing I can be training two to three times a week and then racing on the weekend.

When I’m super busy I tend to lose a little time with friends or just enjoying a ride with my dad.  It’s also difficult to juggle homework as I get a lot in High School, but I do it before I go training or as soon as  I get back from training. 

5. What do you do in your downtime?

Olivia: On nights off I enjoy spending time with school friends, playing my cycling friends online on Fortnite or just calling for a laugh and a catch up. 

6. What makes you feel happy, brave, and strong? 

Olivia: Overcoming Challenges mentally and physically. For example certain skills that I thought were impossible for me and something I couldn’t achieve.

Or when I get on the podium and do particularly well mentally in a race, when things got tough, I’m proud if I have pushed through and still succeed.

7. Tell us about a special moment in the last year? 

Olivia: Climbing Sa Colabra in Mallorca was a very memorable moment with the views, the roads and because and it was something I thought I wouldn’t be able to achieve it. It was a particularly special moment as I realised that I had climbed the famous Sa Colabra and climbed it in a respectable time. It was 2,000 ft!

8. What is your ultimate goal?

Olivia: To ride at the Olympics!. It would be incredible even just to get chosen. Also to be able to ride any of the classics or grand tours would be very special.

9. What's your favourite attribute about yourself?

Olivia: Resilience, I always keep going when things get tough and I don’t doubt myself. It’s often hard to keep going when it gets tough, all you want to do is rest and though I do have some moments I always keep going, you can achieve anything you tell your mind you can.

I’m also very good at analysing my performances and listening to feedback from my coaches and my dad, even when I don’t like it! . I feel this is important so that I understand where I am going wrong and where I can improve. 

10. What would you say to other young females about following their dreams?

Olivia: The body achieves when the brain believes. Your brain is the operator of the machine and has the control. When it feels like it’s getting too tough, the body wants to stop first. Your brain is also the key to winning or loosing a race so if you can tell your brain what you can do you will achieve big things.

11. What has trail cycling taught you about life?

Olivia: How to be resilient. Before cycling I gave up easy and if possible took the easier route. But now I think before doing anything and compare what will be hard and what will be easy and think about what to do. Cycling has taught me so many lessons and shown me things about myself I didn’t even know I had, but above all it has shown me how to be resilient. I will carry this lesson with me for life. 

Keep inspired and follow her journey on Instagram


Know another inspiring young teen or want to be featured? 

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