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Q & A with Abbie Dentus – competing at the School Games

28 January 2014

Abbie Dentus is one of the most successful young riders in the country, with a string of track championships and medals to her name. She was selected to join the Olympic Development Programme at the end of 2013.

Abbie competed in the Sainsbury’s 2013 School Games held in Sheffield as a member of the South East regional team. We asked her about her experience of the event.

{Don’t forget to also read our article by Huw Williams, coach of the South East road cycling team, about why the School Games are so important to a rider’s development}

How are the School Games different to other major events that you have taken part in?

dawn-fry-image-from abbie-dentus-2

© Dawn Fry

Abbie: The School Games are different to other major events that I have taken part in, as I find in some way because it is a team event you feel less pressured to do really well. However, you obviously want to do your best for yourself and for the team. The racing at the School Games and the atmosphere there seems to be more fun than a national event. It’s also different as you are in teams and are with your teammates for most of the time, with people you may not spend a lot of time with at other races which is nice as it gives you an opportunity to get to know them better which you wouldn’t get at other major events that I have taken part in.

How do the School Games help talented young cyclists develop their careers?

Abbie: The School Games help talented young cyclists develop their careers as it helps them gain experience in racing and gets them used to working as a team and being more independent in their own racing. For example, when to start getting ready, start warming up and to always check the times of events. As there are a lot of riders it also gets them familiar with a race situation, which will help them in major events in the future.

How did you prepare yourself for the School Games?

Abbie: This year I didn’t really get time to prepare as much for the School Games as I had a big week at the track National Championships and a hard few days at the track Inter-regional Championships , so I couldn’t really prepare or recover as it was a bit of a rush. Last year, when the School Games was held at the London Olympic Velodrome, I did a lot of speed work beforehand to prepare for the track racing and the short street sprints on the road.

What kind of support did you have at the event, and how much did you look after yourself? Did you have anyone providing team management, physiotherapy, mechanic services, etc.?

Abbie: I had a lot of support at the event and couldn’t have asked for any more. Both my team managers Natalie Creswick and Huw Williams were so helpful to me and the whole team, in giving support, advice and help. Other team managers also gave me support, especially as I had a mechanical problem with my bike and they came over and helped me out, which was appreciated a lot!

How did you perform? Were you happy with your races?

Girls RR - Abbie attacks and away - P31B8776

© Dawn Fry

Abbie: I didn’t perform too well at the beginning of the event in the street sprints as I didn’t have a good result and I wasn’t happy with how I rode as I felt I could have ridden a lot better. I didn’t do too badly in the criteriums getting a 10th and an 8th but I would have hoped to have placed better. However on the last day I was pleased with how I rode as the weather conditions were dreadful on a really hilly course. Overall I got about 6th, where I attacked early on and managed to get away on my own and stay away until one lap to go where I had nothing left in my legs and I got caught by a small group of riders, but being out on your own was a lot of hard work and I gave it everything. I had never tried attacking in a road race before and going solo, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to try it, and I went better than I expected to.

How big a target was the event within the rest of your racing season? How did it fit into your training and racing schedule?

Abbie: If I’m honest the event wasn’t as big a target for me as it was for some other riders, as it was towards the end of the season and I wasn’t riding very well after my biggest target earlier on the year – the track nationals. However, I always want to do well in the School Games as it is still a big event with the best riders in the country attending. The event didn’t fit in too well with my training sessions as I hadn’t had a rest after the nationals which I really needed as it took a lot out of me. It was impossible to fit in a rest period because I then had track inter-regionals before the Games, and I needed to keep training for that so that I had some kind of training in my legs beforehand.

Did you get a chance to mix with athletes from other sports, or to watch other sports? Did you learn anything from them? And what did they think of your cycle racing?

Abbie: I got a chance to mix with other athletes at the School Games, especially in the athletes’ lounge where there were loads of athletes from other sports. I didn’t get chance to watch any other sports, unlike last year were we watched some basketball. Some of the other athletes asked questions about cycling and seemed really interested, just like I was in their sports, and I asked them a lot of questions and found out facts about their sports that I didn’t know before.

What did you learn from the experience of taking part?

Abbie: I learnt from my experience that I could attack and ride solo for a long period of time, and O learnt how hard I could push myself. Another thing I learnt was from one of the team managers on some small tactics for the street sprint and what the best line to take was, as it was such a tight course.

What did your teachers and classmates think of your taking part in the School Games? Were they proud of you?

Abbie: My teachers were proud of me riding the School Games and really supportive of it. They asked me a lot of questions about the event. My friends also thought it was really good and they congratulated me on getting picked.

What advice would you give to riders taking part in the School Games for the first time?

Abbie: The advice I would give to someone riding the School Games is to try your best and try something new, and to just enjoy the racing and your time there as it is so much fun to be a part of. Also, not to take your time there for granted as you will always remember your experience there!

Which four words best describe the experience of taking part in the School Games?

Abbie: Amazing, memorable, challenging, exciting!

{Don’t forget to also read our article by Huw Williams, coach of the South East road cycling team, about why the School Games are so important to a rider’s development}

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All photos © Dawn Fry

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Q & A with Abbie Dentus – competing at the School Games

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