ŠKODA UK, in partnership with Britain's greatest ever Paralympian Dame Sarah Storey, has confirmed three new female riders to join the ŠKODA DSI Cycling Academy.
Alex Morrice (22) a university student studying Physics and Chemistry from Guildford, Surrey, Katie-Ann (19) a Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation student from Southend-On-Sea, Essex, and Maia Forde (23) a Mental Health and Wellbeing Practitioner from Tooting, London, join the Academy that provides ambitious female cyclists, aged between 18-24, with a chance to learn and develop a clear direction within the sport so that they can maximise their potential.
The riders were selected following a testing day at the end of last month. The tests at the Lee Valley Velodrome included a series of Wattbike challenges followed by laps of the outdoor closed circuit to assess bike handling skills and straight-line speed.
"I was so impressed with the level of all the riders taking part, their commitment, and the way they gelled together as a group," commented academy principal Dame Sarah Storey.
"The tests were a six second peak power test, a three-minute maximal test then a 12-minute aerobic test, followed by two laps on the outdoor track. The riders all performed very well and gave absolutely everything - that there were so many riders slumped over their bikes at the end is testament to that!
"Congratulations to all the riders that took part in the testing day but ultimately three riders stood out for me and I'm excited to be working closely with Maia, Alex and Katie-Ann this year through the Academy programme."
Now in its fourth year, the ŠKODA DSI Cycling Academy programme is designed to sit alongside each rider's existing club or team activity, providing the opportunity to experience the life of a professional rider with on and off bike experiences throughout the year.
Dame Sarah Storey's mentorship will include planning and bespoke advice on racing, training and career progression beyond the Academy. Additional social media and media training will be available alongside a sport psychology programme developed exclusively for the Academy.
The Academy ride experiences will take place during ŠKODA sponsored events that include the Women's Tour (June), Tour de France (July) and Tour of Britain (September). A further British Cycling experience day is scheduled for October.
Dame Sarah Storey had words of welcome for each of the new Academy riders.
Alex Morrice (22) from Guildford, Surrey is a Physics and Chemistry student at the University of Bath.
Dame Sarah Storey said: "Alex posted four outstanding test results which far exceeded my expectations for someone who has been cycling for less than a year. Her focus and drive were evident from the moment she walked into the testing day."
Katie-Ann Elliston (19) from Southend-On-Sea, Essex is a Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation student at the University of Derby and member of Southend Wheelers.
"Katie-Ann was first tested in 2021 and returned to re-apply this year. Her tests significantly improved, and I was incredibly impressed by how she had applied the recommendations made to her last summer. The willingness to learn, improve and progress further radiated from her in every test, and I can't wait to support her over the coming months."
Maia Forde (23) from Tooting, London is a Mental Health and Wellbeing Practitioner and is a member of the Black Cyclists Network.
"Maia was a joy to meet and test at the event at Lee Valley and although she had only been cycling since last summer it is clear she's been working hard to bring herself up to speed on everything to do with the sport.
"Her tests were impressive and the combination of her determination and natural talent was very exciting to watch. I am really looking forward to supporting Maia and helping her further develop her skills both on and off the bike."
The three new riders join three existing Academy riders, Maddi Aldam-Gates, Gwyneth Parry and Olivia French, who were selected for the programme last year.
ŠKODA started life as a bicycle company in 1895 and the brand continues to honour its heritage. In tandem with its headline sponsorship of key events in the cycling calendar, ŠKODA is championing gender equality in the professional tour series.