When Morgan Newberry was growing up, she got into cycling through taking her BMX bike to a local mountain bike course with her dad. Now she is being mentored by the 38-time world champion, 14-time Paralympic gold medalist and holder of 76 world records, Dame Sarah Storey.
Instead of coming home from time on the bike with grazed elbows as she did as a child, 20-year-old Newberry is coming home from training sessions with advice that helped her achieve a podium finish at her first international race and a PB on the track.
One of five young women who were selected to form the Skoda DSI Cycling Academy, Newberry and her fellow riders receive support and mentorship from Storey to help them develop their cycling careers and bring more women into the sport.
Unsurprisingly, it has been an incredible experience for Newberry. She says: "It's been pretty amazing, I've been able to get this amazing knowledge that I don't think I'd have been able to get just from my coach, she knows how everything works.
"She's coached me in a very different way to how you would usually be coached because just she was able to give information that worked so well for me."
This tailored and hands-on approach has translated into success in races. The Academy was launched in summer 2019 and since then, Newberry finished second in the Para-Cycling International, behind only her mentor herself. She says of her podium finish: "That was amazing, it was a very interesting race. There weren't many of us but yeah, that felt amazing and this is just a year into racing the bike."
It's not just on the road either. In January, Newberry raced at the track nationals and got a ten-second personal best thanks to advice from Storey in a coaching session beforehand. Newberry had only raced on the track twice before and says of her PB: "I think that's basically down to the help she provided on the bike and how to ride the track."
With such a substantial PB already, it's no surprise that Newberry has big ambitions to continue with the discipline. She says: "There's so much work that you can do to see how you can improve on the track. With road racing, it's very easy to learn the technical skills of how to race which is something that I still need to learn.
"The track is like if you go and improve this, in this way, because it's such an individual effort, you're going to only get better because of that, and it just was nice to see how you can make the progression."
As well as personal development, one of the things that Newberry has appreciated about the academy is cycling alongside other women in the sport, learning from their different racing experiences and experiencing riding as part of a team. She says: "I feel like we've got quite amazing connections just after spending the summer with each other. I learnt personally so much from them."
Before this, Newberry rode with her fellow club cyclists, most of whom were men. She explains how this can impact racing progression: "You hear about them racing, but it's like: 'Ah there's no women here for me to really talk to about how a women's race goes and what's going on in the women's scene.'"
Newberry would turn to the internet to find out, but the academy process showed her that there was a movement of women out there. With over 300 young women applying, Newberry notes: "There's a massive want for it and desire for it to be opened really."
Newberry spoke to GiveMeSport just as the lockdown was coming into effect, and so her plans to get more race experience and train with her fellow academy members have been temporarily put on hold.
Alongside her cycling, Newberry is studying nutrition at the University of Leicester, and with university cancelled she is thankful that she can get out into the Peak District and continue cycling. She says: "I'm hoping it will keep me sane during the strange period."
It makes a change from juggling university studies with ten to 15 hours of cycling a week and balancing the desire to prioritise her degree and pursue cycling.
And Newberry does want to keep cycling with the possibility of one day following in Storey's footsteps. Like Storey, Newberry competes in the C5 category and hopes to one day compete at the Paralympics. She says: "That was an end goal that I'd hope is seeable and doable at the moment but who knows."
She is open about having lots to learn about her sport, in particular admitting that racing is still a daunting experience. "Racing still scares me quite a lot," Newberry explains.
"Because there's so much to learn and without making all the mistakes, I don't think you can be a good bike racer, so I'm still making all the mistakes until I've made them all and then I can really put everything into practice. It does make me want to do well on the bike. I want to race women and see how I do and discover the skills that I've still got to come."
Given how much Newberry has enjoyed the experience of cycling with and getting to know the others in the academy, it's unsurprising that her advice to aspiring riders is to "get out riding your bike with people".
She is passionate too about emphasising the fact that there are lots of clubs with other girls and women in their ranks and increasing numbers of race series for women. She says: "Just sign up to them all and do them because that's the only way you're going to get better and then you're going to meet loads of new people who you'll be able to share experiences with.
"It will be really cool. It's just about getting involved in clubs, what the clubs are offering and if they are very male orientated then go and sign up to a race series and you'll find some women there."
Club rides, racing series and Newberry's own journey competing are all on pause, but there's no doubt that when it does return, she will be ready and raring to go again. With success so early on in her racing career, Storey's legacy looks to be in safe Newberry's hands and advice from the Dame herself can't hurt her prospects either. There's no doubt about it, Newberry is one to watch.
Morgan Newberry is a member of the ŠKODA DSI Cycling Academy that was set up to support aspiring female cyclists and address the gender imbalance in cycling. For more information visit www.skoda.co.uk/discover/cycling-academy
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