A Melton student who hadn’t ridden a bike since childhood is training with British Cycling, attempting to become part of their stunning success story.
It has been a whirlwind few months for former Ratcliffe College student Georgia Holt since inadvertently finding herself among British Cycling’s vaunted set-up.
Georgia had wildly different targets in mind last summer when, inspired by the heroics of champion slider Lizzie Yarnold, she applied for a UK Sport talent ID session hoping to be selected for skeleton.
Despite a good pedigree as a 100m sprinter, the lack of training while recovering from heart surgery ultimately cost her a chance of hurtling down the ice at 80mph.
But instead the UK Sport-backed #DiscoverYourGold campaign unearthed a radically different avenue.
“I was watching the Winter Olympics and thought ‘I could do that’,” said Georgia, a keen hockey player and eventer.
“We’d been learning about Talent ID in A-level sport so I thought I would sign up for a laugh.
“I got invited to the first phase of testing, but I hadn’t done any sport for eight months because I’d had an operation for a hole in my heart.
“But then I got invited to Manchester for phase two. For cycling.”
Assessors may have thought Georgia’s speed was lacking for skeleton, but her power was good enough for cycling.
It came as a surprise.
She added: “I’d done no cycling before, except maybe the odd bike ride when I was younger, and hadn’t sat on a bike for years.
“No-one has ever been through such an intense process before so I’m a bit of a guinea pig for British Cycling.
“It’s interesting for them to see someone who has never done cycling to see how much they can improve.
“It’s a fast track to get into the sport, but I’m on a super fast track to get there in six months.”
After a successful third phase of assessment at Derby Velodrome, Georgia was one of just nine, from an initial entry of more than 2,000 to be accepted.
She is now nine weeks into a six-month ‘confirmation phase’ as a guest rider for British Cycling, with a prized place in the British cycling senior academy the next target.
If the whole process felt surreal, things became more mindboggling when the cycling novice found herself sharing the velodrome with Olympians. “I thought ‘I shouldn’t be here with these Olympic gods, I was so shocked and a bit bewildered,” the 18-year-old said.
“But the coaches were really supportive and told me ‘you are here, you have earned it’.
“I don’t think it will ever sink in; it’s bizarre, but it’s all really exciting and interesting.”
Alongside the 20-plus hours of training a week there are also the demands of academic life to juggle as the former Long Field Academy and Ratcliffe College pupil settles into the first year of a biomedical sciences degree at Manchester Metropolitan University.
“I feel there is one Georgia who goes off and cycles and then there is the normal Georgia,” she added.
She makes her competitive debut this weekend at the British Universities and Colleges (BUCS) Track Cycling Championships and then rides at the National Track Championships in January alongside the British Senior Academy team.
As the first to tread a new path in cycling development, there are no set targets and precedents to match up to, but Georgia is encouraged by her progress.
“I’m doing a lot of weightlifting and should be lifting double my body weight in May and then it will all be about translating that into the bike,” she said.
“Last night I had a really good personal best and went half-a-second quicker than I have been doing so it’s all going well.”