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Gabby Day on the unique appeal of cyclo-cross

Gabby Day is one of Great Britain’s leading cyclo-cross riders and a member of a small band of British female ‘crossers taking on the world’s best.  

Day rides for the Rapha-FOCUS squad and has begun the season in good form, taking on another British rider with an international agenda, Helen Wyman (Kona).

At yesterday’s opening round of the UCI Cyclo-Cross World Cup in Tabor, Czech Republic, Day was the third of three British riders in the top 10, behind third-placed Wyman and Nikki Harris (Telenet-Fidea) who was fifth.

In the summer months, Day can be found aboard a mountain bike, racing for Scott Contessa. She summarises the principle differences between ‘cross and mountain biking as shorter laps, a shorter race duration, and the need for run ups and dismounts in ‘cross.

In the winter, it’s a different type of off-road action that consumes her, after riding her first cyclo-cross race about six years ago. “I was encouraged to have a go by my local cycling club, and the passion just grew from there,” she recalls.

Racing in the States has seen Day rack up seven top five finishes, including three podiums, since September. She is certain of the sport’s attraction. “It is fast and exciting, with lots of challenges. It is a 40-minute effort and you race on a variety of terrains in all sorts of weather! One race may be very dry and fast and another day it may be muddy and heavy going. Lots of variety makes for exciting racing. It is fast, aggressive racing and this is what I love.”

Day is a key member of the Rapha-FOCUS team, one that pursues a racing programme in the States and in the UCI Cyclo-Cross World Cup. She describes the team’s approach as “very professional” and “the perfect fit” for her.

 “Rapha-FOCUS have a great cross team and programme,” she says. “I love racing in the USA and having support in Europe and having euro team mates is great. I am very excited to be part of the team, it is a big step up from previous years and I have stepped it up as a rider too. So it is an exciting start to this season for me.

Day began her 2012/13 campaign in the states, finishing fourth in the prestigious Cross Vegas race in her first race for Rapha-Focus. She has been impressed by the growth of cyclo-cross on the other side of the Atlantic and the relaxed and “less elitist” approach taken. “There are lots of big teams but it just seems friendlier,” she says. “The racers still take the sport very seriously but with more of a smile! I think it is great that the worlds is in the USA (the world championships will be held in Louisville, Kentucky next February).

“Cross is getting a little bigger in the UK,” she adds, “but progression still needs to happen.”

Day has made a successful start towards attaining one of her goals this season: top 10 finishes at World Cup events. Tenth in Tabor represents a solid foundation on which she will hope to build at the second round in Pizen on Sunday. Podiums in Belgium, the unofficial world capital of ‘cross racing, and victories in races on UK soil are also on her agenda. “I need to believe in myself and my ability,” she says. “I have already had a great start to my season in America.”

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