Mel and Gabz Make It A Yorkshire Double in National Championships
Mel Lowther and Gabz Cullaigh each clinched the National Championships at Gravesend on July 8th with great displays of disciplined, intelligent and powerful riding, making it a fantastic Yorkshire Youth double for the first time.
The 2.5km circuit at Gravesend is new this year and offers no cover from the prevailing north easterly wind, with a finishing straight that is deceptively uphill for almost 200m that seriously tested all riders lap after lap.
Mel set off strongly in her race then throughout the twelve laps of the circuit proceeded to put her mark all over it with a variety of short attacks, sitting-in, holding and bringing other attacks back to the bunch. On the last lap she waited her moment then powered up the finishing straight to take the win by more than a bike length from Megan Barker (Team Wales) and Kim English (Welwyn Wheelers).
Gabz too had an excellent race by knowing exactly where everyone of his main rivals were at any point in the 16 laps of his event. He too waited his moment and came out of the last bend on to the finishing straight second wheel to Charlie Tanfield (Velo 29). Within seconds he powered past him and maintained his lead all the way to the line, finishing ahead of Tanfield and Joe Evans (Velocity RT) by three bike lengths.
Mel and Gabz have much in common in respect of their cycling backgrounds: both have been cycling seriously for just three years; both came to it from other sports; each of them have moved from their original club to enhance their understanding and enjoyment of cycling; and both are ‘graduates’ of the White Rose Youth League (weekly competitions and over winter training).
“The Monday night training sessions at Richard Dunn have been great” says Gabz, “the long warm ups are brilliant for building stamina and strength and give you something to aim for week by week, setting yourself another new target each time. Cold though!”
Mel too acknowledges the Monday sessions as vital through the winter “It’s really hard at times but once you’re there you get into it and make sure you do your best. The coaching’s great and you do some really valuable stuff.”
So what does being National Champions mean to Mel and Gabz? Well, not surprisingly, they each see it similarly “This is the one I wanted” says Mel, “I’ve wanted this jersey all season and did a lot of preparation for the race in Gravesend. Now I’ve got it I feel a lot of pressure is off me”.
“I really wanted this title”, says Gabz, “I’ve wanted it since the Nationals last year in Lister Park. I loved that race and wanted Gravesend to be as hard. In the end it wasn’t quite as tough, but it was still a big challenge.”
Both riders also played a key role in the success of the Yorkshire Youth Squad in May in the Inter-Regionals and UK School Games, doing well on both track and road.
And what next for this dynamic duo? Gabz is looking for the National Youth Circuit Series title and took a giant step towards getting it last weekend by finishing 7th in Blackpool and 2nd in Scarborough. He leads by 7 points, with just one race to go. Mel won her events at both venues but is not concerned about winning the title “It looks like I’m going to finish in second place to Emily Nelson from Halesowen. But I’ve got the Track Nationals to think about now in August. I’m looking to do well there”. Gabz is also looking to put his mark there in August.
Both riders are also looking to ‘graduate’ from the British Cycling U16 Talent Team (TT) to the Olympic Development Programme (ODP), the other factor they have in common. Without question they are in the TT not just because they are ‘talented’, but also because they both have a mature approach to competitive cycling and are each possessed of an amazing work ethic. “You have to work at it. It may come naturally to some riders but at some point you have to be prepared to push your own limits” says Mel. Gabz also knows that without the hard work there will never be a rewarding return “You have to be prepared to put the time and the effort in to improving your riding. Without that your understanding of your potential will never grow with you. And you’ve got to enjoy it.”
Congratulations Mel and Gabz. And good luck for the rest of the season.