Echo Women in Sport award: Grace Young powered to world glory

Rory Noonan talks to December award winner Grace Young
Echo Women in Sport award: Grace Young powered to world glory

Grace Young, with her Echo Women in Sport Award and the bronze medal she won at the World Cyclocross Championships. Picture: Jim Coughlan

THE greatest achievement in my cycling career. 

That’s how Grace Young described her podium finish in the recent UCI World Championship Cyclo_Cross final held at Ipswich in England.

The Douglas-based cyclist headed to the championships hoping for a top-10 finish but came home with a bronze medal in her possession.

Grace would have been well-known in hockey circles where she played with Church of Ireland.

When she decided her hockey-playing days were over she looked for another sport that would help her to keep fit and so began her love affair and passion for cycling. Since then she has taken part in road races, including Rás na mBan and a few years ago took up cyclo-cross racing.

The easiest way to describe cyclo-cross is that it’s a bit like cross-country running, but on a bike.

The circuit is about 2.5km and when you start racing you don’t know how many times you will have to go around. The race is 50 minutes long and so it depends on the pace of the race as to how many circuits the competitors end up doing.

But it’s far from a flat surface as Grace explained that the course has to have certain aspects to it.

“It must have a wooded section, a sand section, a bridge, and also planks that you generally have to carry the bike over,” said Grace, “you might have to carry the bike through the sand section as well and if you lose concentration for a second you could be off the bike and your race is over.”

Grace Young competing in the UCI Cyclocross World Championship final held in England.
Grace Young competing in the UCI Cyclocross World Championship final held in England.

Grace also competes in the Munster and Irish championships and next weekend she goes into the final round of the former undefeated this season, with five wins out of five races. But her focus this season was on the world championships and that paid off in early December.

PEAK

“Some of my racing team took part the previous year and my coach said to me why don’t I take part in 2022 and from the start of the season the plan was to peak for that event.

“Most weeks I was on the bike training five days, racing on one and then a rest day, with a couple of gym sessions built in as well. So some days it was a case of the gym, work, bike and sleep, but it paid off in the end. 

It is my greatest achievement in cycling and one that I will always look back on with pride and already it has given me the motivation to go again later this year.”

There were 35 cyclists in the final and they start in rows of seven, which is done on a lottery basis. Grace was drawn in row three which meant that at least 14 runners were ahead of her when the race started.

“Once the race starts you literally go hell for leather until it is over, there is no pacing yourself because if you do then you will fall too far behind.

“Within a lap or so I was up in second place, but the Great Britain rider Kate Eedy has been competing at this sport for a lot longer than me. Technically she was slightly better than me so she managed to put a small distance between us.

“I was then caught by Ruth Moll from Spain, again who is a more experienced rider than me, but I was determined to hold on to the bronze medal and made sure that no one else passed me.

“Crossing that line was just an amazing feeling to win a medal at a World Championships is beyond belief and it’s a moment I will never forget.”

And Grace does all this at her own expense and doesn’t receive any financial support from any cycling organisation.

“It is self-funding so you could say it is very much a passion for me and it’s one I am not finished with yet."

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