Cyclo-cross World Championships 2021 – Evie Richards: 'I’m probably the worst person ever on sand'
Evie Richards says she will ride the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships with the aim of putting some miles in her legs, to set her up with a strong shot of making Olympic selection. The Briton has struggled with her calendar after being stuck in the UK for almost a month over Christmas, but remains positive and upbeat – despite being "probably the worst person you’ve ever seen riding in sand".
British Evie Richards pictured in action during the women's elite race of the 'Druivencross' cyclocross cycling event, last stage of the UCI World Cup competition, in Overijse, Belgium,
Evie Richards will focus on staying upright on the sand at the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships on Saturday, with a view to peaking later this year at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Richards is a phenomenally talented multi-disciplinarian, with U23 cyclo-cross world titles on her palmarés and a very real shot of going to Japan later this year to compete for Team GB in the mountain bike event.
So it's perhaps no surprise that she is heading into cyclocross Worlds on Saturday with competing priorities.
To start with, the sandy course in Oostende could hardly be more ill-suited to Richards’ skillset.
"When I last was on holiday in Cornwall we just happened to have a beach where we were staying and I rode off the rocks onto the beach – and within minutes of being on the sand I was bleeding," she tells Eurosport.
"It was like, straight into the sand and straight over the handlebars. I don’t think I’ve been on the sand since then."
Image credit: Getty Images
She has actually ridden the course for Saturday’s race already in a recce and that didn’t go well either.
"During a camp, we did actually do a day trip over to the Worlds course and have a look at the sand," she says.
"I was probably the worst person you’ve ever seen riding in sand. But it will make for interesting watching!"
With a recent outbreak of Covid-19 in Oostende threatening the viability of the entire championships, the racing will be yet quieter than it has been for the rest of this subdued 2020-21 season.
"It is strange racing without crowds, I wouldn’t say it hugely affects my performance, but it’s less exciting," says Richards.
"I love seeing all the groups of people and everyone having a party. It’s a bit sad not to have that.
"When people asked me why I’m into ‘cross, that was always one of my top three answers, ‘because of the crazy fans’.
"That’s why I love racing so much, it’s just that atmosphere that no other sport I’ve experienced has, with fans so close and so loud."
Image credit: Getty Images
Richards is also back on the scene after an enforced lay-off from competition.
She returned to the UK after the Namur round of the UCI Cyclocross World Cup on December 20, with the expectation she’d be back in Belgium by Boxing Day.
"It was a really quick turnaround so I left everything over in Belgium, all my helmet shoes, everything, and when we landed we saw that it didn’t look like we’d be able to get back," says Richards.
"I was trying to think positive, but my sister was like ‘no way will you get back over’, and then yeah, we didn’t get back over for Boxing Day, we just kept getting delayed and cancelled."
It was almost a month before she did make it back to Belgium, just in time to bag a top ten in the final round of the World Cup in Overijse.
At this point Richards says she is focusing on enjoyment and getting miles in the legs, with a bigger goal coming later in the year in the form of the postponed Tokyo Olympic Games.
"I think this year it hasn't really been results-focused for me, the focus is on the fact this is an Olympic year I’m going into," she adds.
"These ‘cross races are really just to get fitness and enjoy racing my bike, and then hopefully we can really focus on some ‘cross races [at the end of 2021, when the next season begins].
"I really don’t know where I’ll come at Oostende. As long as I enjoy it and I finish smiling. I think even these few races I’ve done have set me up really well for the upcoming MTB season."