For British Cycling’s new teen sensation and world champion, Grace, continually seeking perfection in every aspect of preparation and performance is the secret to success.
August 2022 saw the realisation of a dream for 18-year-old Grace Lister, when she became Junior Madison world champion alongside teammate Zoe Backstedt. Her love of cycling started early, a hobby to begin with, but by her teens, Grace was travelling the country most weekends to compete.
When Grace joined the Great Britain Cycling Team’s (GBCT’s) apprentice programme at age 15, she started training at the National Cycling Centre in Manchester. Her talent had been spotted by foundation coaches, an opportunity open to all, and she became part of the Junior Academy.
ISG has been working on a modernisation and operational performance project at the centre, upgrading the track and spectator facilities. This project continues a long-standing relationship with Manchester City Council to ensure the iconic venue can continue to provide world-class training programmes, supporting the stars of the future, and hosting record-breaking championship events.
The venue is hugely important to Grace, as it provides a perfect training environment that allows her to achieve her track cycling goals. The future certainly looks bright for this star. For others interested in starting out in cycling, would she recommend it? “100%, you never know where it may take you.”
Early years of cycling
Teen sensation Grace began cycling when she was six years old, following in her father’s footsteps; he had been a keen cyclist and raced for many years. It started out as an after-school hobby but soon became something that she loved doing every week. She was then introduced to local racing at weekends, which included cyclo-cross leagues, club track leagues and circuit races.
At the age of 13 Grace started competing. It was still a hobby, but most weekends she’d be travelling the country taking part in races. Grace says: “At this point I just really enjoyed the experience of racing and meeting so many people along the way.”
Grace’s goal when she was younger was just to enjoy the racing, meet new people and see new places, and that’s still one of her goals today. She says: “Enjoying the whole process has motivated me to keep progressing through the cycling pathway and winning some medals along the way.”
It was when Grace was spotted by GBCT’s talent programme, and selected onto the Junior Academy, that she first started training at the National Cycling Centre in Manchester. The Junior Academy is a two-year programme for riders aged 16 to 18 and is mainly made up of training and competition camps during the summer holidays. Grace and her teammates were supported by a team of experienced coaches and specialist support staff, who offer guidance in strength and conditioning, nutrition, bike maintenance and performance lifestyle.
Now 19, 2022 was a highlight for Grace, as she was given the opportunity to compete in the UCI Junior Track Cycling World Championships. Grace says: “Junior world track champs was one of the best experiences to date.” It wasn’t until a few months prior that she knew she was definitely going. Grace was competing alongside GB teammates Izzy Sharp and Zoe Backstedt, with support from Emma Trott, their coach. Grace raced the scratch race, Omnium and Madison events.
The Omnium was a long, eventful day including a tempo race win and an elimination race crash-out, but Grace was really happy to finish on the podium with an impressive bronze medal. Grace says: “It was a ride I was very pleased with, and to come away with my first world individual medal was pretty special.”
A couple of days later Grace was back on the track with teammate Zoe Backstedt to ride the Madison. This was a challenging race and one Grace had been quite nervous about, but it all paid off, as she and Zoe were crowned Junior Madison world champions. “It’s an experience I won’t forget, and to do it alongside a good teammate and friend made it even better!”
The track where world champions train
The National Cycling Centre upgrades being delivered by ISG are hugely important to Grace, as they will ensure she has the perfect training environment to help achieve her track cycling goals. A lot of Grace’s interval training takes place at the centre, and it also gives her somewhere warmer to train through the winter months.
Grace says: “The upgrades have been great; it’s reassuring for us that the venue is being well maintained, so we can continue performing at the best level possible with the best facilities.”
Paul Collins, framework manager at ISG, adds: “The scheme will secure the centre’s position at the heart of British cycling, future-proofing this outstanding elite and community sporting venue for the long term. Crucially, it will also deliver on Manchester City Council’s Climate Change plans and the city’s ambition to be a zero-carbon city by 2038 or earlier. Both ISG and Grace support this commitment, and the importance of reducing the environmental impact of our venues for future generations.”
This project continues a long-standing relationship with this iconic venue, with ISG first replacing the track ahead of the 2008 UCI Track Cycling World Championships, with further upgrades over the years to ensure the velodrome can continue to support the stars of the future, like Grace.
Continuing the journey
We were interested in finding out how it felt being on the track with a full arena watching you do what you love. Grace says: “It’s something that I find hard to describe. My best experience of this would have been at the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games at the Lee Valley Velodrome (a project ISG delivered for the Olympic Games in 2012). Nothing is more surreal than a home crowd.”
Moving up from juniors in style, Grace was selected for Team England’s endurance squad, a 35-strong group led by five-time Olympic champion Laura Kenny.
So, what’s next for Grace? Now in her first year on the GBCT Senior Academy, she hopes to continue to gain experience and add to her skill set on the track and road. Watch out for her at this summer’s UEC under-23 European Track Championships in Anadia, Portugal, in July.
The future looks bright for Grace, and her cycling career is on the up. For anyone interested in starting out in cycling, she would 100% recommend giving it a go, as “you never know where it may take you”. Want to find out more? Visit British Cycling.