This week sees the start of the inaugural Women’s Tour of Britain with some of the world’s best female cyclists set to compete.
Indeed, seven of the current world top ten are due to ride with 12 of the UCI World Cup top 20 teams having signed up for the event.
Joining the likes of Marianne Vos and Lizzie Armitstead will be Sky Academy Sports Scholar Lucy Garner.
I know they’ll be a lot of friends and family who’ll be there supporting. It’s just a great feeling to be riding on the roads that I’ve trained on for the whole of my life
The youngster has shown herself to be at home among such esteemed company having recorded three podium finishes already this season, having secured her first senior race win in her debut campaign last year.
“I wasn’t expecting podiums already, early in the season,” she told Sky Sports. “I’m really happy with how I am physically and the training is going really well which is showing in the races.
“It’s really nice to get podiums so early on when my peak is not in the early part of the season. Hopefully I can carry it on for the rest of the season.”
With her Giant-Shimano team not competing, Garner will lead a young Great Britain team for the five-stage race through the East Midlands and East Anglia and is keen to land her first win of 2014.
“At the moment I’m just really happy to have got on podiums already and actually for my peak [the aim] is to get podium anyway so I’ve already done that in non-peak time,” said the double world junior road race champion. “Hopefully I can get a win soon, I’m really eager to get the win soon.”
Whether that victory comes at the Women's Tour remains to be seen, but whatever the outcome, Garner will finish the race with a sense of pride having captained the GB team and on a course that sees her ride within touching distance of her childhood home.
“It’s a huge honour [to captain the team] and I’m just so excited to be racing again in the UK,” she added. “It’s going to be such a big race with a lot of good teams and world-class riders. It’s just going to be good for everyone, the public, to see world-class racing going through England.
“Obviously they know how the men race and so now we can show them how the women can race. It’s really nice and an honour to be captain of the GB team. I’m really ready to go for it and see how the courses are.
“I go straight past my house which is really cool. Obviously now I’m living in Holland it’s hard for my family and friends to come and watch me race, so for them to be able to just step out of the front door and watch me is really nice.
“I know they’ll be a lot of friends and family who’ll be there supporting. It’s just a great feeling to be riding on the roads that I’ve trained on for the whole of my life.”
That in itself may give Garner a slight edge and the 19-year-old is expecting a few riders to be given a bit of a shock as the stages progress.
“I think a lot of people will be surprised at how hilly Britain can be, it’s pretty up and down,” she explained. “It’s not pan-flat like Holland but I’m just hoping that the stages suit me and that I can make the final and try my sprint out.”
Garner is confident that if she can stay in touch during the climbs, an area in which she has worked hard on over the winter, then she will be able to do just that and try to work her way onto the podium once more.
However, whoever claims the top three spots, it is the reward for doing so, as much as the riders, that will be considered the story. The reason being that the prize money on offer for the competition is in line with that received by their male equivalent’s in the men’s Tour of Britain later this year. An important step towards equality in the sport, according to Garner.
It’s a huge honour and I’m just so excited to be racing again in the UK
“Definitely, it really is [progress] because we’re getting time on the telly and the prize money is the same as the men’s, so that’s a step in the right direction,” she commented.
“I think it is getting better but obviously there’s so much more that can be improved so we get the same as the men, but this proves how much the organisation of the women’s tour want to make cycling a massive thing in the UK. Especially for women’s cycling it’s a huge step in the right direction.”
The tour will also mark the first major competition in which a Great Britain team has competed since the departure of Sir Dave Brailsford as British Cycling’s performance director in April.
The man credited for the success of the county’s cyclists over the past decade will no doubt be missed, something Garner acknowledges, but as a new era of British Cycling begins, the Women’s Tour provides the Leicestershire-born rider the opportunity to show just why so many are backing her to play a big part in it.