Maddy Nutt has enjoyed a season to remember in her first with the Ribble Collective. We met up with the elite gravel racer to garner her thoughts on a podium-packed 2023 campaign and to discover what lies beyond for the 25-year-old.
Maddy's pathway to the ranks of the gravel elite has been anything but typical. Despite holding down a successful job as a financial analyst in London, the maths whizz very quickly discovered that the daily grind of the 12-hour day sat behind a desk simply wasn't the life for her. So, at the start of 2023, she signed up to race for the Ribble Collective as a privateer racer. The collective offered Maddy something that is relatively rare in the sport of cycling - complete autonomy. Like every collective rider, Maddy was free to devise her own race calendar and to negotiate her own deals with equipment sponsors. This is very much contrary to the traditional team format, whereby each rider is expected to adhere to a strict race schedule dictated to them by the team and is limited to using their sponsors equipment.
Having raced both gravel and road in 2022, Maddy found the short, concentrated bursts of effort required for elite road racing ill-suited to her physical attributes. However, she found the consistent prolonged efforts of gravel racing much more suited to her riding style. Which is why her 2023 campaign concetrated almost exclusively on gravel intersperesd withe the occasional road race. But little could she have known back then just what was to unfold during her first season in Ribble Collective colours. Victory at FNLD Gravel, as well as a GC podium at Migration Gravel in Kenya turned out to the outstanding highlights of a hugely successful campaign for the relatively inexperienced gravel racer.
Maddy's rapidly expanding palmarés of race results aboard her Gravel SL race bike ultimately resulted in her heading to Veneto, Italy where she would represent Team GB at the Gravel World Championships, alongside three fellow collective riders. It also had the unintended benefit of earning her invites to hitherto little-known gravel races. Once of these being Gravel Mexico - a definite detour from the usual gravel events which attract the world's top gravel racers from across the globe.
Left: Maddy goes full gas at the Gralloch. Right: Atop the podium at FNLD gravel in.... you guessed it - Finland!
Hi Maddy, what is it about gravel racing that inspires you to jet around the world to compete at the most prestigious gravel events?
I love to challenge myself physically and mentally and have found gravel racing to be a really great outlet for that. The endurance required paired with the technical skill and mental strength really appeal to me. Travelling to incredible locations also is a great advantage to gravel as a discipline, as it seems to take you to really unique landscapes and locations.
Did you start your 2023 campaign with a concrete plan, or did it evolve organically as the season progressed?
My main plan for 2023 was to target the Gravel Earth Series, but my target of achieving a podium in the series overall did evolve as I realised that was within my grasp. As a brand new series I was unsure of the level of competition, but also of my own ability over these longer harder gravel races, and races like Migration Gravel Race, which had multiple back-to-back stages.
Given the wealth of choice these days, how do you decide which events to attend?
For me, the key is the atmosphere of the event. I am keen to target races with really good athlete presence, and an exciting vibrant atmosphere that adds to the enjoyment of the race itself. It also doesn't hurt when the race is in a cool travel destination!
**Gravel Mexico is a little off the beaten track isn't it? What’s the story behind that? **
I was invited by the race organisers a week before the race! I speak Spanish and love Mexican food, so for me it was an easy decision. I had good fitness off the back of Migration Gravel Race and didn't seem to be as fatigued as I had anticipated, so decided to optimise on this fitness and squeeze another race and trip in!
Which result are you most proud of, and what makes it so special?
Winning the last stage of Migration Gravel Race, as well as coming in 2nd overall. It was just completely unexpected, and I think I surprised myself as well as other athletes and the race organisers etc. For some reason that day I channelled such great energy into my racing and really believed in my ability- and it resulted in a lead of over half an hour over the next woman! I still don't know quite where that speed came from.
Mechanicals are part and parcel of gravel racing, right? How do you overcome the psychological impact of them mid-race?
Mechanicals are definitely something that I dread in gravel racing, and I have been a victim of this year. I think it's just super key to keep calm and not panic. I find that naturally I keep a really cool head in situations like this.
There’s a now iconic shot of you (post gravel world champs) sitting eating a gelato and sporting a thousand-yard stare. Can you give us some insight into your thoughts/feelings at that time?
All I was dreaming of to get me over that finish line was an authentic pistachio gelato. It really was my drive to the line. So, at that moment I was just reflecting on my season and its culmination. I was pretty broken both mentally and physically.
What’s your biggest takeaway from the 2023 race season?
That with some self confidence, I can achieve more than I set out. I have really surprised myself this year, and I am just keen to take this as inspiration for next year and what I can achieve in cycling.
In your opinion, how can the cycling industry be made more inclusive to attract more women and girls to the sport?
I believe representation is key. If young women and girls can see other women in the sport and in specific disciplines then they can believe to achieve it themselves. Brands need to support women in the sport, and put them in the spotlight alongside their male compatriots.
When training and racing with other women, what are some of the key differences that you see as the best part of women’s cycling culture?
I have some training partners who are so supportive of me, and we really inspire and encourage each other to be better athletes. Similarly, there are some women I race who are hugely encouraging, particularly more established athletes who can see potential in you. I've definitely experienced that this year.
Describe your 2023 race campaign in three words.
Ambitious, adventurous and a lot!
2024 is set to be like 2023 but a little more crazy (if that's even possible). More continents to add to the collection...as well as my first ever ultra race...maybe fatigue will hit me then aha!
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