Former Derby student is racing to success

A photo of Rhianna Paris-Smith, GB track cyclist.
Rhianna Parris-Smith in action during day two of the HSBC UK National Track Championships at the Geraint Thomas National Velodrome, Newport. Photo: Zac Goodwin / Alamy

Rhianna Parris-Smith, a 22-year-old former University of Derby student, is a rising star of British track cycling. 

Last year, Parris-Smith was selected by the Great Britain Cycling Team to join their Performance Pathway programme which supports talented young riders in becoming the next stars of British Olympic cycling. 

The Great Britain Cycling Team is renowned as being the most successful Olympic and Paralympic team in British sporting history, and their Performance Pathways supports the development of the country’s promising prospects with a single philosophy; to develop the best performance cyclists and people that they can. 

The academy aims to intensively develop these young riders, evolving them to become a senior bike rider ready to progress on to the podium programme, though it all comes down to ability and performances on the bike. 

The Podium Squad is for those riders who will be selected to compete at elite World and European Championships and the pinnacle being the Olympic Games. 

The Podium Potential Squad, the programme Rhianna is on, is a developmental Programme that prepares riders to compete at the highest level. 

Podium Potential is generally a much less pressured environment, explains Rhianna: 

“You are not expected to medal, you are not expected to set personal bests in each and every race, it is simply learning and gaining experience ready for that move to the Podium Squad.” 

Rhianna has been pushing, working hard, and back in February secured her maiden national title in the women’s time trial discipline in front of a home crowd in Manchester. 

“It really was a surprise! I remember thinking a podium would be great, but I never thought I would be standing on that top step, and even better to have done it in front of my home crowd, it was an unreal buzz. 

“Against adversity when you do get that win it is nice to look back and reflect on where you have come from, where you currently are, and I am very lucky that it has come quickly for me, and it is something that I do not take for granted.” 

A photo of Rhianna Parris-Smith, GB track cyclist.
Rhianna Parris-Smith. Photo: Carl Downing Photography.

Rhianna will not be heading to Paris for this year’s Olympic Games, instead, her focus is making the Podium Squad that will travel to Los Angeles in four years.

Tom Stanton was previously the Head of Performance Pathways, he worked closely with officials at the University of Derby’s Sports Centre when the Great Britain Cycling Team took up residency there last year and was immensely impressed with the facilities. 

“They (University of Derby) are absolutely outstanding and were an excellent partner during our time there, and the velodrome as well in the city is a first-class facility. 

“I was pleased that GB Cycling was able to strike some lasting connections which was the most positive aspect because this means more talents will have more opportunities in the future.”