Sport Liverpool Performance Programme: Lucy

Posted on: 19 April 2024 by Richard Finch in Student experiences

Meet Lucy Nelson, a University of Liverpool student and High-Performance Athlete who talks about her experience as a track and road cyclist and plans for the future.

The University of Liverpool has a long history of supporting students with a sporting talent to achieve both academically and within their chosen sport. Sport Liverpool, through its Performance Sport department provides the resources and technical support to talented students to enable them to realise their full potential.

Gillian Higgins, Sport Development Officer – Performance, recently sat down with Lucy Nelson, a High-Performance Athlete who is a track and road cyclist to explore her journey to date and her plans for the future.

Since joining the Performance programme Lucy has achieved many milestones, Lucy is currently the Reigning British University Colleges Sport (BUCS) National Track Champion – Points Race and recently won a silver medal in the British Cycling National Durney Championships.


What was your sporting journey like prior to joining the Performance Programme?

I started cycling with my brother and sisters when I was 5 years old at our local cycling club, Lichfield CCC. I raced my whole youth and junior years but during my A-Levels I had a string of injuries which ultimately resulted in losing my passion for the sport! My older sister, the current Elite European champion at the time, told me to take my bike to uni and join the cycling club as a way of making friends. I ended up as the president of the cycling club the following year and then started a triathlon section of the club the next year. Encouraging so many people to try the sport and keeping them involved made me realise I still wanted to go to races and compete not just watch and manage the club. I entered BUCs track in 2022, got a bronze medal in the points race, ended up on the performance programme from that and never looked back!


How have you found life as a dual career student and balancing your studies?

Last year I started a postgraduate course here at Liverpool that just wasn’t right for me. It was full-time and I was trying to balance competing internationally for the first time and everything got too much. I then got ill and injured likely stemming from the stress I had put myself under! I reached out to Steve, the performance programme psychologist, and we came up with a plan to fix everything. I changed courses and dropped down to part-time leaving me with more time to focus on both the academics and the sport and I am finding everything much more manageable now, its not easy to balance at times but it has all been worthwhile.


What has been the biggest benefit of joining the performance sport programme?

The biggest benefit for me has been the S&C programme. I’ve been working with David on a 121 basis with a personalised plan for each different section of my season for road and track and I have seen so many benefits in my overall fitness and transferable power on the bike. The other support services of Sport Psychology and Nutrition support, Danny and Steve has been extremely supportive and has helped me to change my mindset and habits which overall has made me a fitter and mentally stronger athlete. I honestly feel so grateful to have this brilliant team of experts around me who I trust and who believe in me and my goals.

I am also lucky enough to receive a sporting grant from the university which enabled me to take the first step in competing abroad last year. Without the financial support I received to do those first-year races abroad I would never have gained enough recognition or reputation to get invited to some of the much bigger international events!


We always talk about the successes, but what has been the hardest part of your journey to date?

Last season I was in my prime fitness and was racing at a big international event in Italy. After 3 days of racing in the final event of the classification I was involved in a big crash and got taken to hospital. I suffered from a bad concussion and had ligament damage to both my ankles, shoulder and hand plus some horrible face wounds. I’d just about healed up, went off to Belgium to start a 3-week road block, and had an event Marshall wrongfully stand in the middle of the road with 100 cyclists coming towards him at 40kph. Someone crashed into him, and I got taken down by the other riders crashing, once again damaging my ankle ligament. It was a horrific 8 weeks, I had to end my season early and go through all the rehab and recovery. It was also super hard mentally, knowing there was absolutely nothing I could have done to prevent crashing in either situation so feeling like the world was against me and someone out there just didn’t want me to race!

What does the next year look like for you in terms of competition?

I have recently signed my first professional contract on the road for the Irish UCI Continental Team Torelli, so I will be a lot more road focused this year! I will be out racing in Belgium a lot and I even get the opportunity to race RideLondon Classique in May, a Women’s World Tour event, so one of the highest classification of races in women’s road cycling. The main chunk of my track season has nearly finished now, I have British Cycling Elite Nationals at the end of February and then BUCS National Track Championships at the start of March, then the main focus will switch to road with a few outdoor track races over the summer, before starting up the indoor track season again in September.

What is your ultimate goal?

I want to make a career out of cycling! I think it’s easy to say I want to be World Champion or Olympic Champion, but ultimately, I just want to be paid enough to make a living out of racing my bike and see where this journey takes me. Women’s cycling is growing so much that this is now a possibility as a road rider. For the track, I want to work my way up to being one of the top world class Six Day riders! I just got 2nd overall at Six Days Bremen, so keeping on building in this and hopefully I can get the top spot in the next few years!

Do you have any advice for any aspiring student athletes out there?

It is fully possible to be both an international athlete and go to university! I never would have imagined I would be where I am today when I first arrived in Liverpool 4 years ago, take every opportunity, get involved and use all the facilities and resources that you have available! The support helps so much in being able to balance both sport and academics, and if you are struggling to balance everything, speak up and get the help, everyone wants to help you succeed!

Click here to find out more about the Sport Liverpool Performance Programme.