Cyclist Makaira Wallace climbs UCI rankings after debut European stint

TT and JLD Cycling Academy cyclist Makaira Wallace in action at a Grand Prix in Czech Republic recently.  - Courtesy Makaira Wallace
TT and JLD Cycling Academy cyclist Makaira Wallace in action at a Grand Prix in Czech Republic recently. - Courtesy Makaira Wallace

Makaira Wallace’s first competitive stint on the European circuit propelled her 27 places up the International Cycling Union (UCI) women’s elite individual sprint rankings, from 113th to 86th.

After three grand prix events in Prague, Czech Republic, in May, the 18-year old accumulated 216 UCI points towards qualification for senior events in 2025.

Wallace is in her final year as a junior cyclist and is putting in the work beforehand, to hit the ground pedalling when she joins the women’s top flight in January.

At the Junek Grand Prix on May 4 and 5, the speedster placed eighth in both sprint and keirin events. Six days later, at the Framar Grand Prix, she pedalled to seventh (sprint) and ninth (keirin) and then closed off her European campaign with an 11th place finish in the Grand Prix Praha.

Wallace returned home on May 15 and described her first trek across the globe as a “great learning experience.”

“It was my first time in Europe and racing against any European girls, plus the first time racing on an outdoor track. I got some really good UCI points towards qualification and competing in bigger events next year at the World Cups. It’s a nice jump on the rankings for me,” she said.

Wallace is a double-Commonwealth Youth Games medallist, claiming women’s keirin silver and 500-metre time trial bronze at last year’s event held in TT.

Despite the chilly weather and stiff competition from international riders in Prague, she hailed the “exhausting” week a “rewarding” one.

“I learnt that you really have to push through the races because it’s a lot easier to give up. Through the rounds, you just have to keep going because it’s a long day of racing, especially the keirin. One day I did four keirin races in a row.”

Wallace was joined by her JLD Cycling Academy club coach and two-time Olympian Njisane Phillip and her mom, Cori.

Wallace said she was kept motivated by Phillip during the lengthy sprint and keirin rounds.

“I coped well. Njisane helped me a lot in between, just talking over how to execute the race that I wanted to, depending on where I pull (opponent). In between, going on the rollers, cooling down a bit, warming back up and keeping my legs rolling. It was kind of cold there so keeping warm was top priority, and keeping a clear mind.”

Wallace was on the track again from May 17-19 at the National Track Cycling Championships at the National Cycling Centre in Couva. There, she aimed for Junior Pan American qualification times in the sprint, keirin and 500m time trial events.

Phillip, who retired from pro competitive cycling in 2022 after an incredible local, regional and international run, was pleased that Wallace could experience a higher level of racing in a different environment.

He wants to properly prepare his athlete for the big stage.

“It all comes down to UCI points when dealing with the Nations Cup and qualification for the World Championships and other events. Our goal, as she is a last-year junior, and the UCI allows them to ride knee-deep races, so we’re trying to accumulate as much points we can this year, so come February 2025, we are able to participate in the Nations Cup,” he said.

When that time comes, she would already have some experience and UCI points, and if she’s ranked within the top 40 women, Wallace would also be eligible for elite athlete assistance funding from the TT government.

Overall, Phillip was pleased with the tenacity shown by Wallace up against the likes of tough Polish and other international racers.

“The top five women we were racing against are basically going to the Olympics 2024, so it was very good competition for her. I’m very proud of her for stepping up and getting the experience racing and getting used to that level of competition.

“She did great. Our objective basically was top ten places when we got out there. We were able to jump our ranking, which is a major thing, especially for the development of women’s cycling in TT. Now we’re in a better position to ride at the Nations Cup,” Phillip said.

Phillip credited Sport Company’s (SporTT) Elite Development and Performance Unit (EDPU) for playing an integral role in Wallace strength and conditioning, and mental development as a soon-to-be elite cyclist.

He added, “SporTT’s EDPU have helped us tremendously. They do Makaira’s gym programme and spend a lot of time with analysing, making tweaks with myself, to improve performance. Push her in every way that we can try to get a one per cent gain. She also uses the psychology services at the EDPU as well which is helping her to manage races and those mental tricks that kinda happen.”

Strong performances from Wallace over the next couple months will also aid her quest to qualifying for the Junior World Cycling Championships, to be held in China from August 21.

Junior Pan Ams ride off in Lima, Peru, from June 18-21.


"Cyclist Makaira Wallace climbs UCI rankings after debut European stint"

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