British New Wave: Captain Britain - Pfeiffer Georgi's breakthrough season

New national champion Pfeiffer Georgi is still only 21. In the first of a series of interviews with Britain’s emerging golden generation of women, she speaks to Owen Rogers about her breakthrough year

Pheiffer Georgi
(Image credit: Andy Jones for Future)

This article forms part of a week of women's focused stories, in celebration of our Women's Special edition of Cycling Weekly Magazine, one sale from Thursday, March 10. See the full schedule of upcoming articles here.

We only needed to ask Pfeiffer Georgi one question about her National Championships win when we speak to her a few weeks after her Lincoln success. Her eyes light up and without further prompting she recounts every detail.

How she felt about the cold wet weather; “Yay, this is what I like!” About forming the winning break first time up the cobbled Michaelgate climb; “I knew that positioning was crucial, so I made sure I was right at the front and it actually split there.” 

About her mid-race plans; “I didn’t think that if it came to the bottom last time up that I would win, so I was planning an attack.” And how those plans changed: “I had a switch in my head and I thought maybe I could win this… but I was trying to play it cool and be patient, and be prepared to lose to win.

“I didn’t want to settle for less, I didn’t want to aim for the under-23 jersey, I wanted to win. I was at the level when I could, but I don’t think I really believed that I would because not everyone gets to win nationals in their career and I thought that won’t happen to me.

“But my coach and my team-mates and Albert [Timmer, DSM sports director] were telling me to believe that I could win, so I think some of the confidence came from them.”

This year Georgi has become an integral part of the lead-out for DSM’s sprinter Lorena Wiebes, often directing operations as road captain. She finished sixth at the Women’s Tour, put in a strong ride at the world championships, and five weeks before winning in Lincoln scored a maiden professional victory at La Choralis Fourmies.

Pfeiffer Georgi

Pfeiffer Georgi wins the 2021 National Championships road race

(Image credit: Getty)

Cycling is in Georgi’s blood. Her grandfather rode until he lost his sight, her Dad, Peter still races and is a former European masters track champion, her brother, Etienne raced for Team Wiggins, and her mum occasionally rides local time trials. It’s fair to say cycling has always been part of the family routine.

“At the weekends we’d always go out on club runs, and when I was training more seriously it was nice to have my brother and my Dad for some good strong company.”

Aged around four, her initial foray into racing on the track didn’t go well. “I didn’t quite get the concept that you couldn’t stop pedalling, so I stopped and I got flung over the handlebars and I cut my arms and legs and I said ‘I’m never doing this again!'”

But she did, and two years later rode her first road race at the Castle Coombe race track in Wiltshire, finishing as third Under 8. Her dad was also third in E/1/2 that day and brother Etienne 11th in the U11s, while other notable rides that day saw future Olympic star Elinor Barker finish fifth in the U14, two places behind fellow future Olympian Owain Doull.

“Every Thursday night I’d race there and it was fun because we had a good group of us kids because we’d race and then we’d go into the park and then we’d play games and eat fish and chips, it was  a social thing. I still loved it when I had to start training more seriously even at junior, I never felt like I had to do it, or pressure from parents, I never felt that. And now I still love training and that’s one of the best bits about my job I think, I love winter training and going out in the cold and finding new roads.”

Pfeiffer Georgi and family 2020

Cycling is a family thing

(Image credit: Future)

Riding for Mid Devon CC, her first win came later that year and over the ensuing seasons victory became a regular thing, dragging her parents all over the country, racing road and track, steadily gaining experience and endurance. 

As she grew her dad and fellow club member Mark Dolan, established Liv-Halo Films, a club team designed to ease the transition for the group of girls which included both their daughters, Georgi joined by Lauren Dolan, who went on to win a bronze medal in the mixed team relay at the 2019 worlds.

The team was dominant, the girls competing and winning on road and track, and when they were granted a surprise entry to the 2017 Junior Ghent-Wevelgem Georgi brought them a foreign win. Second in the next round of the Nations Cup, the three day Omloop van Borsele, Georgi finished 2017 seventh in the junior worlds time trial and sixth in the road race.

Her second Junior year bought a move to the British Cycling Academy and more international success in the Nation’s Cup, with three victories, and, she signed for Sunweb for 2019. 

Ambition

Annoyingly talented, polite, intelligent and engaging, maybe a constant eye on the future is Georgi’s only fault. “I was thinking about learning for next year because I have got another opportunity,” she told us shortly after her top 10 performances at the Bergen Junior worlds in 2017.

“She always looks forward to the next one,” says her DSM director, Timmer. “After the win in France I asked what she was going to do and she says ‘Go to bed and go to sleep.’ I told her you also need to stop and celebrate when you have won a race, that’s what you train for.

“But she’s really ambitious, she wants to step up and win races, but at the same time she also looks to how the team can win races.” This ability to see the big picture and a tactical astuteness which belies her age has seen the team use Georgi increasingly as road captain,

“This year the lead out was more down to Pfeiffer than Lorena, and they did quite a lot together they are on a really high level,” Timmer continues. "She’s crazy young and if you see what she has already done, especially in the second part of this season, not only physically, but as a person she’s made really big steps.”

A week after nationals, deep into October when others might have been dreaming of drinks on the beach, Georgi debuted her British champion’s jersey at Ronde van Drenthe with a ride which encapsulated her 2021 season.

Road captain again, she instigated a late break with Alice Barnes (Canyon-SRAM), who she had deposed as national champion, and stayed at the front when they were caught 13km from the line. After helping bring back a dangerous three woman break, she then led out sprinter Wiebes for the win, finishing sixth herself.

DSM women's team 2022

(Image credit: Getty Images)

It’s a far cry from her first visit to the Dutch event in 2019, her second after joining Sunweb aged just 18, her first WorldTour race and her first 100 mile ride.

“I remember that being the most crazy race,” she reflects. “I crashed five kilometres in and then it was just crosswinds and it took me an hour to get back to the front, and I only ate like two gels the whole race. I didn’t know anything. 

“I got dropped so many times but kept fighting to get back and trying to do what I could for the team. I completely exploded on some of the last cobbled sections because I hadn’t eaten and it had been so hard. So that was a massively different feeling compared to Drenthe this year where I felt like I’m part of the race.”

“This feels like my first proper season,” she explains. “The first year elite I was still doing my A Levels, and last year I barely raced, with COVID, so having a consistent block of training and a full calendar of racing has really brought me on.

“I started getting more results and I was getting more leadership and being captain everything built. Confidence is a big thing.” 

So what of the future? “I want to be good for 10 years. I want to be a strong Classics rider and win races like Flanders and Roubaix and my dream is to be road world champion.”

This article forms part of a week of women's focused stories, in celebration of our Women's Special edition of Cycling Weekly Magazine, one sale from Thursday, March 10. See the full schedule of upcoming articles here.

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Owen Rogers is an experienced journalist, covering professional cycling and specialising in women's road racing. He has followed races such as the Women's Tour and Giro d'Italia Donne, live-tweeting from Women's WorldTour events as well as providing race reports, interviews, analysis and news stories. He has also worked for race teams, to provide post race reports and communications.