‘I contacted Elisa Longo Borghini and she replied in 10 minutes’ - how 18-year-old Izzy Sharp forged her WorldTour path

The teenager is about to start her first pro season with Lidl-Trek

Izzy Sharp descending in Lidl-Trek kit
(Image credit: Steel City / Lidl-Trek)

There is no easy route to the top of world cycling. Izzy Sharp knows that. So when, at the age of 17, the Brit was entering her second and final year in the junior ranks, she decided to make her dreams come to her. 

A powerful rouleur and specialist against the clock, the teenager came through the same British Cycling cohort as Zoe Bäckstedt, who joined EF Education-TIBCO-SVB as a stagiaire in August 2022. 

Sharp wanted a pro contract, too. So she picked up her phone, and started reaching out. 

“In December [2022] and January [2023], I decided to contact teams myself and try and do it myself,” she tells Cycling Weekly. “My agent who I’m with now spoke to me back then about wanting to work with me, but my gut just didn’t tell me it was the right time yet.” 

Today, the 18-year-old is gearing up for her first races with Lidl-Trek, one of the top women’s WorldTour teams, with whom she has signed a three-year contract. Negotiations started with a message to one of the team’s most decorated riders. 

“I actually contacted Elisa Longo Borghini because I couldn’t find a contact for Ina[-Yoko Teutenberg, Lidl-Trek sports director], and she replied in like 10 minutes and gave me the email. It’s kind of a big thanks to her that I managed to make the contact.” 

Getting a contract, though, would not be that simple. 

“Ina just said it was way too early to give me anything more than interest,” Sharp recalls. “It was January, you know, the season hadn’t begun.” 

The teenager set out to impress when racing eventually came around in March.

She finished fourth in her first event, won her second at Gent-Wevelgem Juniors, before taking victory in the opening time trial at Omloop van Borsele, a three-stage race she went on to win. 

At the side of the road, watching from the other side of the barriers at Borsele, was three-time time trial world champion and Lidl-Trek rider Ellen van Dijk. 

“The team sent her as like a scout for riders,” Sharp says. “She ended up speaking to me and was asking me questions. 

“Then my agent happened to be at the race and it all started falling into place. Ellen spoke to him, and he ended up getting in contact with Ina. As soon as they showed interest, I said to my agent, ‘That’s the team I want to go with.’ There was no question about it. And that was that.” 

Izzy Sharp with a silver medal at the 2023 world championships

A specialist against the clock, Sharp won silver in the junior time trial at the 2023 World Championships. 

(Image credit: Pauline Ballet/SWpix.com)

This year, Sharp is one of five 18-year-olds at Lidl-Trek. Van Dijk, she says, has joked to her about the age gap between the two of them. “She was like, ‘When I was your age, you were born,’” the teenager laughs. 

"If four years ago someone told me what I’d be doing now, I wouldn’t believe it. But because It’s happening, you just kind of keep going with the flow.” 

Although she is yet to race with her new teammates, Sharp has spent time with them on a trip to Chicago, USA, and a training camp in Spain. One rider she has clicked with is former world champion Lizzie Deignan

“I call her a tech dino[saur],” the 18-year-old laughs. “She’s so useless, honestly. You see her Instagram and you can just tell it’s done by other people.

“I get on with her really well. To be honest, I got home [from the training camp] and my parents were like, ‘Who do you get on with the most?’ And I couldn’t really say. It’s a nice environment where you’re just all one big group. I keep referring to it as like a family. That’s what it feels like.” 

Now, Sharp is less than a month away from her first pro race, the WorldTour-ranked UAE Tour. Coincidentally, last year’s edition was won by Longo Borghini, the rider who helped kickstart the teenager’s path into the squad.  

“It’s pretty mega,” Sharp says of the prospect of racing alongside the Italian. In fact, the whole experience, she says, is “a little bit surreal”.

“It’s the little things, that are so normal for some, but to me are so, so cool,” she says, “like it has my name on my kit and my bag. 

“It makes you feel, I guess, professional, but I still don’t like people calling me it yet. My mum made a joke the other day like, ‘Oh you’re a professional cyclist now,’ and I was like, ‘Don’t say it yet!’” Sharp smiles. “I still feel like little old me from the New Forest.” 

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