ONLY a few years ago, Beth Morrow described herself as looking like “a goon” on a bike.

So it says much for the speed of her progress that over the coming week she will be racing in the most prestigious women’s bike race in this country, the Women's Tour.

The race is the UK’s leading international stage race and Morrow, who is a member of the CAMS-Basso team, will be riding alongside the likes of reigning national champion Georgi Pfeiffer, UCI world hour record holder Joss Lowden and former champions Kasia Niewiadoma and Coryn Labecki.

Morrow, who is just 19, admits being on the biggest stage of all is surreal.

“I’m very excited. Riding the Women’s Tour has been a goal of mine for so long so it’s incredibly exciting to be actually doing it,” the Edinburgh athlete says. “It’s a huge race to be a part of and such a good experience to be alongside such big names.

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“I’m expecting it to be very, very hard but I feel like I’m in good shape and the racing I’ve done over the past few months has stood me in good stead so I think I know what to expect.”

As recently as 2018, Morrow was only riding her bike once a week. She began her sporting career as a runner before transitioning into triathlon and it was her natural strength on the bike in the latter that planted the seed that perhaps she should give cycling a go.

Success was far from immediate but there was something about cycling that encouraged her to continue despite being a long way from the top of the pile.

“I was relatively good at athletics when I was growing up. I was at national level but I was nothing special. But I used to get ridiculous anxiety even though I wasn’t that good so I often didn’t really enjoy it,” the teenager says.

“I’d grown up cycling with my family so I had a good base but I had absolutely no speed and so when I started racing, everyone seemed so fast and I was getting lapped time and time again.

“I didn’t get disheartened, although I don’t know why not because I probably should have. 

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“My expectations of myself were very low and that helped and even though I wasn’t doing that well, I still enjoyed it and so that’s why I stuck with it. And I had a lot of support and people telling me I had potential.”

In 2018, Morrow joined her local cycling club, Edinburgh Road Club, as well as a Scottish Cycling development project.

It was the following year, however, that things began to really take off. She was invited to join the Scottish Cycling programme and began racing more seriously, although with little of the professional equipment and what she describes as a highly suspect technique, Morrow is disparaging about how she must have looked.

But as her performances improved, so too did the number of people who recognised her talent which last year led to her being signed by Storey Racing, the team led by Paralympic champion, Sarah Storey.

It was, however, her move this season to the UCI Continental team, CAMS Basso, that has allowed the teenager to make the move into the big time.

A disrupted winter caused by a knee injury and a bout of Covid was not what she had planned but the first months of being a professional cyclist has been a thrill as well as a steep learning curve.

“It’s been amazing to be a part of a pro team. The team is really good fun, it’s a great environment and I’m really enjoying the process,” says Morrow, who is studying urban planning at Loughborough University. 

“I feel like I’m improving loads. It was hard at the beginning of the season because I didn’t feel as prepared as I wanted to be because of the injury and Covid setbacks and that’s not a nice feeling. And I’m not all that confident in my ability even when things are going well never mind when they’re not.  But I still did okay and that really helped my confidence.

“You can’t always be on top form so you need to learn to race even when things aren’t perfect. That’s where my inexperience shows. I’d never had the experience of turning up to a race and not feeling fully prepared so it was a good lesson for me.”

Morrow’s sole focus is on this week’s Women’s Tour, which begins in Colchester today and ends in Oxfordshire on Saturday, but her longer-term goals include making it to the top level of her sport.

“I have goals about what I’d like to do if I could become a full-time, professional cyclist. Becoming a pro is the aim but for now, I’m just loving the process and as long as I keep improving, that’s the main thing. But I want to keep moving up and a World Tour team is definitely the main aim in the longer term.”