'I didn't expect any of this' - Cat Ferguson on going from school to the WorldTour

As a first-year junior, Cat Ferguson stunned everyone’s expectations in 2023, including her own

Cat Ferguson in Team GB kit in her home
(Image credit: Andy Jones/Future)

Cat Ferguson was crowned Cycling Weekly's Rising Star for 2023. This exclusive interview originally appeared in the magazine on 7 December. Subscribe now and never miss an issue in 2024. 

To interview Cat Ferguson, you have to wait until 4pm, once she has returned home from her day at school. 

The 17-year-old is in her final year of A-Levels, studying business, sports science and psychology, just like any other student might. Except Ferguson is not like other students her age. Next year, she will finish her exams and join Spanish squad Movistar, one of the top-performing women’s WorldTour teams, becoming one of the youngest riders ever to compete at cycling’s highest level.

“I got a little card today from our head of year saying well done,” she tells Cycling Weekly. But among the other pupils, Ferguson likes to keep her life as a cyclist on the down-low. “They like to talk about it, but I don’t like to talk about it with them at school,” she says. 

The attention, however, is unavoidable when you collect results like Ferguson. Her 2023 tally is as follows: victory at Capernwray in her first-ever senior road race, victory on her Nations Cup debut at the Piccolo Trofeo Alfredo Binda, victory at the junior Tour of Flanders and victory in the British National Championships junior time trial. 

In fact, Ferguson was so consistent this season that she did not finish outside the top 10 in a race until mid-September. All this in her first year as a junior. 

“I completely didn’t expect any of this,” she says, a genuine humility in her voice. “I didn’t expect to be the rising star, which shows that I didn’t expect any of the results. 

“Coming into the year, I was so pleased with where I was. I didn’t expect to win the first Nations Cups and things like that. Then, progressing, I realised where I was and what I could achieve.”

In the junior road race at August’s World Championships, a spirited last-gasp sprint landed Ferguson a silver medal from the group behind the breakaway French winner. After the race, the Brit fell strewn over her handlebars, propped up from falling only by the metal barriers at the side of the road. 

“People were like, ‘Wow, you left that very late.’ But there was no question really in my head. I was going to win for second,” she says. “To me it felt like I was going to win it comfortably.” 

Cat Ferguson wins a three-up bunch sprint in Glasgow

(Image credit: Zac Williams/SWpix.com)

As her road season now draws to a close, Ferguson, who currently rides for her father’s junior team Shibden Hope Tech Apex, has shifted her sights to cyclocross, before she joins Movistar for a winter training camp, and then fully as a trainee in August.

In another life, though, she might have ended up as a slalom skier. “My family are very outdoorsy,” the 17-year-old explains. “We used to go skiing quite a lot when I was little, maybe once or twice a year, to the Alps.

“My parents actually bought a chalet out in Alpe d’Huez that they use as a business, and so we went there loads and I did lots of training on real snow and dry ski slopes until I was about 12. I was quite competitive. I competed at the European Championships and I think I came third.” 

The bug for cycling had already set in, however. Raised in North Yorkshire - Lizzie Deignan country - Ferguson remembers riding mountain bikes with her parents as a child. In a video interview earlier this year, she revealed she was just eight years old when she scaled Alpe d’Huez for the first time. “From hairpin 14!” she is now quick to clarify.

“I think it wasn’t all of it. It was only half, which my parents told me after I said that,” the teenager adds with a laugh. 

Cat Ferguson racing at the British National Championships

(Image credit: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com)

Now, Ferguson is eight months away from turning pro. WorldTour teams, it turns out, have been after her signature since March, with Movistar among a gaggle to contact her throughout the season. 

“I spoke to a couple of teams, maybe about three or four,” she explains. “Then Movistar approached me after Flanders, and I just clicked with them best, to be honest.

“I had lots of Zoom calls with the DS, Seb [Unzué], and got on with him really well. The team’s values and what they offered me was amazing. They’re going to support me to do ’cross and everything, so it was a very clear decision for me.” 

How’s her Spanish? “Very bad,” she laughs. “I did French all the way through school, so it probably expands to hola and gracias. I’m going to try and learn some Spanish out of respect for the staff.” 

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