At eleven-years-old Sophie has accomplished more in virtual cycling than most riders twice her age and has earned the confidence and respect of the cyclists she leads.
“How cool would it be if ten-year-old Sophie was the ride leader for the BMTR Short Adventure?” Jim thought to himself. Jim Nelson, the assistant director of BMTR, was amazed by how well Sophie stayed with the group of over 550 riders at such a young age.
The BMTR Zwift team of over 2,000 members was founded in 2016. “We have two types of people on our rides,” Jim explains, “friends we know and friends we are getting to know.” He approached Sophie, and her dad Andrew, a frequent BMTR ride participant, with the idea, and they were thrilled.
Sophie led her first ride in August of 2021, the final ten minutes of a BMTR group of several hundred. She wasn’t new to Zwift, and it showed in her skill and poise when encouraging, guiding, and interacting with the group of seasoned cyclists.
Sophie began Zwifting in April 2020 at the age of nine. “I had been regularly Zwifting since the start of the year, and Sophie was constantly showing an interest in getting involved,” her father states proudly.
Andrew modified his daughter’s bike to fit his spare Tacx Flow trainer, and off she went. Sophie took her first virtual ride on April 15, 2020, covering 7 miles in a bit over 36-minutes.
Sophie’s perseverance and love of virtual cycling began to take shape. The following month she climbed the Alpe du Zwift. “Sophie only started to see how far she could go,” remarks Andrew. The climb took her over three hours, but the time was irrelevant to him, “Sophie’s determination was already showing.”
It didn’t stop there, and in June 2020, Sophie took her longest ride to date. She wanted to do a long ride to support Andrew, who had decided to tackle the daunting PRL Full. “It was such a big mental push for my PRL attempt,” notes Andrew, who watched his daughter ride 25 laps of the Volcano circuit and cover 70 miles in 5 and a half hours.
Sophie joined her first group ride a month later. She handled herself well during the 90-minute Ascenders Team Social. The ride leader, Bill “Buddy the Elf” Aslin, and sweeper Jim Nelson were beginning to take notice.
Now ten, Sophie decided to test herself with another trip up the Alpe in April 2021—a year removed from her initial attempt. She crested the climb in an hour and ten minutes, a significant improvement and ten minutes faster than dad’s personal best. She set a new sub-:60 goal, but not before her most significant challenge so far.
She finished the 7,800′ of climbing alongside her dad, who concedes he wouldn’t have done it without her, “Sophie helped me mentally complete the final climb. Watching her keep pushing kept me going.”
The young cyclist looked for ways to challenge herself and graduated to the biggest climb on Zwift in July 2020. Sophie climbed Ven Top during L’Etape du Tour and completed the 27-mile stage in three and a quarter hours while climbing over 5,000′. Her father marveled at “the mental strength it took to complete.”
“It was my last badge and one that filled me with dread,” admits Andrew. The thought of grinding up the Alpe after 100km of riding put him off. Sophie added the Uber Pretzel badge to her collection by riding over 88 miles in a bit more than nine hours.
Sophie was born and raised in Burton on Trent, Staffordshire, England. She is a dancer and attends classes a few days a week—jazz, ballet, and musical theater. “She is also keen on art,” according to Andrew, “and often speaks of designing a cycling brand when she is older and cycling competitively.”
Sophie plans to begin her indoor track cycling career when she turns twelve. Her father is confident because “Zwift has given her a huge platform to build on.” So has recently completing all eight stages of the Tour de Zwift.
Until then, Sophie enjoys Zwifting with her father and six-year-old brother, Jacob. Jacob has joined his sister and dad for the past six months. “It’s been huge for him having a form of epilepsy,” Andrew shares, “that makes biking outdoors dangerous.”
For now, Sophie hopes her father and brother join her as she unlocks the Tron bike. She is 85% done. “My first Tron will definitely be Pink!” Sophie states excitedly.
She was also excited when her father upgraded her setup to a Wattbike Atom. “She loves Zwift and exercise, so I decided to get her a bike she could grow up with,” he proudly explains.
Sophie has grown to use it well, especially when asked to lead the BMTR Short Adventure on February 6 for a full twenty minutes. “Eleven years old leading a group ride with over 550 adults,” Jim Nelson remarks in amazement, “Wow!”
Whenever asked, Sophie embraces the opportunity. She isn’t intimidated but instead encouraged by leading the large group of more experienced cyclists. The positive response from the community drives her passion for virtual cycling.
Sophie’s ride companions comment that they use her as an example for their children. Her father, Andrew, feels that is the ultimate goal and a primary reason for his daughter’s motivation and determination.
“Sophie inspires them, which is massive for us,” he says. For Sophie and Andrew, it is simple and comes down to “if it encourages one person to get off the couch or one child to take a break from video games and take up Zwift.”
Do you think you could do it?
Leading a group of over 500 riders is a very tricky proposition. Do you think you could do it as well as Sophie? Comment below!
For more inspirational and interesting stories highlighting the extraordinary ordinary members of virtual cycling check out the Community page of The ZOM!
Semi-retired as owner and director of his private Orthopedic Physical Therapy practice after over 20 years, Chris is blessed with the freedom to pursue his passion for virtual cycling and writing. On a continual quest to give back to his bike for all the rewarding experiences and relationships it has provided him, he created a non-profit, and through its work and the pages of this site, Chris is committed to helping others with his bike. His gain cave is located on the North Fork of Long Island where he lives with his beautiful wife and is proud of his two college student children.