Trek-Segafredo has signed its newest and youngest recruit – 10 year old Ruby Isaac. The Kettering-based rider who will be a junior advocate on the team is already well known to many cycling fans for her awe-inspiring skills on the rollers, and her mountain biking trickery.
How on earth does a little girl manage to catch and then throw a bag of sweets to a crowd of children while pedalling away on these free-standing cylinders? Which is what she wowed the crowds with when I met her at Cycle Expo Yorkshire.
Racers like Peter Sagan and Anna Van Der Breggen will also know Ruby in her role as a junior reporter, notably from the Tour of California last year.
So where did it all begin? Ruby first learned to ride a bike at the age of six when her grandmother taught her. Shortly after that, she cycled with a local club and it was there that people recommended rollers as a way of cycling indoors that wouldn’t put pressure on her young knees in a way that a turbo trainer might.
So when dad Nick brought home the set of rollers, Ruby quizzically had a go on them, practicing under his careful eye, and she very quickly got to grips with it. Her natural ability and enthusiasm for roller riding led her to develop a plethora of tricks which have been the envy of us adult mortals – be it one-legged no-handed riding, to shooting a ball into the basket backwards while pedalling.
Inspired by videos she had seen of Rochelle Gilmore and notably Vittorio Brumotti doing tricks on their bikes, Ruby began to post videos of herself doing tricks too. It was from there that Specialized, Ruby’s previous sponsor, first started following her on Twitter, and then contacted her about providing her with a bicycle.
Things developed further when Specialized invited Ruby to the Tour of California. Then just when she thought things couldn’t get better, Ruby was approached by American broadcaster NBC to appear with her rollers on a kids’ talent show hosted by the comedian Steve Harvey.
“We were contacted by a man at NBC who’d seen some of Ruby’s [Twitter] posts,” recalls Nick. “He asked if Ruby would like to go on Little Big Shots. We thought it was some kind of wind-up to be honest.”
But riding for Ruby is not just about tricks and entertainment. She also enjoys a bit of racing, having competed on the road in the Junior European Tour of Assen, and in local cyclocross races.
In the 10-year-old’s words: “Cycling is the best sport in the world. I love cycling as there are so many different things you can do. If the road season ends you can go onto the cyclocross season. So it’s not like you’ve got to wait until next year. I like cycling more than anything really.”
It is great to see so much enthusiasm from a youngster, who is care-free and down-to-earth like Ruby. The question is, how do you continue to keep such a young kid’s feet on the ground? After all, she is still a 10-year-old girl who has to go to primary school, do homework, and make sure she eats her vegetables at the dinner table.
Every so often we witness the “child star” that adults laud over, half wanting their own off-spring to do the same – whether it’s Miley Cyrus in pop music, Emma Watson in acting, or Michelle Wie in golf. Sometimes the stars grow into level headed adults; sometimes things go awry.
So how is Ruby’s activity monitored, so that she grows up to do whatever she wants while staying happy and enthusiastic?
Her dad, Nick, says, “Who knows – next week, next year, she might not want to ride a bike again and she might want to do something else. At the moment she’s just enjoying what she’s doing and enjoying the opportunities she’s getting. If Ruby wants to do it when she’s older good luck to her. If she doesn’t, well she’s had a lot of fun, and some great experiences.”
Explaining Trek’s involvement, Tim Vanderjeugd, global marketing manager: “We were introduced to Ruby via Santini, who have a relationship with her. Having someone so young on the team is a first for us. Ruby is a lot of fun on social media and she loves riding bikes so we thought we wanted to be part of that basically.
But he added: “We wanted to keep it informal and very natural and have her have fun out there. She might be done with cycling in a couple of years, she might just go into another sport, but for us we’ll just make sure she has what she needs to have fun on the bike.”
Trek have supplied her with a road bike, and they plan to get her a cyclocross bike and a mountain bike too – as well as kitting her out with accessories such as lights and helmets.
As for her, Ruby’s time is juggling all this with school, and Nick is very clear on where his daughter’s priorities lie.
Nick explains: “We’re quite cautious that Ruby’s school work is the most important thing. If ever that suffered, this [bike riding] would stop straight away.
“It’s not great for other kids seeing her go away during term-time and that’s not fair on them, so the school bit is really important. Some of her classmates know she does things in the cycling world, but they don’t really know what she does. She’s just a little girl who does a few things on her bike.”
In fact, for all the projects that Ruby has been involved in she has hardly missed school. A trip to the World Championships with Santini took place entirely over a weekend, while the trip to Hollywood for Little Big Shots was done during half term.
Depending on commitments, Ruby may go out and join the new Trek-Segafredo women’s team at some of the races [she has already met a number of them on previous occasions], though the involved parties keenly stress that all Ruby’s interactions are very casual without strategic PR goals.
Ruby’s parents are racers and didn’t know anything about the sport when Ruby expressed a wish to get into it after watching cycling on TV. In the past, Nick rode horses professionally, but has never been tempted to ride on the rollers that Ruby really loves.
For Nick, it is just about supporting Ruby doing what she enjoys and keeping her feet on the ground. There is no training plan in place, just a loose routine in which Ruby gets on her bike after school – either on the rollers or out on her BMX at the local skate park with her brother. Sometimes they go to the velodrome in Derby.
One can get too much of a good thing, and there are times when Ruby has to be prized away from her rollers when her parents feel she should get on with other things.
As well as cycling, and her dog Charlie, the Trek Segafredo junior advocate also enjoys going to the Girl Guides. She is yet to get her cycling badge though.