THE Chemistry degree is going to have to wait a while. Anna Shackley may get around to taking up her place at Glasgow University one day but for now she has more pressing matters to attend.

The Milngavie cyclist’s career trajectory has been as steep as some of the mountain climbs she wants to conquer in the years ahead.

The last three years have seen the 19 year-old progress from Scottish Cycling’s Junior Development Programme to a place in the GB Senior Academy team in Manchester. Along the way she has proved to be comfortable mixing junior races with occasional forays into senior level. At last year’s Women’s Tour of Scotland, she claimed a creditable 13th place, a feat that made her the top British rider in the field.

Even when competitive racing hasn’t been possible in recent months, Shackley still found a way to progress. Signing a two-year deal to join the Dutch-based SD Worx Cycling team (currently known as Boels-Dolmans) early in 2021 will allow her to fulfil her dream of competing in the Women’s World Tour.

Beyond that, she already has one eye on representing Scotland at the 2022 Commonwealth Games, while an Olympic appearance remains another aspiration. Little wonder with all that going on that she feels confident enough to focus all her attention on cycling for the time being.

“My long-term goals are to podium in the hilly classic races as I love the climbing aspect of cycling,” she said. “And it’s also been a dream of mine to compete in the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games. So those are things that I’d love to do one day.

“I deferred my place at Glasgow Uni last year for Chemistry and I’m trying to do the same again for this year. If I can’t do that I’ll definitely reapply to do it later on in my career.

“But at the moment I want to fully commit to cycling for the next few years. You can go to uni at any age but with cycling you’ll have to retire eventually. So I need to give everything to cycling while I can.”

Shackley will enjoy some illustrious company at SD Worx, with future teammates set to include Olympic champion Anna van der Breggen and world champion Chantal van den Broek-Blaak.

The former Glasgow Riderz cyclist sounds genuinely shocked to have been asked and didn’t have to take too long to think about it, even if it will mean leaving the GB Academy at the end of the year.

“That was really a surprise getting that contract,” she added. “I had always wanted to go to the World Tour but I just didn’t expect it to be next year.            

“My coach used to be part of the team and they approached her looking for riders. She put a few of us forward and they looked at my power files and my training and asked me. And it was quite an easy decision for me to make! This ticks all the boxes.

“I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into some World Tour races. And it will be great to pick the brains of the other riders with all their experience.

“It will be a little bit daunting as I’ll be one of the youngest in the team. But I’m more excited to get over there and start doing some big races. I’ll be off the Academy programme next year but I’m hoping to keep a few ties there.”

She has already received some valuable pointers closer to home from fellow Milngavie cyclist, Katie Archibald, the Olympic, world, European and Commonwealth champion.

“I did a few races with Katie last year and she’s someone I’ve looked up to,” admitted Shackley. “She’s got so much experience and is always willing to chat about everything. She’s very open and very easy to talk to and I’ve found that a big help.”

A year that began with Shackley becoming a two-time British champion on the track will get going again this week when she competes for the British under-23 team in the UEC Road European Championships in Plouay, France.

“It will be good to just get back into racing,” she said. “I feel that there’s not too much pressure on me because technically it’s my first road race of the season. I’m just excited to get back into it.

“I had been looking forward to the start of the race season earlier in the year as we had been out in Belgium before lockdown happened.

“But I’ve actually enjoyed the last few months. I’ve never had this long a training block before without interruptions for races and other things. So I’ve noticed a big improvement over the summer. But it will be great just getting back on the bike again.”