The coming season is monumental for Beth Morrow personally given her recent travails but, even more pertinently, it's a milestone in Scottish cycling history. 

Today, the Alba Road Team will embark on its first race of the 2024 season and, as the first-ever Scottish women’s pro continental team, their presence could not be more noteworthy.

Scotland has long been bereft of a high-level women’s cycling team but, with Alba’s step up to becoming a pro continental team this season, women’s cycling in this country takes an important step forward.

Morrow is in no doubt as to the significance of having a Scottish women’s team racing at this level for the first time and it was this that played a vital part in her decision to move to Alba, which is led by directeur sportif, Bob Lyons, having spent the past season at English-based DAS-Handsling.

“It’s so good for Scotland to have a team at this level and it being a continental team was a big factor in me joining - I knew I just couldn’t miss out because this is literally part of Scottish cycling history,” 21-year-old Morrow says. 

“I’m very proud to be Scottish so it’s incredible to be a part of this team.

“When I spoke to Bob (Lyons) and he told me his aspirations for the team, it really aligned with my feelings so it’s a great fit.

“Racing for a continental team, you get so many opportunities to be part of big races that you just don’t get in the UK so it’s a big deal.”

That Morrow is racing at all this season is significant given the challenges the Edinburgh rider faced for more than half of last year.

A crash in late 2022 saw Morrow suffer bad concussion and, despite her initial optimism that she’d be back to normal within a matter of weeks, the side-effects lingered for far longer than she could ever have imagined.

Such was the longevity of her symptoms, Morrow managed only three races last season and her prolonged battle to regain health was, she admits, one of the most testing periods of her career.

“I crashed in September of 2022 - I hit my head really badly and instantly, I knew it wasn’t good,” she says. 

“But little did I know how bad it would be and that concussions can be a long-term thing. In the end, it affected me for seven months.

“It was so up and down - I’d have times when my symptoms would ease up but then they’d get much worse again so it was tough. Exercising, socialising, being on a screen, studying and being around people all made it worse – so really, doing everything I enjoyed was hard. 

“I did have moments when I wondered if I would ever fully get better but I didn’t dwell on that too much, you just can’t.

“Then gradually I started getting better and now I’m feeling really good.”

Morrow will be part of the Alba team which will race in the CiCle Classic in Leicestershire today, beginning a race schedule that will see the squad race regularly both in England and in Europe.

As one of the more experienced riders in the 10-strong Alba squad, Morrow, who has been appointed team captain, knows her teammates are relying on her to lead the way this season.

It’s a pressure that Morrow is well aware of but she’s also reluctant to set herself and the squad any concrete targets given this is such new ground they’ll be treading.

“I take a very different place in this team compared to my previous teams,” says Morrow, who combines her cycling career with a degree in urban planning at Loughborough University. 

“I’m one of the more experienced riders and there’s much more pressure on me than I’ve had before so that’s a big change but it’s a very exciting change.

“Hopefully I’ll rise to the challenge and use that pressure positively.

“I don’t have definite targets in terms of positions in races because I don’t find setting goals like that help me. Personally, I just want to race hard and see where that takes me.

“And as a squad, we want to show we’re a team to be reckoned with. We’re hoping to get some podiums but more than anything, we want to use this first season to really make a mark.”

Morrow may harbour ambitions for herself and her team but she knows there is also likely to be a wider impact made by Alba this season.

The very existence of the Alba Road Team acts as an inspiration to any aspiring young female riders in this country and Alba's riders are living proof that, for the first time ever, to make it as a female road racer in this country there is no automatic need to move down south or to Europe.

And that, says Morrow, is huge for the sport in this country.

“When I was a young rider, there were barely any Scottish women’s teams, and certainly none at this kind of level,” she says. 

“So for young Scottish girls to see this opportunity is there is huge – young riders can now see there’s a real pathway for them to progress. I never had that at a young age so it’s amazing young female riders in Scotland now do.”