A Catch-up with Silky Sprinter Sarah

3 October 2023

Sarah Johnson is a track sprinter who is following on from the success of her sister Kirsty. In July we reported that Sarah had won gold in the European championships, and in August she travelled to Trinidad and Tobago for the Commonwealth Youth Games. Now she has had more time to reflect, we asked her a few questions, and the responses were just fascinating. I hope you enjoy the story of one of our youth ‘graduates’.

Photo: © Unknow

Sarah is a track sprinter carrying on the success of her sister Kirsty.

In July we reported that Sarah had won gold in the European championships, and in August she travelled to Trinidad and Tobago for the Commonwealth Youth Games.

Now she has had more time to reflect, we asked her a few questions, and the responses were just fascinating. I hope you enjoy the story of one of our youth ‘graduates’.

Early cycling memories

I learnt to ride when I was 4 years old and had many adventures. I rode my bike to school on my first day with my dad and my big sister Kirsty. When I was 5 I did my first major ride – the 11-mile family Pedal for Scotland where I remember coming into Murrayfield overjoyed.

Early memories at Edinburgh Road Club

I joined the ERC as soon as I could when I was 8. My first go-ride session was at Inch Park where I immediately made a great friend Livi (we had the same shoes, which was a great 8-year-old conversation starter!). Skills sessions were made so much fun with different types of games, and Pete gave me the nickname “Silky Sarah” which inspired me.


Cyclocross - I started racing cyclocross when I was 9 and I loved the mud. My first race was at Inch Park where my bike was so heavy the marshals pitied me and gave me the monopoly money which won me a voucher for a bike shop. Another memorable race was Lochore Meadows where my (heavy) bike was so covered in mud that I had to carry it for the last half lap. It took me a good couple of years to understand that I was actually racing to win (and not just for the free Haribos)! I only started getting on the podium as a youth C (didn’t reach the top step though).

Road - I remember all of the sessions at Ingliston with rain chucking it down (it was rarely good weather as it’s Scotland). I didn’t start doing well until I was 15 but tried my best and got so much out of the racing.

Track - I went along to Meadowbank with my sister Kirsty for the first time when I was 8. I thoroughly enjoyed it and Ken said to my mum that I was a natural. I got through nearly the whole session before I hit the curb at the bottom of the track and went tumbling over the concrete into the grass. This knocked my confidence a lot. I got back into it but was really anxious - I remember being so happy when I could finally ride around the blue again. I loved the Meadowbank sunsets and feeling the wind on my face. It was the sense of freedom that made me love track. After the 6 p.m. Friday sessions, it would get really cold so my mum would bring me hot Ribena and let me wrap up in her puffy jacket to stay warm.

I decided that I didn't want to try the track again until I was 12 (I was very strong-minded). So 3 years later, as promised, I got back on the track bike (one of the many bikes ERC has been so kind to lend me) and got my accreditation, then I started track racing. I raced because I loved it and when I was 15, I started getting better results.

I was on the GB Sprint Foundation programme 2021-22 where I progressed onto Junior Academy for 2022-23. I chose track sprint because I love zooming around the track at crazy speeds and experimenting with different tactics in match sprints.

(Someone dug out a photo of Kirsty in ERC colours)

2019 Scottish Cycling omnium podium
Sarah, winning silver in 2019


  • School Games 2021 - I loved it, had an amazing time with the team, and Scotland placed 2nd overall
  • Breaking two U16 female Scottish records.
  • The 500mTT (three times!) knocking Kirsty off the record books…sorry!
  • The flying 200mTT
  • Apeldoorn – after 2 weeks of an awful cold I was unsure if I would race at all, but I recovered just in time, and we won the team sprint, I got 4th in the 500mTT and 6th in the keirin.
  • Junior European Championships 2023 - I was hyped to go as I wasn’t sure I'd be selected due to how much training I had missed earlier in the year. But over my exams, I trained really hard and was selected for the team-sprint and 500m TT. Putting that European jersey on felt so surreal! Immediately after the podium, I managed to fall off my road bike in the infield with my jersey and medal on. Everyone's backs turned to look at me which was embarrassing but hilarious at the same time (my teammates and I cried with laughter).
  • Youth Commonwealth Games 2023 – after a great summer I went not knowing the competition, as it was my first multisport games. It was a fantastic experience, and I made some friends while I was there. The Australian coach came up to me and said how much he loved my racecraft. He was very happy that I was a first-year junior alongside his female sprinter, as he can't wait for us to race each other again. To come home with 2 gold medals in the sprint and keirin, and a silver in the 500m TT was unreal and I am honoured to have represented Team Scotland.
The Scottish team at the Youth Commie Games


  • Covid.
  • Sometimes races don’t go to plan. For the Scottish road circuit Champs 2021 my gears had slipped which wasn’t picked up in the pre-race gear check. This was tough for me as I believed I had won. What made it worse was how my mum had to drive me all the way from Wales to Fife for the race and then drive all the way back down with a very upset Sarah to continue our holiday.
  • In the UK Junior keirin track champs 2022 I put so much effort into the race that I deviated from my line, so after winning it, I got relegated to 6th and Kirsty took the title. This was a major learning experience and hopefully, I won't do it again.
  • Not racing the keirin at Euros. Not everyone can be selected for everything so it was hard for me to hear I couldn’t ride my favourite race, but I watched and still learnt a lot from it.

Memorable events

  • Junior European Champs 2023 --> beating Germany by 0.07s to claim the title
  • Youth Commonwealth Games Trinbago 2023 --> standing on the podium and singing Flower of Scotland...twice
  • British Airways lost my bike in transit on the way to Trinidad, so it was a super-stressful six days waiting to hear where it was. In the meantime, Millie and Evie were really kind and lent me their bikes for sessions. My bike turned up in the nick of time which was a great relief (my parents were very happy to have insured it 2 nights before I left)!
A happy Sarah smiling on the podium

Pizza toppings (that is apparently important!)

I don’t do spicy or mushrooms but I’m good with anything else (yes that means pineapple on pizza - people can judge if they want).

Training regime, past present and even future.

I only specialised in track sprint a couple of years ago and before then I did endurance training (road track and cyclocross).

Currently, I am a first year at the GBCT junior academy so I get my training programme from GB which in June consisted of: two 2-hour gym sessions, downhill sprints, track bike starts and explosive turbo efforts as my weekly programme (speed block which prepares my body for competition). I have finished my off-season, so I'm getting back into training which is: three 2-hour gym sessions a week, a turbo session, a 90-minute recovery road ride and one rest day.

Soon I’ll be commuting to Glasgow and back once a week and I'll be doing start sessions over there. Gym and track bike starts are two heavily focused areas for sprint.

Target events this year and in the future.

This year it was Junior Euros, British Champs and Youth Commie Games. I have the Scottish Champs coming up in November and then the British senior track champs in February. I’d love the opportunity to race again for GB at Junior Euros next year in Germany. I’ll also be working towards selection for Junior Worlds in China so I’ve got my work cut out for me.

It would be amazing if by 2026 I am fast enough to go to the Commonwealth Games if it goes ahead.

Career plans, not necessarily cycling.

I’m not sure what I want to do yet but I’m definitely thinking of university, maybe after a gap year to give myself time to decide what I want to do and work out where cycling is going.

What’s exciting to you

Racing - this sounds stupid but even going through a race in my head, thinking about possible race scenarios gets my heart racing. Getting through to the final of a competition is always exciting, even if I don’t end up winning or medalling, it’s still a huge achievement getting there and shows how much hard work pays off.

Other interests

This is my second year in the National Girls Choir of Scotland, which gives me opportunities to perform in front of a range of audiences. The biggest event I have been a part of was the opening concert of the Edinburgh International Festival 2022 where we were invited to sing Carmina Burana.

We were also in a Christmas recording for BBC last December which was exciting as there were loads of cameras everywhere and I got to watch it on Christmas day.

I’ve played the piano for 11 years now but a couple of years ago when cycling started to take up my time, I now just do it for fun and to clear my mind.


Many thanks to our sponsors, The Bicycle Works, Field & Lawn and Goodson Associates.