National champion Imogen Cotter secures professional deal

Clare native has joined Belgian-registered Plantar-Pura team for next year

Just over a month after winning the women’s national road race championship, Imogen Cotter has confirmed that she has signed a professional contract with the Belgian-registered Plantar-Pura team for next year. The 28-year-old Clarewoman had competed with the Keukens Redant team in Belgium this season and also did some online racing with the Movistar eRacing team, but will now switch to UCI Continental team Plantar Pura for 2022.

“Keukens Redant is an amazing team and has been such a great place for me to grow as a cyclist,” Cotter told The Irish Times. “To be able to make a lot of mistakes and to learn without heavy pressure on me. But what I’ve picked up over the last couple of months is that when I’ve been in an environment, such as when I’ve been representing Ireland, and we’ve had a good DS [sporting director], then I realised how important that was. With Keukens Redant, I just went into races without [that guidance]… They don’t say, ‘okay, here’s where you need to be at this part of the race, here’s who needs to be in front, blah blah blah.’ I don’t have that with them. And I know that since I’ve had that with the Cycling Ireland setup, it makes me a different rider.

“So I’m just looking forward to working with Heidi Van De Vijver, the DS with Plantur-Pura. She’s so brilliant, and she knows so much about racing. I’m just looking forward to learning everything from her and being able to follow what she tells me to do. And also the other girls on the team are really experienced riders. So I’ll just be throwing myself in the deep end again, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what I can do.”

Cotter is a former runner who took up the sport in 2017 after a Cycling Ireland talent transfer ID programme identified her potential. She initially found the going tough but was supported and guided by a number of people, including her maternal uncle Jamie McGahan. The Scot had a strong history as an amateur rider, becoming the first rider from the UK to win the Rás Tailteann when he triumphed in 1981.


She continued to improve and reached an important milestone on October 2nd. She was part of the decisive break in the national road race championships and then outsprinted Megan Armitage (Team Rupelcleaning - Champion Lubricants) and Linda Kelly (Barrow Wheelers) to the line.

That result plus her new contract shows the progress she has made in the sport. Cotter had hoped to compete with Movistar’s planned gravel racing team in 2022 but when that project didn’t proceed, she was offered a contract with a Spanish team Massi-Tactic. She told The Irish Times that Movistar’s bike supplier Canyon wanted her to remain on its machines and so it reached out to Plantur-Pura, who also uses the same bikes.

Cotter had previously worked with Van De Vijver when she was with the Ciclotel team in 2020. While that season was disrupted by the pandemic, she will hope to have a lot more competition next year. The squad is the women’s wing of the Alpecin Fenix team and will ride many important races.

Women’s cycling is still growing and a considerable number of teams don’t pay a wage. Cotter said that she was pleasantly surprised to see that things will be different with Plantur-Pura. She said that this will change her approach to the sport.

“Maybe when I haven’t been getting paid, I’ve been…well, not holding back a bit, but you would be thinking, ‘oh, will I take this risk? Where should I be? What should I do here?’ Whereas now, it is your job. You have to step up to the mark. I’m actually looking forward to having that kind of…well, pressure is the wrong word, but I’m looking forward to having that…that goal, I suppose, of knowing, ‘hey, I’m getting paid to do this. So let’s go, let’s do it.’