Born into a cycling family within earshot of a velodrome, Pfeiffer Georgi, 22, made a splash last year by finishing ninth in Paris–Roubaix Femmes avec Zwift. The youngest rider in the top 20, the Brit showed her flair for the cobblestones, having earlier won Gent–Wevelgem Juniors. Team DSM’s power rider, whose given name is a nod to the actress Michelle Pfeiffer, has just stepped up her game by clinching her first World Tour race, the classic Brugge–De Panne, on 23 March. The Glostonian talks about her love affair with the Northern classics ahead of the Hell of the North, where she is aiming for a top 5.
Is it true that you prefer riding in the cold than in warm weather?
I prefer racing in the rain… except in Paris–Roubaix! For most of the other classics, I like it when it rains, it makes things harder and more spectacular. When you grow up in the UK, you get used to it. I think I’ve always been like that. At the same time, it’s not like we have a choice over there. Most days are pretty bad, so if you want to ride, you have to go out. But now I live in Girona, Spain, and I just spent my first full winter there. I didn’t miss the cold of Gloucestershire at all.
You were born in London, a stone’s throw away from Herne Hill Velodrome, which hosted the track events in the 1948 Olympics.
That’s right, my parents worked in London and were members of the Herne Hill cycling club. That’s how I got into cycling. They took me to the velodrome and put me on a bike! I was 4 at the time. A year later, we moved to Berkeley, to the south of Gloucester.
Tell us about your love story with the cobbled classics. You won Gent–Wevelgem Juniors, the premier cobbled classic in this age category. And it was in Fourmies, not far from the start of Paris–Roubaix Femmes avec Zwift, that you claimed the first of your three professional victories back in 2021.
Gent–Wevelgem Juniors was my first time on the cobblestones. I really wasn’t expecting to win! It made me want to ride on the cobblestones and charge up little punchy climbs more often. This attraction only grew stronger over the years, when we came back with the British national team. And, by the time I turned pro with Team Sunweb [in 2019], this type of races was already my favourite, even though I still had to discover what kind of rider I was.
Is winning Gent–Wevelgem Juniors the reason for this attraction or does it go further back?
I think it comes from earlier. My whole family cycles. We used to watch cycling on TV, especially the Tour of Flanders and Paris–Roubaix. For me, they were the most exciting races. Even though I had never ridden on cobblestones, my love for them precedes my victory in Gent–Wevelgem Juniors.
Your childhood idol is said to be Lizzie Deignan, who happens to be the first winner of Paris–Roubaix Femmes avec Zwift.
Lizzie and Marianne Vos were my two childhood heroines. I remember the 2012 Olympics, when I was racing in the European Cycling Tour in Assen. Vos won and Lizzie came in second. I think having a British role model was… [Georgi pauses to look for the right words] I don’t know how to put it, but Lizzie has always been someone I’ve admired. I wanted to be like her. Her Paris–Roubaix win was amazing. We crossed paths at the Worlds in Leuven [in 2021]. It was really special for me because I’ve always wanted to do what she does.
What do you remember about the first edition, where you finished 58th, twelve minutes behind Deignan?
Pain, pain and more pain! It was a very wet edition. I think the first cobblestones were dry, but after that, there was only mud. I crashed several times and spent the whole race on the back foot. I was suffering, my legs ached. It was just hectic.
Finishing ninth in the next edition, a few months later, must have come as a big, wonderful surprise.
After my first experience, I had gnawing doubts that I could ever do well in this race —it just seemed too hard. So yes, this top 10 came out of the blue! It’s one of the things that clicked last spring. It gave me confidence that I could target Roubaix someday.
Your career almost came to an abrupt end in 2020, when you crashed in Brugge–De Panne and broke two vertebrae. Three years later, on 23 March, you took your first World Tour victory in that very same race. It must have been a very special moment.
It feels so… amazing to replace a bad memory with a good one, nay, the best one of my career. I took a lot to come back from that crash, both physically and mentally, as I had to feel comfortable in a peloton again. That race and I were like chalk and cheese, as you can imagine. And having been able to transform that, to the point that it gave me my best memory so far, is really special.
It must fill you with confidence for Roubaix too.
Definitely. Loads of it. I wasn’t expecting to land such a big win at this point in the season. It’s another step up. It’s another good sign for Roubaix and it shows I’m where I need to be right now.
Looking at the big picture, you have had an impressive classics campaign so far: fifth in Omloop Het Volk, ninth in Strade Bianche, eleventh in Gent–Wevelgem and sixteenth in the Tour of Flanders. Do you see yourself more as a favourite or an outsider?
I’d say I’m more of an outsider. I’m not among the top favourites. But Roubaix is a race where anything can happen… If luck is on my side and I’m strong, things could play into my hands —or a teammate’s, for that matter.
What would qualify as a success on your third try?
I’m not a big fan of defining success in terms of results. I intend to make an impression and give it my best. If I have to name a result, given my top 10 finish last year, I’d say a top 5 place or the podium. But, again, I don’t want to obsess over results in big races. It’s all too easy to end up disappointed if things don’t go your way.
Born in London on 27 September 2000
Teams: Team Sunweb (2019–2020) and Team DSM (2021–2023)
Best results on the road:
2019: Eighth in the road race of the European Under-23 Championships
2021: British national champion, winner of the GP de Fourmies
2022: second in the road race of the World Under-23 Championships, ninth in Paris–Roubaix Femmes avec Zwift
2023: First in the Classic Brugge–De Panne, fifth in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, ninth in Strade Bianche