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Tour of Mendips Report

The Junior Tour of Mendips is one of the bigger races that we have in the UK, and the final stage has what is likely the toughest parcours of any Junior National Series race. With a time trial, flat stage and a hill stage on offer it was set to be a hard-fought weekend with opportunities present for all types of riders. Having been up there as a first year in 2021, I had high hopes for this race, despite coming off the back of a reasonable hiatus from racing after suffering from fatigue in the first half of the season.

Arty shot of the TT

The race begun on the Friday, with a 7 mile TT around the Odd Down traffic free facility in Bath, making for a tight, technical race. This time trial did not go as planned for me, and although I felt okay with my effort, I was a little further down the results sheet than I may have liked, in 30th place, over a minute down on the race leader Noah Hobbs.

The second day brought the first road stage of this race, a 108km race around a 13km circuit (there was a preamble to the circuit before anyone says 13 doesn’t go in to 108) and with a very flat course the race was always going to be fast, and with crosswind sections on the course, the pace remained high with various attempts to split the group up coming back together into the last lap, where a lone rider had attacked and was chased by a small group, which had riders high up on the GC, and with myself further back in the classification I sat tight and hoped others would bring it back for the sprint, but unfortunately that didn’t happen. I’m not a big fan of mass sprints, mainly through fear of crashing and having better chances on hillier stages, but I gave this one a go. I got caught on the wrong side of the head-cross wind sprint, and had to open up in the wind, which was challenging. I think I launched too early also, not anticipating the strain that 108km puts into the legs compared to shorter track races that I have been sprinting in lately. 21st on the day, and 13th from the bunch saw me into 24th overall due to some riders being distanced late on in the stage.

Sneaking away in a move early on Stage 2

The third and final day was the infamous hill stage, made up of one (two if you count the neutral) of the 6 minute Rhoydate climb, with an average gradient in the double figures, and a maximum of 25%, and then 4 times up Harptree Hill, a 4-5 minute steep climb with a long false flat plateau over the top before the descent. It is a stage that even the strongest riders would suffer on. Being relatively low down overall heading into the day, at 1:18 to the race leader, I decided to head into the early breakaway, which was let go the previous year on this circuit, in the hope that the real GC climbers wouldn’t be allowed into the move, and it would come down to a small group burn-up on the small circuits. Around 10k before the first climb of the day, a group of 10 riders got clear of the peloton, which I was in, thankfully. It was mixture of rouleurs and climbers, so I was happy to roll through with this group, despite it containing two in the GC top 10. We quickly established a 30-40 second gap on the bunch before the ascent of Rhoydate, so the situation was looking good. However, the GC threat prompted a reaction from the bunch, forcing national champion Zac Walker to bridge across with 3 others to neutraslise the threat. This strengthening of the group allowed the gap to increase to over 2 minutes by the first lap of the small circuit. Riders lost contact quickly on the first ascent, and the group halved. The group would again halve the second time up, and I lost contact with what would be the front 4 with another rider, Ralf Holden. We worked to try and close in on other riders that had been dropped later on up the climb, but as we were closing the gap a non-race vehicle was allowed into the 30m gap between us and the pair ahead. This vehicle decided to repeatedly brake check us, and we were not able to close on those in front before the last 2 climbs. Over the top of the climb on the last lap, we were caught by the remains of the bunch. By the final kilometre, I had blown up from my earlier efforts, and could only manage 20th on the day, but I was happy to have given it a go for the stage win, despite the race not turning out in favour of the “stage hunters” like me.

Having been distanced from the break, it was a fight to grim death to hold on

I ended 19th in the overall classification, and 13th in the Climbers GC, not what I came for but still a National top 20 in this company is nothing to be sniffed at. We go again today at the Junior Tour of Wales, in which I hopefully can show myself more in across the 5 stages.

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February/March Update

The first race block of my year had its ups and downs, with a dnf at Kuurne Juniors, a mid bunch finish at Hatherleigh National and a 10th place at Guido Reybrouck.

The only time I smiled in Mallorca Credit: Ian Mansel-Thomas

The first race of the year was Kuurne Juniors, a UCI 1.1 which is probably one of the biggest races I’ll ride all year. It is run on a largely flat course, but has a good number of short steep hellingen (cobbled climbs) to break it up. I raced this guesting with Team Backstedt Bike Performance, so I’d like to say a huge thank you to them for the opportunity. We went over to Belgium on the Saturday, I was feeling good in the recon and was desperate for the race to get underway.
On race day, the build up to the race is usually a bit more enjoyable than in the UK, riding out to the course from the hotel and having to go through team presentations, which helps to reduce any race day nerves.
Once in the pen, it was a waiting game to start the neutral section. Once we did roll out, it was hectic, with many guys wanting to be at the front from the start as the climbs started very early on, with the Tiegemberg cresting only 20km into the race. This nervousness only increased once the race got underway, and there was a lot of chopping and changing as the bunch swerved left and right through the suburbs of Harelbeke. This only continued onto the main roads, and riders were still using the verges in a desperate attempt to move up. Ultimately, this kind of riding caused a huge crash when one rider on the verge failed to hop the gap between road and grass and crashed into the bunch, bringing about a third of the field down. Crashing here ultimately ended my race, although I did get back into the bunch after the Tiegemberg chasing through the cars, I had a mechanical whilst trying to force a move before the main climbs, and this time I was not allowed to use the cars. This led me to not getting back to the bunch and was promptly collected by the broomwagon, having made it 40k into the 120km race.

No pictures from KBK, so here’s one from Guido Reybrouck 🙂 Credit: Steve Lightfoot

After a weekend of no racing it was back to the safari green of my own Tofauti Everyone Active, for the first round of the British junior national series in Hatherleigh, Devon. The course is fast but rolling, meaning a break was likely to get away. The course seemed to suit me, and I was looking forward to the race. The conditions were vile, with strong winds and rain battering us for 2.5hrs. Straight away, the attacks from key riders flew, and I wanted to join most of these moves, as they all looked like a composition that could escape. After an hour and a half, a group of 6 went, including myself, and took a small gap over the bunch. We were joined by 6 others making it a break of 12, hovering around 20s ahead of the bunch. On one of the many ramps on the course, an attack split the group in 2, leaving me in the back 6. With a teammate in Oli Peace up front (who would ultimately take 3rd) I sat back, looking for a rider bridging up that I could sit on, but the bunch was dead. The front half of the break stayed to the line, whilst we were caught pretty swiftly.
Close, but not quite.

Horrible Hatherleigh!!
Credit: Charlie Tompkins @charlietompkinsphoto

Then it was only a 5 day gap before we were off to Belgium for my second UCI of the year, Guido Reybrouck. This is an extremely flat race, with only about 80m of climbing in 120km. The main feature of this course was the cobbled sectors, of which there were 8 throughout the race. Although it was a warm day for the recon, the day of the race was a lot colder, and I had to implement the lessons learnt at Hatherleigh of wearing appropriate layers for the cold conditions. After two disappointing results so far this year, I was ready to get stuck in to a tough race. Right from the off, this was a fast race, with the battle for position starting right from KM0. With the first, and hardest, cobbled sector of the race coming at 12kms in, meaning you had to be on the ball at all moments. After this first sector, the pace continued to increase with the attacks flying from the day’s hopefuls looking to go in the breakaway. After 14km, a group of 3 went, who eventually took a gap of 1:30 over the bunch. Although we continued to race hard in the peloton through the first big lap around the town, but once we were over the cobbled sectors the pace eased to let the break take their gap. It was the constant battle for position into the cobbles that defined the day, but it wasn’t until we hit the first cobbled sector a second time that any meaningful attacks went. 2 riders from the 2 biggest teams, Cannibal and CCC, went and with the road blocked by their teammates they took a small advantage. This group swelled to 4 as they caught the day’s break, and this group took about 30 seconds. After the first time through the finish line, with 32k to go, last ditch attacks were flying, and I joined one of these moves, which just about made it across to the front 4 in a group of 9, which would go to the line. As we hit the flamme rouge, a group of 4 had come up, making it a 13 way sprint to the line. This was also an excellent day for the team, with us taking 3rd in the team classification, behind Cannibal and Willebrord Wil Vooruit.

The boys and I at the team presentation pre-race
Credit: Steve Lightfoot

The lows were pretty low at the beginning of the season, and left me lacking confidence, but with support from my team and family, I was able to cast my doubts aside, and put a strong performance in. Now, I will take a short break before resuming my season in Mid-April.

Once again, thank you to Pedal Potential for supporting me this season, and to the Dave Rayner Foundation, who supported the Guido Reybrouck trip, both enabling young riders to race abroad, and giving them the opportunities to develop as cyclists.

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Winter Training

A cold, winter morning, the apricity of the sun only occasionally being felt on the back of one’s neck, the night’s frost causing the fields to shine brightly in the morning light. It is very quiet, nothing to be heard save for the lark. Nobody about. That is until, if one listens very closely, the distant yet distinctive sound of a gear click, or a brief freewheel; unmistakably, the sound of the cyclist…


As winter draws in, the opening scene that I have described will become a backbone of training for many. Amongst road cyclists especially, winter is a time to build on endurance, the “base period” as it is often described, where long rides are the predominant training stimulus. This is often a lonely affair, slowly plugging away into a headwind, in the cold sea breeze, feeling absolutely frozen. Where such long rides exist, often 3 – 5 hours in duration, a long thought process often comes with it. From dreaming of monument wins, various business ideas, and “is it a left here?” exists the space to doubt, or to question first of all the significance of such a ride, and secondly one’s ability. As an athlete comes off their break, which is usually around 2 weeks to a month, the panicked feeling of a dip in fitness, or slight weight gain is enough to worry any athlete that takes themselves seriously. It is also around this time that the weather starts to turn, the low temperatures freezing morale at an annual low. It is the eagerness ahead of the much anticipated race season that seems to draw out the length of any ride, and controlling the temptation to push too hard on easy days that can make the winter block seem like forever. And with no validation apart from maybe a Strava KOM or two, it can feel like you are fumbling for a light switch in the dark.

A winter crit at cyclopark, solo off the front

I have spent a large part of this winter in a similar fashion to the above description, but in amongst those psychologically tough moments, there have been many great memories of this winter’s training. Throughout the last few months, I challenged myself to ride as many new roads as possible, and whilst part of that meant riding a long way from home in search of foreign lands (and a little bit of time getting lost!), much of this time has also been spent on roads quite close to my home. From riding across Leeds via muddy canal paths on an early Sunday morning to riding up the Algarve’s highest mountain 3 times in one day, and simply finding new roads in my home county of Bedfordshire, I have built up a wide range of experiences and memories that I will forever savour.

Nathan atop the Alto Do Foia, a commonly used climb in the Volta ao Algarve

As well as stepping up my navigation skills, I have been working hard on developing myself as a bike racer, of course. In December, I spent 63 hours in the saddle, which is the most time I have ever spent cycling in a single month outside of the summer race season. I have also very recently taken the plunge into using a power meter, a tool I had previously been hesitant to use, and am already feeling the benefits of more consistency in my efforts during training. It has also relieved the stress that no racing brings, seeing my power numbers rated highly by TrainingPeaks, bringing some sort of validation, that I had previously lacked with the heart rate monitor.

As we come into 2022, I hope that the hard toil over the winter will put an extra arrow or two in my bow that I may not have previously had before, and enable me to bring home some great results.

Until next time,

Nathan

Bath RC Junior National

The month started by taking a couple of weeks off of the bike, allowing me to recover from a very active first half of the year and refocus before the biggest goals in August.
Since the break, I’ve felt far better than I did at any point from May onwards, so things are looking up for me. With only one race in this month, it is quite easy to define the level success during July.

The Bath RC National Junior Series road race was something I’d been looking forward to for a long time, as the race takes in some of my training roads, and is as close as I’ll get to a ‘home’ race. It’s a relatively flat course, but is seriously grippy, and with a couple of steep ramps it makes for a very attritional and attacking race.
The conditions on the day added to the attrition rate, with temperatures above 30 degrees by the end of the race.


As usual, the start of the race was fast up the first long drag, with many trying to get away, and after 10k a small group had established a lead of just over 30 seconds. However, the bunch controlled the move and it came back 15k later, kicking off the attacks again. I made a move solo, hoping others would join to make it a small group, but it was a couple minutes before 2 others started to bridge across the 20 second gap. We worked for 10k or so, before being joined by a 12 man group that had come from the bunch. This would prove to be the winning split, and the group managed to maintain some cohesion, and prized itself away from the bunch, before splitting on the finish line climb. I made the front split of 5, and we took a lead which extended to 45 seconds on the chasers. Two others bridged up to us with around 30k to go, helping to keep the pace in a slowing break. On the last of the 20k loops, another group joined us as the front began to finesse, bringing the group size to 10 riders with 10k to go. It was evident the winner would come from this, with the next nearest rider 90 seconds back, and the group started to attack itself. I held back, and saved it for the sprint on the final incline, but unfortunately when the time came I did not have the sprint I’d hoped for, taking 7th place.

However, I’m happy with the result and the way I rode, National top 10’s are proving to be hard to come by this year, and I’m feeling far stronger than I did a few months ago.

Next on the schedule is the Andrews Trophy National B, before going to the Junior Tour Of Mendips and Tour of Wales, and then finishing the season at the GP Ruebliland in Switzerland.

Until next time,

Nathan

June Roundup

What a month! It’s been very hectic recently, balancing sitting A-Level exams and racing often but it really has flown by. This month, I’ve so far raced in the National Championships, The Tour of the North West, and the fabled CiCLE Classic.

The National Championships this year took place in Yorkshire, on a rolling course which featured a steep climb and a very fast descent. It was a nice route, taking in some stunning countryside, not that we had time to look. I’d been targeting this race for a while, and was feeling good coming into it, and I felt I showed this being in the front 8 or 10 up the Bulmer Bank climb for the first 2 ascents. However, as we crested for the 2nd time, rain started to fall, making the roads very slippery suddenly. As I entered a tight s bend, I felt that I was carrying too much speed, so braked slightly, but unfortunately I went over a manhole cover whilst braking, causing my back wheel to lose all traction and I slid out, scraping all up the side of my leg from my knee to my hip. It was a very painful crash, as I had fallen on gravel and this had stuck into me as well, making for a very sore trip home.

The Junior Tour of The North West was a very hard race for me, having to revise in the evenings around the racing as I had three important exams the next few days.
It kicked off with a short TT, with times in the 8 to 10 minute range, set to produce a few time gaps before the road racing kicked off in the afternoon. It was an ok result for me, finishing 16th, a little lower down than what I’d hoped for but at only a handful of seconds down on the main protagonists I was not concerned. The second stage that afternoon was fairly rolling and twisty, and had potential to thin the bunch down, but a group sprint was likely to fight out the stage victory. With the stage only being 70k, it was a hot pace from the off, with attacks flying on the climbs. As I was a little bit down on the GC, I was active in these, but never managed to take a real gap on the group. The only move that stuck was Josh Tarling riding away from everyone, taking 2 minutes and essentially sealing the GC. The pace was still high behind him, but it was still a group of 40 sprinting it out for 2nd. I didn’t have good legs at any point, but I was hoping to ride into the race, and come good on the last stage, which had a significant climb, so appeared to suit me. I tried to get in the early break again, but I wasn’t allowed, and was repeatedly chased while others were allowed to go. However, I had terrible legs that day and ground to a halt after 45 mins of racing. I didn’t think too much of it at the time, but I had felt fairly laboured coming into it despite not doing much in the week.

Next up, after a weekend away from racing, was the legendary CiCLE Classic, which I actually enjoyed this year, after last years failed get round mission. I was in good positions coming into the technical sections, and managed to stay in the front when the race split, making the lead group of 25 or so with over 60k to go. I managed to survive on the back of the group to the final kms, where the pace suddenly slowed and I launched a late attack with 5k to go, getting caught just before the town, eventually finishing 16th. I was satisfied with this result, and being in the front group with the UK’s top riders showed me that I was where I needed to be.

However, by this point of the year I have been feeling pretty tired recently, having targeted a couple of races earlier in the season, then hitting a peak at Nationals, although I couldn’t show that form unfortunately.

I went off to Acht Van Bladel UCI 2.1 with some hopes with the Tofauti boys that we could get a few results between us. However, these were quickly dashed on the first stage on Friday night when we all had a very tough evening for various reasons with none of us making the top 40 riders. Things were off to a better start the next day, but after the first 30 mins I was swinging badly on the back of the bunch. Eventually, after around 100k, my legs started to slow, and I very quickly found myself grinding to a halt. I was swiftly passed by the broomwagon and out of the race.

I think the high level of fatigue has been slowing me down a lot, and it’s not the first time this month that I’ve ground to a halt, so I’ll be having some time off the bike, to rest up and recover before the real big targets in August.

One ‘L’ of a month

Over the course of a season, there are always ups and downs, lows and highs, but unfortunately for me this year so far there have been more low points than high ones. This year has been one marred by crashes, and looking at huge inconsistencies in my results. Of my 11 races this year so far, I have been in the top 10 4 times out of 7 finishes. Unfortunately this means that I have now DNF’d at 4 races, for 2 different teams. Yesterday, as I write this, at Liège Bastogne Liège after 79k exactly, 1 kilometre away from the bottom of the first decisive climb, there was a compression in the bunch, leading to a touch of wheels 2 or 3 guys in front and to the right of me, but unfortunately their bikes came left and threw me off balance, going head first off the roadside into a valley at 50kph. After sliding for a fair way, I came to an abrupt stop by going shoulder first into a tree. I got up and managed to get back to the road, but I assumed I’d broke my collarbone as my shoulder hurt and the shock was too great to continue. Once I popped it back in it actually felt ok, and the xray was all clear thankfully. 

A scarring incident

A better weekend came right at the start of the month, racing the E3 Harelbeke, a Belgian Kermesse and Ixworth 234 in the same weekend. I want to say a huge thanks to Team Backstedt for taking me out to Belgium that weekend, and also for bringing me back. 

E3 was a hectic race, with riders even overtaking the neutral car to hold position before the race began. It was a long neutral zone, but thankfully once the race got underway things calmed down slightly. With 40k to the first climb, the Cote de Trieu, no one wanted to take it up so early on. As we approached the first sectors of cobbles, and the “mountain chain”, the pace ramped up, and with many guys wanting to be at the front there were quite a few crashes that had occurred, and for once I had avoided them. Through the next hour I sat in the bunch, surfing the wheels as the bunch started to slowly break apart, but up the Paterberg the race went extremely hard, and with everyone only riding the left hand gutter, it quickly got very full, and I made the mistake of joining the queue, rather than powering up the completely empty crown of the road. This caused me to lose around 30 seconds to the front 30/40 guys, and then I couldn’t come back from that on the Oude Kwaremont. Coming back to Harelbeke, I was in a small group of 5 that got very close to the back of the bunch, maybe 50m, but then a climb started and there was traffic coming out the back meaning that we never made it to the group. 

On the Sunday, we travelled over to Duisberg, near Brussels, for a Kermesse race. These are a staple of Belgian bike racing, and always hotly contested, so a fast pace was to be expected. Right from the off, a small group started to go, and I just happened to be on the wheels of the boys that made a move, dragging me clear with them. Fellow Brit and Backstedt rider Dylan Hicks latched on, and we soon had a force of 6 driving the pace, with over 80kms to go. However, the other riders were not strong, and Dylan and I rode away from them almost by accident. However, we were not going hard as we were expecting others to bridge up. However, we continued for a lap at a strong pace, and suddenly the car comes up to us and shouts “een minuten jongens” catching us both by surprise. We had not planned for this, but we were almost forced into continuing such was the gap. Another 10 km went by, and the commissaire, rather excitedly, gave us “een minuten en viertigvijf seconden”. At this point, we really pressed on, hoping to make the bunch sit up, but the gap started to close, and we got news of 6 lads at a minute. Still, too big of a gap to wait. We were caught at 20k to go, after the chasers had chased for at least 30 mins. I saved some energy, and secured the KOM prize, but over the top of the sprint, one guy went, and I could not hold the wheel. We never saw him again. With 1k to go, the bunch came back to the group for 2nd place. Mattie Dodd, another Brit joined us at the front ready in the leadout train to get Dylan on the podium. We did a great job of the leadout, getting a 2-3-4 and top 3 in the front group, but we couldn’t catch the winner. 

Brexit means brexit CC: Judy Dodd

A swift transfer to the UK and on the Monday it was back in the car for the famous Ixworth Crit. Although only a Regional A class race, it is always fast and furious on the 800m village loop. With 4 team riders present, we all went in with a plan to light up the race, and that’s what we did. For the whole 50 minutes, there was always one of us on the attack. After half an hour, I was really feeling the hot pace after my exertions over the weekend, and was getting distanced from the leading group, but then the pace slowed and I came with some momentum straight over the top of the group, legs absolutely screaming with lactate and heart rate far too high, and went all in to try and gain a gap, in the process setting a new 1 minute seated power PB. After 90s, I was caught, much to my relief almost, and my teammate Joseph Smith went straight over the top and created a race winning gap, which he held to the line. Callum Laborde and Mark Lightfoot filled out the podium spots and I placed 6th. It was great to have gone in with a plan and finished it off, I think all 4 of us celebrated through the line!

Doing my best Hugh Carthy pain face CC: Nick Flexman

Hopefully things will get better soon, and I can write something with happiness next month. Thanks to everyone for their continued support, and at some point, I’ll be back at the front end of the bike race.

April Race RoundUp

Race Results:

DAP National B — 5th

Velomax National Junior Series — 9th

My month began at the DAP CC National B road race, a 121km jaunt near Beccles, Norfolk. A strong field on a flat course meant that some pace was to be expected on the course, and with an average speed just shy of 46kph, that is exactly what happened. It was a cool morning, with a 9am rollout from Beccles to the circuit, but we soon warmed up with the hot pace being set by the Richardson’s – Trek team, pinging members of their 6 man team off the front at every possible opportunity. After one hour, the decisive break of 5 went, containing myself, Sam Asker and Steven Parsonage of Richardson’s, Matt Lord (Hart Performance Coaching) and Barnabas Purbrook (Sigma Sport). We rolled through and off for the next 30 minutes, with the gap being held at 30 seconds, waiting for the elastic to eventually snap. For a long time, it seemed that we could be caught, but after an hour of being out front, the gap turned into a fissure, and went from 30 seconds to 2 minutes in 10 kilometres. On the last lap, the Richardson riders started to rotate attacks, and I was simply unable to respond, after being at an unsustainable wattage for well over an hour already. Fortunately I managed to hold on until the last 3k, which was then all downhill, so I was able to limp home across the line for a well earned 5th place in my first National B. Afterwards, a trip to my brother’s nearby brewery offered ample chance for something of a recovery drink. 

Warming up for the Velomax Junior National Series

Six days later, it was the Bovington National Junior Series race, at the tank training centre there. The course was winding and rolling, but also very isolated, making for a lonely race, although I was grateful there were no cars/tanks on the road to worry about, instead of the usual traffic dodging! Attacks from the off from many riders meant that the break of the day went very quickly, only 25 minutes in to the race. The plan with my only teammate of the race, Mark Lightfoot, was that we would rotate the attacks until one of us got in the move. This time, it was Mark making it into the breakaway of 6, where he stayed for the next 80k, taking a deserved 4th place for the team. Back in the bunch, I marked the counter attacks, making sure that no one could take a flyer and bridge up to the front of the race without a passenger. In the final laps, I launched a well timed seated attack to aim for a top 10 placing, and I was quickly joined by Jacob Bush (Fensham Howes Mas Design) and one other rider. We quickly established a gap on the bunch, and with a lap to go we were in play to catch the break, which we got within 150m of before running out of lega, from a 2 minute gap when we first went. Unfortunately, the 3rd rider in our trio was rather uncooperative, meaning that making the catch was a lot harder. With full cooperation, we would have been in play for the podium, but that’s bike racing. This gentleman then kindly outsprinted Jacob and I at the line, and I claimed 9th place, my 3rd consecutive top 10. 

Searching for some form like…

In May, I have an exciting schedule lined up, including the inaugaural Junior Liege-Bastogne-Liege!

Speak soon,

Nathan

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Training Camp Experience

Last week, I went on my first ever overseas training camp with my team, Tofauti Everyone Active. A week long trip to Mallorca enabled us to not only get in a good week of training, but also gel and bond as a team. Although most of us knew each other from racing, and I’d been on the same team as 2 others from last year, it was good to spend some time together as a group before the start of the season. We learnt about each other’s goals, skills and abilities on and off the bike, and the time allowed us to see a side of each other away from racing. 

Coming into the week, I didn’t know what to expect, having never been on a team training camp before. However, after arriving in our hotel in Alcudia and an easy ride a routine was quickly established. 

On the front up Cap Formentor

The block began with a day of easy riding, down to the famous lighthouse at Cap Formentor and back, just to get the legs moving before the serious training began the day after. Most days would be ride out to the climb, do efforts up the climb and then roll back. Each day was around 3.5-4hrs, and we had a nice mixture of efforts throughout the week, some shorter, intense efforts and some longer ones. 

It was great to ride the famous climbs that I had only ever seen pictures of, like Sa Calobra, Sa Batalla, Col de Sóller and Puig Major, even if we didn’t get time to take it all in on the way up sometimes. My favourite day was the all out effort up Sa Calobra, just because of the fabled nature of the climb, and it’s iconic hairpins. With it being used by so many pro’s and amateurs it is a great marker to see how you compare with other riders and also other juniors, many of whom you may be up against later on in the year. It was also interesting to compare Strava times on the descents with the Challenge Mallorca races, as it shows how fast the pros can really go downhill! 

Riding San Ferminia

Generally, it was good weather as expected, although it did rain quite heavily for a while when we were up the top of Sa Batalla, making for some good descending practice in the slippery conditions. 

Getting the warm weather while others were at home in various storms definitely boosted the morale, and really made me saviour the experience of being out in Mallorca. 

(LR) Mark Lightfoot, Morven Yeoman, Oli Peace, Emily Carrick Anderson, Me

I’ll leave you with some stats for the week, but first of all I want to say a big thank you for all those involved at Tofauti Everyone Active and Mallorca cycling for putting it all together. It really was a great experience. 

Also I want to say thank you to Pedal Potential who will also be supporting me this season. 

Stats:

22hrs 40mins

670km

4932m of elevation gain

40 dinner plates

8 cups of coffee

6 energy gels

2 caffeine gels

And lots of fun!

What I have learnt as a first year junior

As my first junior season has ended, and we are heading into the dark winter months, I thought now would be a good time to write about what I have learnt during the season about junior racing at UK national and UCI level, and how I can use this knowledge to improve my race craft for the 2022 season.

I feel that many riders overthink becoming junior; longer races on the open road, climbs, stage racing are all new obstacles that first year riders are suddenly faced with. I hold this as my biggest mistake in 2021. I was worried that I would not have the endurance required for these races, so all winter I rode long, slow base miles to help me cope with the 2.5hrs+ durations. I only started intensity once racing resumed, and the intensity was only in the race, so I was immediately on the back foot. Come my first national at Cicle Classic, I was quickly found out, and missed the front splits. I’d say it took around 6 weeks for me to return to my level of results that I had in 2019, which was almost the whole season, leaving 2 races for me to show myself in. This year showed me that being able to push high numbers for short durations is key to arriving to the last hour fresh enough to make a decisive move. Working on intensity all year round, albeit less in winter, like in youth racing is still important at the junior level.

Otley 2/3/4 GP — Mid 30s finish from the 80 strong field

Another thing concerning longer races is the introduction/necessity of the feed zone, where riders take bottles and gels from a loving parent/guardian in the hopes that it prevents them from bonking in the final. Many riders, first and second years, including myself, have got feeding plans wrong this year, leading to rather unfortunate falls from grace. Very quickly, riders learn that taking a bottle every lap is a good idea, unfortunately this creates a very hectic environment in the feed zone, making it a dangerous place to be. I made this mistake in the Tour of Wales, where on the 3rd stage I missed my bottle with carbs in twice. I thought I’d got away with it, as I was feeling fine in the latter part, but as the race hit The Tumble Mountain on the 4th stage, my legs quickly disappeared, and I think this can be attributed to not feeding well the day before, which was a 140k split stage. Fuelling incorrectly on a day like that will likely have a knock on effect.

Taking a bottle during Stage 3 of the Junior Tour of Mendips (Right of image)

The third mistake that prevented me from obtaining better results in the 2021 season was a lack of aggression and combativity. This was partly down to a lack of confidence due to succesful attacks being a rarity in youth races, and partly down to me doubting myself in a longer range breakaway. However, with all but one road race/stage not having a breakaway win in this year’s series, attacking riding is key to being a top level junior rider. In the last two national races of the year, I attacked more, and this helped me achieve a better result in the race on both occasions. In La Bernaudeau UCI, I was outfront for over 60 kilometres, meaning I could avoid the carnage in the bunch and take the numerous steep climbs at my own pace, rather than at the lightning speed that the bunch hit them with. Unfortunately here it didn’t work so well, as we were caught with 20k to go, but once caught by the bunch, I was there to help a teammate by giving him a fresh bottle and a gel, before being distanced from the remainder of the peloton, but I still finished inside the top third of the field.

Breakaway at La Bernaudeau, (Front to back) Camillo Gomes, me, Remi Dromain, Nathan Molle

As we go into 2022, I hope to use these in racing to build on a respectable 2021, to obtain high level results as a 2nd year junior to take my cycling to a higher level as an under 23.

Ciao, Nathan

What makes an athlete?

What makes an athlete?

For a while now, cycling has seen multi discipline talents, with riders like Pauline Ferrand – Prevot, Marianne Vos and Elia Viviani competing across different disciplines, often switching multiple times a season, and with large amounts of success. Ferrand – Prevot and Vos have both been world champion on the road and cyclocross, with the former once holding the road, cyclocross and mountain bike world titles at the same time. Viviani meanwhile came from the track, winning many European and National titles, and now balances this with road racing. It is only in the last few years however that cycling has seen atheltes with backgrounds in other sports becoming successful in its professional ranks. In this article, I’ll be detailing examples of these sport switches, and delving into what made these athletes successful in the first place.

A name that immediately springs to mind for most people when sport switches are mentioned is Primoz Roglic. Roglic started off as a ski jumper, a hugely popular sport in Slovenia. He enjoyed success early on in his career, becoming junior world champion at age 17 in 2007, and regularly competed on the world cup circuit in the senior ranks, until a horrific crash in which he landed side first into the hill.

His first serious sporting endeavours also included Ice Hockey alongside his favoured Ski Jumping

Thankfully, he wasn’t injured, but it put him off ski jumping for good, and he took up cycling aged 21. Roglic’s case is rare; ski jumping is about explosivity, and timing, perhaps more akin to the big burst of power seen in a match sprint, rather than a monument or 3 week tour. But, clearly a natural athlete, endurance never troubled him, and it is now his explosivity that has garnered him many victories on the road. In an interview with Velonews.com, Roglic states that while the two sports are different, the discipline required to carry out “a lot of stretching, yoga, speed work and core training” has put him in good stead, adding that “those skills helped me as a cyclist”. Also, he often cites his mental capacity to focus and be able to take risks, saying “I didn’t fear Ski Jumping enough, so i crashed big”.

Another hugely talented athlete is Remco Evenepoel, skyrocketing to fame at the Innsbruck world junior championships in 2018, soloing off the front after having to gain three minutes on the bunch after a mechanical in the early part of the race, which other nations tried to take advantage of to put him out of contention. Only taking up cycling in 2017, he was a footballer, playing for the youth sides of big clubs PSV Eindhoven and RSC Anderlecht. He also made 6 appearances for the Belgian Youth Teams, scoring one goal in his short career.

Evenepoel (red) playing in a youth game for the Belgian national team

A great level of awareness, and the ability to react quickly, aided Evenepoel’s success on the road, quickly learning how to read a race, and make tactical decisions. Also, Evenepoel’s (and his family’s) dedication was nothing short of remarkable, getting up early every morning to drive the 200km journey to Arnhem, and back in the evening after a day of training. Therefore, it didn’t come as a surprise that he often cites his weakened mental state as the reason for leaving football, although this likely conditioned him to be able to cope with cycling’s psychological demands.

Whilst researching for this article, what stood out to me was the mental strength of the athletes, being able to overcome setbacks and find an alternative, where many would have given up. Also, I think this article highlights the importance of doing multiple sports in adolescence, as the transferable skills picked up are shown to create a multi faceted sportsperson, aiding success in any sport or area of life that one goes down.

These two sportsmen are just a handful of sporting crossovers, and shows that they are part of a majority, rather than a minority of successful athletes switching paths to glory.