Finding my feet
Road racing is tough. Pelotons of up to two hundred riders, all fighting for position, all wanting that glorified win. Pot-holes, ‘road furniture’ and gravel add spice to the racing, let alone crosswinds, hills or slippery descents. When I flew to Europe in February, I knew what I was in for. The first few races were exactly that; tough. It’s one thing to train hard, but it’s another to be race fit, which is why I headed over to Europe as early as I could. I wanted to start racing at the same time as the rest of the peloton in order to keep up and improve with everyone else. This way I wouldn’t be playing ‘catch up’ (like I normally am) so I could actually play a part in the result.
From 2013 to 2015, I started the road season mid-year, after track had finished. This meant getting my ‘head kicked in’ for the first month or two of each season. Chasing an on-form peloton is not the most enjoyable experience in the world; they dictate your every move. You’re literally hanging in there, using all you’ve got to fight through to the front of the peloton to help the team in the slightest way possible, before being spat out the back and left to ride yourself to the finish. It’s times like those that make you question why you’re doing the sport all together. Add freezing weather, rain and a crash or two in a nervous bunch and it’s not a positive combination.
Why do we do it? Because we believe. We believe that eventually, that little bit of success, whether it be a win individually or as part of a team, will make it all worth it in the end.
And it does. Four years after my last European road win, in my fourth race of the 2017 European season, I finally threw my hands up again. It was SUCH a good feeling. Excuse the cliche but all the pain, sweat and tears over the years made so much sense. Yes, it wasn’t classified as a World-Tour race, but there were still some big names and most of the biggest teams racing. I was given the opportunity to sprint and my team backed me in. They did everything they could to give me the best opportunity to win and we pulled it off. The feeling really is addictive.
This win was important to me. This year I focussed on the road, not only because I needed a break from track, but because I believed I had more to give. I don’t often get the chance to be the lead sprinter on the road, because I start seasons late and am always chasing my form. The problem with this is that you never get to practise sprinting against the best, so when the opportunity comes, there’s a good chance you’ll muck it up. That’s why this opportunity at Pajot Hills Classic was so important. I had to take it with both hands and show the team that I still have what it takes.
I’m happy with my choice to stick to the road. I’ve come in with form and have never felt more comfortable in the bunch. I’ve been called up to do a number of World Tour races and have been able to play a significant role in the team, including races littered with hills (which are never usually my forte!). I’m therefore enjoying the race scene a whole lot more and am looking forward to the rest of the season with WiggleHigh5.
Next up for me is China World Tour, May 5-7.