2023 Year Round Up
This year has been a good year for me. A few bumps in the road early season with a crash and illness, but I have achieved a lot of the goals that I set myself at the start of the season. I took two wins in the latter half of the season in Rd 3 of the U23 national series which helped me to win the series overall, and in the 77th GP Industria del Cuoio e delle Pelli while guesting in Italy for Wheelbase Cabtech Castelli. It seems that finishing with the stresses of Uni plus having the extra time to train really paid off for the back half of the season. I had the best legs I've ever had in this part of the year thanks to the training set by my coach, Craig Stevenson of Vitfor.
A lot of the learning that I've done this year has come whilst abroad. The importance of working together cohesively as a team was one of my biggest takeaways from the trip to Italy. A lot of us didn't know each other prior to the trip but over the course of the 4 weeks, we became a good working unit that really started to pick up steam towards the end. In the initial races we were doing ok but not really working together to achieve that; it was more individual strength that was carrying Louis and Logan to top 10 and top 15 results. In these races, that were usually finishing in bunch sprints, we couldn't break onto the podium without a consistent effort to stick together to do a proper leadout to compete with the Italian teams that had it dialled in.
For the final week of racing, things started to pick up. In Cerreto Guidi, it was one of the most hectic finishes I've experienced and we had a super strong train positioned well and lead out by Jenson whilst Logan was off the front solo in the last 10km. Ben then did another strong turn but Louis and myself had been distanced from the boys in the mayhem and weren't able to get back up to the front. In the hillier second to last race, Logan wasn't feeling well so positioned all at the front from the super technical lap in the middle of the race all the way to the finishing circuit, working super hard to get me to the front before a tricky descent which meant we could get 3 guys in the winning move and be the only team with numbers there. When things kicked off Louis was distanced but Tom and I stayed in the final move of 4 where I waited for the sprint and Tom tried some moves in the last few kms. He then lead me out and we finished 1st, 4th and 6th all because of how the team had allowed Tom, Louis and I to save energy for the final.
The next day was a 140km kermesse essentially which is perfect for Louis and we once again pulled off a super leadout in the last 2km against the likes of Colpack Ballan, with Ben doing the craziest do or die move down the outside as the last man in the train, getting his shoulders into some Italian ribs, to let Louis sprint from 200m to go. And sprint he did, finishing second against a two time european champ on the track. Pretty good for as Darren put it a 'Bunch of Misfits'. Thanks to Darren and Debbie Brown for organising such a unique trip and putting so much effort into getting us the best experience possible and thanks to Finn and Katie for looking after us for the whole stay.
Another learning point from abroad was adapting to a completely different style of racing. The UK races are very much a test of who can save the most energy in a race that's full gas from the start but the italian races are much more organised. They'll let a break go, ride on the front controlling for the first 100km, then start racing to bring the break back so when I first started racing I thought I found it very easy to get off the front but it was very hard to stay there when you've got multiple teams riding on the front of the peloton to chase you down. This took a bit of getting used to as I realised that in most of the races, the courses weren't hard enough to thin down the teams in the peloton and the breaks weren't cohesive enough to make it to the finish. By the end we'd realised that you can generally wait and wait for other people to do the work as they have riders to burn (some teams having 9+ riders in some of the races) and then use our guys later than we'd expected.
I enjoyed my time in Italy so much that I thought I'd apply to some teams over there. I'm very happy to say that I'll be riding with Team Zappi under Flavio Zappi for the next year, and if I do as well as I'm hoping to, it can be a stepp up to Conti level.. I am thankful to Flavio for awarding me a scholarship contract and hope I can repay this support with results for the team. As it will be my last year U23 next year, I hope I can go professional after 2024 and make my dream a reality but for now, in order to make that happen, I'm training harder than ever and with uninterrupted focus now that I'm full time.
As much as I'm looking forward to moving away next year, I'm also sad that my time at Cycling Sheffield is over. It's been a great place for me to learn the ins and outs of racing whilst at Uni and the right place for me to develop as a rider and as a person. A huge thanks to Dave and everyone that's helped on all of the trips we've made over the last few years, I've had loads of fun and I doubt I'll find a team with the same sort of camaraderie as this.
This wouldn't be an end of season blog without extending my thanks to all the people who have continued to support me in 2023. Starting with Pedal Potential for the first half of the year I was lucky enough to have continued support from them, Paul Hood at Fella's Barbers for the best haircuts in town, always keeping me looking my best, Justin Pounds and the team at Kedron UK for their excellent support, Craig Stevenson for continuing me on the Future Champions project and, of course, my parents who, without, I couldn't be following this dream of mine. A full list of people that support me and their links can be found in the supporters section of this website.
Until next year,