Meet Alex, 18 years old, embarking on his first year with Lotto U23
So, I am a 18 years old, and I’ve got to say, my teenage years have been far from “normal.” I just graduated school and I’m moving to a foreign country. I’m a junior British cyclist trying to make it to the top of the world’s greatest sport. In 2016 I will be based in Belgium riding for Lotto Soudal u23.
I started cycling at a pretty young age. I used to go cycle touring with my family on the tandems we owned, it was good fun, and inspired me to want to keep travelling with my bike. I mean, without my dad I would have never found cycling. I’ve got a lot to thank him for. I started racing about the age of 9, I wasn’t very big then and was always ending up pretty far back from the winner. I was probably on the first handicap mark at the local track for 3 years or something. As I got older (and caught up size-wise) cycling became a bigger part of my life.
I’ve spent the past two years riding for the HMT Academy junior team here in the UK, under amazing supervision and a fantastic race programme. The team is linked up with the continental outfit JLT-Condor, so we’ve been really lucky to be able to work with some great role models. The DS at the team: Mark Barry, has influenced my career a lot. He used to coach at sessions at Manchester Velodrome when I was younger. He’s been an incredible inspiration to me, and he’s got a great proven track record: the Yates twins also went to the sessions at the velodrome, its cool to see how well their doing now!
In my short career I’ve had some highs and lows already. I know, it seems small compared to victory in the Tour de France, or narrow defeat in Paris Roubaix, but I finished 2nd in the Junior tour of the Basque country in 2015, and spending a week with my team in Spain and coming away with a result was special. Signing my contract with Lotto U23 has been a major highlight. And of course, cafe riding is one of my favourite parts of the sport.
As far as low points – loosing form near the end of this season due to illness hasn’t been fun. I know this happens a lot though, so I’m thinking this early lesson in it should prepare me well for the future.
So before moving to Belgium I’m off to Spain (Girona) for the winter months to escape the ice rink I’m used to in Britain. You kind of start fresh as an U23 and past results don’t really count for much, so I’m looking forward to living in Belgium in 2016. As a neo-u23 I just need to build up my book of experiences in races. I’ve got some work to do with time-trialling, and I want to continue to perform well in short stage races. Also, I’ve got a lot of respect for riders who truly race: and anyone that fights into those early breakaways. I want to learn from this, and always be on the attack.
Sometimes it can be strange, being this involved and focused at my age. I have almost have the same routine everyday while other people my age are out partying. I Don’t regret anything though.
This year has been quite tough, I’ve balanced full-time education with a part-time job, training and racing home and abroad. Many juniors my age turn full-time at 17, but I’m glad I’ve continued education and now have a good set of grades to fall back on. But I’m now looking forward to committing to cycling 100% from now on. All of my of non cycling friends are now of to Uni. I think they sometimes think I am bit lonely, but I have the best times with the team and I’ve made many friends through riding my bike. And I’m sure the future adventures will well surpass the memories I’ve already made.
Words: Alex Braybrooke