At the airport, teary eyed my mum gave me some money and said ‘enjoy it Bub, you deserve it’.
For me, getting on the plane wasn’t just about going to meet the new team, more than becoming a ‘Pro’, it was to me about a new beginning, a time to reinvent myself.
Next memory: Both hands duck taped to two 40 oz beer cans, the race was on for all new riders in 2012 to drink. I remember Christian Vandevelde, who had this incredible way of making people feel warm, welcomed and well lead took charge of the night. David Millar who I looked up too so much for his ability to mix brains with braun, Ryder Hesjedal, the ultimate chiller, Tyler Farrar, the most enthusiastic person I think I’ve met to date, and on that first night, I walked up to Dave Zabriskie, said “Hi I’m Nathan” to a response of merely ‘Shut-UP! hehehehe’ and then walked off talking and laughing to himself… Yeah, I quickly realized the team was full of, in the very best of ways, total and utter misfits.
This was when the penny dropped, to be taken seriously on Slipstream, you just have to be yourself. So there it was: the team, the brilliantly quirky boss, the bikes, the staff: I’d met everybody.
In my time with Slipstream I learnt how to race, which races I liked and what kind of rider I was turning into. I think the most, and I mean the most important thing for a ‘Neo’ rider to do is just to define his role. Without that your pissing in the wind. So what am I? I am made to win Amstel Gold Race one day, or so I like to believe. I live for the 2 weeks in April for the Ardennes and any race like it. It’s what keeps me dreaming.
So here I am 4 years on, having raced all the Grand tours, having a handful of special wins, been part of winning Colorado, Lombardia and by far my favourite moment with the team being left hand man to my brilliant friend Dan Martin winning Liege-Bastogne-Liege, I am now faced with the decision to move forward. Whilst I have loved my time with Slipstream it feels like it’s time for another new beginning. Another time to reinvent myself. So this is what I’ve chosen.
Having met Brian Smith at ‘Braveheart’, his Scottish cycling charity night, his passion for development and excitement for MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung was undeniable, and from how I see the team race, you can see his passion and work ethic has translated through.
From their first international races in 2013, racing against some of their African athletes in Langkawi I’ve always respected their work ethic, their eagerness to grow, their professionalism, and most of all their hunger. When MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung comes to the front you know it means business, and this is a business I’m truly looking forward to being part of. This is where I want to reinvent myself: I want to race every race, and never just ride.
I had a choice this year, and it was not by any means an easy choice to make: Its a trusted old friend or the blind unknown. I’ve made the change, the jump, scary as hell, but my gut told me new beginnings were what my heart, soul, and legs needed.
So there it is, my memories, my thank you to Slipstream, to all the brilliant staff who helped me through the times I didn’t understand, to J.V especially for giving me a go in the World Tour, my best moments in my career so far and my reason for change. But most of all, this is about my new place. My new start, and hopefully my new family at MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung, which will race as Team Dimension Data next year.
I am truly excited to announced that in 2016-17 I will be proudly a member of this team and eager to race, also for Qhubeka. Thank you to Brian and to Doug Ryder for believing in me. Something my Jamaican Fishing guide ‘Lipton’ told me this week, is that when people trust in you, you trust in yourself, so there it is, a foundation for a new beginning. I hope you can all look forward to it as much as myself, I know my (still) teary eyed mum is.