Photographer John Smith followed JLT Condor rider Ed Laverack through the ups and downs of his hill climb season. After the dust had settled, he asked Ed about hill climbing, his time at JLT Condor and what’s up next for the 24 year-old cyclist from Llanelli, South Wales.
Words and photos by John Smith (Same Old Smith Photography)
Ed, before we get into hill climbing, how do you feel your season on the road went?
Mixed feelings. I’ve really found and lost myself this year. Starting the season in the best shape I have ever done was a great sign. Outperforming expectations in the Tour of Yorkshire in a support role and then moving on to a close top 10 in the Tour of Japan with good legs on Mount Fuji. The Tour de Beauce in Canada was unreal. The best I’ve ever gone in my life there before crashing massively and taking seven weeks out with recovery. Coming back from that was harder mentally than physically. Just accepting it was difficult, but I’ve come through it a different athlete and now I’m going even better than before the crash!
The best moments are the ones the media don’t see. The end result of those moments is what people see.
You’ve had 6 years racing with JLT Condor, what would you say your best moments have been in that time?
The best moments are the ones the media don’t see. The end result of those moments is what people see. Taking the under 23 British Road Race Championship in 2014 in Abergavenny was a landmark moment for my development. Having success both individually and as part of the team make the memories even better. As weird as this year has been, I still consider my ride in Japan one of my greatest performances both from a single effort perspective in the mountains and the consistent performances day after day.
So, hill climbing. Was this something that came naturally to you coming from South Wales and having some of the best climbs in the country on your doorstep?
I’m not a pure climber. It’s taken about 8 years for me to find my niche. Nutrition has played a massive part in it. My race weight used to be 63kg, but I’d get dropped from many front groups on climbs. When I found that I could get to 58kg I started developing confidence as a climber and someone that can ride a good time trial. Down my way, we have the Gwendreath Valley. It’s full of climbs about 1-2 miles between 6-10%. I can ride there for 5 hours, climb 4000 metres in 115 kilometres and never be more than 20 kilometres from home.
Do you have certain hills that you absolutely dread and try and avoid when out on a training ride? If so, why?
I honestly don’t have one. I’ve been thinking longer than 5 minutes so that tells me I can’t think of one!
I see you have a YouTube channel; can you explain what your videos are about and where people can go to watch?
I want to share what I do as much as possible. Being accessible to the public has incredible influence. I’m not saying what I do is right, I just document my training, nutrition, travel, races, and anything that I feel people can get massive value out of. Even if it’s just watching what I do rather than what I say. I learnt by following and watching people when I joined my local cycling club so I’m just giving something back along the way. In 30 years’ time I can point to the videos I made and say this is what I did on that day, this is the work I put in. It’s very humbling.
Everything goes out of the window with 3 minutes to go. It’s just grit-your-teeth time.
How did you get on during the Welsh hill climb championship this year?
To take the win there was reassuring. I had confidence going to it because I had prepared and done everything I could have done. Nothing prepares you for the nerves or excitement on the day though. With a climb as long at The Tumble [Ed: Ed’s winning time was 11 minutes, 55 seconds], a lot of the guesswork is taken out of it. So as long as I could do 400 watts with my weight that morning at 59 kilograms, I knew I’d post a competitive time. Everything goes out of the window with 3 minutes to go. It’s just grit-your-teeth time.
The Tumble I feel has big pedigree, so being able to race on that and be the fastest on that climb comes with a surreal feeling.
When we caught up in October, you had raced three climbs in the space of two weeks: The Bwlch, The Rhigos and The Tumble. Three very famous hill climbs in South Wales. Which was the toughest in your opinion?
The Tumble. It’s longer. It has various gradients and road surfaces. And was pouring with rain. The Tumble I feel has big pedigree, so being able to race on that and be the fastest on that climb comes with a surreal feeling.
Now it’s over, how do you feel your hill climb season went?
After crashing mid-season I didn’t think it was possible to get down to climbing weight (losing 7 kilograms) and get my fitness back. Smart training and consistency paid off. I wasn’t as dominant as I could have been if I’d had a good run at it, but I was grateful to be even on the start line [Ed: Ed finished 33rd]. You are racing yourself at the end of the day in my eyes. Sickness the night before the Nationals led to a 2-kilogram loss in body weight and 45 watts of power compared with my ‘test’ run a week before. If I was healthy it would have been a completely different story.
It’s about keeping an open mind, performing to the best of our abilities every time we show up, and opening ourselves up to the public as a team that will take the game on.
Congratulations on signing with a new team. How do you feel about joining SwiftCarbon?
Joining SwiftCarbon Pro Cycling has allowed me to take a step back to take 2 steps forward. Spending 6 years listening and racing with John Herety and great riders at JLT Condor has changed my vision for the sport. I want to take that with me to the new team and new faces. As it is a new group of guys I expect it to take a while to learn how we race together, although some teams can gel very quickly. It’s about keeping an open mind, performing to the best of our abilities every time we show up, and opening ourselves up to the public as a team that will take the game on.