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Continental divide: Daniel Whitehouse interview, part 3

Inside the career of a continental-level bike rider

Daniel Whitehouse is a young, British-born rider who has had plenty of success in his short cycling career, winning races and scoring impressive GC placings in Asia, Canada and Australasia. But as Parts 1 and 2 of our interview with him revealed, his career has also been extremely challenging.

We’ve followed him from his boyhood days when he first discovered cycling, to his with first Continental-level contract with Rapha Condor, to his stints Japan and Malaysia, where he rode, often successfully, in races on the UCI Asia Tour. Despite the success, it’s also been a very rocky journey for Whitehouse. And one that he says is not atypical for a Continental-level bike rider.

In this final part of the interview, Whitehouse reflects on his journey so far as a bike rider, and he talks of his hopes for a more stable, more positive, future with his new EvoPro Racing, a team where, for the moment at least, he feels genuinely at home.


Whitehouse at the Tour de Filipinas, 2017. Photo: Tristan Tamayo

For a long time I felt like I was at the intersection of some perverse Venn diagram, all these overlapping fields that only sought to single me out, never really fitting in with a definite group

Reflections…

You said you were difficult to manage when you were at Rapha Condor. You’ve also indicated that there were issues with other teams too. Would you say there is a side to you that perhaps makes it difficult for you to fit into the way a cycling team operates?

I’ve noticed things about my character that I don’t like, the experiences I’ve had, the way people have been in the past; it has shaped me. Trust is a funny thing, it constantly requires restating and can evaporate across an instant. That goes both ways, for me and for everyone I interact with. I get a lot of time to look introspectively, and I realise that this translates as being argumentative. It’s in my nature to find the logical roots of things, and I persist until I get to the base of someone else’s or my own reason. That is not a good trait to have in some regards, it seems pushy, it seems uneasy, it makes me question my own actions the vast majority of the time; but it’s the way I am now. All I can say is that I genuinely never mean to do anyone a disservice, but I’m the only one who can know my intentions, be it good or bad, my actions are what are judged upon. It’s a funny thing to try and explain, but if I have confidence in someone, and they exude and reinforce it, I will follow them to the letter. I have that in Morgan [Fox, Head of Sports Directors at EvoPro Racing] and Evo now, and I feel I’ve met someone else who is well-intentioned as well.

What would you say you’ve learned about yourself during your time on the Continental racing scene?

There’s a saying: sport doesn’t build character, it reveals it. For a long time I felt like I was at the intersection of some perverse Venn diagram, all these overlapping fields that only sought to single me out, never really fitting in with a definite group. I guess, what is my defining trait, is that independent nature, that I am, perhaps not comfortable, but wholly capable left to my own devices and motivations, because in the past I had to be. There’s a reason for every action I take, sometimes it’s an odd or outdated reason that needs updating, however, I’m acutely aware of why I do the things I do. I am my harshest critic, I attribute where I find myself to my own choices and it’s difficult when that person I am judges myself only ever to have done the wrong thing or having been adequate enough. These experiences sure have shaped me, and I’ve learnt because of them. Perhaps though, there would have been kinder ways to learn the same lesson, ways that wouldn’t leave such obvious scars. 

Photo: Tristan Tamayo

I train across the mid-morning and lunch hours, and work almost every night. I make no money to spare and just about everything I own has a hole in it or is coming to the end of its usage

On juggling work and cycling…

You mentioned to me that you also have a bar job at the moment. Has riding a Continental-level always meant you’ve had to supplement your income with other jobs?

It sure does. I train across the mid-morning and lunch hours, and work almost every night. I make no money to spare and just about everything I own has a hole in it or is coming to the end of its usage. It’s a grind. But it is what it is and why complain about the difficulties of my existence when the only way I can change them is to use the tools I have? But yes, if you do fancy a bite to eat sometime in Christchurch, New Zealand, head in to Hoi An House in Halswell and I’ll fix you some drinks something wicked. 

I should add, it is fairly exhausting doing the same thing every day; the work in the evenings helps to break that up. I’m sure by now you’ve realised I’m keen to talk, a bit of social chat with patrons helps to alleviate that. 

Evo are different, that’s why I’m there. Because I’m not looked at like a greyhound running on a track, let loose for a few laps, but as a real boy, emotions and all and not wooden. Pinnochio would be proud

On joining EvoPro Racing…

What led you to join EvoPro Racing?

John Dam was a primary motivator for me joining Evo Pro Racing in 2019. I’m hopeful that Evo is different in the world of cycling. Athletes at my level are aware, or shortly find out, how expendable they are viewed to be by the management. Evo are different, that’s why I’m there. Because I’m not looked at like a greyhound running on a track, let loose for a few laps, but as a real boy, emotions and all and not wooden. Pinnochio would be proud. 

There is another saying though, that the lone wolf doesn’t last long. This is a sport where your team is much more than the time on the result sheet, you live together, you travel together and you spend more time with the team organisation than family a lot of the year. There’s optimism, the first in a long time when I think of what is to come this year. It’s a different feeling with Evo. I’m still looked upon as odd, it’s hard not to, but I don’t feel thought of less for it. And when I’ve made mistakes, trust me I make a fair few, they’ve not been repulsed, but rather sought to help me make amends. It’s relief, in its purest form. At the moment I don’t quite know what to do with that feeling, it feels foreign for the time being, but it sure is welcoming.

Whitehouse (second from right) with his new teammates at the New Zealand Cycle Classic 2019. Photo: EvoPro Racing

In this game, I would rather have a backbone of certainty than a promise of prosperity that is unenforceable

You say that Evo Pro Racing will be different to the other teams you’ve ridden for to date. What sets them apart?

The ethos of the management. It’s nothing tangible. But they aren’t distant. They don’t dodge questions. They aren’t waxing lyrical about what they don’t have. They’re honest. They seek to do the most with the provisions they have. And, most importantly, they make no promises of grandeur. In this game, I would rather have a backbone of certainty than a promise of prosperity that is unenforceable. And, I do honestly believe, because of people like Morgan Fox and John Dam, that I finally have some certainty. 

On the season so far…

Tell us about how the season has gone so far…

Well, we were 1st and 3rd at Gravel And Tar (UCI 1.2), we were 1st and 4th at New Zealand Cycle Classic (UCI 2.2) as well as the team GC and 6 stage podiums including one win, and a podium on the first day of Sun Tour. It’s started well, of course, it’s in my nature to say it could have been better, but all things considered, it was a decent way to start the year. I believe though, especially in respect to the season as a whole, the way the team cooperated and bonded was the most important take away from it all. That’s not to say there wasn’t some conflict, and everyone settled in and was chummy right off the bat, but it’s a team, in every definition of the word, and I’ve got faith in them all, as I hope to prove to them they can have faith in me. 

And how did the Herald Sun Tour go for you on an individual level?

Personally from the Sun Tour, with how it all went down, 12th overall is ‘stomachable’. Having had the odd bit of misfortune and a bit of tactical tweaking here and there from myself, it could have been a bunch better. Regardless, the team helped me a lot, I was in a right spot after the crash on stage 2 and they rode me back on right before the crosswind section, as well as countless bottles and sheltering. So, I’m content. 

Whitehouse at the Tour de Filipinas, 2017. Photo: Tristan Tamayo

On the future…

What is your race programme looking like for the rest of the season?

As of this moment management is still stitching the race calendar together, we’ve got a fantastic number of invites to work in. We’ve got some grand races lined up and I’m really hoping this will be the platform to reward the team for having me in the roster. I can’t say too much, the team will announce what we are up to in due course, but I think it’s safe to say that I’ll be in Europe some time around early April, ready to take on whatever comes next. 

What are your goals this season?

To race as well as I am capable of doing. If I can translate what I am able to do on an unremarkable, daily basis in training into a bike race, the results will speak for themselves. Really, all I ask is for the fluff of professional bike racing, those niggles off the bike that run you down, to be kept to a minimum. I ask for no favours, no leg up, just an even keel and the same strip of road. If I am provided with that and I’m beaten then I will hold my hands up and say I honestly was beaten by a superior athlete. However, not everyone has to travel the same road to get there. So, put simply, I ask for nothing spectacular, just let me do. I’m a one trick pony, but it’s a heck of a trick if they’d just let me show it off. 

Post Sun Tour I have the feeling now that Morgan will do everything he can to make sure the lads have what they need to be competitive, on and off the bike. I’ve never been much of an optimist, but I sure am eager,  and it looks good what is in-store. 

I am far from unique. I am certain that if there was an amnesty for bike riders to come forth and tell tales of how they were dealt with, I would be a long way down the list in severity

Wrapping up…

Final thoughts?

I got me where I am today. I am responsible for myself. I, however, am the culmination of countless people’s effort. From miniscule to momentous, I have been graced by acts of kindness and selflessness, that add to be what I am today. I might be only me, but I am well aware that I am the result of a lot of other people’s hard work, it’s a long list, with everyone I’ve ever met contributing in some way, and it’s at this moment I need to mention my appreciation of that.

You’ve been very open throughout this interview. Is yours a story that other Continental-level riders will recognise do you think?

The feedback from the first couple parts has been well received. But it is far from a complete account of everything that happened. If that was the sum total of all that had transpired, I would probably believe the world to be a fairly rosey place. It’s in the past, it’s mine to bare, but there isn’t much that can be done to change it. Dwelling on that doesn’t help, that doesn’t stop me at times, and it’s all conspired to make me how I am today.

But there is hope. For the first time in a long time, I look forward with the belief that things will be good, that the hardships that arise will be overcome, and I’m surrounded by people that understand and seek to do their best by everyone in the organisation. 

I am far from unique. I am certain that if there was an amnesty for bike riders to come forth and tell tales of how they were dealt with, I would be a long way down the list in severity. 

So here I am. Scars and all, some have healed, other worse ones haven’t. But I’m more than happy to tell genuinely inquisitive people my tale, if only they would ask, they might see that it all adds up. Speculation and gossip in the world of cycling is rife. And I’m certain I am not the only bike rider to traverse a bumpy road. And I sure won’t be the last. 

I remember what it was like. That feeling of nothingness. It’s haunting and I recollect the times I felt that way in harrowing detail. I wish I could go back and tell myself to persevere. That the road might not be worth it, but it leads somewhere. It has led me here, and, for the first time in a long time, I’m excited to see where it leads me next. 

So this is to everyone who has found themselves in the same situations as I. This story is the same, just the names and faces change. 

Photo: Tour de Singarak

We would like to extend a big thank you to Daniel for his time and his willingness to discuss very openly his career so far. We hope to do a follow-up piece with Daniel later in the year.

Read Part 1 of the interview, covering Daniel’s discovery of cycling and his first Continental contract, with Rapha Condor.

Part 2 of the interview follows Daniel’s career from 2015 to 2018, a period when he rode for Japanese and Malaysian-based teams.

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