Joe Laverick and five other cyclists are keeping rider journals for The British Continental this season. Based in France for 2020, 19-year-old Joe rides for Chambéry CF, AG2R La Mondiale’s development team. This is Joe’s first journal entry…
I’m excited for the opportunity … But yes, I’m also scared and nervous
“Holy s**t, it’s really happening!” That’s where my head is currently at. Throughout this series of journal entries, I’m going to try and be as honest as possible, and rather than just doing race reports, I’m going to give an insight into the life as a British cyclist living on the continent.
For decades, young British cyclists have taken the trip to France to pursue the dream of being a pro. From Robert Millar (now Philippa York) in the late 70s, to David Millar and Charly Wegelius in the 90s, it’s seemingly a British Cycling tradition. More recently, two of my close friends in the sport, Matt Ellis and Harrison Wood, took the step to racing in France in 2019.
I’m trying to portray that my situation is not unique. Until you personally go through the experience, however, it never really occurs to you. On 9th January, I’ll be starting my trip over to France, a new chapter in my life. It’ll be the first time I’ve lived away from home, but it’s not the usual jaunt to university, it’s a 14-hour drive to Chambéry, to a new country, a new culture, and all with a language where I’m very much a beginner.
To give you all a little bit of background about myself, I’m Grimsby born and bred (no, it’s not like the film). My first love was football and I only picked up a race bike five and a half years ago. My family has no pedigree in cycling, it has been a ‘learn-as-you-go’ experience.
I went from racing with a bunch of 17 and 18-year-olds to being in a team with some of the best riders the domestic scene has had
In 2020, I’ll be going into my second year as an under-23. My first was spent on Madison Genesis. My time on Madison was up and down and it goes without saying that the step up from the junior ranks is massive; doing it while still being in full-time education was an even bigger step. I went from racing with a bunch of 17 and 18-year-olds to being in a team with some of the best riders the domestic scene has had. My first ‘prem’ was an eye-opener. Matt Holmes finished 4th, which from my inexperienced perspective was a good result for the team. Not at Madison. We raced for the win and while a podium was partially acceptable, any other result in a National Road Series race was seen as a waste of time.
We were lucky enough to get the shout pretty early that the team was stopping. I remember the day pretty clearly. My girlfriend and I were sitting having tea (dinner for you southerners) on a Friday evening when I got a call from Roger Hammond – weird considering I’d had a long call with him that morning. While I picked it up expecting a late call up to the Tour of the Res, the opening words of “have you checked your emails” struck fear into me. Let’s be honest, very few of us check our emails on a Friday night and if the boss rings to tell you to check your emails it’s rarely good. I opened the email to a press-release: the team was folding. My only words back to Rog were “ah s**t”, and the phone call ended pretty quickly. He still had others to inform before the press release went live.
The running joke on the team became ‘the scene’s dead’ … it was time to look abroad
It was from here an uncertain few months played out, I was in a position where I had no major results as a senior. In fact scrap that: I had no results as a senior. The running joke on the team became ‘the scene’s dead’ which the more you think about it the less of a joke it becomes. It was time to look abroad.
To cut a long story short, I had positive talks with a couple of top development teams before they fell through. I was then told about Chambéry Cyclisme Formation, who are, in all but name, the AG2R La Mondiale development squad. A few phone calls and emails with the team later, I was on the plane to France for some test days, and a few days after that I had an offer of a spot on the team.
It didn’t really occur to me at the time how much of a step it would be to move to France. I’ll shamelessly admit I’m a ‘home-person’; I love being around my family and in the comfort of my hometown. I said my first goodbyes on Boxing Day to my family that lives away from home. I don’t see them overly often as it is but it felt rather poignant (I think that’s the right word, if it’s not I’m very sorry, I spent more time thinking about cycling than words during my A-Level English class). I’m trying to put it to the back of my head but unsurprisingly it’s the main topic of conversation that most people want to have with me.
So, as I bring this first post to an end, I’ll offer a small conclusion. Yes, I’m excited for the opportunity, I’ll be learning a new language, competing in some of the best U23 races in the world and living what many deem to be the dream. But yes, I’m also scared and nervous. I’ll be out of my comfort zone of training on home roads and living in the family home. I’m sure there will be moments where I ‘crack’ and want to come home. Everyone who has lived and raced abroad says there are those times. However, I’m also positive there will be moments where I’ll have the time of my life and love the experience. I look forward to bringing you all along on the trip with me.
P.S. I dropped French in Year 9, telling my teacher it was a ‘language which I’ll never need’. All I can do is say sorry to my teacher, Miss Turner. Hindsight is wonderful.
Featured photo: Zac Williams/SWpix.com. HSBC UK National Time Trial Championships U23 Men Sandringham, Norfolk, England – Joe Laverick
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