James Jobber and five other cyclists are keeping rider journals for The British Continental this season. The 26-year-old will continue his odyssey on the UCI Asia Tour this season, riding for yet-to-be-announced Malaysian Continental team. This is James’ first journal entry…
I’ve had the fortune of racing on 4 different continents and countless countries, each with their own unique identity
What motivates me the most is the idea that with every ride and every race I am developing as a cyclist. A quote that resonates with me is that “if you’re the smartest in the room you’re in the wrong room”, and in my eyes, the same applies to this sport. For me, this means competing in events that are always pushing me out of my comfort zone. Racing against more developed riders, week in week out, continuously challenges me and forces me to improve.
For a number of years, I filled my season with predominantly British races but found that there was a real lack of domestic races for riders and teams sitting between the elite and World Tour levels. This has led me away from the British scene and instead to compete across the world. There are teams who provide those opportunities here but I haven’t delivered the results to prove I’m worthy of them and haven’t got the contacts to help hold the door ajar for me. There’s a finite amount of places on the teams as well, and those numbers are only getting smaller, so it made sense to look further afield.
I also love competing in events that create a spectacle. The races I have competed in abroad have provided a stage to race on that is unmatched in the UK (outside of the Tour of Britain and the Tour de Yorkshire). There’s something about racing in front of crowds of people, team presentations and the press coverage during races that make it feel that bit more special. It helps me find that extra gear which is useful when you’re into your fifth day of racing.
The race that opened my eyes to what’s out there and showed me how far I can push myself was the Tour de Martinique: a 9-day stage race in the Caribbean. The race took me on some of the toughest roads I’ve ridden on, in incredibly hot and humid climates. British riders have been heading over to this race for years and I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to compete in 2016 and 2017. 2016 was my first experience of competing in a stage race and it was my first experience of being part of something that felt close to the events I’d watched on TV.
The crowds of people that came out to support, racing 9 stages on closed roads with a full race convoy and the press coverage of the race were unlike anything I had experienced. The route itself was incredibly difficult due to the relentlessly rolling nature of the roads. The humidity was unbearable but I loved nearly every minute of it. Ironically I ended the race sat in tears in the broom wagon having snapped my chain but it had opened my eyes to what bike racing could be and I was desperate for another chance to compete.
I was away with the ‘champion of the Caribbean’ and the crowds were roaring
I went back the following year knowing what I was up against, stronger and determined to succeed. Until Stage 6 I was in the top 10 on GC but completely cracked on the relentless terrain. I took the next two days easy and hit the final stage (9) full gas. I was actually dropped on the second climb of the day but fought my way back to the peloton after chasing for 10km in a small group. I hit the group as soon as I caught it and spent the next 90km in a 3-man move that stayed away to the finish (just). The final 60km were on 3 laps of a finishing circuit and it was like nothing I have ever experienced.
On the climbs around the circuit, it was 3-4 people deep on either side of the road in places. I was away with the ‘champion of the Caribbean’ and the crowds were roaring. We came into the finish and nearly got sent the wrong way at the final roundabout (this race always has some way of trying to crack you) but I held on to third and was able to get on the podium at the closing ceremony in front of hundreds of people. It was a far cry away from the regional and national races I had been to where my parents and girlfriend would make up a quarter of the people watching.
It was such a buzz to perform well in an event that was such a great spectacle. Since then I’ve had the fortune of racing on 4 different continents and countless countries, each with their own unique identity. Only Indonesia has matched the crowds of Martinique but every race has provided a different challenge. Through competing in these foreign events I have made contacts further afield and that has led me down the route of racing for Continental teams based in Asia. For the 2020 season I will be riding for a team based in Malaysia so hope to compete in results with a similar crowd, atmosphere and with similar results.
Featured photo: The Naughty Northumbrian
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