Joe Laverick and five other cyclists are keeping rider journals for The British Continental this season. Based in France for 2020 and supported by the Rayner Foundation, 19-year-old Joe rides for Chambéry CF, AG2R La Mondiale’s development team. This is Joe’s third journal entry…
Fear, excitement and elation; you’ve been training all winter for this day, and it has finally arrived. Nothing beats the race season
So, here we have it, the season is upon us. For cyclists across the world, March (February if you’re a points hunter, January if you’re a World Tour pro in Aus) commences the mental seven to eight-month period of your year. In this journal post, I’m going to try and give you a mini ‘behind the scenes’ look at what the start of the race season is like.
The last time I pinned a number on I was sitting in the back of my Dad’s car, on a cricket field in southern Yorkshire. It was a lovely September’s day and it’s not too far from the truth to say I was more focused on the night out I was going to be having that night rather than the actual race. The season was almost over and I was ready for some time off.
I’m in a new country, I’ve got a new home and I can (kind-of) speak a new language
176 days later, my new season has started. I’m in a new country, I’ve got a new home and I can (kind-of) speak a new language. However, some things will never, ever change.
A March race means packing every single piece of kit you own, from the winter-thermals to the summer mesh jersey, it all goes in and it leaves you questioning just why your case is so full for a trip that is less than 24 hours.
Then there’s the search through Netflix. We spend an awful lot of time in the back of the car and inevitably that means an awful lot of time on Netflix. Now, nobody wants to use all of their precious data for streaming films, you need to save that for the trawl through random peoples Facebook accounts for photos after the race. So, you’ve got to download everything you want to watch in advance, now this is where you’ve got to be on the ball. Never – and I mean never – only download two episodes out of a series. Go big or go home: download the whole series. Always, always download more than you need. Nobody wants to be left with staring out of a car window counting cows, do they? [Side note: Don’t forget that portable charger].
The journey to a race has a fine line regarding snacks. The usual long drive snacks (Haribo) are off the list because we’re athletes (and we save them for after the race). You’ve got to go for something that’s tasty enough to bring some satisfaction but not sweet enough that you’ll get the evil eyes from your DS. Plain rice cakes, for example, are a no-no. They’re like cardboard. Chocolate-topped rice cakes are without a doubt the winner, they taste pretty good and you can rail a full pack without feeling guilty. Rice cakes are healthy. Right?
Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you to the service station section
So, you’re two packs of rice cakes in and have watched half a season of Suits. What’s next? Well, ladies and gentlemen, I bring you to the service station section. I’ve become friendly with British service stations throughout the years. On the way to the race they provide a good stop for the use of facilities and a pasta pack, and on the way home from a race they provide a great morale boost. I’ve watched England win a World Cup game at a service station and I’ve spent a good hour sunbathing outside one as well. They form a simple part of every race journey and I can guarantee that the M&S profits go up directly as a result of the British calendar. Every domestic rider nails the M&S cookies. I’m yet to figure out French service stations. Some are incredible, with patisseries, while some are simply a toilet block in a field. It’s confusing.
Rice cakes consumed, M&S raided, and Netflix drained, you’ve arrived at your pre-race hotel. I’m not overly picky with my pre-race hotel. If it’s got a comfy bed and Wi-Fi then I’m happy. If the pre-race email says to bring your own sheets (or towel, to a lesser extent), you know it’s gonna be rough. Campaniles are the standard in France and luckily I’m yet to experience a Premiere Classe. It’s only March, however, there’s plenty of time. There’s also a quick game of ‘who’s the roommate’. You want someone who’s willing to have a chat but doesn’t go on all day. As long as they don’t snore it’s usually okay.
Cycling really is a crazy sport and you have no clue where you’re going to be year on year
At my first race of the year, I always look back and think ‘where was I this time last year’. My 2018 season kicked off in Flanders, my 2019 season started in Lancashire and 2020 was in the Dordogne region of France. Cycling really is a crazy sport and you have no clue where you’re going to be year on year. The day before the race those excitable nerves start kicking in, you haven’t felt them for five or so months and have forgotten what they feel like. Fear, excitement and elation; you’ve been training all winter for this day, and it has finally arrived. Nothing beats the race season.
Featured photo: Chambéry CF
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