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 fourth journal entry…
Life comes at you fast. In 24 hours I went from making fun out of the coronavirus to booking a ticket back to the UK
Life comes at you fast. In 24 hours I went from making fun out of the coronavirus to booking a ticket back to the UK. But why?
Trump’s travel ban was the first indication that things were getting serious. I have my own personal insurance which only permits me to be out of the UK for 90 days in one trip. I was in the mid-70s, so if something was to happen travel-restriction wise, I could potentially be stuck out here in France with my insurance having expired.
We had a five-hour ride on Thursday afternoon. We kicked out the door at 1 pm and got back just after 6 pm. It was shorts weather and the temperature was mid-to-high teens. Spring had arrived in France. I got back after the ride and took my phone out. I had an email from the Rayner Foundation advising that we came home before any travel restrictions. Add in the issue of my insurance and it was looking like this was going to be the best option.
It’s a situation that’s developing hour by hour rather than day by day. On Thursday night, the French President made a public address – I was very proud I could understand it. He said all schools and universities were closing and that he couldn’t rule out closing the borders. My decision had been made: time to book a ticket and pack my bags, I’m coming home. At that point on Thursday night, the FFC [Ed: the French Cycling Federation] still hadn’t cancelled all races, which left a slightly sour taste in my mouth. While I knew I had to come home, it almost felt as if I was abandoning the CCF race team.
Suitcase packed, bike in my Douchebag Savage it was time to head to sleep. On Friday morning, I was up pretty early. I wasn’t getting picked up until midday and I didn’t have anything to do. So, what to do? Go to the boulangerie for breakfast of course. The three ‘foreigners’ on the team, myself, Eric (American) and August (Swedish) met up with three of the French riders and we headed out.
It was at breakfast when it first began to hit me: France has become home
It was at breakfast when it first began to hit me: France has become home. It was a tough start to life in France. I really struggled mentally in January. Moving to a foreign country can take its toll, I felt like a bit of an outcast at times. The more time I’ve spent there the more comfortable I’ve become. I can now converse with my teammates. While I’m no way near-fluent I’m now at the level where I can have what I suppose would be described as ‘small-talk’ or general conversation. We cracked on with our pastries and coffees, chatting away in French, having general banter and talking all things coronavirus. It was a strange mood. While I don’t expect it to be, we were all well aware that it could be the end of our 2020 season.
Breakfast finished we headed back to the apartments as I was due to head to the airport. Leaving the boys in the corridor was, again, a weird one. At that moment in time, France still hadn’t placed its blanket ban over racing, so I had that feeling of jumping ship. One of our media and communications guys came to take me to the airport, about an hour from Chambery. As we drove away from the apartments it was strange not knowing when I’ll be back. The other times that I’d been in the car with a member of staff, I’d not had the confidence to speak in French, but this time was different. The hour to the airport quickly passed as we spoke about everything from football to school. There was the odd bit of English or Google Translate when we got into niche vocabulary, but as a whole, it was completely in French.
I’d imagined my first visit back to the UK for a while. Every time I was missing home, I looked forward to getting to the airport for this first trip back. But with all this coronavirus madness, it felt like I was being forced back rather than coming home by choice. It was in the airport I realised it felt strange, almost foreign, being surrounded by English voices. Nine weeks away is a long time. Nine weeks immersed in another language is even longer, your brain starts to work a bit differently. When I landed in Manchester I felt like a bit of a stranger. I said ‘merci’ instead of ‘thank you’. While I quickly kicked back into my English ways, I was secretly proud of my French brain.
Arriving back in Grimsby felt great. While I love France, and I enjoy life out there coming back to your hometown after been away for a while is nice.
We’re in unprecedented times in the cycling world
Sitting at the gate in Geneva Airport I received an email from the team that we’d suspended racing. Around 20-minutes later the FFC announced racing was suspended infinitely. We’re in unprecedented times in the cycling world. I’m pretty sure, since the war, global bike racing hasn’t been affected as much as today. Nobody knows when it’ll be back to normal. Will it be a week, a month, or 2021? What do we do for training? What events do we target? It truly is a crazy, crazy situation.
P.S. If anyone has a clue of something to do from my house, give me a shout. I’ve left my Playstation in France and there’s only so much Netflix I can watch. While Britain isn’t quarantined, yet, I’m gonna try and keep my visits out to a minimum…
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