Journals Riders

Rider journals 2021: introducing Joe Reilly

Get to know our latest rider journal signing, the 21-year-old Scottish Rayner Foundation rider Joe Reilly

We are lucky enough to have ten riders contributing to our rider journal series in 2021. Abi SmithRed WaltersCharliiy BerryCharlotte BroughtonJames JenkinsLizzy Bennett, Tom Portsmouth, and Chrissie Slot have already been busy providing written journals. Lewis Askey, meanwhile, is keeping a journal of sorts for us over on the podcast. In this post, we reveal our tenth signing…

We seem to have a weak spot for Joes here at The British Continental. In our first year, Saint Piran’s Joe Evans kept a journal for us. In 2020, we had the multi-talented Joe Laverick and Joe Nally. We had hoped the latter would continue writing for us for this season, but he’s since taken the tough decision to hang up his wheels. Thankfully for all you Joe fans out there, we’ve signed a new Joe: Joe Reilly.

Joe is someone regular readers will already be aware of; he’s written for us twice already. His first piece was a plea for more varied race terrain in the National Road Series. His second was a bittersweet ode to the realities of winter training in Britain. On the bike, Joe spent his first senior year at Vitus Pro Cycling. He then spent two seasons with the elite-level Wheelbase Cabtech Castelli team. This year, however, supported by the Rayner Foundation, he’s opted to race abroad, joining the French DN3 team ASPTT Nancy.

If I could get to the end of this year with a few trophies, jerseys and race wins in my cabinet and the knowledge that I did all I could to achieve the best I could, I would consider 2021 to be a success

Thanks to Brexit and Covid-19, he’s yet to race in France, as he’ll explain in his soon-to-be-published first journal entry, but, hopefully, once the latter eases a little, we’ll get the opportunity to follow his racing season in these journals.

Before he kicks off his journal career with us, we asked him to answer a few questions to help us get to know him a little better…

Photo: Ewan Kennedy

Tell us how you got into cycling…

Having been born and raised in rural Galloway, southwest Scotland, where school and the nearest food shop is a 20-mile round trip, the options for transport were limited to just two: an intermittent bus service or lifts in the car by my parents. 

Being the youngest of five children however, my parents weren’t exactly short on chauffer requests. My trip to the village shop to get milk has remained the same, yet through the years the amount of time taken to ride there and back is far shorter, and the bikes I lean outside the shop have become drastically more expensive.

The daily opportunity to swing my leg over the bike and choose a new route to ride is priceless

How would you sum up your riding career so far?

Adventurous. Yes, I’ve been fortunate to win several races. Yes, I’ve done some great races. But the daily opportunity to swing my leg over the bike and choose a new route to ride is priceless. 

Weather, terrain, even what bike you choose to ride are all factors that make cycling unique and appealing. 

What have been the highlights as a rider to date?

Race wins, jerseys and trophies all come and go with each season, but the friends I have made in the sport will last a lifetime. With these friends, I’ve travelled all across the UK and Europe racing, bike packing or café riding. Each ride with them gives both highlights and memories that I will cherish forever. Not to mention that beating these friends in a bike race makes life even sweeter.

Photo: James Vincent

And what has been your biggest challenge, and why?

In 2016, during a wet stage when racing in a UCI race in Germany, a rider bunny-hopped off the pavement – which he had just used to move up – into the peloton. He misjudged how slippery the road was and crashed in front of me. As his bike flipped, I ploughed into him, his chainring going straight into my knee, through the skin, the kneecap and all the tendons in that area.

Blue-lighted to the hospital, emergency surgery, a week in a German hospital, two flights home, a wheelchair and then eight weeks on crutches meant for a long recovery

The official medical terminology was an open fracture to the patella, but to you and me it just looked like a bacon sandwich where someone had squirted on far too much ketchup. Blue-lighted to the hospital, emergency surgery, a week in a German hospital, two flights home, a wheelchair and then eight weeks on crutches meant for a long recovery – including relearning how to walk. The total recovery time was about six months, I was racing in again in seven. After a full season, I had to have another operation to have all the metalwork removed which started the whole process again.

The dreaded question: what kind of rider are you?

It’s difficult in cycling; it’s a meritocracy where the value is in race results. Yet at the professional level, there are only 10-15 riders who race for the win, the other 120 are there to help those individuals win. But the 120 others only got to the professional level because of results, despite them being hired not to win, but to help others win. 

I’d relish sitting on the front of the peloton for long periods or being personally responsible for the positioning, nutrition and care of a team leader

So where does that leave me? The most fun I ever had in a bike race was on the continent at a junior UCI race. For the first two-thirds of the race, I shepherded by good friend Stephen Dent around the course, dropping back with him on the climbs, moving him to the front on the descents and flats, and then leaving him to work his magic in the last, frantic 15 km. I love sitting on the front of a group or with a friend to drag them home. So, if I ever got the chance, I’d relish sitting on the front of the peloton for long periods or being personally responsible for the positioning, nutrition and care of a team leader in an important race.

Joe (left) with the Wheelbase Cabtech Castelli team. Photo: James Vincent

Tell us a bit about the team you’ll be riding for this year

My new team for 2021 is ASPTT Nancy, located in the east of France. They have a fantastic calendar, mixing regional and national races with a few UCI races peppered in. Their team accommodation is fantastic, and I cannot wait to move out, experience the culture, and race as hard as I can.

And, once racing resumes, what would a successful 2021 look like?

Cycling is unpredictable at the best of times, that’s without factoring in Covid-19 and lockdowns. To pin my hopes and ambitions on one race when we still don’t know its date or if it’ll go ahead this early would be premature. 

If I could get to the end of this year with a few trophies, jerseys and race wins in my cabinet and the knowledge that I did all I could to achieve the best I could, I would consider 2021 to be a success. Oh, a contract for 2022 would be nice too.

Featured photo: James Vincent

Find out more

Winter training in Britain: a how to (get by) guide

‘Hillification’ over diversification?

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