Tom Portsmouth is one of nine riders keeping a journal for The British Continental in 2021. A second-year under-23 rider, Tom is supported by the Rayner Foundation and rides for the new Carbonbike Discar Academy team in Belgium this season. In his third installment, Tom looks back on racing in England this year before his move over to Belgium…
I’ve managed to build a network of many new and very supportive people, who have helped me find belief, confidence, and happiness every week
This season’s Miche West Thames Races at the Hillingdon cycle circuit, dubbed the ‘Tuesday night world champs’, has been one for the books. This year has been something truly special, not just because it marked the return of some much-needed racing, but also because I’ve managed to build a network of many new and very supportive people, who have helped me find belief, confidence, and happiness every week.
Hillingdon has been a regular on my calendar for years and years ever since I started racing properly all the way back in the under-12s. But it had been two years since I had previously raced there so I was extremely excited to kick off the post-lockdown calendar and my 2021 season.
The first week was a strange feeling, riding so close to so many other people in the peloton. Because we hadn’t raced for so long I had no idea where everyone’s fitness level was, nor how competitive I’d be against riders at the top of their game physically. I was super happy, then, to start it off with a win, a big tick mark to all the effort and commitment I had put in over the last year with TrainSharp, my psychologist Paul and, more recently, Qualified Nutrition.
Sometimes Hillingdon can seem monotonous week in week out, but a few weeks of mid-field bunch finishes made me realise I was really enjoying the tactical tasks placed in front of me every Tuesday. It was like you were solving a puzzle and when it was complete you would be in the front group with the chance for victory. I was so excited by the process of racing I would turn up every week intrigued as to what conundrums the race would throw up.
But then came the time of Tim Lynch, the rider who won five back-to-back races at Hillingdon. He was providing me with such a strong challenge each and every week, it forced me to bring my A-game. I was hooked, this was the best game I had played in twelve months. It got to the point where my main goal was to beat him. There were numerous attempts, with me often identifying the right moves only to be outsmarted by Tim ever so slightly in the finale. My motivation was incredibly high as a result of this. I finally ended his unbeaten run when I managed to outsmart him, and outpower him, at the hillier Hog Hill course, one of my favourite circuits in the UK.
Hillingdon and Hog Hill provided me with safe spaces to learn and adapt tactics, developing my array of knowledge for recognising different scenarios, and being able to deliberately put myself in ones I had not encountered yet. So, I want to say a thank you to all the lads at the ‘Don and Hog Hill for helping me develop this season into a rider who is now ready to tackle the biggest Europe has to offer. I look forward to growing and developing with your help and confidence in future seasons. I love the energy and atmosphere you brought each week, it helped me grow as a person and a rider!
Featured photo: Honor Elliot
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