Tom Portsmouth is one of nine riders who kept a journal for The British Continental in 2021. Tom has been supported by the Rayner Foundation and rides for the Mini Discar Academy team in Belgium. In his final installment, Tom explains his decision to take a different direction in 2022…
I thought it would be appropriate to close out my 2021 journal entries on the same topic that I started this incredible journey with British Continental: Brexit.
I’ve found peace with my decision to take a new direction in 2022
I had a great experience in Europe during 2021, managing to spend the maximum number of days I could have spent out in Belgium. I’m grateful for what I was able to achieve on this front , being able to learn a huge amount about different racing situations. Belgium is truly the best place to learn about all things bike racing. Thanks to what I’ve learned, I’ve found peace with my decision to take a new direction in 2022.
Negotiating the twin challenges of Brexit and Covid was challenging to say the least. Some riders had the grace of being related to a close family member who held a passport of a member state of the European Union. Others were able to go out in 2020 before the Brexit transition date, which allowed them to begin the process of obtaining residency.
Before you question why I didn’t try something similar: I did. We tried super hard to achieve this but, unfortunately, after missing the transition deadline of the 31st December 2020, the Belgian Government and Foreign Office were not willing to accept my application. Frustrating of course, but I am content with how hard we worked to try to make it happen, pulling every string we could. But it wasn’t meant to be.
At times, – in a sport where you are always trying to get the edge over someone else – it was hard to share any information with other riders over fear they would use what I’d learned and leave me high and dry. I kept my cards close to my chest, and tried to learn as much as I could about the situation, trying to figure out what was best going forward.
Now I have taken stock of the challenges Brexit threw at me last year, what direction have I decided to take my 2022 season? And why am I happy to share and commit to this direction?
Rather than making Belgium my home, I will be based in the UK. I will hop over the Channel whenever there is racing
This season I’ll continue with my Belgian team, Mini Discar Academy, but rather than making Belgium my home, I will be based in the UK. I will hop over the Channel whenever there is racing. It will almost be like returning to my roots when I first started racing in Belgium in 2016; driving across on the Saturday morning, racing Saturday afternoon, staying overnight, racing again on Sunday and then travelling back Sunday evening for school on Monday morning at 8am.
I am committed to using my ‘90 days’ to an even greater efficiency compared to 2021*, using them purely for racing. It means I should never run out of days so long as I am brutally committed to the goal of racing to the maximum. It does mean, however, that I have to forgo the cultural experience that comes along with living and training in Europe, which is unfortunate.
It is a drive, literally and emotionally, to make every opportunity count
It is a drive, literally and emotionally, to make every opportunity count. It’s the whole focal point for 2022. And this method makes that possible, which is why I am at peace with my direction and content with the opportunities I’ve got with my fantastic, understanding, team at Mini Discar Academy. I am grateful for their support, as well as The Rayner Foundation’s support in 2021. I’m looking forward too, to sharing this journey with my parents a bit more in 2022; they were missed on the side-lines in 2021. I loved our raids across to Belgium with them in my junior days. Those journeys got me so excited, I can’t wait for that experience again next year. Bring it!
*Post-Brexit, Britons are only permitted to spend ’90 days in any 180-day period’ in the Schengen area.
Featured photo: Ian Wrightson
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