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Joe Reilly journal: about Finn Crockett

Rider journals 2021: Joe Reilly #04/January

We were lucky enough to have nine riders contributing to our rider journal series in 2021. In his final ‘2021’ entry, Scot Joe Reilly interviews his former teammate Finn Crockett, one of the revelations of the 2021 domestic road racing season…

The distinctive ring of a Facetime call rattles through my phone. The small beep indicates the recipient has answered and, after a few seconds of buffering, the beaming smile of Finn Crockett appears on my screen. This call was set up to interview Finn on the eve of signing his first professional contract, to discuss his incredible year, and to pick the brains of one of the best up-and-coming domestic riders. Despite this, the first thing he does is ask how I am, what I’ve been up to recently, and then about my parents – with no regard to the fact that this is an interview about him. This genuine interest and concern indicate more about the young Scotsman than any opening paragraph of superlatives can attest.

When he tries hard – really hard – his eyebrows pop over the top of his glasses frame

Joe Reilly

I’ve known Finn for the past six years, travelled together across seven different countries, spent thousands of hours in his company, and ridden thousands of kilometres beside (and behind) him too; from being teammates as juniors and racing across Europe to setting up and attending our annual training camps in Tenerife, Inverness, Mallorca, and Galloway.

2021 was a stand-out year for the young Scotsman, taking third overall and first in the U23 category at the National Road Series. including a standout podium place at the Lancaster Grand Prix. His 2021 palmares also includes third at the Lancaster Grand Prix, a National B road race win, 10th at the Ryedale Grasscrete Grand Prix, three top-15s at the Tour Series, and numerous other top performances. It’s little wonder that the UCI professional team Ribble Weltide Pro Cycling have added him to their squad for the 2022 season. 

2021 Tour Series – Round 1: Guisborough, England – Podium – Scotland’s Finn Crockett and Phil Jones. Photo: Will Palmer/SWpix.com

In 2021, being a close friend and an eagle-eyed follower of Finn’s Strava, I notice a very easy start to the year. He explains, “I planned a consistent base from around October 2020 and [my coach] and I guessed it would be a back-heavy season, so we slowly built into it during the springtime”. That’s not to say he was twiddling his thumbs as his weekly hours of riding remained fairly low. Finn studies Business and Marketing at the University of Stirling and has a part-time job at the local bike shop. “During lockdown, I just kept busy with training, working and uni – it seemed to fill the days.”

Yet before Finn could pin on any race number or line up to any start line, he decided to go bike packing with his girlfriend around the west coast of Scotland. “Coming out of the winter lockdown, we were just dead keen on adventures.” For those who don’t know, travelling is in his blood. Any given year Finn will visit as many countries as he can, explore and soak in the local culture. Much like Christopher Columbus, just without the controversy and with much better bike-handling skills. Some might argue that island hopping and sleeping on a beach isn’t the type of training an athlete should undertake ahead of a crucial and busy season, but Finn disagrees. “Actually, carrying 20kg of kit on a cross-bike is pretty good training”. That’s me told. 

The travelling really kills; you spend so much time in the car that it impacts uni work

Finn Crockett

Ahead of any given race weekend, Finn will face a challenge that very few others will face – the drive time. The Scotsman hails from the very north, further north than Inverness (yes, there is civilisation up there), meaning it’s a five-hour drive just to reach the border in Gretna, let alone the further two, three or four hours to get to where many of the big races are held. “The travelling really kills; you spend so much time in the car that it impacts uni work. Luckily, Stirling [University] has offered me extensions to lots of deadlines.”

The 2021 season started successfully for Finn as he built into the year, each race his results improved. “I try and race as much as I can, I think it’s so important to get races in your legs”.

Photo: Wheelbase Cabtech Castelli

By July, just a few weeks out from the first National Road Series race, he had two double-header weekends planned. The first was the Scottish road race championships and then the ‘northern classic’ that is the Capernwray road race. After disappointingly finishing 4th at the Scottish champs, Finn travelled the six hours from Aberdeen to Lancashire. The next weekend he was back in the region of the red rose, taking on a further two National Bs and Pimbo and Upton, taking 5th and 2nd, only narrowly missing out on the win. “That really created a fire” he states, clearly unsatisfied with not winning.

Teams don’t contact you; you have to be emailing them with your CV and updating your results

Finn Crockett

Next on the calendar was the Tour Series where he represented the Scottish National Team, placing a consistent and impressive 15th, 13th, 11th – if only there had been another five rounds… “I love racing crits; I love the fight and how tactical they are.” It was here that he began to be noticed by managers. “Yeah, the Tour Series sparked some interest from teams. But there were no offers. Teams don’t contact you; you have to be emailing them with your CV and updating your results.”

Due to coming back from racing in France and not needing to quarantine, I had the pleasure of watching the final round of the Tour Series in Castle Douglas. As I watched Finn go around and around, it reminded me of a little trait he has. When he tries hard – really hard – his eyebrows pop over the top of his glasses frame. This small indication sends a message that he is in full flow, riding hard but in control. Judging by the number of eyebrows raises I saw that evening, it’s no wonder his results were so impressive.

Lancaster came as a bit of a shock. I attacked and bridged across to the breakaway and we all worked well together. I was quite shocked to make it to the finish with them

Finn Crockett

Before he could rest on his Tour Series results, he was back in action at the Lancaster Grand Prix, taking a significant third place – a huge result for a rider on an elite team when National Road Series races tend to be dominated by UCI Continental teams. “Lancaster came as a bit of a shock. I attacked and bridged across to the breakaway and we all worked well together. I was quite shocked to make it to the finish with them.” He pauses, “Yeah, not bad”. The form continued as he then took 10th at the next National Road Series race in Ryedale, followed by 18th Beaumont “Ah man I was so ill for Beaumont, I was just gasping and snot-rocketing the whole time.” But it was enough to clinch the U23 title and third overall for the Series, firmly putting him on the map as a rider to beat. 

2021 National Road Series – Lancaster Grand Prix, Lancaster, England. – Josh Whitehead Jacob Scott and Finn Crockett. Photo: Simon Wilkinson/SWpix.com

What’s more impressive, was the fact that Finn managed to claim these results on the bike that he rode. Having been part of the Wheelbase Cabtech Castelli team for the past four years, like all of their riders, he has been well supported; he’s been given the best kit, bikes and support to aim for the best results he can. Wheelbase – my former team – is an outstanding example of an elite team when it comes to these areas. However, due to a global bike shortage and limited races, the riders of Wheelbase weren’t issued their flagship race bike as in previous years. Finn then opted to ride his current Cannondale Supersix, which had been his race bike in 2018 and then his winter bike since. It has clocked up more miles than a 1980s family car, and you can tell. “Oh man,” he laughs “It’s not good. Although Toby [Wheelbase Manager] looked after me and serviced it a lot. But…”, he pauses again “…I’m pretty sure it’s got a hole in it” he laughs more, “Probably best not to put that part in”. (Sorry mate).

This theme of wishing to get value for money runs throughout Finn’s racing career. Never one to replace kit or bike parts unless it’s essential. There is no malice or disorganisation involved, he just likes getting his money’s worth. This brings me onto his bike box. 

Like two postmen facing the sack, we set about taping the box up in a frantic manner

Joe Reilly

Finn has a bike box that should have been turned to glue in about 1993, yet he persists in using it, despite the clasps having never worked properly. Although I can’t remember the specifics of our conversation, one morning Finn and I were in Edinburgh airport, ready to fly out to Tenerife for our winter training camp. Our exchange probably went along the lines of me complaining about his bike box, only for him to say “mate it’s fine, it works. Doesn’t it?”. Well, it seemed like fate was tempted that day as the clasps gave up all regard for their job and his whole bike box opened, all over the airport floor, just ten minutes before we were supposed to check-in. A 5 am, bleary-eyed chase around WH-Smith ensued to find some parcel tape. Like two postmen facing the sack, we set about taping the box up in a frantic manner. “Job’s a good’un,” we thought, making our way to security. Yet fate was finished with us yet. Finn’s taped-up box went through the scanner, and – uh-oh – they want to look inside, which means unwrapping all of that tape. Finn eventually does, to the backing music of my uncontrolled laughter. Yet despite his box exploding in the middle of the airport, then running emergency repairs with parcel tape, only to be then told he had to unwrap it all again, Finn was not put off his toughest challenge of all – trying to convince the airport security that the 1 kg of white powder in his box was not dodgy and was in fact, flavoured protein mix.

2021 HSBC UK National Road Series – Beaumont Trophy 2021 – Series podium after the Beaumont Trophy 2021 podium, Finn Crockett. Photo: Craig Zadoroznyj/SWpix.com

Signing for Ribble Weltide for the 2022 season brings fresh opportunities, “I’d love to go back racing abroad, which I haven’t done since I was a junior” he states, adding “the amount of kit and support we get is unreal. I think we get like three bikes. Just to be fully supported like that, it’s a huge step up”. The end of university also beckons as he’s in his final year, “I’d love to get round uni, do as well as I can and then go full-time from the summer onwards”. Watch out world.

So, if you’re spectating and see Finn in 2022 and witness his eyebrows pop up over the glasses frame, you’ll be watching a rider in full flow, in complete control, riding on pure instinct. But if you’re racing against him and also witness the eyebrow raise – cross yourself, say a prayer, and just try to hold on.

Find out more

Joe Reilly journal #3: a tribute to the vintage Steve Lampier

Joe Reilly journal #2: my A to Z of bike racing in France

Joe Reilly journal #1: trying to Tricolour

Rider journals 2021: introducing Joe Reilly

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

‘Hillification’ over diversification?

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