The 24-year-old Brit – now in his third season with Deceuninck – Quick-Step – talked about racing and training in the mountains, where his main forte lies.

I have really enjoyed it at Val di Fassa. I love being somewhere new and discovering news roads, and the Dolomites is a beautiful area with amazing mountain passes and views and excellent roads. I have done a lot of hard climbs during the camp, so in terms of training it has been fantastic. And, of course, it has been special to be back amongs the team after such a long time.

Lockdown wasn’t easy, not having any races since early Spring wasn’t easy, so joining the Wolfpack for this 18-day training camp in Val di Fassa has been a welcome change. There has been a great atmosphere here and everyone is desperate to get back to racing as soon as possible, so it’s been a really productive get-together.

This sort of camp for me as a climber really serves a purpose. Not only do I get to train in the high mountains, which is an area that I would like to succeed in, but also staying at altitude I believe really helps me. And then there is also the team environment here, which is not quite like a race, but as a team you push each other on and we train harder than we would as individuals.

I still have a bit of time until my first race, but this is the final piece of the puzzle as far as a big block of training and from here on in I will just be fine-tuning to make sure that I am ready to race when I start in the Tour de Pologne, on August 5. It will be my second presence there, after last year’s edition, when I cracked the top 10 overall. I had a great time there and from Poland I went on to having an amazing Vuelta a España. Of course, things will be different now, but on the other hand, nothing has changed in that I am in eager to get back racing and will hopefully have good legs, be it riding for myself or helping the guys out.

I’m not afraid of suffering in a race, it’s part of what being a pro rider means. At the start of the race I try to work out the suffering and getting my mind around it. Often, if the climb isn’t hurting you, it is other factors like the weather and working out if it is too hot or if it is too cold. From there I try to take the big days step by step, knowing that I have a long way to go and that I need to stay calm and think about eating and drink properly. Sometimes I can find a happy place sitting in the wheels and I try to distract myself from what is ahead, and just focus on my job and helping the team be up there and get a good result.


Photo credit: ©David Ramos / Getty Images

                        ©Wout Beel

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