Beginning Down Under

Photos by Jarrod Partridge

After packing their suitcases whilst still digesting their Christmas dinner, the new generation of Rapha Condor JLT riders caught the 24-hour flight to Australia for an eight-week training camp.

There are many ideas on how best to prepare a team for a season, where to camp, how to train and what to focus on. Team training camps take place all over the world, the location often dictated either by tradition or cheap accommodation. However, Rapha Condor JLT’s 2013 Australian training camp is a little different.

Although the two and a half month stay will keep almost the entire squad out of the worst of the European winter, keeping out of the cold is in fact only a pleasant sideline of the mission statement for training Down Under. The real draw of the Southern Hemisphere for John Herety’s team is to get his young riders racing in the thriving Australian domestic scene.

The beauty, if you want to look at it that way, of the globalisation of cycling is that the racing season is now so long it can almost see where it starts from where it ends. As soon as the action dies down on one hemisphere, the other one sparks into life. 2013 has been no exception, starting as it did on the 1st of January at the Bay Series in Melbourne. It means 10 to 15 days of quality racing under their belts before the European season begins, something Herety considers vitally important:

“I want our riders to race, because I want them to start thinking about winning races, and learning to do that. Young guys want to become bike riders because they want to win bike races but it can be easy for many to get lost in the process at times. I want this team to win bike races, and the way you learn to win bike races is to do them. Here in Australia, being as it is a really busy period in their racing calendar, we have a number of opportunities to work on that.”

What Herety is looking for is that primal instinct in the riders: to see if his riders are bike racers or not. It sounds ridiculously simple, but it isn’t. And it isn’t as simple as a rider saying that they want to win, or being needlessly aggressive in a race, it is much more subtle than that.

“These riders have come recommended to me, so as is the case with a few of them I’ve not yet actually seen them on a bike. I only know them by their racing results and their test scores. One of the things I saw that impressed me the most on the first day of racing here was a tiny thing but it was very important. On the second or third lap of his first race I saw Ed (Laverack) coming round a bend underneath another rider, he took one hand off the bars while leaning right over and moved the other rider out of his line. You could spend three weeks with a rider in Spain training in the pre-season doing all sorts of drills and you would never see that kind of instinct on display.”

At this embryonic stage in their careers, there is a lot more than just bike racing that needs to be learnt. The Rapha Condor JLTriders have to start understanding the intricacies of team life, being on the road together, looking after themselves physically in foreign environments, looking after their diet, and becoming used to long periods away from home. For most of the young riders in the team the eight-week training camp in Australia will be there first long trip away from home – a good way for the riders to start getting used to that reality. Herety explained:

“It is something that you get a lot with British riders [not wanting to be away from home], but since we’ve arrived in Australia you can tell from the way this lot are behaving that they are still in the honeymoon period; they are all still quite excited. We’ve been pretty busy with racing, but now though we are settling in to the camp I think it might get harder for some guys. I’ve seen riders start to get a little stressed about not having an Internet connection so they can easily call a girlfriend, or be in contact with home.”

33 year-old Kristian House is one rider who has proved that he has the mental fortitude to deal with long periods away from home, having done trips like this throughout his career. Almost ten years ago he was on his first flight out to Australia for three-months of training with the GB track squad. House recalls:

“When I finished high school I packed up straight away and moved myself to Belgium. I already had a lot of experience by the time I first came here, which these guys don’t have yet. You’ve got to be able to cope with being away to succeed in this sport.”

As Herety explained, Australia is an ‘easy’ trip in that regard. Things could be very different in another time and place when perhaps the location for a lengthy stay isn’t quite so appealing.

“Because it’s an English speaking country that makes a difference. I think if I’d said we are off to Spain for six weeks on Boxing Day, and we were starting racing on New Years Day out there, then it might have been a bit different. There are a lot of changes to get used to being here, but most of them are upgrades if you like. Changing seasons from winter to summer is a challenge, but it is a nice one. That makes a big difference and it’s why Australia is ideal for this kind of camp.”

A longer version of this article appears on the Rapha Condor JLT website »