Erick Rowsell has endured an 18-month recovery, but fifth at the 2018 CiCLE Classic confirms he is competitive again – and just in time for the Tour de Yorkshire.
In August 2017, Rowsell ruled himself out of selection for the Tour of Britain after a fruitless season.
It proved to be a wise decision by one of the British peloton’s most experienced and respected riders and eight months later Rowsell was making an impact at the Chorley GP.
Chorley was my first race in eight months, and I think that’s the longest I’ve ever been without competing.
I felt a bit nervous on the morning of the race – it was the first time I’ve been like that in years. I used to get nervous when I was younger but over the years I’ve just got used to it.
It was nice to have that feeling again though; trying to remember what to do, but as soon as the flag dropped it all came back to me.
Indeed, Rowsell was into the first break of the day, joined by teammates Isaac Mundy, Rich Handley and Connor Swift.
As a team we owned that race from the start and personally I felt better on that day than the whole of last year.
The way the race panned out, I was in the first move but it came back. When you’re in a team like ours and you’ve got eight quality riders it could be any one of us in the key move.
It just happened to be Johnny, Mike and Rich, while behind we were policing the chase group.
Fast-forward one week and Rowsell was racing at the CiCLE Classic, where he would confirm his form with a strong result.
Going into the race I was hoping for a bit of an improvement over Chorley where I fizzled out in that last hour of racing. I needed that as a blowout to get used to suffering again, which you can never do in training.
I was really happy with how the CiCLE Classic went. Like in Chorley I wouldn’t change anything. I was road captain and I couldn’t have asked for more from the team. It was pure bad luck that cost us the race.
From a personal point of view, I was happy to be in the mix. We’ve got a lot of big races coming up so to have fifth in a UCI race gives me confidence.
Considering I barely finished a race last year my result was nice, but the team we’re in, we’re in the business of winning and that’s what we were looking for at the weekend and that’s the attitude we take into every race we start.
TWO YEARS OF TRAVAILS
Rowsell’s return comes following over two years of challenges, setbacks and hard work. It all started with a crash in summer 2015, in which he broke his arm and lost his chance to compete in the Tour of Britain.
A solid 2016 season saw Erick deliver a string of good results – including a stage win at the Tour of the Reservoir, second in the Manx GP and GP of Wales and third on a stage at the Tour of Britain.
After a strong showing, Erick planned to take advantage of the off season, undergoing surgery to remove metalwork from the arm he broke one year previous.
A total of 12 screws were removed and 60 stitches pieced his arm back together, followed by a period of rest and rehabilitation. But a torn cartilage in Erick’s knee meant further setbacks and a chase to regain fitness - and by his own admission he played catch-up for months and never got back on terms.
Six-months later, Rowsell decided to withdraw from the selection process for the Tour of Britain, to fully recover and rebuild for 2018, with the additional excitement of a new addition to the family.
This winter I knuckled down and there was nothing much to stop me from training. I haven’t missed anything and it is probably one of the best I’ve ever had.
My daughter Harriet was born in March so I had a bit of time off for that. I chose to sit out the Tour de Normandie to be here for her arrival and support Lizzie, which is something I wouldn't have changed for the world.
Having Harriet does change things - you have to balance training and family life really well but so far I'd say we're doing a good job of it and it's really worth it.
Coming off of last year, of course whenever you have a bad year it’s hard, especially when you’re used to delivering good performances.
Without sounding big-headed that’s why I’m on this team and to not get anything at all, it takes a lot to stay motivated and keep switched on.
I think the only consolation is that every athlete does it at some point. You will have a setback and try and do more than you can do at the time, you rush back and it’s one step forward two back, but it’s a learning curve and you learn your limits.
Cycling is a complex sport, the tactics, physical conditioning, nutrition, you’re constantly learning, you never know it all – he’ll hate me for saying it but I think even Roger Hammond with all his experience would agree!
Last year taught me a lot but I’ve learned and you could say it’s good because you know for the future.
The immediate future for Erick is to put the hard work to good use in the upcoming races – and that means the Tour de Yorkshire.
It’s come at the right time. All of my training is to come good for Yorkshire and the national series.
It has all come together perfect at the moment and I can be on target for myself or the team for GC. There are several of us who are capable of a good result and because of the nature of the race we all need to target it as if we are the team leader and let it play out on the road.
The whole team knows it and has worked toward it. Six months of just training is hard in the head because we like to race, that’s why we do it.
All those sacrifices, as soon as you get racing and get the results everything seems worth it.
That year (2015) when I was eighth at the Tour de Yorkshire it was my first year with Madison. I won the Tour of the Reservoir before that.
It was the first big result for the team and the first year of the event, which made it more special. I always remember that and it’s always nice.
To be going to the Tour de Yorkshire with strength in depth, there’s no other domestic team that have three of their line-up to finish top-10.
On paper, based on previous results we have the best domestic team for that race.
Between us we have big aims and ambitions. If it’s not to be, it’s not to be but we have high targets and we are going there to try and reach them.
Matt finished fifth last year and we’re looking to improve again. There’s no point standing still.