How will you be seeing in 2019? For Tobyn Horton, it will be a case of getting down to business with three days of racing down under, at Australia’s famous Bay Crits.
That’s because this off-season, Horton has based himself in Geelong in a bid to escape a frigid winter in the north of England and enjoy a warmer, sunnier climate.
We caught up with Tobyn to find out how he’s approaching his winter training, trying to win the Tour Series again and what it’s really like to work with Roger Hammond.
You’re spending winter in Australia – how does that compare to the UK?
It’s a far cry from any memories of last winter. You’re not going out the door being optimistic with two hours. I’m not going to die of hypothermia, and that makes it a hell of a lot easier.
Have there been any challenges?
You have to be careful and not get carried away. It’s four months until you start the season and even our main training camp is four weeks before the first race.
What has your schedule been like so far?
I started winter a bit differently because Mike and I had the Shimano Supercrit in the diary. That meant I started with hard rides, so I could get round the crit without being dropped!
Now it’s back to normal, I’m doing the longer steadier rides. Alongside them, I’m going to the gym, swimming, running, mixing things up keeping fit and active. It’s nice to break everything up.
Do you have a plan or schedule for this period of training?
I’m taking it day by day really. The first month before the crit I knew I had to do hard efforts to get back up to speed.
Now it’s time for some decent hours to get the solid base, get the engine going. I know how much I need to do, but if I feel a bit tired I’ll back it off and cut the ride short – if I’m feeling good I can always do a bit extra.
That’s a luxury I can have over here. Back home you’re making the best of the bad weather and out here, I can do the right training every day, because generally the conditions aren’t impacting what you can and cannot do.
When do you have more structure to the training?
At the moment I will do some little bits of tempo and I like to keep it that way until January.
It’s a bit different here, the conditions are good and easy but back home you don’t want to do full on efforts in November and December, it’s a long winter.
Do you work with anyone for coaching?
At the moment I’m doing my own but in the new year I’ll be working with Tom Barras again on some more structured training.
In many ways I have the same feelings on this subject as Rich said in his interview. You have self-doubt, you know what you need, but If someone else does the thinking for you, it takes that stress away.
It’s nice not to have to think about what you need to do. To be told what to do and follow what you know is right.
Then there’s the mental side, having the chance to bounce ideas around.
In a lot of ways, coaching isn’t about telling you to ride your bike, it’s the contact and feedback.
Even with all the experience in the world, it’s hard to take a rest day, whereas if someone tells you to, you will do it without question.
It’s human nature to have those doubts and that’s why the coach is there.
The last few years have seen some very strong sprinters dominate the UK scene – how did that effect you and how you raced?
When you get guys like Brenton Jones or Matt Gibson, their team is more than happy to commit 100% and use those guys to win and that’s what they did.
If you’re a team that don’t have that possibility you have you use other avenues to win.
Sprinting is a risky game to win at, there are so many variables. Next year we’re going to be equipped for any race. We’ve got all bases covered, from climbing to sprinting.
Does that give you confidence for the Tour Series?
You look at our squad and for those races it must be strongest in UK for next year. We’ve always been strong but next year the main difference is our strength in depth.
We have seven of us who are at the level to win races and that makes a big difference – one guy can be sick, another one can be injured and you still have five strong riders. That’s a rare thing to have.
Was that an area of special interest for you – that the lineup will be so strong?
Yes, it’s no secret the aim is to win Tour Series. Given the squad, we’ve put up an incredible fight to the last round for two years and unfortunately we got beat by better teams.
But we really came out holding heads high, knowing we couldn’t have done more as a team. This year, the experience and the riders we have, you know if there’s a year to take back the title this is it.
What were your memories of the last time the team won, in 2015?
I remember it felt stressful – but that was to win and to come second! It was a fantastic feeling and one I want to be a part of again.
Is the Tour Series your big aim for the next year – will you be specifically training for it?
The Tour Series is always on my radar. It’s what I’m good at and motivated for.
It’s challenging to train specifically for, because if you’re in the mix for Yorkshire, you can’t train for both.
However, if I know other races are not on the plan then I will be training for it.
I’m lucky that crits come more naturally to me than the 10 and 20 minute efforts though, and through general racing I can get my form for crits.
What were your highlights from this year?
It was refreshing this year to get some proper road legs. Positively I had some of the best races of my life, but at the same time I had some awful luck.
At the Commonwealth Games I was sprinting for the podium when my chain came off. The week after I was at the CiCLE Classic – I had ridden back into a good position in the main group following a puncture – and then punctured again and my race was over.
Positively, it was nice to get the road legs after a few years of not getting to what I feel I can achieve.
You’ve been with Madison Genesis since 2014 – Roger Hammond was DS when you joined and now he’s coming back. What makes him so suited to the role and why are you looking forward to working with him again?
Well, everyone knows what he’s been doing the last couple of years – I don’t have to explain that.
Working with him then was fantastic and now I think he’ll have even more to bring to the team – cycling is a sport where you never stop.
What was it that he did that separated him a DS?
Roger would always have a plan everyone agreed with and got everyone to 100% believe in that plan.
Of course it doesn’t always work out – that’s sport. But we would all race with confidence in the plan and if we did that then we could all come out with our heads held high. He was very good at reminding you of that.
It’s hard to put into words why he is so good, but he thought as a bike rider down to the smallest detail.
Now he’s gone away and worked with Cavendish and at the World Tour level, he’s going to come back with a bigger knowledge.
Of course, he can’t give you the physical element to win races against the best in the world – he can’t just make me into Cavendish! But he can give you the know-how and confidence. If there’s a guy who knows how to direct you to win a sprint he’s one of the best.
Because to win a sprint, it’s about the whole race and getting to the finish line fresh and with the right teammates.
What’s your plan after your stay in Australia?
I’ll be returning to the UK in mid-February and ten days after I land we go onto our team training camp.
Then before you know it, we will be into an intense five months of racing.
You can’t race into the season – you have to be in good shape from the start?
It’s going to be straight into it. It’s quite strange when you speak to locals in Australia who have a more spaced-out racing programme. We are racing 2-4 times a week every week for five months.
It’s hard compared to what the average rider might do, building up to and then targeting events. We have a job to do and that’s to go well for five months.
You’ve got to train to race. If we had a double programme where you could be racing for training, it would be different. But you have to be flying from day one and so you have to train hard.
What’s it like at that first UK national race of the year?
Everyone in the same boat – any racing you can do before then, even if it’s the local crit, will be an advantage. That first race or two, you’re still trying to find that bit of sharpness again and that’s something you can only get from racing.
What was your highlight of the year?
Easily Connor. Every domestic team dreams of winning the national title. To see him start in 2017 being this young lad who had so much to learn and then absorb everything.
Obviously he had the physiology but also the attitude. You can see he wanted to learn. I have no doubt he will be as good or better in 2019. You look at the level he stepped up to so far, you saw how he performed as a stagiaire with Dimension Data.
What have your personal highlights with the team been?
Over the last five years winning the Tour Series – the first round individually. Then I won back to back in London, first in Canary Wharf and then the London Nocturne.
The big highlight and disappointment at the same time were the Commonwealth Games. I think to be in that position and then for the chain to come off, while representing my home island of Guernsey. It was the most gutting result of my career and the hardest thing I had to accept.
Have you got another Commonwealth Games in you, to have one more go?
I’m not sure – I’ve not thought too much. Maybe as my last one, I can do the mountain bike race! Since my first Commonwealth Games back in 2006, I said I wanted to race my mountain bike and that would be a fun way to finish off.