So I’ve been very busy lately with family and life, but I’ve managed a few appearances on The Velocast. To keep you going to the end of the Vuelta, I spoke with one of the riders I looked after during the Rás, Connor Lambert. I put a few questions to him about what life has been like for a Ginger Aussie/Paddy in Belgium these past few years and what he’s taken from it.
Hey Connor, so you’ve based yourself in Belgium the last three years, how have you found that in comparison to the standard in Australia ?
The comparison in the standard of racing to Australia is next to none. While in Australia the top riders would also be the top riders here once you go past the usual top 15 or so the consistency and level drops drastically.
In Belgium you can race as many times a week as you want for the better part of 6 months and with races usually between 100-120km and with fields of usually 70 minimum but can be upto 175 as a maximum to the race organisation but there has been cases of early season races being 200+.
With the National series in Australia declining you rarely see races exceed 100km (excluding Grafton-Inverell+Melbourne-Warnabol both 230km and 277km respectively). I have noticed as well that these “National series” races are also putting out fields of 40-90 riders at best which is a shame considering the level it was at just a few years ago.
Would you recommend this path for riders wanting to try make it as a Pro ?
I definitely would recommend to any aspiring racer from Australia to give the Belgium experience a shot.
For the first year as an U23 I’d say give it the 3 month stint and really go for those kermese level races where you can. This is so you can experience the living away from home aspects but not be away for potentially damaging times on your first go.
Then if after that you Decide that you want to give it another crack apply for a visa and email some teams and come over for 5-6 months if you can and try and see what it’s like in team racing here and get as many interclubs, pro kermese’ and if you manage a team that does some UCI races that is valuable experience.
After those years it’s all about creating contacts and seeing what other avenues are possible for you to chase down and continue on the dream of one day making it as a professional.
What advantages and disadvantages did you find with moving and racing in Europe ?
There was lots to take from it to be fair but I suppose if I was to list the things out it would look like this
- High level racing
- Experience living out of home
- Meet new people/make new friends
- Open doors to new opportunities
- See the world
- Learn more about yourself
- Grow as an athlete/person
- Potential head crack
- Away from family and friends
- Monetary expense
- Easier tempted to eat bad foods
You’ve done your three years, what lessons did you take from it ? And what would you change ?
The major lessons I have learnt is to be strict on myself in terms of diet and training regimens. My first season in the Netherlands I got lazy and found myself eating cheap/easy food which caused me to gain weight, in turn declining my performance, leading to lack of motivation, then to taking the easy option in training. As you can see something as simple can have a snowball effect and cause more things to go wrong which cracks a lot of people. I have also in the past neglected my racing equipment which caused me to have mechanical issues when I couldn’t afford to be having them.
If I could change things from my past seasons here I would be stricter on my diet and my bike maintenance which would have made a massive difference from the start and potential have me at a higher point than current. I would also loosen up a little too. I am someone who can be quite insular and keep to myself which I believe did get me through my first season here but being a shut in isn’t a good thing in the long run. Each year I have gotten better at socialising and learning to actually “live” here rather than just exist. I have made countless friends in both Belgium, Holland, the Uk and Ireland.
What’s your next move now – and what’s your plans for the next 1-2 years ?
So now for 2020 I will move onto riding for the Zappi Racing Team based in Italy. I will get the opportunity to race a different style of racing and some very big races over the course of next season. We have a very busy program with the U23 Giro being one of my major goals to be selected for. As well as riding for Zappi I am hoping to get the call up for the Irish National team for the Nations Cup races as well as the European Champs and World champs.
As for 2021 nothing can be said for certain but I would like to be coming back to Europe and racing at a high level again so we will take it step by step and see how my progression through 2020 goes!