What our riders are contemplating whilst packing their suitcases for the first races of 2022.
After three months away from being in the peloton now is the moment when riders have an idea of what their seasons are going to look like. There’s an eagerness to clip in and feel the energy of racing again, training gets them to the startline, but it’s the racing that sharpens them as riders, where they learn and improve, and where their season goals are for the taking.
We checked in with some of the INEOS Grenadiers ahead of their race season starting this week to ask what this moment in the year means to them, and what it is that they hope for in 2022.
"I’m super excited to get back to racing, it’s like back to work, exciting to see how all the hard work in the winter has paid off. I feel like I’ve been pushing a bit less than the previous years, which means I feel fresh both mentally and physically, so I'm really excited to see the differences that will bring. I know how it works, it’s not my first season, I’m not a neo-pro, I’m looking forward to getting back on the bus with the boys, that’s a great feeling.
"Personally I really hope for a better season than last year, in 2020 I had a bad crash at the Tour and it took me some time to come back, and then I got a hit in the Giro last year as well, I struggled mentally with that, I had a bit of a rough time during the summer. But, I think I really bounced back towards the end of the season, I really started to enjoy the racing. I had a great Vuelta, then finished really well at the Italian Classics, I ended the season in a great mental state, feeling really motivated for the 2022 season before the off-season.
"This season I need more consistency at a higher level, I really want to step forward and be stronger at the top end level more often. I’ve started having fun racing and I think it’ll be the same this year too. I really want to get back to winning this year, once you get one once, then it helps drive the motivation levels, raising your hands in the air is the best feeling in cycling, I really do miss it, I’ve almost forgotten how good it is.
"There have been a few things that I have reflected on this year, there have been a few changes at the end of last season, change of coach, and mentally I have changed my approach, not only just in cycling, a bit more to life really. I’m trying to teach myself to be more calm, more relaxed, a bit less harsh on myself, maybe in the past I’ve always thought more is better which is not always the case. I wouldn't say I took it easier this off season, but I’ve definitely been kinder to myself and given myself some proper downtime, and I’m feeling fresher for it. It’s a demanding sport and I did doubt myself quite a lot after my crash in the Giro, I lost a bit of confidence, but now I feel like I’m getting it back. I’m hoping that getting back to racing will help confirm this, I’m really looking forward to 2022, I also think that this year the group is in a good space. I have a good feeling."
"I’ve been waiting for this moment since finishing January training camp and you always hope to arrive at the first race with good legs. The goals for this season are really clear for me, the first part is the Classics. These are always big races, you have to arrive so focussed with the goals clear in your mind.
"There are some big goals for this season, San Remo will be a big race for us, but that’s just one of many, but for the time being I prefer to keep them to myself, I don’t want to give it all away.
"In 2021 we did well as a team, but when you start a new year you always hope that you’re going to do better, which is never easy but we are such a good team. The one thing you hope for is to kick the year off with some good results early, then it sets the tone, some early celebrations are always useful to get the motivation soaring."
"This year is going to be different as it’s been the first year that I’ve had an off-season since I started racing. I was either racing cyclocross straight after the road season, like after Yorkshire I went straight into it, I think I had maybe five days in between. Then I would go straight into the road season right after cyclocross, so this season it feels way different because I feel a lot more refreshed mentally, and I think that’s super important given my age and how kinda packed the season will be. There is going to be a much higher race load and also for training the level has become a lot different, it’ll be a lot higher.
"The other thing I’m getting used to is the support in the team. I would say it’s unparalleled to anything that I’ve ever experienced before and I’ve just been trying to take advantage of every opportunity and learn from the wealth of knowledge that everyone has to give.
"I think that’s one of the biggest advantages we have, just our support network in the team and also with the new guys, like Dan [Bigham] and Ben [Williams], and people like Roger [Hammond], he has a tonne of racing experience himself and working with other teams.
"And when I’ve been speaking with the guys in the team who have been here a long time they say that they feel a difference, it’s a different vibe, they feel like this season is going to be different. Dave [Brailsford] has talked about how there’s going to be a different approach, the no small races mentality and being ‘All In’ which I think that everyone has really bought into and believes in.
"I think the biggest reflection for me this year so far is not to take anything for granted, unfortunately with Egan he’s already had a huge set back, it’s a reminder to everyone how precious life is, in moments like this you just have to take it day by day and value what you have. We talk about our drive and our motivators, I think it’s really important to think about that, because when something like this happens it makes you reassess it."
Tao Geoghegan Hart
"It feels weird to pack a suitcase for a race! Because often I don’t totally unpack between races, you leave a lot of stuff in the case, that you have just for travelling. So I guess doing it marks the beginning of a new block. It’s exciting. New goals, new races, new dreams. Hope I don’t forget anything…
"What I hope for this season is to arrive in my best shape at one moment! Ideally when planned… Fairly plain and simple I would say.
"The moment for reflection is over for me, that normally happens post season in November. However, I definitely reflected on how happy and lucky I am, personally with loved ones around me, who mean so much and make life bloody great, and then professionally, being a part of this team and able to do this job for a living."
Laurens De Plus
"I’m really excited because it’s been a long time now since I was last racing properly, and I’m finally feeling recovered from the viral illness that I had. I’m feeling ready to go and really excited to get back racing, and to get back with the Grenadiers. Hopefully we can smash the racing again like what we did in 2021 and have fun, which is the most important thing for me.
"Then we build up gradually for the next part of the season and just take it step by step. This year at the training camps in December and January, we had some good moments together, some great chats about what it means to be a Grenadier, and what’s going to be our race style and our goals for next year, and just based on that I feel like it’s going to be a great year. We definitely have more time to prepare for the season this year than last year.
"So for 2022 my biggest wish is to have a consistent year and to be healthy, because that’s the biggest lesson that I learnt last year, health is the most important thing.
"As far as what has been my biggest reflection this year, is that I just love racing, and that every race is an opportunity to show yourself and go for it. This combination with a good life balance, which helps ensure you have good health is something that I’ve really thought about. I’m ready to go, everyone is keen and ready to go, it’s going to be a nice season."