As a professional cyclist from Leeds I feel blessed that I have the opportunity to try and ride in a Tour de France that begins right here in my home city.
Yorkshire has a grand cycling history with the likes of Tommy Simpson, Brian Robinson and Barry Hoban.
They all blazed a trail for British cycling, but they never got the chance to ride the Tour de France on the fantastic roads they grew up training on.
That is the opportunity that presents itself to me, my Team Sky colleague Ben Swift of Rotherham and Burley-in-Wharfedale’s Scott Thwaites of NetApp Endura, who is a long-time riding companion of mine.
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All three of us have a massive task on our hands getting into our respective teams for the 101st Tour de France that begins right here in Leeds on July 5.
Over the coming months I will be writing this column to give you an insight into my training and how as a 21-year-old embarking on my second season in the professional peloton, I hope to crown it with what will be the highlight of my career no matter what I go on to achieve – standing on the start line of the Tour de France in my home city. I am under no illusions, though.
The size of the task is monumental.
I am fortunate to be a member of a Team Sky squad that is thriving at the moment, having won the last two Tours de France through Sir Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome.
That success though is a double-edged sword for an ambitious rider like myself, because it means the team is constantly producing and recruiting top-class talent to strengthen the squad.
Only nine men ride for a team at the Tour de France, and of course, a number of the spots on our roster are spoken for.
It’s my job to do all I can to get myself onto that team.
Pete Kennaugh is a good friend of mine and he showed last year that no matter how young you are, if you’re good enough, team principal Dave Brailsford will have no hesitation in looking your way. That’s why I’ve been putting the hard yards in at home and abroad this last month or so.
Yesterday I flew out to Mallorca for a second training camp and the start of my season at the Mallorca Challenge.
That was an excellent training camp in the first instance.
We had a good group of guys out there and got a lot done.
Swifty and Wiggo were out with me for much of the time. Wiggo is a great training partner and you might have seen the footage of me and him on the telly recently sharing a joke as we rode along.
He’s still giving me a bit of abuse about my Yorkshire accent. He’s got a bit of a cheek really given his ‘Lancashire’ accent but it’s all in good fun. I think I’m just an easy target for him.
Brad has been training very well. He’s been talking about the Tour a lot, and he’s very keen as a former winner to ride the Tour here in England. It’s such a monumental occasion for British cycling and Brad knows that.
I don’t know in what capacity he’d like to ride it but he’s definitely determined to be back involved.
The training at this time of season is just about getting a base of endurance in and making sure we’ve all got enough miles in our legs for the season ahead.
They’re quite long days on the bike so we all get up and eat at the same time, we all have the same breakfast dependent on what the nutritionist says we need to have, whether it’s a low-carb day or a high-carb day.
Then it’s out on a long six- or seven-hour ride.
A lot of the teams decamp out to Mallorca because the weather’s good – about 15 degrees – it’s good terrain and this time of year it’s quite quiet, other than the large amounts of cyclists out there.
NetApp Endura were out there and I bumped into Scott Thwaites, but there was also Lotto-Belisol and GreenEdge who we raced past a few times, so it’s busy.
As good as the roads are here in Yorkshire – as the world’s best will find out this summer – the work we do in Mallorca is work that I can’t really do back home.
Having said that I’ve just had the last week at home and I still trained hard. I had a bit of time to enjoy being in Yorkshire and in Leeds and it was great to get my old training group back together of Scott, Tommy Bustard, my brother Nathan and Tom Barras. We tend to head down past Bolton Abbey and beyond.
As a group we’ve ridden together for years and know these roads that will stage the Tour this year so well.
Even though I’ve been doing this for years and hopefully will be doing for years to come, I still have the desire every morning to get out of bed and head out on the bike.
Some days are easier than others obviously; when it’s hammering down and freezing like we’ve had on a lot of occasions this week, nobody particularly wants to set off but when you’ve got a good group like we have got here its enough of an incentive.
Plus, they’re such great roads to cycle.
In this second spell in Mallorca which begins today I’ll be picking up the intensity, incorporating a few harder stints into my training.
The season begins for me on February 9 with the Mallorca Challenge, a series of four individual races. For me, the aim will vary every day depending on who I am supporting for a stage win.
I know it’s a big week for Swifty and his Tour de France ambitions. The first day in Palma is a circuit race which will be good for him as a sprinter.
February is a big month for all of us with aspirations of making Team Sky’s Tour de France line-up.