Parenting and Professional Cycling: In Conversation with Daniel Lloyd

I’m incredibly excited to say that my Parenting and professional cycling series continues, this time with Dan Lloyd, Grand Tour finisher and current GCN presenter. Dan had a solid rise through the ranks of professional cycling in a short space of time and enjoyed success along the way. Dan didn’t start his career in professional cycling until after his 25th birthday so, there’s still hope out there for some!

  • At what age in your life do you think that you were interested by cycling and was there a certain inspiration which got you on the bike?

I got into it when I was 13.  My friend’s Uncle used to give him old copies of MBUK magazine, and it really sparked an interest for me.  I pestered my Dad to get me a MTB, and about 8 months later, for Christmas, he got me a Marin Muirwoods.  It was about £400, I loved it, and I loved the sport.  That was when I got addicted to it, basically.

  • What came first professional cycling or parenting? Am I right in thinking they coincided around the same time?

For me it was slightly different to convention, in that when I met my wife, our older son Ralf was already 3, so I didn’t do the early years with him.  I was 25 at the time, and still hadn’t really made it.  Lorraine had to be patient with both me and Ralf from that respect, as I continued to try and make a career out of it.  So you’re right, they kind of coincided.  Jude was born in 2011, which was the year that I didn’t get my contract renewed with Garmin, so it has never really been such a factor in his life.

  • What was it like travelling Europe with a small baby at home and a first time mum? Did you have much time to think about what was going on at home or were you focused on racing and your job?

I’d say I was still very focussed.  I think every pro cyclist is, even if becoming a parent changes your life and outlook significantly.  When Jude was born, for example, he was a little early, so I came home the day after Amstel, landed at 2pm, and was back home with Lorraine and a baby by 11pm.  In my head I was still going to go back for Fleche and Liege, as I was due a break after that period anyway, but the team told me to stay at home.

I have always been very fortunate with Lorraine, she’s a real doer, from family life to work life, she just gets things done, without (too) much fuss!  That makes a big difference.

  • You must be passionate about cycling to get in to racing but is there a point that you think, this is no longer my passion, this is my job and a way to provide for my family?

I don’t think I was at the top level long enough for that to become ‘a thing’ for me.  The first time that anything like that dawned on me was when my contract wasn’t renewed.  Until that point, my career had always been on an upward trajectory, both in terms of the level that I was riding, and also the money I was earning.  The end of 2011 was tough for a few weeks, as I had no plan for what to do after racing, and I suddenly realised how hard it was going to be, to earn a similar amount in the ‘real world’.

Again, Lorraine came into her own.  She hadn’t been working for a year, but immediately realised what the situation could be, and went out and got a job.  As it turned out, I landed on my feet with a few other things in 2012, and then GCN came along at the end of that year, but it was only really that time at the end of 2011 where I realised what financial responsibility I had to provide for my family.

  • It must be easy for people to forget that you were, once, a professional cyclist before a GCN presenter and Eurosport commentator. Considering you’ve ridden in four classics and finished two Giro’s and a Tour, what is your proudest moment on the bike and also off of it?

Proudest moment on the bike will always be my first Tour of Flanders.  It was the race that I always loved the most, and to be honest I don’t think I ever thought I’d ride it.  The whole experience was amazing, from start to finish.  The start in Bruges gave me good bumps – that massive square packed with fans, riding up on to the podium with Thor and Heino, that was brilliant.  And then in the race itself, I was going really well (for me).  Between the Paterberg and the Koppenberg, I’d made the front selection, and so Andreas Klier said to attack if I could.  I went, Chavanel, Quinziato and Leif Hoste followed me, and so for a while, deep into the race, I was at the front.

After that, the dream soon came to an end, the lights went out for me when Chavanal attacked, and I was later passed by Boonen, Devolder and Pozzato at warp speed, but it was a great experience, particularly with Heino getting 2nd on the day.

Off the bike, I’m of course proudest of my family.  Like everyone, we’ve had our ups and downs, but we’ve come through strong and it’s great to see how well Ralf and Jude are doing in life.  From a work perspective, I’m very proud of what we’ve all achieved at GCN.  We didn’t really know what we were doing at the start, we were just kind of making it up as we went along, but every single person worked their arses off, and that paid off, just as it would do in sport.  What gives me the most satisfaction is the feedback we get from the public.  I like to think that we made cycling accessible, and fun, which is why we all got into it in the first place.

  • Your first Grand Tour came in 2009 at the Giro d’Italia, which you’re now doing a very good job on reporting for Eurosport, what was that first tour like, the training, the preparation, riding it? When did you find out you were going to be riding it that year and how did that feel?

The preparation was awful – I’d come down with some sort of bug in the lead up to the race, so I just wasn’t feeling myself.  It got to the point where I felt so bad in training, that I was considering calling management to say that I wasn’t in a fit state to ride.  It’s the last feeling you want to have on the lead up to your first Grand Tour.

Thankfully, I felt good during the race itself.  I made the mistake of eating and drinking too much (on the bike!), though, and put on 4kgs in 2 weeks.  I was just so fearful of bonking or not having enough energy to make it through, that I went overboard.  It was tough, but also rewarding – we got 4 stage wins, and Carlos was up there overall.  The whole thing was a massive learning curve, but like many things in cycling, it was fun, in hindsight!

  • You strike me as a man who would have a very understanding wife and who would support your training fully by looking after the kids while you went off galivanting on the bike… What was it like for you?

I’ve already alluded to that, above, but you’re right, Lorraine was always very supportive of my training and racing.  And that’s one of the reasons that I don’t ride so much now.  I’m still away a fair bit, and up at the office a lot, so I just can’t justify getting home and heading out on the bike for 2 hours, it wouldn’t be fair.

  • One thing I feel when I go off on my bike / train and leave my wife with the kids is guilt, I feel guilty that I’m having a nice time away from the kids relaxing, while they’re both probably screaming, crying, causing havoc and driving my wife mad. Do you ever get over that?

Yeah, you do.  Ralf is 16, Jude is 8, we’ve got past that stage.  In fact, if Lorraine and I want to head out for the evening, Ralf looks after Jude – they get along pretty well.  At this stage of life, the stresses are less, it’s just a case of taking them to their various clubs, sport etc.  And to be honest, with Ralf driving in a few months time, it’s going to get even easier.

I used to get a heavy heart when I was shutting the door to go away for a few weeks.  It wasn’t so much guilt at not behind able to do my part, but just the wrenching feeling of knowing how much I was going to miss them.  That actually got harder as I got older, I don’t know why.

My tactic was always to claim that I’d had very hard days when I was away, but I’m pretty sure I was never believed…..

  • What advice would you have to any cycling parent to young kids?

That depends.  If you’re a pro, you need to use it as extra motivation, to push yourself harder, to be more efficient with your time, to make the most of every moment that you’re having to spend away from your family.

If cycling is just a hobby, it’s a really tough one.  I would say that most people have to throttle right back on the amount of time they dedicate to cycling, and I also think that’s the way it should be.  It takes up an enormous amount of time, and money too.  The parenting phase of your life is a long one, and I guess it never really ends, but there will come a time when you’ll have a bit more freedom again, and that is the point at which you can spend longer cycling again.  Before that – concentrate on your family, just ride if or when you have time.

  • You’ve got the power to change one thing about professional cycling, what is it?

Based on the first week of the Giro, I’d say long boring sprint stages.  Unfortunately, like most, I don’t have the answer.  I like watching the sprints, I have so much respect for what those guys and girls do, but the 5 hours or so that comes before it is, I think, a terrible advert for our sport.  If you’ve never watched a bike race before, and you flick over with 80kms to go on a flat stage, you’re never going to watch a bike race again.  It’s a tough one – I’m all for tradition, but at the same time I don’t want cycling to get left behind because it wasn’t willing to adapt.

 

So there we have it – Daniel Lloyd on Parenting and Professional Cycling, for me, I will take away the advice cycling and having young kids – Dan is right, when it comes to it you do have to take a step back from your hobbies when you become a parent. Accepting that and with less peer pressure and time, it get’s easier and more about the enjoyment of cycling that clocking miles and high average speeds.

I’d love to know your thoughts on this series and if there’s anyone who you would like to see interviewed, comment below if there is anyone you would like and I would do my damnedest to track them down!

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My love for ZWIFT

Over the past few weeks I’ve seen a lot of people in social media really hating on ZWIFT.

In my view, ZWIFT is probably the best thing to happen to bike racing since racing a bike. In a world where literally anything is possible in the technical age, why would you not get excited by the fact you could be a professional cyclist?

I see a lot of people saying ‘get out and ride your bike’ and ‘why would you sit staring at a screen pedalling when you can get out doors?’ Or ‘back when I was younger’ I’ve even seen a few old pros saying ‘when I started out racing…’ well, we’re not back when you were younger or even when you started out racing, we’re in the modern world with news, videos, the other side of the world and even unwanted opinions are at your fingertips.

The concept of eRacing and sports simulators are nothing new, tennis for two was created back in 1958 and was an incredibly simple game played on an oscilloscope. The first football game was in 1967 with Crown Soccer Special, followed by Grand Prix in 1969. The first cycling computer game was Cycling Manager released in 2001, today it’s called Pro Cycling Manager where you can pretend to be a manager of a cycling team, would you believe.

My point is, sports simulators have been about for a very long time. The biggest today would be FIFA or even Gran Tourismo, both of which you can still do in real life, if you were that way inclined. You can still go up the park or in the back garden and kick a ball around, I take my two year old to football classes each week. If you have a car you can go to a race track and drive it around for sport or leisure. Are you going to? Or is it simpler and easier to do it on a games console? Probably cheaper too if you bin your car in the gravel trap!

I saw a lot of people giving the World’s first professional eRacing team a lot of gyp, for what I could only understand was because they were not racing their bikes out on the road. I don’t get it? Why is that an issue? There’s so many eSports in which the winners are handed millions of pounds for just sitting and playing a simulator and you’re getting angry at someone for pushing their body to the limits on a bike and they’re not doing it properly because it’s not on the road? If these trailblazers inspire people to get on a bike and ride, indoors, outdoors, in a spin class, at the gym or just about anywhere they can, how is that a bad thing?

I wouldn’t want to go bike racing in real life because I would be nervous of not being accepted. Cycling can be so insular, so cliquey, so snobby that if you’re not dripping in Rapha or Cafe Du Cyclist on a bike you’ve had to remortgage your home in order to buy on finance then you might as well as not turn up. Then add to that the pressure of being dropped… No one wants to be dropped.

What ZWIFT offers me and many others is a chance to ride a bike an escape in a time and environment which suits me, does that mean I’m not a proper cyclist? Or am I just a person who likes to ride a bike as a form of fitness? I’m a dad of two who has a family life, I can’t commit each week to going out and doing century rides or even two hour rides in the saddle on the roads because sometimes, family life just doesn’t allow for that. What I can do though is get myself on the bike for however long in the garage and keep my fitness levels up, it offers escape without the need for leaving the house. I can put my kids in bed, have their monitors with me and still exercise knowing they are safe. It wouldn’t be the most practical to get out and ride for two hours after the kids are down. What I get from 45 minutes on ZWIFT, for me, feels like doing two hours on the road. Fair enough, I’ve probably not done the same distance, but I’ve not stopped pedalling, not stopped pushing and I’ve also not stopped for coffee and cake at any point.

Bradley Wiggins documented it in his book about his shed, heated the temperature of France in the Summer time pushing out 400 watts for 45 minutes was what Tim Kerrison believed Sir Brad needed to win the Tour, after months of training in his shed Wiggo achieved that goal and went on to be an Olympic Gold Medalist, again, this time on the road in the Time Trial. Fair enough, he did it on rollers but many professional cyclists can be seen on ZWIFT, Mark Cavendish is a user, Contador, Adam Yates, Alex Dowsett, Hannah Barnes, Danielle King and Leah Thorvilson who actually came through the ZWIFT academy, of course. All professional cyclists who use the platform. Tell them to go out and get on the road…

As I’ve mentioned the ZWIFT Academy, I might as well go on to explain for those who don’t know. Essentially, a competition in which the winner is handed a contract with a professional team. Which cyclist out there wouldn’t want to experience a professional team, even if it were just for one season? If I was told I was good enough just by riding my bike from my garage, what an experience that would be.

I’ve never known a computer based platform which offers someone so much freedom. Yes, you are confined to predetermined routes and can only go as fast as your legs will take you but what ZWIFT has done over its years is fantastic. I don’t know any other sport in the world which will allow you to get so close to being a professional. You can ride World Championship routes, with the pros or even, now, ride the prologue stage of the Giro d’Italia. The very stage which the professionals will be riding. You don’t even have to go to Italy for it, how amazing is that? How much of a fantastic opportunity is it?

If that doesn’t excite you and make you want to get on your bike and try ZWIFT out for yourself, then maybe cycling just isn’t for you.

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Train like a Pro with Wattbike

This weekend saw the return of Former Road Race World Champion, Lizzie Deignan. After one year out giving birth to their baby daughter, Orla, Lizzie returned to racing at the Amstel Gold Race.

Lizzie turned herself inside out with 40km to go with a storming break, her efforts were not enough, with Canyon-SRAM’s Polish rider, Katarzyna Niewiadoma the eventual winner, attacking on the final climb of the Cauberg and holding off Annemiek Van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) who was in hot pursuit.

In an interview with Lizzie published on this site, she said she would forgo all other races to win the UCI World Championships held in her home county of Yorkshire, in September. Lizzie hopes to do this with the help of Wattbike which she claims to have been her go to training tool during pregnancy and beyond. Helping Lizzie to squeeze in training around naps and after bed time!

“I’m really excited to rejoin the peloton and to race with my new teammates at Trek Segafredo, first at the Ardennes and then fittingly back on my home roads for the Tour de Yorkshire. I can’t wait to race in front of the home crowd again! It’s been a whirlwind year off the bike to have baby Orla and I’m looking forward to the new challenge of racing while being a working Mum! I couldn’t have done it without the support of my sponsors including Wattbike. Having the Wattbike to hand throughout pregnancy and for my return to cycling has been invaluable – allowing me to carry on riding safely in all weathers and with a big bump! It remains my go-to training tool.” Lizzie Deignan

Wattbike, who last year returned to track success with the prolific and inspiring HUUB Wattbike Test Team hinted at more sponsorship opportunities for 2019 that are yet to be announced.

“At Wattbike we are all really excited to see Lizzie’s return to cycling, we have been supporting her for three years now. It has been great to see her using the Wattbike throughout her pregnancy and her training as she returns to form. We’re really optimistic about the future and cannot wait to see how it progresses”.
Rich Baker

After being founded in 2000 Wattbike launched its pioneering indoor power trainer in 2008. It is now an industry-leading manufacturer of indoor cycle trainers, with a proven heritage in performance cycling. Wattbike trainers generate the world’s most accurate power, technique and performance data, captured through cutting-edge analysis and with unrivalled accuracy. With a desire to create the ultimate indoor cycling experience and a reputation for true innovation, Wattbike trainers perfectly replicate the sensation of riding on the road for professionals and beginners alike.

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Times They Are Changing.

A quick update from Pusher of Pedals – there’s a little change to the site coming up!

No longer will the blog be dedicated to just bikes, but also cars and family lifestyle. The automotive world has been a life long passion of mine, in my work (TV and Event production) life I’ve worked on more car shows than anything and I’ve loved every minute of it. Top Gear, Car SOS, Stars In Their Cars while also working on CarFest and London Classic Car Show.

This, to you, may seem strange, how are these connected? Well, my life has changed, I’m now a parent, I’ve two boys, Barnaby who is two and Elijah who is two months. They are my world and the way in which I look at life is now different.

So, from here on in, I’ll not only be writing reviews on bikes and cycling related products like clothing, tech and supplements but also kiddy tag alongs, kiddy seats, helmets – while also looking at the automotive world. Family cars, with the occasional sports car, how do they swallow up everything which family life brings and are they useable and likeable?

There will be change BUT change is mainly for the better.

As ever, your feedback will be listened to and look at building a better more useable blog for you to follow and enjoy.

Stay tuned and hopefully we’ll all enjoy the ride together, on two wheels or four!

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