It’s me again! If you missed my last blog I spoke about how I got to where I am now, the journey it took to get here and the challenges I have faced along the way. Speaking of challenges one that I have recently just overcome is “where do I train?” I love training at home in Barbados, but to get to races is another challenge that I just don’t need to add! Barbados is small, like really small. 34km (21.1 miles) long and 24 km (14 miles) wide. So training long hours can get pretty repetitive.
Back in 2016 I was at school and I had been living in England since 2013 with my mum and she would drive me on the weekends to local races in the UK like circuit races and mostly track races as that’s what I have always gravitated to. When I finished school during the summer and started travelling to class 1 & 2 track races, Nation cups, Pan-American Championships I realised I needed to get access to the track before these big races. As the majority of the people I was racing would be doing training sessions at the track with teams or even their national squad.. I would be rolling up and getting the most out of the 1 hour open track sessions that gets shared between all the different riders the day before the race and using this as my “track time/track training”.
When I finished school and started college I was able to train more as college was only a few days a week, I soon learnt growing up in Barbados, blazing hot sun, blue skies with 25 degrees celsius or more all year didn’t help mentally with going out to do 3 hours in the rain in 2 degrees Celsius alone when it’s grey and wet outside.. Winters used to crack me big time at home in the UK as I would spend months going for rides alone, I’d get cold, it would rain, I’d get home and not be able to feel my feet, legs, face or my hands.. Sit in a hot bath till I was able to feel everything! On the bad days I couldn’t bring myself outside, I refused.. so I also used to spend on hours on the wattbike, which does make you strong but how far can it get you?
In 2018 (when I was 18 years old) I had heard about the UCI World Cycling Centre (WCC) in Aigle, Switzerland where riders get invited to train there with amazing facilities for Track, Road, BMX, MTB. In 2019 I had got an invitation for 2 months and for riders like me it’s the place you want to be, it’s a huge opportunity to get a taste of what the big Nations that I was competing against already have. The riders that are lucky enough to be there are riders that need support, guidance and facilities that their federation don’t have or they don’t have access too. In my case, having the opportunity to train on the 200m Aigle track every week, almost everyday was a dream come true! Access to a high level Gym with great coaches and guidance to help me improve my strength and condition was very exciting to me. I can’t forget the Swiss roads.. Smooth, never ending, and sometimes steep roads which I can’t lie, I did find very intimidating at first as before that I had not really climbed let alone be surrounded by mountains which you are in Aigle… but I embraced it all, I found it hard at times but there was no where I would have rather been. After my two month trail it was extended for the rest of the year.. I felt mentally and physically I improved more I had in the previous 2 years, I felt like it was going to be my home (well my home away from home away from home) for the Road To Paris 2024.
In 2020 I signed my first professional contract with the WCC Women’s Continental team to get some experience and learn on the road which would help me progress on the track as that continued to be my main goal. BUT we all know what happened at the start of 2020.. March 16th or so the women’s team all got sent home (back to the UK) and lock down soon followed.. It was back to what I was trying to get away from rollers sessions and wattbike sessions, but it wasn’t too bad as summer was coming! 2020 was tough year, in my cycling career where I thought I would be spending the next 4 years of my life changed.. I was never told when to return back to the UCI centre for 2021. It was an extremely uncertain time as all I could think to myself is what am I going to do now? Where am I going to be able to get access to the track now? Who will coach me ? where do I go? But I am a firm believer in everything happens for a reason.
In 2021 feeling dejected, I spent the first 3 months of year in Barbados training on the road. I was trying to figure out where to place myself somewhere in the world where I felt I could get the road training I needed, balance that with finding a track that I could have access to and to find a coach. Somewhere I felt I could get the most out of myself in every training session.
A year on, I feel like I have finally achieved that, I am currently living in Spain with my friend Isabella Escalera who cycles for Spain, and we are both coached by Cesar Neira Perez. I live in a little town outside of Madrid and the training roads are amazing! My coach Cesar takes us to track training twice a week and trains with us on the road whether that’s on a bike or moto-pacing on a moped. He is always there supporting us every step of the way. So far it has been great I have been seeing improvements, feeling stronger and I am excited for training every day there. Now I know this is not like a national training centre or the WCC but it seems to be the best alternative for me.
I also cycle for L39ION of Los Angeles which has been such an amazing experience and it feels like a great match for me. They are a crit team based in Los Angeles and I want to get experience in high speed crit racing think it will give me confidence to do that on the track, BUT they aren’t just winning crits… For L39ION, winning crits is just part of what they want to do in cycling, they want to develop our sport in the US and change it for the better, and my life goal is to do the same in my home of Barbados… (once I have won my medals 😉 ) So why not learn bike handling skills, manoeuvring in bike races and how to make change in the sport from the people that are doing it the best? I am also very lucky to be on this team as they are so supportive with my track racing schedule, they know for the next 2 years track is my main objective and nothing can get in the way, they allow me to race in the crits that fit in around my track races and I am so appreciative of that. I am in the best place mentally I have been for quite a while and I finally feel like I am approaching the next step in my cycling career. I believe I am going in the right direction and I am excited for this year, I just can’t wait to race! In the crits and on the track!
If you would like to keep up to date with my adventures this summer or when I post my next blog feel free to follow me on Instagram (@Amberjoseph.1) or on Twitter (@ambyjoseph99)
Thanks for taking the time to read my second blog!