Feature: George Pym: Racing and Learning

When George Pym joined Madison Genesis in 2018, he was something of an unknown. But by the end of the season one of the youngest riders of the team had established himself as a regular pick – and he’s hoping for more of the same next year.

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Feature: George Pym: Racing and Learning

When George Pym joined Madison Genesis in 2018, he was something of an unknown. But by the end of the season one of the youngest riders of the team had established himself as a regular pick – and he’s hoping for more of the same next year.

The 24-year-old all-rounder is very much keeping his feet on the ground following a year that saw him line up at the Tour de Yorkshire, Tour Series and Tour of Britain. Finishing the Tour de Yorkshire after a high-speed crash showed his resilience, while making the lead group at the British Road Race Championships showed his physical and tactical ability.

With his training now well underway for 2019, we caught up with Pym to review his season and discuss how he is progressing from a development rider, into one that can target races in his own right.

When did you start training again and how has it been going?
GP: It’s been going well. I’ve been training for six weeks now. The first week I was just so unfit was ridiculous. The first day on the bike my heartrate was so high, it didn’t go below 160bpm. Thankfully that gradually improved, the next day it was 155, then 150, then after a week it was back to normal – but I was still creeping. For a couple of weeks there wasn’t any improvement and then I suddenly got better and now I’m very much back in the training routine.

What sort of routine is that?
GP: At the moment I’m doing around 15 hours per week with plenty of sweetspot efforts and also some threshold stuff. I’ve never done big hours – I do them on camp but not at this time of year. Hours-wise, I’ve been doing a similar duration per-week for the last three to four years. I guess what has increased is the intensity.

Why are you taking that approach?
GP: Well, one big reason is because most of our races are one day and four or five hours long. We aren’t really doing races over five hours and maybe we will only do two or three stage races per year – the Tour de Normandie and Tour of Britain (eight days each), and four days at the Tour de Yorkshire. So from an endurance point of view our races are not massively demanding. That aspect can be lost on a lot of people, who are training for races they don’t do. We’re not training for the Tour de France.

How would you review your 2018 season?
GP: I found my feet within the team and solidified my place. It was nice to feel my place is warranted and I made an impact. If I could do the same next year that would be fantastic. I was firmly concentrating on getting the best result possible at each national series race – at Lincoln I was eighth but it was close to being on the podium.

Do you have any specific ambitions? Are there races, or do you have benchmark tests you do in training?
GP: Lincoln is one, it’s my favourite race and I think its achievable because I was there this year. And then the Tour Series as well. It’s a block of racing I really enjoy and it’s special because that’s why I started. I saw the Tour Series before I saw the Tour de France. Redditch suits me as a course and I’ve always liked it, but never had an amazing result.

Over winter, yes I do 20-minute tests and it’s a number to aim for. I don’t know how relevant they are but it’s a benchmark. I also do one minute tests. But as well as the numbers, there’s a lot to be said for how you feel – if you feel lively and racy on the bike in training that’s what you should strive for as well as the number.

This year you became a regular pick – what are your aims for 2019? You’re still a young, improving rider but what are your ambitions?
GP: From a realistic level I don’t think many of the team are going to race as much in 2019 as they did in 2018.

There was a group of six to eight of us that did the majority of the racing this year. Next year we have such a strong team I think I will find it a lot tougher to be picked – but it’s certainly my aim. However, I am looking at this positively. I think I will do less racing next year but that gives a chance to target more. If you do everything you risk spreading yourself a bit too thin, so I’ll look at races that really suit me and target those.

Looking back, were there any points where you could have done things differently this year?
GP: After the Tour Series was a point that in hindsight, I should have taken a rest and I just carried on. It would be a good time to have a mini break and aim for the coming road races.
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Is that sort of reviewing of the year something you do at the end of the season?
GP: Yeah I do review the year. Someone who really helps with that is Jerry Fox. He has helped me out for a few years, looking at the psychology and mindfulness side of things. Together we have set some targets for next year and his help has been really important for me.

How important is the psychological side of things – especially when for over six months of the year, you aren’t racing?
GP: Through winter, the only thing that gets you through is thinking about the races that are coming up and having them in your mind. If you forget that, it can seem so far away and nothing motivates you. I don’t have anything special to remind me, it’s just in the back of my mind.

What were the toughest moments of your season?
GP: The most fatigue I felt was in the Tour Series this year. It was a combination of things – the travel, the racing and also the pressure that we put on ourselves as riders to beat Canyon. It was quite stressful.

Not the moment when you tried to get into the break on stage two at the Tour of Britain?
GP: The Tour of Britain was really hard, but different. I did go out the back of the peloton early on stage two but there was never any panic. It was my local stage and the plan was for me to get into the break. I looked at stage profile and thought the break would go before the climb. I must have attacked 100 times but nothing went and halfway up the climb I was in the biggest box and was dropped. I didn’t get back on for another half hour, just because it took so long for the break to go that day.

But I wasn’t too disappointed by it and that goes back to the work I’ve been doing with Jerry. I focus on the performance and the process not the results. I wasn’t too disappointed, because I went into the stage with a clear picture of what I would do. I did it and executed the plan well, but it didn’t work because that’s bike racing and some things are out of my control.

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Were there any other memorable moments?
GP: A similar thing happened at the Tour de Yorkshire where Erick and I crashed. Usually it’s all OK but the break didn’t go that day until maybe 50km in, so we never got back in. That was probably one of my worst days on a bike, 120km through and off at the back of the race.

Why did you carry on?
GP: It’s a weird thing. I was just determined to get round and try and do another day. I don’t know why, I wasn’t much use for the rest of the race, the crash took a lot out of me and I felt blocked. It’s just this inner determination that a lot of riders seem to have. There’s the peer pressure as well. You see one guy who crashed and he carries on and you have to as well. That day was the worst I’ve ever suffered. I’d do It again though because you get a bit of kudos. It makes you look good. You do have to look after yourself though.

What was your highlight of the year?
GP: Definitely nationals. Connor’s win was incredible and what he did, I’ll remember that forever. On a personal note I was really happy with the way I raced it. It was another example of when I executed my plan and it worked. The idea was to have an active early race, get in the break and race sensibly throughout. So I could be happy with my performance.

You mentioned Connor – you joked earlier in the year that if you just copy everything he does, then it’s not a bad plan! How much does it help to have a teammate like that – and one who is a similar rider to you, in height and build, that has gone on to achieve such standout results?
GP: It became a bit of a joke in the team this year that I’d just do whatever he did – I’d go for the same tyre pressures, ask him what kit he was wearing to race, little things like that. Also the way he races. He does it with total confidence and for me sometimes that’s lacking. I think it’s only when you know and you see how he races that you can appreciate not only the results, but how he does it.

How do you want to develop yourself as a rider?
GP: I’m just trying to keep on improving if I can carry on doing that I’ll be happy. I don’t want to say I want to do this and that. I want to win races which everyone wants. If I can just improve and be better at everything equally I’ll be happy.

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