Feature: Jon Dibben (Madison Genesis)

A winner at WorldTour level for Team Sky, and a World Champion on the track as well, Jon Dibben was a victim of not being re-signed by his team at the end of 2018 and is now back on the road with Madison Genesis – here’s a feature from his new team

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Feature: Jon Dibben (Madison Genesis)

From track world champion in 2016 and signed by Team Sky for 2017 – the undisputed pathway to British cycling success was well paved for Jon Dibben – but two years can be a long time in bike racing. Without a contract for 2019, the 25-year-old Southampton-born rider went from the top-table of pro cycling, to another name on a long list of World Tour and Pro Continental riders out of work.

Six months on and after a stint of racing six-day events on the track, Dibben has been signed mid-season by Madison Genesis. With Connor Swift departing for Arkea Samsik it was ideal timing, but Dibben is aware that this is far from a case of trading success for success, with respect for the current level of the British domestic scene.

When did you find out that you would be looking for a new team in 2019?
Jon: I found out quite late that I wasn’t getting my contract renewed by Sky and of course everyone knows about the general situation this winter – it was very challenging for a lot of riders to get contracts.

How were your two years with Team Sky – and how did it end?
Jon: I had a really good 2017, everything went to plan with some good results and then 2018 was not so good. Originally I wanted to do a similar calendar to 2017, where I started in Majorca in around February. However, the team sent me to the Tour Down Under in Australia at the last minute, where it was really hot. I hadn’t done any work to be ready for the conditions and because I wasn’t expecting to be racing in January I was out of shape. From then I suffered for a couple of months and when I did get into good form, I broke my elbow about five kilometres from the finish at Ride London. It must be an unlucky one because it was the same one I broke just before the 2016 Olympics.

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What happened next?
Jon: Straight after I knew I was still looking for a ride away from Sky, there were a few teams that had possibilities for me but each one fell through. So toward the end of 2018 I looked toward returning to the track and thought I would continue with that. It started at the London Six Day at the end of October – I was terrible racing-wise, because I came in from China (the Tour of Guangxi) and I was jet lagged. That first time back on the track after two years away was a shock! But it reignited my love for the track and full bore racing. It inspired me through winter, it was so refreshing.

It’s racing but not like being at a world cup, it was racing for fun. I really enjoyed doing them and it was a lot different to the two years I had done on the road – that transition to get the track speed back and the technical skills to race on the velodrome. From the start of January through to mid-April I did six day races all over the world, with a bit of a view toward the possibility of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

I said to myself that I’ll get to mid-April and see what options are available to me.

Is racing on the track again and trying to make the Olympic squad at the third attempt still something on your mind?
Jon: Yeah, it is still a target now. Toward the end of the year I want to keep open the possibility of making a return. I asked Iain Dyer (British Cycling men’s endurance coach) about it last winter, but by the time I would have been in shape, the only race left would have been the world champs, for which selection would have been impossible. So I will see how the road season goes – because you never know. You can have your plan, but you can’t just walk back through the doors of British Cycling. There is plenty of competition and there are a lot of steps to get there.

You’ve gone from being world champion on the track in 2016, to riding with the number one road team in the world, to being without a contract in one of the toughest transfer markets cycling can remember… was it ever on your mind to do something else?
Jon: Stopping wasn’t an option. I was in talks with some top-level teams until mid-January, but no concrete offers materialised. But it wasn’t ever desperate – between the road and the track I always had options. I’m definitely not ready to stop, from my past performances I know when it all comes all together, I’m fit, I’m healthy and I miss the crashes then I can be back up there getting some good results.
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How did the opportunity come about with Madison Genesis?
Jon:  It all come into place perfectly. I finished up racing my final six day race in Brisbane in mid-April. The plan was to get back on the road and do some racing and I was going to a different team, but then Roger gave me a call. I had a chat with him last year, when he was still with Dimension Data, about my situation. I’m really grateful to Roger for bringing me in and I’m excited to get back racing. It’s probably the most solid team from a UK-perspective for the whole package. With Roger there and the history, it’s a good team to come into and continue to progress.

What do you think of the UK racing scene?
Jon: To be totally honest I really have not done much. Maybe three rounds of the Tour Series, three or four national road races, three national championships and a couple of Tours of Britain and Yorkshire. That’s exciting for me to come in and do new races. Most are one day events and for me that is proper bike racing, rather than slogging it out at a week-long race where you have a job, but that doesn’t really suit your attributes as a racer.

Training-wise I’m trying to work a bit more toward those demands. Certainly I’ve got the speed from the track work, but I need to lose a bit of weight and work to the one day efforts.

You won’t be the only ex-World Tour rider on the scene. How do you think you will perform?
Jon: I think only one way to find the level is to start racing because I’ve not raced on the road since October, so I won’t come in flying. It doesn’t matter if you were on Sky, because these guys are good. You could put any pro into the Tour Series and they would do well to get up there. The UK pros have refined their craft, they are seriously at a high level and the winners know what they are doing. As I said, I’ve not done many UK road races but what I remember of them, they are a very different style of racing.

Over the last two years I’ve done 150 days of racing. Almost every single one of those has followed the same pattern – it’s hard for around 30-minutes at the start as the break goes clear, then it’s steady for three hours, and then really hard for 30 minutes at the end. I’m expecting the UK to be full bore racing.

Is it exciting to be joining a team where you won’t just be a worker, where you will be having a chance to win races?
Jon: Massively. It’s a chance to remember what proper racing is and getting my desire to win back. To try and be winning races to have pressure on my from team and myself and be fit and do the job and go home; instead of doing a job at a race that doesn’t suit you.

What are your aims – do you think you can come straight in and do well?
Jon: I can’t take the blasé approach. Of course I would like to take a couple of wins and go to the Tour of Britain and bring attention to myself and get a contract on a World Tour team again. But this past 12-months has been a big dose of reality. I’ve had a long time without racing on the road and there is some serious talent out there. I have a lot of learning to do as well, I don’t know these races, the route they take and I don’t know the riders either really and their strengths and weaknesses.

I won’t be setting any specific targets until the first couple races are done.

 

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