Feature Interview: Max Stedman (Canyon DHB)

A long time racing for Tim Elverson, Max Stedman (Canyon DBH) is part of the strongest line up ever for Tim’s teams – we had a chat

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Feature Interview: Max Stedman (Canyon DHB)

A long time racing for Tim Elverson, Max Stedman (Canyon DBH) is part of the strongest line up ever for Tim’s teams. Winner two years in a row of the Tour of Quanzhou Bay, a UCI 2.2 stage race in China, Max is one of the leading riders in the UK with top 10s in Prems and 14th in the Olympic test event in 2019.

Hill climb TT in the Manx International 2019 and Max races to 7th on his Canyon Ultimate

After recovering from his training camp in Calpe and Challenge Mallorca that followed, Max Stedman of Canyon DHB is about to get back to the serious job of training for the next races. We spoke to him this week ahead of Max going to Turkey for a UCI 2.1 stage race there with a strong line up from the team in blue.

This week at home in Britain, Max has had what he calls a proper chill week with just seven hours on the bike. The hard work for Turkey and the races that follow starts today (Monday). “I’ll be fresh and ready for some sprint work and volume to replicate a few of the days in Turkey where it should be quite simple in that GC will be decided on a 8km climb. So I will be doing some fatigue inducing twenty minute efforts. Nothing too major. I know the legs are there and I have some good racing behind me so it’s just a case of maintaining that and getting a good week in”.

Max’s training for the 2020 season started way back in October 2019 with four ten hour weeks before some proper training in November and building up from there. “I did the race in China, Tour of Fuzhou 2.1 in November (12th overall) which was good preparation and then did one real hard week two weeks before the races in January with some high intensity stuff and it seemed to go pretty well.”

Whilst most British teams have to wait until March or April to kick off their seasons, Canyon DHB had a team training camp in January and then started their racing at Challenge Mallorca. “I think it could have been as many as six guys went out to Spain on the sixth of January and then people dropped in when they could as the team had rented a big villa. For the final week, the majority of the team were there and I flew out around the 20th of January as I’d had a few family events. I don’t mind being home in the UK as the weather wasn’t that bad here. So I only spent a week and a bit in Calpe and a week in Mallorca which was spot on.”

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The Canyon DHB training camp
Prior to Challenge Mallorca, Max and most of the Canyon DHB team assembled in Calpe for the training camp. It was a busy time explained Max with training and other stuff to get through with sponsors and the mechanics to get everything ready for the racing.

“We did an easy three hours the first day and the next day was like a twenty minute uphill TT with a handicap element so everyone was staggered 15 seconds apart in two groups. That was a good shakeout. Then, the next day we did a handicapped race and that was savage as well which was good as the following week we were going to be racing so he had to shock ourselves into race mode.”

“Then two days on, around six of us went out for a four and half hours. We stopped at a café along the way and then attacked the crap out of each other for two hours. So there was some structure and some free for all during the week so it was good. There was no point in the camp other than the first day with an endurance ride it was easy as the other days had some sort of disgusting maximal effort in it.”

I asked Max if such efforts at the training camp were harder than efforts a rider might do on his own back home? “Probably. Because you’re with the team with a lot of egos kicking around at a time of the year when everyone wants to see where the other riders are at, it’s a real good place to see where you are as well. IE, if everyone is going well, you’ll know if you’re going bad. So it is quite good to know where you are pre-season and bond with the team a bit.”

Calpe is known for its climbs so was the camp in ideal territory for Max who is known as a bit of a mountain goat? “A little bit. None of the climbs are too steep apart from one. The other climbs though were quite steady but good fun as it gives me the opportunity to train on some longer climbs in the sun.”

Challenge Mallorca
For many many years, before the Tour Down Under and other races came on the scene, Challenge Mallorca has been a popular event for riders to kick off their seasons on an island popular with teams for training. The event goes back to 1992 and each year, the event will attract many of the star riders in the pro peloton.

For Max, he says it was interesting doing Mallorca against some of the best guys in the world who are there to be on form. “They weren’t there to dick around” added Max. “I think a lot of riders get keen in the winter and get into the routine of smashing out the winter miles and seem to hit February/March flying.”

“I put my hand up for the first day if they needed someone even though I knew days two and three were more suited to me. Day one, a sprint stage, was sketchy but it was good to do to get the nerves out of the way and find your way round the peloton a bit easier before the two harder days.”

“Going into the event, I wanted to get a top 10 which was pretty ambitious for that race that early but I wasn’t far off (20th) on day three so I can’t be too disappointed. I messaged someone after day two that I had a bit of a battery issue draining dead quick and that I might have to re-evaluate my goals I had written down but then the next day (day 3) I felt better and not far off where I need to be. So it was interesting.”

“I didn’t want to go to Mallorca not going well because just to be in contention and hanging in there, you have to be going well so there is always some hard training before that so I was always going to take a week off at home after the race and it’s worked out quite well. Another week of hard training and then off to Turkey which will be quite good with some hilly days and a summit finish.”

Max back in the Pedal Heaven colours for Tim Elverson

The 2020 Canyon DHB
Team boss Tim Elverson has selected what he says is his strongest line up ever for the 2020 season and Max has been part of that team since the Pedal Heaven days. So does he feel threatened by the strength of the riders being added to the line up?

Max replied “When I was in Pedal Heaven, Jack Pullar and me were the only two climbers so if it was a hilly race, you were probably going to get selected whereas now, because there are more riders in the team who can do the same thing, there is competition for the places.”

“The strength in depth though helps massively in races because we have strength in numbers for a specific parcour. That is massive advantage. When you see Tim signing all these strong riders, you do think ‘I’m going to have to up my game here’ but that’s good for everyone.”

The race programme that Tim Elverson has put together with the help of race invitations from races abroad is also working in Max’s favour. “It started well in Mallorca where I managed to get a fairly good result. We shall see how Turkey rolls and try and carry this form I have into that. After Turkey, I will taper off and build to the start of April”.

“Tour de Yorkshire is a big target being the hilliest one to date. So all being well, I hope to get in the team for that and then we have some other hilly UCI races in May/June where there is a lot of targets like Rhône-Alpes Isère Tour, Tour de la Mirabelle, Mont Ventoux Dénivelé Challenge and Le Tour de Savoie Mont Blanc.”

“So there are a lot of targets midseason and then July, I don’t know yet and after that hopefully, I’ll get to do the Tour of Britain. Cornwall looks pretty hilly and there’s a stage that finishes in my university town of Exeter but it’s all a long way off now and we need to concentrate on this part of the season first”.

Max in a breakaway in the Tour de Yorkshire

Tour de Yorkshire
As Max mentioned, the big UCI races like the Tour de Yorkshire where British riders have a good record overall with Chris Lawless winning in 2019 against a quality field, is a big target for riders and British teams.

Interestingly though, in the interview with Matt Holmes, he highlighted how being in a conti team can make it harder for a rider to be competitive. I asked Max about his experience with that. “The pecking order happens in all the races like at Challenge Mallorca, you’ll get barged out of the way by the WorldTour teams just because that seems to be how the cycling food chain works”.

“For sure, we can’t barge our way round like we would in a national series peloton and get to the front easy. In the big races, you have to work quite hard for it but if you can get some good stage results, you may be able to get more respect for the other stages that follow.”

“It is harder to get into position and a good position (on the road) helps in these races. You can be chasing your tail a bit trying to get good position in the peloton whilst trying not to burn too much energy trying to get to the front. It is tricky but something we have to go through”.

“Take a crosswind stage and you may see Ineos sat at the front, one of the best teams in the world, and they are on the front splitting it and those in conti teams are fighting hard in 40th wheel and you miss the split when potentially you have the legs but that is cycling in general and what makes it so crazy”.

“You can have great legs and be the strongest in the race but it doesn’t mean you will win the dam thing. So tactics and positioning are important and can make it hard for the conti teams but if you do get to make the step up and you’re sat in the front third because you’re in a world tour team, you can hold position and push on even more than you could as a conti rider because you’re not chasing position the whole time.”

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British Racing in 2020
As well as chasing good results abroad and home in UCI races, Max and his Canyon DHB team will also be one of the British teams looking to dominate again the British scene. Max explained how it will be interesting with some of the strong riders having moved up to Pro Conti or WorldTour (such as James Shaw, Scott Thwaites, Alex Richardson & Matt Holmes).

One of the key changes though is that there is no qualification process for teams for the Tour of Britain. It has been quite weird how one event like the Tour of Britain, can have such a major effect on the British national series racing. More than once I have witnessed how much stress it puts on team managers and that then ended up on the shoulders of the riders.

Asking Max how he felt it would effect the racing, he explained “I think not having the Tour of Britain qualification will be really good for the UK races. It’s hard to tell what the effect will be as I have only known national series racing with the qualification process in place so don’t know what it was like before then”.

“I do know though there have been times when during a team talk, a risky plan was talked about and we’ve said we can’t really do that and risk it. That is the difference I think. Last year though, I don’t think there was a finish where the strongest riders didn’t show themselves at the end of the race so I think it will be good and take the pressure off”.

“The UCI teams can concentrate on peaking for some big UCI races and go into the national series races a bit tired and not worry about Tour of Britain qualification. We can take risks as well with some long range attacks perhaps or get in a daft move which you may not normally. As a conti team, these races are a great way for us to learn how to race better as a team and it will definitely mean better races as teams will want to be winning the races rather than marking each other out of them”.

The next big challenge for the Canyon DHB team will be the Tour of Antalya (2.1) in Turkey (20-23 February). It’s a race where the team boss Tim Elverson wants to start ticking the boxes and for the riders as well, they are hungry for some success.

Getting his hands into the air is the goal for Max in 2020

Max will join Ryan Christensen, Rory Townsend, Andy Tennant, Jacob Scott and probably Dan Pearson in a team that is a mix of riders who have raced already and those who will be having their first of the a season. “Hopefully we’ll get some good results all round” says Max who has tailored his training around the race.

One thing the race highlights is how the travel days are different to when they are racing here in the UK. From travel on the country’s road network to a mix of road travel and flying to destinations around the world, it is something Max has had to get used to.

“It’s alright and I am used to it now. I used to hate the travelling but now you take it for what it is and it can be quite cool now. The chance to go to these places like China, Turkey etc, travel is like an adventure and you just try and keep yourself entertained. It’s a nice chance to read and do things like that. Getting to the airport can be a hassle but it’s not too bad. It’s part of the job lugging a bike box around!”

Finally, to finish, I asked Max what result would he like to have in his palmeres by the end of the 2020 season? “Realistically, I’d like to win a UCI race, be it a stage or the whole stage race because to get my hands in the air would be really nice from personal point of view”.

“In a dream world , it would be to win a Tour of Britain stage but I think that’s living in dream world. There is no reason I shouldn’t be able to as Matt Holmes showed winning a stage in the Tour Down Under. His victory spoke volumes about the British scene and the strength of the riders. The quality of racing isn’t too far off the mark”.

“If you get in the right break that sticks…. your luck can change for sure. We have the riders to do that this year and hopefully we’ll have good results all round for the lads, the team and Tim gets what he deserves for all the hard work he puts in”.

I am sure looking at the quality of the Canyon DHB team, success will come its way in Britain and the talent is there for the UCI races as well. Good luck to Max and his team for 2020 … more from them in the weeks and months.

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