LOCKDOWN! Q&A with Fergus Robinson (Eiser Hirumet)

If you think Lockdown! is hard here, how about Spain? We quiz Fergus Robinson (Eiser Hirumet) from Hexham in the North East who is in Spain under strict lock down. It was this rider where the idea came from for this series… thank you!

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LOCKDOWN! Q&A with Fergus Robinson (Eiser Hirumet)

How did you get into the sport of cycling and how old were you?
Fergus: I actually started in triathlon when I was 8, then eventually decided to switch over to focus on cycling at 17. I’d not had too much exposure to the sport but was always glued to the Tour De France on TV and I thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen.

What were the highlights in your days as a Junior?
Fergus: My first year as a junior was also my first year racing, so it was all about learning the tactics and intricacies of racing. As a second year I managed to start getting some good results, 8th at the National Road Race championships was my best, but I was also 9th at the Tour of the Mendips and was sitting just outside the top 10 at the Spokes Kingdom classic on the last stage when I snapped my chain.

You raced in Italy for Flavio, how did you get to ride for this great inspiration?
Fergus: I messaged Flavio at the start of the 2017 season and he invited me out to ride with the team for a week during the training camp in Altea, Spain. I had just dropped out of university after 3 months to give myself a chance to focus on cycling.
I thought that I can always go back if things don’t work out, so I was looking for every opportunity I could. After that I was lucky to be able to guest for the team in races such as the Ronde L’Isard and Giro Della Valle D’Aosta, as well as some Italian National races at the end of the year. Flavio then offered me a contract for the 2018 season and I took it gladly.

Where in Italy were you based?
Fergus: We moved around a bit over the years. For the first half of both the 2018 and 2019 seasons, we lived in Cervia, on the east coast not far from San Marino. Then for the last 3 months we would stay in Tradate, just North East of Milan.

What were your highlights racing in Italy?
Fergus: Unfortunately for me I managed to miss a huge amount of racing over the two seasons I was with the team, but in 2019 I really started to find my legs and had some glimpses of what could have been without all of the disappointments. I managed 23rd at Trofeo Piva from what was left of the front group, which felt like a big step in the right direction, and then 11th in Gran Premio Industria Del Marmo from the breakaway. Both are UCI 1.2 races with some prestigious winners so I was happy to finally feel like I was making progress.

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You had some misfortunes in Italy as well, three broken collabones?
Fergus: Just to make it worse, It was actually three times in eight months! The worst thing being that they were almost in consecutive races. I finished the 2017 season by breaking my left collarbone in an Italian national race in September, then again in my first Italian race of 2018 in March, then after returning in May, I managed to get one race under my belt before I did it again.

It definitely knocked my confidence, I found it very hard to fight for position after I returned to racing in August 2018, especially seeing as my crash in March had been intentionally caused by another rider, but in 2019 I managed to regain the ability. I even nearly managed to get through the year completely unscathed, until I broke my hand on the first stage of the Manx International. I don’t crash often, but when I do I make a good job of it.

You moved to Spain in 2020, when did you do that?
Fergus: I moved here in early February.

Tell us about this Eiser Hirumet men’s elite team –
Fergus: Eiser is mostly under 23, but there are a few elites as well. We race almost exclusively in Spain and the Basque country, but it’s a well organised setup and they’ve been very supportive during the lockdown here.

Are there other Brits in it?
Fergus: Yes, They’ve had quite a few Brits over the years, but at the moment it’s me and two others; Max Williamson who’s been here for all of his U23 years, and Alex Ashman who is a new recruit like me.

You had one race – how were the legs after the winter training?
Fergus: My legs were good, it wasn’t a race that really suited me, too flat for my liking but it was made hard with some strong crosswinds. I finished in the front group. Just before the lockdown started, I’d been seeing some of my best ever numbers in training, which makes it a little more painful to be stuck inside now.

Where in Spain are you based?
Fergus: A town called Durango about half an hour from Bilbao in the Basque Country.

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Do you live on your own there or with other cyclists?
Fergus: I’m in the team flat here with two others, both Columbian, which gives me a chance to practice my limited Spanish.

How much training do you manage when restricted to only riding indoors?
Fergus: The first week I managed just over 10 hours, this week I’m looking at about 14 hours and I’ve got about 18 planned for next week. I’m trying to build up again in preparation for hopefully regaining freedom.

What sort of turbo are you using?
Fergus: It’s just a basic Elite trainer, looks like it’s been in the team for a good few years already.

How did you manage to get it work with Zwift
Fergus: I’ve just connected my power meter to my laptop so I can get some virtual kilometres on the clock. The main problem for me is that we don’t have any wifi in the flat, but Zwift actually only uses a tiny amount of data to run so I use some of my precious gigabytes from my phone.

You were training without Zwift on the turbo. How much difference has Zwift made since using that?
Fergus: I find Zwift really helps to keep me motivated, with lots of other people around you don’t feel quite so isolated, and you get something tangible at the end to put on Strava. When I’m not allowed to leave the house, it’s much easier for me to sit on the turbo for 3-4 hours with Zwift, although I’ve had to get pretty good at it after all the collarbones!

Are you allowed out of the flat at all?
Fergus: Only to go to the shops for necessities, and you can only go to your very nearest supermarket. I was stopped by police when trying to get a bit of a walk in over to a larger shop. I’ve seen people walking backwards and forwards on their balconies or literally running around their house trying to get some exercise in.

What else do you do to keep sane there (Study? etc)?
Fergus: I’ve not got a lot to do really. Sanity might be out the window already. Without wifi, I can’t really do very much. I just try to read a bit and twiddle my thumbs every day.

What are your hopes for the 2020 season should there be some racing?
Fergus: Since I’m now a final year Under 23, I was really aiming for some top results this year. I haven’t really done any racing here in Spain before so I have nothing to measure myself against, but there seem to be a lot more races with much longer climbs than you generally get in Italy, which I think should suit me quite well. I’d love to be able to get my hands in the air at some point, but I think consistency with results is key so I’d take 10 top 10’s over 1 win.

Many thanks to Fergus for that… that’s dedication to the sport right there! 

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