Team Q&A: Chris Opie at Saint Piran

Chris Opie has officially joined the Saint Piran Elite cyclingteam and even though there’s no racing at the moment, his experience and influence is already being felt in the team. Here’s a Q&A

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Team Q&A: Chris Opie at Saint Piran

Related: VeloUK’s Q&A with Chris when the signing was announced in the winter

Chris Opie has officially joined the Saint Piran Elite cyclingteam and even though there’s no racing at the moment, his experience and influence is already being felt in the team. Here’s a Q&A from his new team about his decision to return to the grind of pro racing and what he hopes to achieve now he’s back out on the bike in anger.

Q: So Chris, why are you returning to competition after a couple of years out?
Chris: My decision to return to racing was a long, drawn-out process. It took over eight months to come to the conclusion that I needed to take the plunge and leave a steady job to return to competition. There are many reasons why I want to come back, but mainly it’s quite simply my identity.

Without racing, I lost sight of who I was. I no longer had the targeted build up to competition, the focus on that one key event where I quantifiably succeeded or failed. My drive and motivation to perform was lost and there was no outlet for my competitive nature. Returning to racing was the most natural way for me to find what I was looking for.

Q: how does your family feel about it?
Chris: My immediate family completely understand and support my decision to return. They know the difficulties and struggles of the last couple of years, they understand who I am, and why I am the way I am. My wife and I made the decision together in August/September last year and that was an instant relief to finally have that clear decision made.

Q: Plenty of teams would have been happy to snap you up. So why Saint Piran?
Chris: Saint Piran is a genuinely unique opportunity for me, to the point I didn’t contact or even consider a single other team during the process of coming back. Saint Piran has a very strong Cornish identity, which naturally fits well with my own identity.

But it’s not just that. Saint Piran is more than just a team, it’s a brand name that you will see associated with and emblazoned across products and produce from some of Cornwall’s most revered companies. This gives us all a unique opportunity to help grow our brand, not just with products, but also with experiences like the Rattler Ride. Because of this, at Saint Piran we’re all collectively working to create a sustainable revenue model for the team. So our jersey remains ‘Saint Piran’ and isn’t subject to change as it would be if we relied on a more traditional sponsorship model.

 

Q: You have a long-standing relationships with some of the key Saint Piran movers and shakers don’t you?
Chris: I grew up riding bikes with Steve Lampier on the weekends around the lanes of Cornwall (the things we’ve seen over the years on rides is borderline unbelievable!) and Steve has always been able to manage his time incredibly well around racing. So to have him planning every detail throughout a racing season will mean we have no excuse for not being where we need to be, when we need to be, and with the right equipment.

And Team Principle Richard Pascoe sold my parents my first road bike back in 1997, so joining a team where I have known the key members for all but a small portion of my life feels very much of a homecoming. It’s also great to be joined by such a strong group of young, talented riders who will help keep me on my toes!

Q: You’re not just coming back as rider though are you?
Chris: A huge personal motivation to return to racing is a feeling that I have so much more to offer within that world. I didn’t want to return as just another bike rider. I want to help educate young riders on how to read a race, how to conserve energy, how to make efforts count when they need to and also to debrief any problems they might encounter throughout a season.

Aside from this, I want to use the experience from my time at GCN to help communicate with the world outside our team. For example, team partners and sponsors, the public and the media will, for the first time be able to follow us through regular video updates.

Q: Any of those promising young riders you might pick out specifically?
Chris: They all have huge potential, but one rider I’m particularly looking forward to racing with is Tristan Davies who I’ve worked with for more than two years in a coaching context. Tristan is a multi talented young rider, a very gifted and natural bike handler. He has a brilliant approach to all of the three disciplines he competes in, but it’s on the road where I feel I will be able to offer him the most assistance.

Q: What are your overall goals for the remainder of your racing career?
Chris: When I retired from racing, I thought I’d achieved all I could or would. But as time passed, I’ve had the chance to reassess my career. So I have some new goals. I would still love to win a national championship, and I almost don’t mind which discipline that’s in. I want to return to racing on the track, with the goal of competing in a six-day event. And I also want to pursue XC Mountain bike racing. I’ve dabbled in all of the above at different times, but now I want to really push a little harder and see if I can win that title, compete at a six-day, with some success and also prove my credentials off road.

Q: How are you dealing with the current racing shutdown?
Chris: The shutdown has been hard. I touched on needing a return to competition for my mental health, to feel like myself again. So, when racing was postponed, I lost a lot of motivation. After all, in my head I need goals and targets to aim for, but right now things are a little open ended. We don’t know the exact date of our return to racing.

So I immediately took two full weeks of rest from training. I still stayed mobile and active, but I stopped all structured training. And it has done me the world of good! I feel motivated and able to accept not knowing when racing will start again. When families the world over are suffering, me feeling sad that I can’t race my bike seems so insignificant. But we live our lives through our own perspectives. I understand the situation is much greater than my need to race, and this has helped with readjusting to new goals in a slightly more distant future.

At some point, life will return to normal. A new version of normal, perhaps, but when it does I will be ready to race. Until then, I wish you all well and hope you are staying safe and healthy.

Good luck to Chris in 2020 and look forward to seeing him return to racing as and when that happens … 

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