Quiz time! Eliot Ward (INFLITE)

Based in the Midlands, Eliot Ward has gone from BMX to the road and races for the team, Inflite Cycling. We quiz him on how covid pretty muched wiped out his 2021 season …

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Quiz time! Eliot Ward (INFLITE)

Eliot raced MX Bikes as a junior both nationally and internationally, after receiving a PW50 for his birthday, as his cousin was a British MX pro. He then progressed and committed to racing on the road scene after university, with a fair amount of MTB/BMX in between, again through family influences. “I wouldn’t say I have ever been off bikes, as such, since day one!” he says.

Q: How difficult was 2020 after getting that Elite licence in 2019 and then having racing stop for pretty much the whole year?
Eliot: I gained a lot of momentum from making the front of road races often and winning through the 2019 road season, experiencing being in positions to take the race on. I then got my Elite licence towards the back end of the season. I started 2020 in awesome condition and podiumed at early season tests; Severn Bridge and Betty Pharaoh. So when the pandemic hit it was a big blow, knowing how well I was going and looking forward to successes throughout the coming season. I think it took a while for it to sink in that racing had been stopped but I was still hopeful something might happen late on as I was particularly stimulated to create more of the same to get further ahead.

Q: Do you think you came out of 2020 stronger?
Eliot: Yeah, I was definitely much more progressed physiologically as an athlete after 2020. I was constantly producing structured blocks and then was fortunate to be able to see where I was at a certain points with a small amount of ‘short’ racing, where possible, and race replication sessions down in London with a small group of like minded athletes, which was really valuable.

Q: What have been the highlights of your racing so far?
Eliot: All the road race wins through the years now have been super special for different reasons. One for sure was the day I actually went Elite and went two up for 100km, going clear with a few km’s to go. Also being on the podium of long standing races like Severn Bridge, Betty Pharaoh.

Q: How difficult was it to get that Elite licence in 2019?
Eliot: I had only finished racing at regional level in September 2018 so had to really shift my condition through the winter 2018-2019. If I was to go straight to the front of elite racing as it were. It was an uncomfortable winter for sure but new results are. It took me a couple months of road racing, around late April, to get myself in the winning move all day (circa 130km) but after that I built a lot of competence enabling me to do it. Then just repetition all year produced the outcome, and I kept knocking on the door.

Q: Having caught covid twice in 2021, did that pretty much wipe out your season?
Eliot: Yeah, in the end, after the second bout, I knew I needed to step back. I was confident I would bounce back again but it was a different beast for sure. I just couldn’t train or produce work. The body wasn’t building any condition at all. I went to Lancaster GP, as the National series had been my sole focus since way back in March 2020. Then seven days later went to Rydale GP but I knew the night before, during an opener session, I was going to have to accept 2021 wasn’t going to happen for me. I needed to let the body recover. Although, at that point, I wasn’t altogether sure what I was recovering from and how long it would take. This was difficult for sure initially, but I responded by focusing all my energy on the success of the incredible athletes I am thankful to have alongside me here at INFLITE.

Q: How badly did it effect you and your cycling the first time?
Eliot: I had obviously trained through 2020 and into the start of 2021 before racing was announced and Giles Pidcock had led the way with ‘Big Dogs Return to Racing’ on a great circuit at Denby Dale in May, which I started back at. It naturally started pretty full gas as it climbs up one side of the circuit, there was a group up the road with a small gap and the race eased up so I went to go across the gap over the climb but the body didn’t seem to respond to the effort too well. I thought initially I just needed race time but as the weeks progressed it was clear something else was playing a part. It was like nothing I had ever encountered before but I still didn’t attribute it to long COVID.

Q: Did you manage to recover from the first bout of covid before catching it again?
Eliot: Yes it took 6-8 weeks of training/racing before the body seemed to be completely back to performing as expected. I won a race down at Hoghill in July which was a good indication I was pretty much there. I then went to a MTB Marathon only days later which was a great event but woke up the day after with COVID again.

Q: Has there been any long lasting drawbacks to having had covid that still affects your training?
Eliot: Yes, I wasn’t in a position to train at all with any structure. I would keep giving it a go but disappointed each time, which was as much mentally challenging as physically, if I’m honest. So I decided to leave the bike alone completely, which is easier said than done. So from the first bout, I had a short window when I was almost back and then went down with it again. This time recovery didn’t happen and I was formally diagnosed with long COVID at the end of the summer. I returned to light bike work in late December, 2021. Gradually I’ve been able to introduce more and more into the new year. There’s still some unknowns for sure so we’ll see how early season progresses.

Q: What race you have done in your career so far is the one that was the most fun to do regardless of the result?
Eliot: I love the racing here in the UK. The first time I raced up Michealgate in Lincoln GP was amazing, a great atmosphere and unique. I’m all in for being in the best position I can going into May.

Q: You have won quite a few races over the years. Does the degree of elation from winning a race depend on the race, or how hard it was or both?
Eliot: On reflection, it seems that the elation or the feeling of a race win, depends on what I have been through leading up to the said outcome. This has been different over the various phases of my journey. Over time, I have begun to see that ultimately it’s the creation of satisfaction through progress that I am yearning for, which can be a delicate balance as a high performance individual. Winning, the way it’s done and what has been endured to get there and the people that are part of making it all happen are all factors to consider when thinking about success which I am eternally grateful for.

Q: Were there learning moments in 2021 and if so, what were they?
Eliot: Yeah for sure, I learnt first and foremost, never ever take for granted something that can be taken away so swiftly, in the way this journey of progression on two wheels was taken from me through 2021. I’ve never been so grateful to swing a leg over the bike and roll out to train, I feel like I’m winning a race everyday. From here, it’s all a bonus.

Q: Do you go into a race nervous or intimated by other riders or do you have the confidence now to hold your own?
Eliot: I think an element of nerves is somewhat natural in an individual that wants to produce their absolute best, also great because with that comes fire and focus. I am confident my preparation will reveal itself for sure but also aware we’ve phenomenal bike racers here racing in the UK with heaps of drive, knowledge and experience which is only an exciting prospect for us all.

Q: Do you cross train at all, running, swimming, gym or other disciplines like MTB
Eliot: Yes I run during training blocks, utilise the gym to condition the body further and for sure there are so many aspects of the MTB that I love, plus many physiological gains to be had. I will also race the Marathon Nat Champs in 2022.

Q: Where is your favourite training ride?
Eliot: I love to head south to the Cotswolds, where the schedule allows, with our local training group, any excuse to give Cameron (Biddle) an elevation focussed route to craft.

Q: What type of race suits you best?
Eliot: I seem to go well on attritional circuits that are inclusive of steeper, punchy inclines which I think is what we tend to see generally in the UK, which is great.

Q: What are your goals for 2022 and what is the one race you really would like to get the chance to ride?
Eliot: In 2022, initially, I will want to feel out where I’m at and how the body is responding. For sure I will want to be at the front of the early season racing but not putting pressure on it as its been a good two years now since my early 2020 racing form. All being well here, my obvious sole focus now has to be the National Road Series. There’s so many great National rounds as mentioned above with the Lincoln GP, I love being at Ampleforth College in the Ryedale GP, so will be great to be back there and ready to perform!

Thank you Eliot; good luck recovering from long covid and getting that winning feeling back…


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