The Tour of Qatar marks the start of Adam Blythe’s season. Although it’s not a make-or-break year for the Englishman, who is only 23 and has a contract with BMC through to the end of 2014, he admits that he’s putting pressure on himself to perform better than he ever has. He not only wants more wins, he wants to participate in bigger races more often, and be a contender in those events.
Judged by BMC team-mate and close friend Philippe Gilbert as hugely talented but sometimes lacking in application, Blythe has worked harder than ever before during the off-season with the goal of making that ability count. “Things are going a lot better than last year. I was moving house last year, but this year I’ve been doing a lot more training. I did four days on the track at Zurich, which was good fun. I’ve just done the Madison champs on the track with Peter Kennaugh, which was great fun too, so I’m going in the right direction now,” he told Cyclingnews at BMC’s team presentation.
Blythe only raced 53 days in 2012, partly as the result of a mid-season hip injury, but also because BMC didn’t seem to be able to work out how to get the best out of him. That started to change when he began to work more with British DS Max Sciandri in the second half of the year, when he took a couple of victories and his confidence returned.
“Towards the end of the season I got a lot more race days in, one after another. That helped me because I think I’m better at racing and getting fit than I am at training. That’s what I’ll be trying to do more of this year. It doesn’t matter what kind of race it is as long as I am getting race-quality fitness,” he explained. “It was a bit of an eye-opener to see how good I managed to get for Paris-Tours in October. I’d like to be able to go like that for most of the season, which I think I’m capable of.”
In fact, Blythe confessed, he felt so good at Paris-Tours that he got his tactics all wrong, attacking late on when he should have sat back and waited. “It was great to have to confidence to attack, even though it was a stupid move. If I can carry on like I did there and have that form but use my head a bit more I’ll be going in the right direction,” said the Sheffielder.
“I want to do what I did at the end of last year, but do it throughout the year and get into the bigger races. The team’s not putting much pressure on me to win loads of races, but I’m putting pressure on myself to win races. I need to and I want to win races. I’ve not really pushed my limits yet or found out how deep I can go as far as getting the right training done is concerned. I’m hoping that this year is going to be a big step up in results and races. For people like Phil [Gilbert] to be saying that I’ve got that amount of talent is a real boost to my confidence.”
Now entering his fourth year as a pro, Blythe is well aware that in a team with as much strength in depth as BMC, it’s going to be as hard to get into their Classics line-up as it is to get into their Tour de France team. But he believes he can achieve that. “Getting into the Classics team would be an achievement on its own, but winning races is what I enjoy the most. Riding races is fantastic, but you can’t describe the feeling of winning. I would like to win five races this year,” he stated. “That’s my goal. I’d like to get up on the podium in a WorldTour race – win a stage in a race like the ENECO Tour or the Tour of Poland.”
Blythe also revealed that his highlight last season was seeing girlfriend Lizzie Armitstead win silver in the Olympic road race in London. It boosted him to an extent, he said, but it also gave both of them a different perspective on racing. “I didn’t so much get a boost from it. It was more a case of thinking, ‘We can do more still.’ Lizzie felt the same as well. I think we’ve both got a lot more to give. The boost was thinking, ‘We’re good and we could be… not incredible, but a lot better.’”
Blythe’s determination to make the most of his ability has also resulted in him turning to team-mate Thor Hushovd’s coach, Atle Kvalsvoll. “I think we’ll be able to coordinate our training a bit and train more together and that will work well. I’ve never been properly coached before, never had someone saying do this or do that. I’ve always done it on how my body feels, on what feels right. But I’m going to give it a go and see if it works. If I can train with Thor most days then, hopefully, I’ll be as good as he is,” the Englishman joked.
Blythe doesn’t have a programme fully mapped out beyond February. He acknowledged that where he rides from March onwards depends on how he performs. “I’m going Qatar and Oman and then Kuurne. If I get a good result in Kuurne then that might result in getting me into another Classic, and if I do a good job there for Taylor [Phinney] or Thor then that could lead on to another Classic.
“It’s ridiculously hard to get into our Classics team if you look at all of the riders, but if I can go well enough, get some good results and show that I am going well enough to ride there then hopefully I will get in. I would love to ride Flanders for Phil and to do Roubaix for Taylor, as I think he can do an incredibly well there this year,” he said. The first step towards that comes in Qatar.