Jon Dibben was the last of Team Sky’s inductees for the 2017 season. The call up to the WorldTour came late on during the 2016 season while he was riding as a stagiaire for Cannondale-Drapac, and was only announced in November.
In the intervening two months, before sitting in front of a group of journalists at Team Sky’s Mallorca training camp last week, Dibben’s life has been turned on its head. The 22-year-old has left Manchester, where he was based while working on British Cycling’s track programme, and moved nearer his teammates in the south of France. The move has given Dibben an early taste of his new life as a WorldTour professional, although there has been little time to settle into his new home as he prepares for the 2017 season.
“Life is pretty good now,” said Dibben. “I’m just by Monaco right by the Italian border. There’s obviously a lot of the guys in Monaco, and then some of them are in Nice, so it’s spot on down there. I did a bit of a block between this camp and Christmas. It’s great down there."
“It’s perfect down there for bike riding. In the summer it will probably get a bit busier on the coast but from our doorstep, you’re at the foot of the Madone right away.”
Dibben will make his debut in Team Sky colours at the Mallorca Challenge next week, alongside fellow neo-pro Tao Geoghegan Hart, who is sat next to him in this media session. The pair has been racing together since their formative years in cycling, and they are happy to poke fun at each other in front of the press, with Dibben joking that Geoghegan Hart is already pushing for a spot in this year’s Tour de France squad.
“I remember the first big race that I did we did together Jon won, and I was looking up at him, literally and metaphorically,” Geoghegan Hart recalled. “He rode away from everyone. He could have won it one-legged. It was around two football pitches by Yarborough sports centre, and it was my very first national race and Jon was two or three times the size of me.”
“You still get to do that, you still get to watch me ride off,” Dibben retorted with a laugh.
Since those early years, the duo’s path to the same place has been somewhat different.
While Geoghegan Hart headed to the US to ride on the Continental circuit, Dibben became an integral part of the British Cycling track team. In 2014, he made his breakthrough with gold in the team pursuit at the European track championships and silver in the omnium. He came back a year later with the squad to add another gold to his medal cabinet, firmly putting himself in the running for a place in the Olympic Games line-up.
Gold in the points race at last year’s World Championships in London, alongside a silver in the team pursuit, confirmed that he was on the right path. However, a broken elbow at the ZLM Roompot Tour was a big blow, and he ultimately missed out on Rio. During his time on the track, Dibben did show some flashes of promise on the road, including a third place at the junior Paris-Roubaix in 2012. Dibben is eager to get a spot in the eight-man squad for the elite race.
“In terms of goals, I’ve always dreamed of winning Paris-Roubaix. If I could win just that race in a 10-year career I could be super happy,” explained Dibben. “It’s a race that I’ve always known will suit me. I’ve never ridden it but I’ve done the junior race, which is similar, but it’s the one race that I’ve always loved.”
The road will be Dibben’s new home for the foreseeable future, at least until Tokyo 2020 looms into view. He believes that the team pursuit has become too specific to allow someone to combine it with any serious road ambitions and he is keen to see what he can achieve away from the track.
“With the level of the team pursuit, which is always going to be a British Cycling thing that everyone goes for and trains for, you can’t mix it with the road,” said Dibben. “You have to do what Brad did which was to fully come off the road and commit to the track. That’s what I intend to do towards Tokyo but, for now, I’ve got a two-year contract here, and I’ve never fully committed to the road."
“I want to see how it goes, see what the level is and see where my feet land. If it goes well, then I might stick at it. Certainly, I’ll go back for Tokyo, especially if the events are changing. If that happens, then I might be able to do the road and do something like the Madison. An Olympic gold is something that I’d really like to do in the future.”