Red Walters blog: Highs, lows and a cyclo-cross debut

Red Walters
Red Walters (Image credit: @alexduffill)

Hello everyone, thanks for clicking on my third blog for Cyclingnews. Last time, I’d just finished my first 1.1 and 1.Pro races, and was trying to prepare for the U23 World Championships.

Unfortunately, it was taking me a lot longer than I anticipated to come back from my illness, leaving me with very little in the way of race form. Combined with the pretty hefty investment (well over a £1k all together) of going to the World Champs, and the fact that I had no race support for bottles/wheels etc, I just couldn’t justify going. It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make all year, as it was something I was really looking forward to, but it was definitely the right call.

A week or so later, I made the choice with my coach Colin Sturgess to end the season and focus on 2022. At that point I had no idea where I would be for next year, and the uncertainty was hard to deal with.

2021 has been another weird year for me. Not quite 2020, but a far cry from a normal season. I’ve been asked how I’d describe it, and it’s definitely been a mixed bag. I started in June with an awesome streak of success in France. I became U23 Caribbean Champion, before crashing out of the Pan American Champs and not performing as well as I’d liked to with Hagens Berman Axeon.

Like any season it’s had its ups and downs, but having had time to reflect, I can’t complain at all. I’m proud of my achievements both on and off the bike and I’m really looking forward to building up again for next year.

I write this now a few weeks into my winter training, and I’ve been through all the classic winter emotions, from ‘how do I even ride this strange contraption’ to ‘why does everything hurt so damn much” and finally back to ‘yo, this is proper fun, no wonder I do it so much.’

I really enjoy refinding my love for training every winter and focussing on where I could be for the next year. I’m a sucker for numbers and will constantly go to my coach telling him things like how my second sweet spot session of winter was 15 watts higher than the exact same time last year. And even though he reminds me that it’s really not about hitting numbers at this time of year, my enthusiasm and anticipation continue to grow.

This year, however, there is one main difference to my training. I know that to some this is akin to joining the dark side, but I’ve finally bitten the bullet, and purchased a cyclocross bike! I’ve wanted to try ‘cross for a long time, but always had the excuse of not having a bike, so over my two-week break, I decided to change that.

My first race was last Sunday, and I have to say it’s the most fun I’ve had on a chilly November afternoon in a very long time. My favourite thing about it is that despite having fairly reasonable bike handling skills on the road, my CX skill is so staggeringly far off the pace. There’s something I find really satisfying about being right at the bottom of the skill curve, with the view and prospect as to how I could progress over time.

I’ve entered a couple more races over the next few weeks including a UCI race in Clanfield. That’s going to be interesting. But if last week was anything to go by, I should learn a huge amount from riding behind guys who are a lot better than I am. Aside from the skill factor, I can also see a huge benefit from maxing out my heart rate for an hour every couple weeks as well as keeping my mental side of racing active over the winter months.

Combined with this, I’ve also started working with a dedicated strength and conditioning coach, Phil. After just a couple of one-on-one sessions, I was wondering why I’d never tried it before, as I think the benefits of having a dedicated S&C coach alongside my main coach are incredible. We’ve been steadily building up my strength overall as it’s been a while since I’ve been in the gym, as well as fixing some slight imbalances. As we move towards the end of November, I’m starting to increase the weight beyond what I’ve done in years previous whilst focusing on keeping form correct, which is so important. I can really see the results starting to show themselves already.

The biggest news for me this month, however, is that I’ve announced my team for 2022.  I’ll be riding for Ribble Weldtite, who are an awesome squad with just as awesome bikes. I’m really excited to be racing with some phenomenal teammates in a really well-organised outfit. And I feel for the first time in a while, race opportunities won’t be the limiting factor for my season.

I’m so excited to race next year, and I’m really looking forward to bringing my blog on that journey too. Thanks for taking the time to read this.


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