A year ago, it was said that Tom Faiers had been plucked from obscurity. Or to be more precise, that the young Englishman had once gone on a cycling holiday to Spain, dazzled local pros Luis Leon Sanchez and Alejandro Valverde on a training ride, signed up for a local team on their recommendation, then turned pro in the sport’s top division three years later. As one does in sporting fairytales...
There was plenty of poetic licence but also, lurking in there somewhere, the story of a dream come true. A dream that, five months after his first race in Footon-Servetto colours at the Trofeo Cala Millor, took a detour towards Faiers’ worst nightmare in a stage of the Tour of Austria, when the 23-year-old’s heart began to beat out of control.
Within seconds, Faiers had recognized the symptoms of a condition from which he’d suffered since his youth, but which rarely troubled him on his bike; within minutes he’d abandoned the race and, little did he know then, raced for the last time in 2010 and for the last time in Footon’s yucky gold livery.
“It used to happen now and again when I played squash, because it seems to be brought on by certain body movements, but it hadn’t happened in a bike race since the 2008 Tour of Madrid,” Faiers recalled on Monday.
Somehow left behind in the handover which saw Footon become Geox-TMC, the talented all-rounder was speaking to Cyclingnews from California, where he will race for the Wonderful Pistachios Pro Cycling Continental division team in 2011. While excited about that prospect, Faiers doesn’t deny that this wasn’t quite the outcome he’d imagined.
“Last year, the team obviously didn’t want me to race until I got the problem sorted, but it was slow going because there would always be a wait of a couple of weeks between the appointments with specialists,” he explained. “The consensus in the end was that it was an SVT
[Supraventricular tachycardia], which wasn’t dangerous, but an operation to fix it would have been risky, because it’s close to the AV node. In any case, I got the green light to race again at the end of September, but of course by then the season was pretty much over and I’d missed out on a really good programme in August in September. I was even down for the Vuelta…”
Just as Faiers was making plans for his comeback, so Footon-Servetto chief Mauro Gianetti was plotting his 2011 season with new sponsor Geox.
Apparently without Faiers…
“The team were really supportive at first, and Mauro said that I shouldn’t worry, that there’d be a place for me at Geox, but then it all went quiet,” Faiers said. “It’s a shame but I’m not really angry with them. I haven’t heard from Gianetti from two months, so I don’t know why they didn’t take me to Geox, but I’ve heard from one of the other directeurs that it was because of my heart condition…
“Like I said, it was a shame, because it was going OK there,” he continued.
“Obviously it was a big step up from the amateur racing I’d done in Spain but I was getting there and really looking forward to the second half of the year. I’d also done some decent rides, working for the team, and in Asturias, where I’d finished 26th in the time trial. And, I mean, I’m not blaming the team, but we didn’t even have time trial bikes to practice on at home…”
Rather than wallowing in regret and resentment, though, Faiers says that he is looking forward. He now hopes and believes that the American domestic scene could be an unorthodox yet effective shop window.
“My ultimate goal is definitely to get back onto a top European team,” he admitted.
“The team is going to do the National Racing Calendar races, and the set-up is good, so I’m really motivated. I’ve also had a really good
winter: I’m already fitter now than I was in April last year….”