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  • Writer's pictureCharlie Paige

Joe Wilson Brings New Hope to the British Domestic Scene

Joe kicking off the 2021 season with some local TTs. © Mayo Creative Photos

Prior race seasons have presented you as a bit of a Jack of all trades, how would you define yourself as a rider? And has this changed over the past 18 months?

I would define myself as a punchy rider suited to tough races usually with technical sections and rolling to hilly terrain, that makes the race grippy throughout. I wouldn’t say my riding style has particularly changed. I have made lots of improvements, in some areas more than others. I love to race aggressively. Unfortunately it has been a year since my last race, but I’m hungry to get back to it and pin some numbers on.

Throughout the junior ranks you had a lot of good results, which one would you highlight as a milestone?

My main turning point was way back at my first Youth National. It was the ‘North West Youth Tour’ when I was just 11. It really opened my eyes to the level of British racing in Youth. I was considered one of the stronger riders in my region; the Northeast. But on a national level I was way off and had a lot of graft ahead of me. Another turning point would be when I did my first international race at Assen Youth Tour, where I was again shown a new level of racing.

You rode for Ribble as a junior and for Brother NRG as a youth. Was the move to the professional team always planned?

Originally, I joined the team because it was my local elite team looking to support some of the local up and coming talent. I was very fortunate that as I got older and stronger, the team also stepped up and developed alongside my progression. The team was getting better and better as the years went by, which lead to bigger race invites and better results, so I hoped to join the men’s team while it rises to more and more success.

Relaxed and ready when warming up is the usual style of Joe.

In 2019 you were one of only two British juniors to sign for a Continental British team. Why was this your choice rather than seeking a team abroad?

I personally feel a lot of riders struggle abroad as there are a lot of things for a young mind to process, never mind the step up to adult racing. Originally I wanted to focus on my development and become strong enough to compete in UCI level races- which is available to me with the strength of Ribble’s calendar- without having to add the stress of foreign cultures and new people, languages and other variables that come with moving to the continent. When I found out the opportunity was there at Ribble, it would have been stupid not to take it up.

Do you plan on racing in the UK long term and learning your craft through the domestic scene? Similar to that of fellow Northeast rider Harry Tanfield, who became known first on the domestic scene.

Honestly, I don’t know is the answer. I would love to race abroad but I do not want to transfer to a team with a worse calendar and less support, which is crucial for my development as a young rider. Alongside awesome support, Ribble do have some great race invites which I believe a strong performance in would be a great stepping stone for a bigger and better team. Where that will be or if it happens at all, only time will tell. Right now I’m focussing on myself and preparing for when the race season resumes. Giving myself the best shot possible at getting some big results.

Continuing with the theme of the British scene, Ribble is one of the key brands trying to revive the British domestic pro scene. Do you think we can see a post-covid revival of the scene and a return to its former glory?

The British racing scene is a weird one and has been unstable for quite a number of years. I would love to see it revive and see me and my team, Ribble Weldtite, at the top of the British racing scene. Which I think we can achieve, with our great setup and roster for the 2021 season and beyond. However, our continental license means our foreign racing program is expanding and I think that will be fundamental in my development and progression.

Joe on the first Ribble training camp, after Covid restrictions eased. © James Huntly Photography

If Covid hadn’t brought the 2020 calendar to a halt, what would have been your goals and what results would have made it a 'successful season'?

I would have loved to go to the Tour of Yorkshire or the Tour of Britain, as exposure to racing with top pro teams would be vital in learning and adapting to that level of racing. Plus growing up not far from the Yorkshire border and knowing a lot of the roads in North Yorkshire almost makes it a home race. Other than that, a strong season of UCI races and British Nationals. I’d like to consider that top 10’s were within my reach, if the season had gone ahead as planned. However this gives me even more motivation to get the 2021 season underway and get some results under my belt.

We've seen Brexit in the cycling headlines recently and the effect this has had on British riders racing on the continent. Have you looked at how this may affect your plans and how you plan to overcome it?

It is a struggle, but with strategic use and exact planning of my allowed days in EU countries, I think it is doable. Kenyan athletes have suffered with similar restrictions for a while, but have still managed to overcome it and compete in the events they want too. I think if I rode for a foreign team in the future or like many other young British riders with a team house and a wage, then I could potentially get the necessary paperwork to be exempt from the 90-day rule.

We’ve noticed over the past month you have been racking up the miles with a 'home training camp'. How has it gone and how are you feeling about the 2021 season?

I took a week off my part time job to solely focus on a solid training week like the one that was planned with the team in Spain, just before the start of the season. However, due to the current Covid situation the team camp was cancelled. Taking the week off my part time job definitely helped me with the structure and I treated it like a training camp. This was crucial in my preparation for the 2021 season.

It's not just about what happens on the bike, but also off it.

With the uncertainty of the past 18 months and the 2021 calendar? How have you managed to stay motivated and how have you managed to set goals?

I’ve just been focusing on when racing resumes, which helps me keep on track with my progression and development. It also helps to keep me busy and keeps my sanity, as staring at solely numbers and times doesn’t give a racing cyclist much excitement.

With Covid-19 permitting, what are your goals and aims for the 2021 season? And what would need to happen to make this year a success?

My aims are what they’ve always been, race every race as they come and see how far I can go. Plus treating every race like a new opportunity to get a result and ultimately giving it everything I’ve got. The ultimate dream is to be a big professional competing in the biggest races.

In the zone... ©Darren Moore

Finally, before some quickfire questions... ten years have passed, you are now 29, where do you see yourself? An established British domestic pro or even higher?

At 30 I’d hope to have been a big professional cyclist for some time. And to have won some big races and hopefully inspiring more to join the sport that we all love.

We have seen the difference in style between Roglič and Pogačar recently, so when on the podium would you rather wear a casquette or a baseball cap? And why!

Baseball cap! They just look better and more casual.

Favourite race?

Ronde Van Vlaanderen. It is hard, hilly and technical. It is always a fantastic race to watch.

Giro d’Italia or Tour de France ?

Giro d’Italia – it’s a harder race in my opinion. However, it’s not as prestigious as the Tour, but I prefer the Giro.

Disc or rim brakes ?

Disc brakes, the performance is better and more consistent, especially now bikes can still get down to the weight limit with disc brakes.

Criteriums or Time Trials?

Time Trials are hard both mentally and physically, the race against the clock is the true test of a rider's strength. It’s also a necessary part of stage races.

A discipline that Joe has grown in strength in over the past 18 months. © Wilf Mcnaughton

Happiness is…

Exploring, having adventures and making special memories in the world around us....usually by bike.

If you weren’t a cyclist, what career would you pursue?

I like engineering and physics, so I think possibly something to do with either of those subjects. Or most likely another sport to satisfy my competitiveness.

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