For reasons we know all too well, making long-term forecasts or plans is probably not the wisest of actions right now for 2021. Rather, and as new Israel Start-Up Nation rider Patrick Bevin sees it, learning to live with uncertainty for another year is the only logical way forward for professional bike racers, including himself.
“It’s been tough to handle, some guys came out of lockdown better than others, and hopefully we’ve all learned lessons from that. And I think basically the key to it all is to be flexible, ready to go,” the New Zealander told Cyclingnews.
“Europe is suffering badly from the pandemic but races are going to start at some point and I think it’s going to be a lot like last year, the sense of urgency we saw is going to remain right through this season.”
Learning to make the most of unexpected situations is, again, another pandemic ‘life lesson’. For Bevin, one of the few upsides of his complex 2020 season came, oddly enough, after the season was over.
Unable to return to New Zealand, as he usually would because of the quarantine and other restrictions, quite apart from getting to experience his first cold December, by staying in Europe the 29-year-old found things to be simpler.
“It was extremely different to any other year. I missed out on two round-the-world flights, there was no Down Under or Nationals, either which would have been my normal start to the year,” said Bevin, who won the 2019 Tour Down Under, his biggest victory to date.
“So it was much more relaxed – I’m one of the few guys that can say that, I think – and we just settled in here in Spain. I did two training camps with Israel Start-Up Nation and all in all it was a real change of pace.
“I’ve loved it. In terms of stepping into 2021 on the best possible footing, I think it’s the best thing that could have happened to me.”
So far so very good, then. Bu the question of where exactly Bevin goes from here, though, is as uncertain as it is for the rest of the peloton. One possible season debut at the Volta ao Algarve has already been scratched as the Portuguese race was postponed.
But on the plus side, again, Bevin says he has learned a great deal from the first lockdown that he can apply to the second, although sometimes it was a harsh learning curve.
“I flew back to New Zealand because my partner was stuck there, and while there I ended up doing a lot of training for nothing,” he somewhat ruefully reflected.
“The biggest takeaway I had from that experience is that you’ve got to maintain your structure, keep on working with the coach because there’s only a finite number of scenarios that can play out right now. It’s a question of making sure you don’t overdo it to make up for not racing. You have to really stick to your plan and that’s where the coaches come in, knowing how to handle the riders.
“Then mentally, you’ve got to stay positive. We know that there are races coming up, and while everyone knows it’s not over yet, in professional cycling, we’re in a very good sport, we know that things can and will come round. We had a very solid season last year, so we have to be ready to go.”
Bevin recognised that while 2020 was a far from ideal year: quite apart from his personal excess of training while in Zealand, there very few time trials, his speciality, on offer.
But on the plus side, signing for Israel Start-Up Nation for 2021 relatively early brought him much peace of mind at a time when many riders, including teammates at the soon-to-be-defunct CCC squad, were struggling to find a berth for the upcoming season.
“It was a real relief, because for some guys looking for a team was a whole added layer [of stress]. And it also felt very positive, signing for a team in 2021 that stood up at one of the worst times possible. So I’m really looking forward to pinning a race number on that Israel jersey and getting into the season.”
Although the start of the calendar is, as he put it, “a bit muddy,” his overall goal is anything but uncertain – to get his time trialling back to where it was in 2019, “and hopefully improve on that.”
Just to rewind to 2019 for a moment, not only did Bevin get a fourth place at the Worlds and secure the National TT title for a second time, he also ran second behind Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) in the Vuelta a España’s only individual time trial, as well as taking top-five results in the Tour de Romandie and Tour de Suisse.
The further into the season, in any case, the clearer Bevin’s objectives will become. “Personally the goals will be having a crack at the TT in those weeklong stage races and then to be a real asset to the team in those races in a number of different roles.
“Then I would love to go to the Tour with Chris [Froome] to support him and parlay that into the Olympics, and go onto the Worlds. It could be a big summer.”