Procycling magazine’s 12 days of Christmas revisits some of the highlights from our contributors in the magazine over the last year. Here, James Knox tells us about the upsides of spending lockdown back at home in the Lake District, and rediscovering some of his favourite training roads.
James Knox rides for Deceuninck-Quick Step and is one of Procycling’s 2020 diarists. This article was taken from Procycling magazine issue 270 July 2020.
Subscribe to Procycling magazine, right here.
After a couple of months of indoor living, the lockdown restrictions started to ease in Andorra. Initially residents were allowed an hour a day to be outside on alternative days, and then gradually more and more.
As these restrictions eased I was also able to get the correct papers to travel home to Cumbria, through France, and it’s where I’ve been ever since. It was a long drive back across two countries to the Lakes, but with little traffic on the roads it wasn’t so difficult.
Back at my parents home it’s been pretty easy to remain basically self isolated on my return and it has personally been a huge relief to be back around my family and in familiar surroundings.
For the last few years, family time has been pretty restricted to occasional weeks at home or my parents coming out to Europe to see me race or to stay with me, so it’s been great to have some quality time together. Family bike rides started out partly as a reason to cycle over to visit my grandparents; sadly only my granny is still with us, but I’ve been able to make a couple of trips over and stay in her garden and have a chat through the kitchen window.
Since I’ve come home I’ve been getting out in my beautiful local area. It has definitely been the most rewarding block of training I have ever done. I’m savouring the freedom of being outdoors again and I’m feeling somewhat disbelieving, at times, of the empty roads in the Lake District. Roads which I’d normally avoid like the plague for being too busy have been completely dead, and the ever increasing number of cyclists on the roads has been a real treat to see.
It’s now been a few years since I have done any serious training at home. I’m usually only back around Christmas and New Year, after the season ends or during a mid-season break. It nearly always ends up the same way, creeping around on the bike, depressed how slow I am and annoyed at the rain.
So to be blessed with some beautiful weather recently, and the legs feeling better and better it has been a joy to get out and enjoy some of the hardest loops, which I’ve been too scared to do for quite a long time.
It’s also been a humble reminder at times of just how hard the roads are at home. Somehow tapping away up long climbs all day in Andorra doesn’t compare to the all-out battle it takes to crawl up Hardknott, Wrynose or the Struggle. I’m very fortunate to be have beautiful roads in every direction too – all the Lakes to explore to the West and North, the Eden Valley and North Pennines Area of Natural Beauty (AONB) to the North East, the Yorkshire Dales to the East and South East, the Forest of Bowland AONB to the South and Morecambe Bay and Arnside and Silverdale AONB to the South West. I’m spoiled basically… But if anyone wants to get me involved for the local tourism board I think I’ve got what it takes.
It’s been easy to get my head down and enjoy the hard work again with the hope of getting back racing too. I couldn’t really cope very well with the uncertainty and lack of targets while training indoors in Andorra, so having that proper break off the bike has give me a reason to get back out cycling again.
The first couple of weeks weren’t exactly easy or pretty, but the form has come back quicker than expected, and I am now feeling ready to do the serious work before any races are scheduled. It’s still a couple more months away until anything big is supposed to kick off, but I’m really hopeful we can make a return to racing.
With the difficulties the teams and companies sponsoring them are facing, I think the main priority is just to get the big events up and running this year. I’ve been talking to the team about what programme I’ll be doing so we’ll see what happens. Of course the main priority for now is making sure the number of infections continues to drop.
It’s hard not to acknowledge my own selfishness sitting here writing while so many have really suffered, and others have lost their lives. There are definitely more important things than bike racing, so if any events can’t go ahead because of safety concerns, I’d agree with that. It’s just a case of crossing our fingers now, and keeping up the hard work. JK