In Conversation with Josh Part 2

The cycling season has finally closed, with the fantastic spectacle of the Belgian, Phillipe Gilbert taking the win at the men’s World Championships, and Marriane Vos being crowned Women’s World Champion, adding to her Olympic Gold victory for Holland.    

Now ‘Lance Gate’ and the USADA affair – and the less I say about that the better, because quite frankly the endless chatter and tittle-tattle bores me to death.  He cheated, everyone knows it, and he’ll get his comeuppance as will everyone else complicit in this saga – time to move on.  If you want find out more Google it or turn the radio on… 

For now Josh Cunningham is home, and after a brief hiatus, taking some well earned time out with his girlfriend on a trip to climb Ben Nevis, he is now eagerly contemplating his training plan for the 2013 campaign.  Next year Josh will be riding for the Belgian TopCompetition side Terra Footwear which, according to Josh, “…as an amateur holds one of the best calendars you could hope for, and with a tradition of having a strong English speaking contingent over the years, should also be a great set up to be involved in.”

This is the second and final installment of the In Conversation with Josh series in which I continue to quiz him on his 2012 results, what success means, doping in the sport, and finally his 2013 aspirations.

5. Your results are a mixed bag this season, according to the British Cycling Website anyway, though there is a steady accumulation of points in your favour and I get the sense from chats with you that your confidence is building; a recent blog post for both cyclosport.org and Morvélo suggest that it has been a bit of a rocky road but you feel you are beginning to feel an upsurge in motivation – where do you hope your aspirations will take you in the next 6 months/Year/18 months?

The nature of bike racing means it is inevitably always a mixed bag. This can obviously both work in your favour and against you, and this season has been no different in that respect; but yes, my confidence and moral as a rider has definitely seen more of an upward turn during this season, particularly in the second half of it. The first half of the year was progressive, but not really punctuated with any ‘results’. In around May my form started to come good, and I bagged a few top ten results, but after completely flumping at two big goals of the year at the end of June, my motivation took a turn for the worse. When you put your all into something, and are in an environment where there is literally nothing else to take your mind off of it that can be very dangerous. I was pretty fed up with cycling at that stage, but it’s a feeling that I’ve felt before, and no doubt will experience again. It’s just part and parcel of being an athlete. Now we’re nearing the end of the year, and after a reasonably successful last few months, I’m feeling very motivated and hungry for more, despite being tired and ready to come home to rest up and prepare for next year.

To be honest I haven’t looked at my profile on the British Cycling website since the last season I spent there, in 2009. The moment I moved abroad it became distinctly apparent that in the grand scheme of things, BC points mean relatively little. For the grass roots of the sport they are great, and I personally found it very rewarding when my varied results added to my tally of points. It’s a clear way of judging progress as a beginner, but as I’ve progressed and moved up the levels I’ve started to gauge progress on different factors. This was confirmed to me at the start of the year when I was issued a 3rd cat license, 2 categories down from the 1st category rider I was before I moved to Belgium, despite having massively improved as a rider.

In the next 6 months I hope to have a strong, problem free winter in my legs and a good start to the 2013 season to boot. That’s a pretty all encompassing statement to make admittedly, but it’s nonetheless the aim! By the end of next year I can’t see myself as a budding pro, but if the progression of the last 3 years continues at the same rate, then hopefully I’ll be amongst the top amateurs in Belgium and making myself known to the big boys.

6. We all know that tough politics and a struggle of authority and power exists within the sport; vying for positions among the social order and positioning yourself favourably so that you career can progress.  As you have quite rightly point out sometimes it is the WHO you know during your career, the contacts you make and the way you approach certain networking opportunities that can help you deliver the aspirations you desire.  Often it is a case of being in the right place at the right time and be willing to make the effort and other times you can approach, for example, a sponsor or a potential ally directly – all part of a quid pro quo of favours and negotiation – no different if you were hoping to progress in any field I am sure.  I am curious to know what success means to you and what you are prepared to do to obtain it? 

Success is pretty internal for me. If I feel satisfied and fulfilled after finishing with something, then I would deem whatever that was a success. Obviously if it made me happy then that is an added bonus. If I am motivated to achieve something, then I am prepared to go to quite extensive lengths to try and fulfil that goal. If I know I didn’t do all I could, then I wouldn’t feel satisfied, and if I don’t feel satisfied then I don’t count it as a success, and so on and so forth…If, however, I am unmotivated or uninterested in something, then I care relatively little about my success in whatever that may be. I’ve accepted that and decided to concentrate on what I enjoy, what I believe in and what motivates me…that way I will have a good time, try hard, and gain some fulfilment. As long as I’m true to myself, and don’t cause any unnecessary aggravation for others then whatever follows would count as a success in my book.

7. The sport is seeing a renaissance in the UK, with Bradley Wiggins winning both the Tour de France and now the Gold Medal for the Men’s Time Trial  in the London 2012 Olympic Games – Wiggins as you know is staunchly anti-doping.  I often wonder at the psychology of the person who subjects themselves to the drugs and blood doping and who ultimately become so desperate that they feel the only way to succeed is to cheat – the flip side of that of course is that the person knows exactly what they are doing and they show very little respect for the rules and genuinely believe they won’t be caught.  Have you given this subject much consideration yourself and what is your position on doping?        

I think when Wiggins used the C-bomb to so eloquently convey his feelings towards dopers; it resonated strongly with a lot of the cycling community, including me, because it is the sort of no-nonsense attitude that needs to be taken. It was also a pretty good description, maybe not of them as human beings but certainly for that particular mistake that they might have made.

As someone trying to make my way in the sport, I try to just keep my mind on the steps directly in front of me. I know it’s possible to turn professional clean, I know it’s possible to be successful at it clean, and I think the peloton is going ever-increasingly in that direction, so that’s what I focus my thoughts on.

One more thing – I think that despite the pro peloton getting cleaner, there is some attention to be paid to the issue at an amateur level as well.

I know it goes on, and it is quite frankly infuriating. Especially when in 47 race days this year, “Control Dopage”, was at 1 or 2 or them. There are a lot of guys whose morals aren’t as idyllic as we would like, and the lure of victory inevitably pushes some to break the rules. The Federations would do well to pay more attention to the problem lower down the scale, in order to nip it at the bud.

8. Think back to the 2nd question I asked and the answers you gave – does cycling and racing still offer you that same experience? 

Absolutely. As I said previously, competing in a bike race offers the sort of rush that I’ve not come across doing anything else. It has that x factor, where the simple act of riding in a bunch provides you with all the thrills you need for a day, let alone getting in a breakaway…getting in the winning breakaway…racing for the win…or even winning.

As I’ve moved on up the levels, the races just get bigger and bigger, the riders better and better, and the stakes higher and higher. Emotions follow the same pattern, and so I’m as much in love with bike racing as I was when I started, if not more so.

All that is left for me to say is Thank you, Josh! 

You can continue to keep yourself abreast of Josh’s progress on his popular ‘Letters Home’blog for Cyclosport.org and via http://joshcunninghamcycling.com/

 

Thanks for reading

*photographs courtesy of Josh’s Facebook Page.

Further works

Billy Childish – Soft Focus