Adam Blythe interview: How he clawed his way back to the WorldTour with Orica GreenEdge
After one year with a British Continental team, former Omega Pharma-QuickStep and BMC Racing Team rider Adam Blythe will return to the WorldTour next season after the confirmation of a contract with Orica GreenEdge. The 24 year old British rider has shown his speed on multiple occasions in the past and believes he will slot in well with the Australian team. He spoke to CyclingTips in advance of Sunday’s announcement, talking about his past experiences in the WorldTour, his reason for stepping back, his goals for 2015 plus the performance which helped him and agent Baden Cooke secure the deal.
The contact had been made, the awareness of him was there, but the crucial moment boiled down to the final 300 metres of the RideLondon Classic just over one month ago. Adam Blythe was part of a five man move which pushed ahead inside the final 20 kilometres of the 1.HC-ranked event, being the only non-WorldTour rider able to answer Philippe Gilbert’s aggressive forays.
Containing the subsequent attacks by Gilbert and others, Blythe then seized the initiative in the final sprint to the line. He launched early, showing confidence in his ability, and fended off closest rival Ben Swift (Sky) to finish well clear.
It was a very impressive win, both in terms of the self-belief and composure he displayed and also because his season had been spent riding British races with the Continental NFTO team. He didn’t have the benefit of top-level competition, yet was able to triumph against those who did.
The performance was duly noticed. “We were speaking to teams before RideLondon and we had a bit of interest from Orica, but they weren’t sure,” Blythe told CyclingTips, talking about how he and agent Baden Cooke secured a return to the WorldTour.
“I think they were quite impressed with that ride and that was it; signed, sealed, delivered.”
Blythe previously competed in the WorldTour between mid-2009, when he began a stagiaire trial with Silence-Lotto, and 2013. He spent two years with the Omega Pharma-Lotto team, then moved across to the BMC Racing Team for the 2012-2013 period.
In that time he provided several clear signs of his ability, including first overall in the Circuit Franco-Belge and Nationale Sluitingsprijs in 2010, first in Binche-Tournai-Binche and Paris-Corrèze in 2012 and fourth overall in the 2013 Tour of Qatar. They were all impressive performances by a rider who was still young enough to compete in the under 23 ranks.
Now, after a year away, he’ll have the chance again to show what he can do. “I think all of the riders on the team are good guys,” he said, sounding enthusiastic about what 2015 will bring with the Aussie squad. “I know Bling [Michael Matthews] and some of the others. I am excited – I am really looking forward to get racing back in Europe and have a good go at racing there. Doing it properly this time. Getting stuck in with a good group of guys.”
While the overall look of the team will remain much the same in 2015, there are a couple of interesting changes. Former Milan-Sanremo winner Matt Goss hasn’t progressed as expected and is leaving the squad; another fast Australian, Caleb Ewan, will officially come on board after a stagiaire slot this season.
Blythe is yet to have a detailed talk with the team about his roles, but has an initial picture about how things will work. “I think the semi-Classics will be my goal for the early part of the season. I would like to go well in them,” he said.
“Then there will likely be something with Caleb Ewan – he is a young guy, but he is very, very fast. I think it will be good for me to help him and do as good job as I can to help lead him out. I have no doubt that he will get a good couple of wins, and hopefully with my help.
“Beyond the Spring Classics, I have no idea of my schedule as yet, to be honest. I have got to go and have a meeting with them, just chat about things. I will talk to Matt White, discussing stuff, plans and ambitions for next year.”
Announcing the news Sunday, Orica GreenEdge’s sport director Matt White said Blythe’s signing was an important one.
“Adam will be a great addition to the team on several fronts,” he stated. “He is certainly capable of being up and going for the win himself – especially in the cobbled races, but he will also be a very important part of our lead-out train.
“With the additions of Magnus Cort and Caleb Ewan next year, it will be even more crucial to get our lead-out right. Adam is a sprinter himself and that’s exactly would you need in that position to launch your guy for the win.
Losing direction, then rediscovering it again:
When any rider leaves a team early there are questions about why it happened. Rumours of rifts inevitably follow, but Blythe says that the reason was more simple than that; according to him, he fell out of love with the sport.
“I stopped enjoying riding my bike,” he explained. “I think I lost myself a bit as a bike rider and forgot what it was like to have fun. There was a mutual get-out. I just wanted to get out and start racing my bike again and they were happy for me to start doing that, given their commitments to the Grand Tours and the Tour de France.
“They were happy for me to do that and I was happy at the same time.”
Given that he clocked up several wins during his time on the WorldTour, he was asked if he had hoped to have more opportunity to ride for himself rather than the team’s designated leaders.
“Not particularly,” he answered. “I think it was just the races…I never really got to do any racing that suited me. Everything was sort of a last-minute call. It wasn’t like I had a programme that was set in stone. It never is, obviously, but I think a bit of structure around my programme would have been nice instead of going to a race and then being told when I was at the race that I was going to race in two days’ time, or something like that.
“It was quite a difficult year, that one.”
Blythe took a step back, inking a deal with the British-based NFTO squad. Given that it is a Continental team and he would be racing largely in Britain, there must have been a temptation to take things a little easier in training.
In the past there have been incidences were riders have gone to smaller squads and had difficulty motivating themselves to knuckle down as much as before. He admits that he took a while to get going, but says it was not linked to any such focusing issues. Instead, he said that he did too much training over the winter months, was flying for February but left with a lack of racing early on.
“I think it took a while to get that form back again,” he said. “I also had to adjust to the different style of racing – we have done a lot of crits [criteriums] as well. I hadn’t done crits in a while so it took me a while to get used to them, and also how to ride a road race in England. It’s different to how they are ridden in Europe.
“Once I had cracked that, I was on a roll.”
Blythe took a series of good results, including victory in the British national circuit race championships. The RideLondon success was clearly his biggest, though, and had much to do with the calmness he showed towards the end.
“It wasn’t that I went into that last kilometre feeling confident I was going to win…I was just thinking that I needed to get my sprint perfect, to make sure I could get everything out,” he explained. “Obviously I was thinking about winning, but the immediate focus was on doing things right. Not making a mess of it.
“I didn’t want to cross the finish link and have a bit left in the tank but not to have won if Swifty had maybe went before me. I am chuffed to bits with how the sprint went, to be honest.”
Unsurprisingly, he names that as one of the highlights of his year. The other is the general atmosphere on the NFTO squad and how things worked out there. “Just gelling with the team has been great. Obviously the guys are super talented and they are all really great bike riders,” he said. “At the same time, I think it has been nice for me to share the experience I have with those guys, and doing it in a way where we can all have a laugh and have fun riding the bike at the same time.”
Given that he said he had fallen out of love with the sport, the atmosphere with NFTO seems to have done the trick in helping to motivate him again. He drew on that renewed focus to build up for RideLondon, realising that it was the perfect platform to show the big teams that he deserved another shot.
“It was huge for me,” he said, thinking back to the race, how he rode and the result he got. “It wasn’t really a confidence boost, as such…I was just super-happy that I was back at the level that I wanted to be at and that I should have been at for quite a while.
‘I was also happy and chuffed that the hard work was paying off.”
More recently, Blythe has been competing in the Tour of Britain. He said that he hoped to challenge for a podium finish in the sprints but things didn’t quite work out. His best placing was ninth on Sunday’s final stage, while he also notched up 15th, 16th and 16th on other days.
Still, he knows he is career is on the right track with his pending return to the WorldTour.
Blythe is confident that his time away from the top level will stand to him. “It has definitely helped,” he said. “I think I learned a bit about myself and what I have got to do to be as good as I can be. Hopefully I can take that with me, progress with it. Then we will see what happens, see where I go from there.
“As regards my motivation, it has definitely helped with that too,” he added. “It’s helped one hundred percent.”