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by Russell Jones
December 1, 2016
Photography by Cor Vos
It’s been an up-and-down first season in the WorldTour for New Zealand’s Paddy Bevin (Cannondale-Drapac). He’s put in some strong performances, taking a number of top-10s — including third in the Paris-Nice prologue — but he’s also had his fair share of bad luck and injuries.
The versatile 25-year-old caught up with reporter Russell Jones to reflect on his time in the WorldTour thus far and to consider what the future might hold.
Paddy is smiling, and it’s a contagious smile.
“I’ll probably get my teeth kicked in because I haven’t touched a track bike for about three years, but it’s enjoyable,” he says, laughing, just before the start of the crowd-packed Revolution Champions League event in Manchester. It’s typical Bevin; laughing at himself, laughing at the situation, ever up for the fun of the fight.
The race series is part of the Kiwi’s preparation for next season, his second based in Europe with the Cannondale-Drapac team.
“We are months back into training now. We’ve got a camp in a couple of weeks but we don’t race until [the Tour] Down Under so this is a nice way to break up the winter. It is by design that I’ve stayed in Girona for the start of my season, so to be settled in one place and get a good solid block of training.
“Plus, it’s nice to be able to put the end of last season behind me and really put a good layer down, so to start this one off right.”
Bevin, although keen to put the highs and lows of last season behind him, believes the experiences of his first year in the WorldTour have only made him stronger and wiser. In January he backed up his New Zealand National Time Trial Championship title by raising eyebrows and finishing a strong 10th at the Tour Down Under.
This form continued, with Bevin taking an impressive third place in the Paris-Nice prologue. A few days later things took a turn for the worse, however, with the Kiwi breaking his ribs during a crash on stage 5 while in fourth place overall. He was eventually pulled from the race before the final stage.
“I got like this tiny taste,” he says, holding his thumb and index finger close together. “I was on the podium of WorldTour races, I was top 10 of the GC. I was definitely surprising people with my form. I got a taste and then I got kicked, but you just wear it.
“Anyone who has broken ribs will tell you it’s a pretty horrible experience and it took quite a while to get over. You get on the back foot and I never really got right on top of it again, kinda just battling. Throughout the rest of the season there was still some good results and some good rides but I just lacked that last little bit.
“Part of it was just the learning experience of being over here [in Europe] — it’s pretty unforgiving. You’ve got to be pretty good in your approach and you don’t get away with too much. I guess I’ve learnt a really big lesson there and want to take that forward.”
Now 25, Bevin’s journey to Europe has been a long and varied one. From cutting his teeth as a teenager in the United States while debuting with the Bissell Pro Cycling Team back in 2010, through to his solid performances across Australasia with Avanti in 2015 — performances that caught the eye of Cannondale-Drapac boss Jonathan Vaughters.
“In the scale of European cycling I’m pretty young for sure,” Bevin said. “I didn’t grow up racing here and I’ve come a different route. At the end of the day I wouldn’t change it — you live and learn and it certainly made me the bike rider I am.”
It is these experiences, and that of his Grand Tour debut at the Vuelta a Espana this year, that strengthen Bevin’s resolve.
“It [the Vuelta] was a last minute call up, I literally had five days notice. It was great to get a start, horrible to break a finger on day three.”
Bevin, struggling to hold the handlebars, finally called it a day after crashing again on stage 11.
“It was just another element of getting my teeth kicked in really, I was on my knees and I took another one. Once again it was just part of that learning experience. You’ve just got to be a bit thick-skinned and say ‘Alright, I took a bit of a beating, now it’s time to reset and go again.’”
Undeterred, these knocks not only drive Bevin’s desire to win further but also to aim higher.
“That’s why I’m still here in the European winter, to start that ball rolling. I’ll go home at Christmas and spend a couple of weeks there then do the Tour Down Under. It’s a nice and sunny start, but at the end of the day I want to forge a career in the Northern Classics and adapt to the European season. I really want a good run at the Classics, that’s where I see myself as a bike rider and that’s what I want to do.
“I didn’t even get to race the Classics this year, this is my first Classics campaign and it could take five years of more of the same before I get ahead, but that is the fight. It’s what we are here for, to get ahead, and for me it is to find out how good I am as a bike rider and for me that’s the stage, that’s the pinnacle.
“I absolutely love what I’m doing and last season has only made me hungrier. It’s a hunger and it’s a drive and it’s a desire to do well in those races. You pick your biggest goal and say ‘Look, that’s what I want to do’ and you start chipping away. What else can you do? You could pretend that there’s other aspects or other goals and people might scoff and say ‘he’s dreaming’ but at the end of the day I don’t care.
“We are here to roll up our sleeves and get amongst it.”
Born and raised in the cycling hotbed that is the Wirral, England, Russell Jones noticed early on that some of his cycling club teammates were much faster than him, quickly coming to the conclusion that he should probably quell any racing ambitions and just enjoy the riding. The fact that one of these club mates went on to be an Hour Record holder and win the Yellow Jersey may have skewed his judgement slightly.
After a solid 15 years working in the broadcast industry he decided to take the leap to become a full-time freelance cycling journalist, basing himself in the cycling hotbed that is the Waikato, New Zealand. There he is able to keep one eye on the racing scene while continuing his love for exploring the local endless country lanes.