The journey from amateur to pro racer is one that seems impossible to many. With such fierce competition and so few roles available, selection by any team is often hard-fought. Furthermore, there’s constant uncertainty surrounding teams and their funding.
In the same vein, there’s the perception within the UK that cycling can often be seen as a very closed sport. So, even knowing where to start out can be a challenge all of its own.
Ribble Cycles is proud to support teams and individual athletes across all age groups of amateur, elite, and professional racing. We caught up with Charles Page of Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling to gain some insight into his journey from stabilisers to the Tour of Britain.
For Charles, the journey started early, very early! He attributes his cycling roots to attending the cycling club with his parents.
“Thanks to my parents I started riding when I was five. I spent most of my youth riding with Hillingdon Slipstreamers at their associated track, Hillingdon Circuit in Minet Country Park, London.
“Here I worked through many a milestone. From getting off stabilisers to my first laps of a velodrome at Calshot, to winning top-level events within the UK. Hillingdon made for a great place to start off as the club was still reasonably in its infancy. Subsequently, I was in effect able to grow with the club.
Despite this long tenure with the club, Charles was already ambitious and ready to take advantage of any opportunities that came his way.
“You could say that I was a victim of my own success as I, and my 15-year-old ego, got a bit too big for the club. During the last year of my youth, I was fortunate to make it onto the Olympic Development Apprenticeship Scheme. Hoping beyond hope that it might continue and see me into the future, but I never made it beyond year one. In many ways, I was just as fortunate to not make it any further.
“Conversely I a little was gutted not to progress. However, in hindsight, it opened doors further down the line which I would not have had otherwise”
These setbacks are common in a sport where such a high number of talented athletes are all competing for the same number of places. In some respects, it was back to square one and finding another team.
“So, to start my progression as a Junior, I joined a local bike shop’s team, Team Corley Cycles. Through the team, I had my first exposure to European cycle racing. I started the season strongly, winning the first Kermess of the year in Belgium”
Despite this strong start, Charles was dogged by more bad luck, thanks to the inherent dangers of bike racing.
“This success didn’t last long, however. Due to a heavy crash in the Junior Gent-Wevelgem, I was off the bike for a long time. I continued to struggle with Achilles tendonitis for the remainder of the season. To add insult to injury, the team, unfortunately, stopped its junior rider program at the end of the year. So I was left with no option but to find another team.”
“So, for my last year of junior racing, I joined Cycle Team OnForm. While a much smaller team, it opened up the avenue to guest ride for a top French junior team. Equipe Culture Velo, alongside riding with John Barclay’s South East team, gave me so many opportunities to race. Throughout the year, I found myself finishing at the front of the racing. Starting off with 5th in the Junior Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and finishing the year with a GC win in the Green Mountain Stage Race in Vermont.”
It was ultimately these strong performances, at the highest level of junior sport, and in front of the right people, that would eventually secure Charles his first Pro-Continental contract.
“During my time as a Junior, I ensured that I kept hold of personal connections to riders and staff in other teams that I had made throughout the year. Through these, I was able to make the jump straight to the Continental ranks with relative ease. Having established a reputation and already proved my capabilities in front of my future teammates and managers.
“It’s been far from plain sailing since then and I still, as any anyone does, have issues with performances. The experiences and hardships I went through as a junior has been invaluable. The lessons that I have learnt as an amateur still see me through my time as a Pro-Conti rider. After a year where I haven’t really been able to find my stride at all, I’m looking to refocus, have a strong winter and hit 2022 hard!”
To find out about how Charles and the rest of Ribble Weldtite performed at the UK National Road Championships, read the race report here
Find out how Ribble Weldtite riders Jacob Tipper, Will Brown and Rich Jones faired when they took on the epic Dirty Reiver 200 here