BY SAM BRAND
ISLE OF MAN, UK – So let me set the scene. It’s January, the skies are clear, it’s warm – especially compared to the Isle of Man – and it’s the familiar, homely surrounding of the Team Novo Nordisk training camp base in Altea, Spain.
January is notorious in cycling; it’s the last step of a winter regime that transitions the proverbial ‘blood, sweat and tears’ of the harsh wintertime base in to the hustle and bustle of the new season juggernaut that is swiftly approaching. The sound of wheels turning, gears changing and the cogs in the professional peloton are gathering pace. The 2020 cycling train is pulling into the station.
For me, the season was beginning early. Off to a new country, and a new continent with the same over-brimmed, bubbly and eager enthusiasm that not only brought me in to cycling but made me fall in love with sport as a child – I was, as always, beyond excited to race.
Fast forward a few weeks and with the Tour of Colombia finished and the team transitioning halfway across the globe to Rwanda, central Africa. It was not only a mental adaption, but a physical one also. A seven-hour time zone change, over 24 hours flight time, but a well-motivated and tightknit family transitioning together.
As the days ticked on in Rwanda, racing apart, the Covid-19 situation was gathering unprecedented pace in mainland Europe, with daily updates coming in from Italy to the peloton’s Italian contingent – of which we had a few. There were conversations of what might happen, what could happen and the big matter of an important race for us to finish. I recall one evening, with four stages still to race, there were murmurs of race cancellations and travel restrictions.
My focus, as always, was 110% on the race and the matter at hand. Results for Team Novo Nordisk.
As a professional athlete, it is the ability to adapt to situations that is key. You rarely get control over everything so focusing on controlling the factors that you can control is of utmost importance. The rest is down to fate.
There is very little in professional sport that is straight forward but one thing that is, is the enthusiasm, dedication, hard work and commitment that I, as an athlete, afford to not only my sport and mission to changing diabetes but more simply to my day to day philosophy and training targets – I wholeheartedly love what I do and why I do it.
Beyond this, the lives we change as a team whilst we aim to alter the view and perception of diabetes throughout the world. Racing is the final part in an extremely long list of necessary objectives. To change the world, it begins with the training I do at home.
During lockdown I’ve committed to see every day as an opportunity to learn, develop and improve as an athlete. It might sound simplistic and trivial, but it allows me to focus on one thing at a time. It is a scenario that has the ability to build or destroy ambitions. My aim is to embrace the positives and remain constructive.
Firstly, I am now home for the longest time continually for almost 10 years. That is undoubtably a benefit. I can work on area’s of training that are usually restricted in the season due to travelling and racing schedules and furthermore it gives the chance to gain feedback quicker on how training is working.
So ok, it doesn’t beat that adrenaline-filled racing buzz of being shoulder to shoulder with my teammates in the midst of the Milan San-Remo but it’s a pretty good compromise in a world-wide pandemic. The Isle of Man is perfection; it’s my home.
Motivation is a word that is thrown about an awful lot at present. It’s on Instagram, twitter, the back of my mum’s crossword book and muttered about daily over the radio and television networks. I don’t really like the word, it doesn’t give the complete picture. It is ok to not be motivated; it is ok to not want to do something today. It’s ok to stay in bed that little longer. For me the focus is more around my commitment. Motivation is a wavering feeling, the experience of desire or aversion but commitment to something is unchanged no matter what. For me, my commitment is my training but beyond this, it is to every single person around the world affected by diabetes. That is a huge bond, a huge commitment and a huge motivation to me.
If my focus was mainly on racing then motivation will be short lived. As a professional athlete, I have committed to our cause, and training. No matter the weather, the day, the time, I love to do my job. Day in and day out.
In the midst of uncertainty I’m looking at this as an opportunity to read that book, learn that instrument, go for that walk and make those memories. There is seldom the right time to do the things we truly want to do. Separating out the things we felt there was no time for before and writing them down has been a huge plus for me. Don’t look at the lockdown as a limiting factor but as a starting point.
While at home, I’ve enjoyed the things I miss the most whilst away; walking the dog (Alfie), time with my parents, working on writing, renovating my home amongst other things. Over the last 12 months I have carried the book ‘Prisoner’s of Geography’ in my suitcase. It’s been to more countries than the book is about but I’ve finally started it. I’m loving it, and it’s definitely been worth the wait.
The whole-world wide pandemic may seem like something more akin to a modern Hollywood movie but take this opportunity to do something for yourself. Stay positive, remain hopeful, reach out to those around you. We are stronger as a team. Our team.
If you’d like to read more posts from Sam, check his personal blog: https://www.samuelbrand.com/blog
Photo Credit @BettiniPhotos