Interview: Rob Britton’s transition from pro road to mountain bike and gravel racing

Lyle Ellerbee

This time very last year, Rob Britton would have been battling for placement in a professional road peloton, powering down European roadways with his Rally Cycling crew. This weekend, he’s using on a pick subject of 30 in his very first good mountain bicycle race in a 10 years at the Sea Otter Fuego XC 80Km.

The previous highway pro is on of 30 riders, and just a handful of Canadians, chosen for the very first-ever Lifestyle Time Grand Prix presented by Mazda. It’s element of his retirement plan from the cutthroat, significant stress earth of pro highway racing. And, if he hadn’t picked up the cellphone, it could not have occurred.

I caught up with Britton at Sea Otter as his new Easton Overland workforce was preparing to head out for a instruction journey. Even with the crushing 35-degree Celsius heat at Laguna Seca speedway, he joked about the type-of-chill environment of gravel racing, the gains of observing road racing in its place of racing it, and modifying to mountain bicycle racing following decades on skinny tires.

Canadian Cycling Journal: You have retired from Planet Tour racing but now you’re rolling proper into the Lifestyle Time sequence. How did that changeover occur?

Rob Britton: Yeah, I suggest I prepared for the gravel point before I knew about the Lifetime Time series. I’d listened to this rumour that there could possibly be this 6-race sequence and, confident enough, it popped up. I never know how quite a few candidates they experienced, but I wasn’t tremendous assured implementing for it, I was just hopeful.

I was really in the business office with Matt Hornland, the Easton Overland manager when I received the cellphone contact. I nearly muted the contact simply because I’ve been obtaining a whole lot of junk calls, but I nevertheless “ahh, this seems like a kinda legit New York quantity.” I answered, and it was Becca from Everyday living Time supplying me the fantastic information.

It was actually…  not psychological, but it was a truly huge deal. A good deal of these races are lottery entry. It is tricky having into any a single of them, permit by yourself six really big races, so I’d been plotting away at other events to do. So I went from not having considerably of a time to possessing a very huge season with some of the major races. It was genuinely fascinating.

You have done a good deal of gravel using, adventures and training in the previous. How will gravel racing this 12 months be unique? Have you carried out any of these gatherings just before?

No. Of anyone on the commence line, I will have the minimum gravel and mountain bicycle experience of any individual there, which is form of amusing, but, yeah. I have invested my good share of time on gravel up in B.C. And yeah, I raced mountain bikes 10 or 15 decades back, it simply cannot be that substantially distinctive, right?

Rob Britton at the 2018 UCI highway world championships in Innsbruck, Austria, where his breakaway work assisted propel Michael Woods to third general. Picture: Sirotti
Talking of mountain biking, several of these are large, or legendary mountain bicycle gatherings. How has it been having back again into that facet of the activity?

Oh, it’s tremendous thrilling. The most significant detail for this calendar year that I desired to have was obtaining again to loving using my bike and to be energized to go to races and acquiring enjoyable once more. Racing in Europe and the Planet Tour, unless you’re Tadej Pogačar, I really do not assume it is that fun any more. It is so elite now that it is difficult to have enjoyment. You just have to be on all of the time. I’d fully commited about as significantly as I preferred to to that,  I was lacking that enjoyment desperately.

It’s nevertheless a good deal of operate this calendar year, but it is so significantly pleasurable remaining down below at Sea Otter seeing all these acquainted faces. Mountain biking is a little something I definitely like to do. I don’t know if I’m any excellent at racing it, but I just truly enjoy driving.

Related: Q & A with Rob Britton: Retirement, finest last spot ever and givin’ ‘er

Have you been watching this spring’s highway racing?

Yeah, which is the detail. When I quit road racing I was not bitter at the sport, I’m still a large admirer of cycling. So I’ve been looking at and … I do not overlook it at all. I was under no circumstances great more than enough to actually be impacting the entrance of these huge races with Alaphilippe or Evenepoel. When individuals fellas are heading, there’s only like six fellas in the entire world that can go with them. So watching on Tv set or observing the highlights right after, it is like “Oh, that’s what transpired?” This just will save the middle male of suffering in the rain for 5 several hours right before I see the end result. It’s a very good fan to be a supporter of the activity, for the reason that I really do not assume there’s a lot joy in racing it. It’s so bloody difficult all of the time correct now, it is crazy.

Not getting matters much too significantly at Sea Otter as the Overland crew gets all set for a crew trip
So how are you searching ahead from the switch from that to the a lot more informal – or at minimum pretending to be everyday – world of gravel?

Yeah, I feel that hits the nail on the head. There’s a lot of pretending that this is chill and enjoyable, but it is certainly really serious. You decide up on that vibe. I believe there’s some animosity amongst, certainly, the persons that received into the Everyday living Time Grand Prix and those that did not. It’s the elephant in the space, so to speak.

It’s undoubtedly a lot more really serious than folks place on. It’s entertaining, and jokey, but it’s super friggin’ significant. It is however a bicycle race. And a great deal of fellas acquire it so critically mainly because it’s their livelihood, so how could you not? But it is pleasurable. I just left the most severe of significant so it’s been good to just tone it down a minor little bit.

For me, a lot of it is just getting the wheels up off the ground and get to these functions. Receiving a bike with components on it, this is maybe the hardest 12 months to be a “privateer.” There’s so a great deal a lot more that goes into obtaining the get started line now. It’s far more function for me, but I delight in that element. You are your very own manager.

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