Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Thomas Gloag – “I find myself getting better as the road slopes upwards”


HomeInterviewsThomas Gloag - "I find myself getting better as the road slopes...

Tom Pidcock’s stunning performance to win the ‘Baby’ Giro – with three stage wins along the way – over-shadowed a very promising ride by his Trinity Racing team mate, Thomas Gloag, the young man from London getting stronger as the race progressed.

Gloag is no stranger to Scottish racing either, winning Stage One of the Tour of the Kingdom last season.

Best ‘have a word,’ we thought…

Thomas Gloag
Thomas Gloag at the Baby Giro. Photo©supplied

Originally a VC Londres, Herne Hill, man so you started as a ‘trackie’ – do you still ride the velodromes?

“For training I have never really left Herne Hill. 

“In the winter and summer I always ride down there at least once a week: in the chaingang or behind the derny. 

“You can’t really replicate the top end power and leg speed you get from those sessions anywhere else. 

“More importantly it’s also the most fun you can have on the bike training!

“I haven’t really ridden any top level track races since u16, apart from the odd Madison. 

“It’s definitely something I still enjoy but I would say I find the road more enticing.”

How would you describe yourself as a rider now?

“Right now I think it’s hard to say because I don’t really know the answer.

“I think I need more race experience to fully answer the question but I’m definitely someone who likes to take on the race and I find myself getting better results as the road slopes upwards.” 

Thomas Gloag
Thomas Gloag at the Tour of the Kingdom in Fife, Scotland in 2019. Photo©Ed Hood

You won Stage One of the Tour of the Kingdom last year, was that your best result of 2019?

“It was definitely one of my best results, but in hindsight I think a lot came together for the win to happen. 

“I had a pretty amazing accidental lead-out into the finishing climb by my team mate Oscar Nilsson-Julien, after we clipped off the front with eight kilometres to go, and from there I was just about in range to catch the four riders up the road. It was one of those rare days on the bike where everything went right and it ended up being a massive turning point in my season.”

You had some nice Belgian results last year – tell us about them.

“Belgium was definitely very hit and miss for me last year. The first race of the year at the UCI one day Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne went well; I attacked 10 K in and ended up staying away for 110km all the way to the finish. 

“I was pretty cooked by the end but I managed to hold on for eighth.

“Then the rest of the early season classics went poorly. Frankly I didn’t quite have the engine to compete; I hadn’t been consistent enough in my training after December to ride at that level. 

“My priority then was school and honestly it’s a balance I never quite figured out meaning during school times I was never riding at 100%.

“However when I returned to Belgium during the summer holidays I had quite a bit of success. 

“I placed third overall in the UCI stage race Kontich and I was only 18 seconds off the win. 

“On the last stage I was in a group of around 20 who had over two minutes on first and second on GC but my front derailleur snapped off when I hit a speed bump at a weird angle. 

“This meant I jumped on a spare bike and was dropped from the breakaway. 

“It was quite a sight to see in the bunch; a guy who normally rides a 56cm frame cruising round on a 48cm one! 

“Needless to say it get a fair few laughs from other riders and the breakaway was eventually caught inside the last 10 K. Probably the biggest ‘what if’ moment of the season for me but it still ended up being a successful four days. 

“I then had a few decent performances at other UCI one days in Belgium but came away with no results to write home about.”

Thomas Gloag is no stranger to winning, here in the Tour of the Kingsom. Photo©Ed Hood

How did the Trinity ride come about?

“I was contacted by them in the middle of August last year just before the Tour of Wales. 

“It sounded like exactly what I was looking for and it didn’t take long for me to put pen to paper. 

“Being in a British setup was particularly important for me last year as I was still finishing my A levels so I needed a team that would be flexible and allow me to do both. 

“To be honestly going into the year I viewed it as ‘transitional’- basically meaning I was going to be swinging round the back of races trying to finish. 

“Trinity sounded like they understood the situation and were prepared to stick with me for a bit, even in this eventuality.”

From the outside looking in that looks a nice set-up?

“It’s certainly a big change from riding for the local club. 

“The support at the Baby Giro was exceptional; there’s nothing more I can think of that the team could have done. 

“However I think the best thing Trinity do well is the off the bike support. 

“During lockdown they managed to keep all the lads engaged and together over Zoom and on Zwift

“We built some team spirit and having sit-down Q&A’s every fortnight from professional riders such as Steve Cummings and Mark Renshaw made a massive difference when it came to racing.” 

Thomas Gloag
Thomas Gloag didn’t expect to be so successful in his first year with Trinity Racing. Photo©supplied

Fourth on Stage Seven of the Baby Giro – tell us about that.

“It was the first of two mountain days with finishes up climbs. 

“The course was basically a 10 K hill, a 10 K descent, 60 K flat then a 40 K mountain to finish the stage. 

“A decent tempo was set up the first climb and at the top the group was in one long line. 

“This meant the whole race split to pieces on the very technical decent. 

“At the bottom there were about 40 riders left at the head of the race including all three of us Trinity lads (as we had been in the front several positions over the top of the climb). 

“Immediately the Kometa squad (who also had numbers in the move) started driving the split. 

“I went back to the car for further instructions and was told not to work; second on GC had punctured on the descent and as such it wasn’t sporting to press the race on. 

“We had 1:30 at one point but the race all came back together eventually before the mountain finish. 

“It took about 10 K for the group to settle once it was together and a suitable break of riders to be allowed to go up the road. 

“Afterwards it was easy until just before the start of the climb where the usual panic in the peloton takes place for positions. 

“Up the mountain the Axeon and then Frutili (who are known amongst us as the ‘Zebra team’ for their black and white kit) drove the pace and dropped the numbers in the group to around 20.

“However the race really kicked off with around 12 K to go when the KOM jersey hit the front to work for the guy second on GC. He split the front group of riders in two. 

“In the front six were Tom and I, as he swung off to finish his turn, I took the helm. 

“I set a slightly easier tempo; barely faster than the group behind. 

“This did allow second on GC to put in a couple of attacks but Tom had his number and comfortably pulled him back every time while I got straight back on the front. 

“Then at the five K mark Tom launched a huge move from the back of the group and no one could really respond (apart from second on GC who couldn’t hold his wheel). 

“I then sat on the back of the three remaining riders as they rode to limit losses. 

“The road flattened with around three K to go giving me some time to recover in the wheels too meaning I had the legs for a bit of a sprint. 

“I opened up quite early (slightly inside the 250m mark) as the road was a bit downhill and there was a little bend into the finish line. 

“I distanced everyone but one NTT rider who had been caught from the break with 4km to go. 

“Tom took the win in emphatic fashion (classic Pidcock) making it a successful day out for us. 

“The fourth was a nice bonus but wasn’t really the priority, just ended up happening as I was working late into the race.”

Thomas Gloag
Thomas Gloag follows Tom Pidcock’s wheel in the Baby Giro. Photo©supplied

Then seventh on Stage Eight – you were getting stronger as the race went on?

“I feel like as the race progressed I definitely did ride myself into it. 

“However I didn’t ride the first four stages at 100% as it wasn’t my job to get results but rather help Tom. 

“Two bike changes on the first day and a crash and poor positioning on Stage Three meant I lost over 12 minutes on GC in the first four stages.  

“On those days I sat up towards the end so as to not go into the ‘red; my GC position wasn’t important. 

“On the flip side this may have meant I was able to perform as I did on the mountains so maybe it was a blessing in disguise. Honestly, I feel like the experience I gained from the race working with Ben Healy and Tom is more important than my achievements; the personal results are just an added bonus in comparison.

“That last stage was absolutely savage and it felt like I was chewing my stem for the whole day. 

“My legs were pretty shot even before the Mortirolo started and it ended up being an absolute slog in the smallest gear I had all the way up. 

“I was with the front guys for about half the climb but the pace they were going at was just slightly too uncomfortable for me to hold so I had to drop to the second group and leave Tom out there by himself. 

“Luckily it all worked out in the end and Pidcock did what he does best and I hung on for seventh. 

“It was one of those days where your legs just ache from start to finish. 

“I think I’m lucky the Giro wasn’t one day longer!”

You finished 14th on GC, your thoughts on that?

“As I mentioned before it’s a great bonus but the experience I gained leading to that in my opinion is of far more value. 

“Watching world class riders like Pidcock and Ben operate in races is such a unique opportunity that not many people will have had; I’m extremely grateful I was able to work with them and as a rider I think it’s changed quite a few things that I do and view about racing. 

“Obviously I still have a long way to go but being able to ride alongside those guys has certainly been a big step for my development as a bike rider. 

“This is a big reason why I got stronger as the Giro progressed.”