Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Fred Wright – “It’s just a shame to have to wait so long for the next Roubaix.”

"I'm happy to get a nice result from the Classics, since it wasn't the spring campaign I wanted, but for me, here now, I want more... that's just the way of sport."

-

HomeInterviewsFred Wright - "It's just a shame to have to wait so...

We first met Londoner Fred Wright back in 2017 when he was riding the U23 Berlin Six Day with Jake Stewart, Ed was there working on the Six with Nico Hesslich, Achim Burkart, Hans Pirius and Alex Rasmussen, and became Fred and Jake’s ‘unofficial photographer’.

A lot has happened in Fred’s career subsequently; a career which has mapped a pretty straight line upwards, year-on-year, from riding the biggest junior races, improving incrementally, staying relevant and growing continually.

Fred excelled at the U23 level, winning stages of the ‘Baby’ Giro and the Tour de l’Avenir, later being picked up by CCC as a stagiaire before moving on to World Tour team Bahrain, where he has remained ever since.

He rode the Vuelta a España in his first year with the team and has completed four more Grand Tours since then, including two Tours de France.

If achieving eight top ten stage placings in the 2022 Vuelta and four in that year’s Tour de France were not impressive enough, how does finishing in the top ten at two consecutive Tours of Flanders sound?

Following Fred’s strong ride in this year’s Paris-Roubaix in his beautiful British National Champion’s jersey, finishing 12th and sprinting for 8th place, we wanted to find out a little more about the man, his background and his fabled enthusiasm for the Classics. We started off by asking if he remembered the U23 Six Day win seven years ago.

That Berlin Six Day really feels like a lifetime ago, a lot has happened since then!

Fred Wright
Fred Wright and Jake Stewart (c) enjoy a win at the U23 Berlin Six Day in 2017. Photo©supplied

We’ll begin with our usual question Fred; ‘what got you into cycling’?

“I was eight years old and dad decided to take me to a summer holiday club at the velodrome, Herne Hill.

“That was a way to keep me and my sister entertained for the entire day. It wasn’t like we did anything specific at the club, we just hung out, rode our bikes…

“Quite quickly I realised, ‘I’m actually quite nippy at this, quite handy at spinning my legs on a track bike!'”

Fred Wright
A young Fred Wright is already working on his aero position. Photo©supplied

Your dad was a cyclist too?

“Yeah, he was doing a lot of Audaxes in his forties, he was doing them just for fitness really. His love of cycling grew at the same time as mine.

“Nowadays he’s at Herne Hill velodrome every other day, volunteering, coaching… he just loves it.

“I’m a bit jealous of him actually, he’s not retired yet but when he does, his plan will likely be ‘hanging out at the velodrome, drinking coffee’!”

“But I’ve got lots of bike racing to do before then!”

Like many of us did as youngsters, did you mix track league with local time trials, ‘tens’ and so on?

“D’you know what, I didn’t – it was always just track.

“Slowly the road became more of a factor, but up until I was 18, 19, I just wanted to go to the Olympics on the track.

“My aim was to be part of the Team Pursuit, that was the goal, I guess, from watching the London Olympics in 2012.”

Fred Wright
“It was always about the track” for a young Fred Wright. Photo©supplied

You were picked up pretty early by Team GB.

“Yeah, that was a ‘Talent Team’ selection I think.

“My dad and I went up to Manchester and I did a test on a Wattbike or something similar.

“We were just thinking, ‘we’ll see how it goes’ but I got put on the programme straight away and I was associated with BC from that point.”

So in 2016 you were already being put into the European Classics and stage races at junior level?

“Yes, I was starting to enjoy the road a bit more but track was still the focus for me.

“Despite wanting to win, for example, the junior Gent-Wevelgem, the European and the World Track Championships were always the target.”

And at this point the road was just a part of your track preparation?

“Yes, the thinking was that once I’d gone to the Olympics on the track, then I’d think about doing the Tour de France, etc., a la Wiggo, and ‘G’ … all the people I grew up watching.”

Fred Wright
Fred Wright (c) was DNF in the 2018 Gent-Wevelgem, team-mate Jake Stewart was a commendable second. Photo©Joscelin Ryan

Something changed that thinking though?

“Yeah, I guess the racing kinda changes when you step up to U23, there’s a bit more structure, and I just absolutely loved it!

“I enjoyed it more than I did as a junior and after two years as an U23 I was still pushing to be on the track, but basically I wasn’t quite good enough in the Team Pursuit [to be certain of a place].

“It was my coach at the time, Matt Brammeier (who’s now the Men’s Road Endurance coach for the National Team) who suggested that I could try and join a pro road team that year.

“I didn’t believe him at first, I remember thinking ‘Really? You think so?'”

Then in 2019 you won stages at the Tour de l’Avenir and at the ‘Baby’ Giro…

“Yes, and then it became clearer that stepping into the Pro ranks was going to be the path.”

Fred Wright
Fred Wright takes the win from a seven man group on Stage 4 of the 2019 Tour de l’Avenir, from Mauriac to Espalion. Photo©supplied

How did the stagiaire ride with CCC that year come about?

“I think that was via Matt as well – he knew one of their coaches, Marco Pinotti.

“They looked at my training and put me into the team as a stagiaire.

“But around that time Rod Ellingworth came along and made me an offer to join what was going to become Bahrain-McLaren for 2020.

“A British guy, leading this new team… I thought, ‘I’ve got to take this opportunity’.”

Fred Wright
Fred Wright (l) rode stagiaire with Team CCC in 2019, supporting Simon Geschke to 12th overall. Photo©supplied

Does that seem like a long time ago now?

“It does!

“It’s mad, this is now my fifth year with the team, and each year I’ve stepped up…”

Fred Wright during the 2019 U23 World Road Championships in Harrogate. Photo©Martin Williamson

Unfortunately the Covid pandemic hit during your first season as a full pro…

“That was really weird, but in the end I’d say it worked out in my favour.

“Of course the Covid period was terrible, but as a pro cyclist it was relatively easy; we could still go out and train on our bikes, but it dragged, it dragged for everyone

“Then all the racing was in a block, August to November, and I ended up doing loads of big races because the team had to be split accordingly.”

Fred Wright out training with his housemates during Covid, when restrictions meant spending time only with family or people in the same house. Photo©supplied

It must have been hard going, being thrown into the biggest races in your first year?

“Yes, I got my head kicked in!

“I remember doing Strada Bianchi in August in 40 degree heat… I think I only lasted 60k…

“I had a hard time – but then I ended up going to the Vuelta, which was only 18 stages that year, not the usual 21, but still, to do a Grand Tour as a first year pro was not something I expected.

“The team was using the racing to give the younger guys experience, and of course the Giro was going on at the same time as well.”

And you did really well – fourth on Stage 15 in a bunch sprint…

“Yeah, that was a really long stage, and that result got me thinking.

“It was weird thoug