BMC’s Campbell Flakemore announced last week that he was walking away from professional cycling, after a single succinct season with the Swiss/American outfit.
Speaking to Australian website CyclingTips, the 23-year-old discussed difficulties both on and off the bike, with the loneliness of Nicoise-living proving as hard to cope with as the pace of the pro peloton.
Far from a snap decision, an interview as far back as May found Flakemore struggling to adapt to life as a professional racer:
"The WorldTour is a different level. You've really got to suffer just to get to the finish…
"The big challenge though is not just the racing. It's also sorting out my own apartment. Living on your own, looking after yourself, sorting out the apartment, the internet… and doing it in France was a big part. It's just all a big learning curve…"
We students of the sport who also ride (and even race) think we have at least some sense of what life must be like at the highest level. Flakemore’s announcement should serve as an important reminder to us ageing never-weres that we really have no idea.
As thrilling as it may look through the window of Eurosport, the cyclist’s life is a long way from that of the rock star or Formula 1 racing driver. Perhaps it contains the occasional moment of glamour but for the most part it is as David Millar describes it in his recent book:
Train. Eat. Sleep. Eat, train, sleep. Sleep train eat, train eat sleep.
You can see why a forty-year-old might covet that lifestyle, but someone in their twenties? Any “normal” young bloke is going to want to add “mates”, “girls”, and “booze” to that mix, activities which are rarely, if ever, compatible with the job of professional cyclist. Obliged to move away from family and friends to a part of the world more suitable for training, literally everything the cyclist does is designed so he can deliver on two wheels.
Campbell Flakemore sampled the sacrifices he would have to make to fulfill Cadel Evans’s hopes that he would one day win a grand tour and found that, on balance, he’d rather do something else. The person he is in ten year’s time may find himself with a few regrets, but hopefully he won’t. The person he is now has made a brave choice.
Imagery by Nic Stevenson