Jonathan Bellis was one of British Cycling’s brightest lights – until a life threatening scooter crash on September 19th 2009 in his then home of Tuscany.
The versatile man from the Isle of Man spent practically a year in hospital and even then had to return for another operation at the end of 2010.
Prior to the accident it looked as if Bellis was headed for the very top.
In 2006 he was a member of the victorious GB team in the European junior team pursuit champs – a feat he repeated one year later at U23 level.
In addition in 2006 he won silver in the World Junior Points Championship and bronze in the World Junior Team Pursuit Championship.
And in 2007 in addition to the team pursuit championships he took gold in the European U23 scratch and a magnificent bronze in the World U23 Road Race Championship behind Peter Velits.
The good results carried on in 2008 with two wins in U23 Six Days, Berlin and Copenhagen and he was third to Peter Kennaugh in the National U23 Road Race Championship.
CSC gave him a stagiaire place for the autumn and he promptly landed three top ten placings in the Tour of Britain.
For 2009 he carried Bjarne Riis’s new colours – Saxo Bank and a promising year ensued in the Pro Tour ranks with top ten placings.
Then came the crash; the 2010 seasons was a write-off and the following year despite being retained by Saxo he simply hadn’t recovered from his terrible injuries.
There was a contract with AN Post for 2012 and then with top Belgian amateur outfit ILLI Bikes, last year – but again both seasons were compromised by the after effects of his near 12 months in hospital.
For 2014 he’s with Denmark’s Christina Watches Continental team which this year has a big British involvement with Planet X supplying the Viner (pronounced, ‘veenir’) bikes and the team clothing – and two of the squad.
Jonathan is joined by Jake Tanner – son of British legend, John Tanner – at Christina; we hope to speak to Jake, soon.
We talked to Jonathan recently at his new home near Pisa:
How’s the health, Jonathan?
“Good, I’m healthy, fit and not had any hospital treatment for quite a while.”
How was 2013 with ILLI Bikes?
“I was hampered by knee panes which developed last January – it recurred on and off throughout the season but it’s sorted out now and I’ve enjoyed a smooth winter of training.”
How did the Christina ride come about?
“Dave Loughran and his Planet X business are involved with the team this year, supplying the Viner bikes and the team clothing – but he wanted there to be a British element to the team; so Jake Tanner and I were recruited.”
Viner bikes – a name from my youth, nice hardware.
“They’re really nice machines; last year I was riding a Pinarello – good for Belgium but not the nicest bikes I’ve ever ridden.
“The Viner has good geometry, light weight and stiffness – there’s not much more you can ask for.
“Jamie Burrow has been heavily involved in developing them and has done a good job – he also had a big involvement in the design of our clothing.
“He’s never far away and always happy to give advice.”
And you’re living near Pisa?
“Yeah, Jake and I have an apartment here.
“It’s great for training, there are lots of guys to train with – Alessandro Petacchi lives just a 20 minute ride away and I’ve been training with him a lot.
” Our DS, Alberto Elli lives just a few kilometres away so it’s a great location.
“I know the roads around here from when I lived and trained in Quarata – Cav and Steve Cummings are in that area.”
How’s the Italian coming along?
“I wouldn’t say I can speak Italian but I can understand a lot of what I hear – one of my goals for the season is to improve my language skills.
“The Italian guys on the team, speak a little English so we help each other to learn the others language.”
What are the pluses of living in la Bella Italia?
“The weather is an obvious one and the landscape for training in is beautiful.
“And then there’s the food; the pasta is great – and so is the coffee.
“All of those aspects are important and if they’re good then it makes life so much easier.”
“The Italian temperament is really relaxed – but maybe a little too much so in some circumstances.”
How did the winter go?
“I was home in the Isle of Man for the winter and whilst it rained a lot it was mild and there was a good group out most days so I got the work done.”
How did the Christina training camps go?
“Good – they were more for us to get to know each other and to get organised with our bikes and clothing than to do any race specific efforts.
“My condition is pretty good though.”
What does the programme look like?
“To start we have some smaller races in Italy coming up and then some bigger one day races in Serbia.”
Christina might be said to have some ‘controversial’ riders.
“No one has said anything to me about the riders we have on our roster – not to my face anyway.
“Anyway, I’m not bothered, it’s about a team which meets my needs and which can I perform as a good professional for.”
The Commonwealth Games aren’t far away.
“I’m targeting them, yes.
“I’m on the Isle of Man long list and hope to be there on the track – I was there in Melbourne and have been doing a lot of work for Glasgow with Shane Sutton at Manchester velodrome.
“I’ll ride the road until the end of June and then my focus will change to the endurance on the track; I’m looking to ride the points and scratch races.”
What would make 2014 the year you want it to be?
“I’d like to perform well at the Commonwealth Games; I think a good showing there could open a lot of doors.
“And of course I want to ride well on the road and do my job for the team.”
We’ll be keeping in touch with Jonathan as the season progresses.