Hi, my name is Tomás Swift-Metcalfe. Tomás is Portuguese, the Swift element is Irish, and Metcalfe is English.
I’m a “Euro-mongrel”, but I’m very much at home in Portugal.
I race with a British UCI licence, not Irish or Portuguese, because I relate somewhat with the multicultural/multinational nature of the place.
I first raced a bike at Mallory Park in the East Midlands of England, one Tuesday night in 2005. I dropped out of the race, terrified by the speed and chaos of it all. I went back two weeks later, but this time to escape my fears of cycling in a peloton, I escaped off the front and not out the back, and actually won the race.
I was at Loughborough University in 2005. I loved the place, but was a terrible student. After seven years at a boarding school in Dublin I found student life (aside from the studying) irresistible.
To cut a long story short I dropped out, and with two Cat 4 races under my belt, decided to become a pro cyclist!
My first race in Portugal was a tough, hilly race. Rui Costa and I arrived at the line with a gap of 30 seconds on the peloton. I was a bit daft and let him sit on my wheel the whole way, and I literally couldn’t sprint – I didn’t know how. I couldn’t really handle a bike either; I would use the back break in favour of the front because I was scared of being thrown over the handlebars.
Needless to say I had a lot of crashes that year.
At the end of this brilliant first season (2006), I had a crash that left me in a coma for a week. I was evacuated by helicopter from Porto Santo to Madeira and received five bags blood, so I cut it a but thin that time…
This completely changed my outlook; the worse things that can happen in cycling-life are a relative pleasure compared with the “nothingness” of the void, so I must make the most of things.
I was back on the bike doing a lactate threshold test three weeks later.
I crashed a lot for the simple fact that it’s tricky picking up a bike at 21 and racing at elite level. It came to me eventually however, after about three years of riding on the side of the peloton and taking quite a few tumbles.
My nickname here in Portugal is “Tarzan” because of my scars.
Ironically the crash in Madeira had nothing to do with my crap bike handling, but rather a dodgy quick release. I have become reasonable bike handler now though – light years from where I was.
My role in cycling is as a domestique. I do the work which most of the lighter riders, or quicker riders can’t do well.
Sprinters fatigue too fast and climbers haven’t got the ‘oomph’ to pull the peloton along. I’d love an opportunity to race for “personal” win, one day.
Everything that I have won to date has been whilst working for others, even (ironically) the “best domestique award” by the Portuguese Union of Professional Cyclists!
That said, it’s fun dictating how a race will finish, I enjoy it.
The UCI should allow points to be distributed however the winner sees fit; like prize money. I think we would have a much fairer system, that would reflect better the real value of a cyclist and the fact it’s a team sport, not a drag race.
Anyway, that’s my background, and I’ll be updating my new VeloVeritas blog regularly, when I hopefully have something interesting to say. I hope you enjoy it!
Cheers for now, Tomás
Catch up on Tomás’ blog archive.