Wednesday, October 27, 2021
HomeInterviewsJoshua Cunningham - "I just need to get my arms in the...

Joshua Cunningham – “I just need to get my arms in the air”

-

Joshua Cunningham
Joshua Cunningham.

With our Flatlands boys Douglas Dewey and Llewellyn Kinch heading south to race in France for 2013 we decided we’d best have a word with Rayner Fund rider Joshua Cunningham to see what’s happening in Belgium?

Here’s what he had to say;

Remind us which team you rode for in 2012 Joshua, why leave?

“I was with Viasport-Publie LED last year, a team on the periphery of both the Top Competition and Beker Van Belgie – which meant a good, if not indefinite calendar!

“There was a few other Anglophones and I got some good opportunities so it turned out ok.

“The team disbanded at the end of 2012, but I had sought out pastures new before that came apparent, luckily.”

How did 2012 go?

“2012 was another step forward for me, being the first year I became properly ‘competitive’ at the races.

“Lining up thinking “am I going to win?” rather than “am I going to get into the break” or even “am I going to finish?” was a good feeling.

“I didn’t manage to get that elusive win, but I made the podium and had plenty of top ten placings at both Kermises and Inter Clubs, so was able to end the season happy nonetheless.”

Joshua Cunningham
Joshua racing in Wanzele, Flanders.

What are the biggest lessons you come out of 2012 with?

“That winning a bicycle race is a complex beast!

“Oh wait, no I already knew that.

“Specifically, I learnt a lot about how to read a race, about how to make it into the group that contests the win, how to change my style of riding between varying races.

“In general, I came out with a much clearer picture of what it takes to turn professional.

“I think 2012 was the year it went from being a faraway dream, to being a task in hand, which is quite a barrier.”

How did your winter go?

“I had a really great winter, with the help of various people.

“I was able to start training on power, which has seen my physical capabilities take a massive leap forward in the way that everyone says it does!

“I was also able to get out to Mallorca for a few weeks before and after Christmas, which again allowed a standard or training that just wouldn’t be possible at home.

“Off the bike I earned my pocket money at local triathlon shop, The Tristore, and made the most of UK residency with my family and girlfriend.”

Are you still on the Rayner fund?

“I am, and I am as grateful as ever for the ongoing support from everyone at the fund.

“This is my second year as a supported rider, so hopefully I’ll be able to repay everyone by making the same amount of progress as I did last year.

“It’s a gratitude that can’t really be expressed, as doing what I do now simply wouldn’t be possible without such a great organisation.”

Tell us about your new team for 2013.

“This year I am riding for Terra Footwear-Bicycle Line.

“It’s a Belgian Top Competition team, with a great calendar and again a strong English speaking contingent.

“As well as the TopComp, we’ll be doing a lot of stage racing in France, UCI 1.2’s in Belgium, as well as the staple diet of the Kermis scene!

“Another benefit of being a TopComp team is we get to ride Pro Kermises, which kick off in the summer.”

Joshua Cunningham
Joshua and some of his new teammates.

Nice bikes?

“Very!

“We’re on a combination of Fuji SS1s and Altimiras, with an appreciated return to Shimano after riding Campagnolo last year.”

703 items of clothing like Team Sky?

“No, not quite as abundant!

“But with it all being made by Bicycle Line, it’s really good quality Italian stuff; no bagginess or fraying edges which is very luxurious!

“I am one set of kit down though after somebody stole an entire set – socks and all – while I was in the showers after The Kattekoers.

“It was a filthy race, so I can only assume with the amount of mud covering everything that either someone mistakenly took it as theirs or it was a bidon/jersey collector taking things to the extreme.”

Did they have a training camp?

“We didn’t go away together, but a lot of the guys in the team have been on camps over the winter, as is the growing trend.

“All of the Antipodes had one of the hottest summers ever down in the Southern Hemisphere though; just one long training camp!”

How are the palmares, so far in 2013?

“Not as glittering as I would have hoped, as with the physical condition I’ve had I would be expecting to have a lot to shout about.

“Racing is not as easy as having a good set of legs though, so the best I’ve managed so far is 11th.

“I’m showing myself well in the bigger races, but haven’t been able to play my cards right in order to get that result.

“The ‘racing rhythm’ didn’t really hit me until late April last year, but from then on I just got better and better.

“Looks like things might be following a similar pattern…”

Joshua Cunningham
Josh leads at Kattekoers, but the win is proving elusive so far this season.

Who are the big ‘coming names’ for 2013?

“Where to begin?

“There is so much talent residing in Belgium that a lot of people are just a race or two away from becoming a ‘name’.

“But from a brief English speaking point of view, Dan McLay (Lotto u23) is a class act and has been getting up there in some big races so far and my Irish housemate Conor Dunne (VL Technics) will probably have a good year.

“Both are on the Dave Rayner Fund too.

“There is also an American guy called Thomas Gibbons who I don’t know, but he won back to back kermises last week which is always impressive.”

Do you have a good programme?

“Absolutely; like I said before, we’re one of the TopComp teams so there is that series of 8-9 races throughout the year to focus on.

“Then we have quite a bit of stage racing in both France and Belgium, which is actually a rarity for a lot of amateur teams.

“Around that there’s some UCI 1.2s, Inter Clubs, and both amateur and pro kermises.

“It’s a really good calendar so I’ll get a good few opportunities to ride some big races.”

And where’s home?

“Home!

“Home is Eastbourne, in the UK, but while I’m racing it’s just outside of Zottegem in East Flanders.

“I’ve been based around Zottegem for a couple of years now, so it really is beginning to feel like a home away from home.

“Should I be worried about that?”

Joshua Cunningham
Belgium is starting to feel like home for Joshua.

Any Anglos to chat to?

“Plenty!

“Like I said a large part of the team this year is English speaking, so with the team house just five kilometres away I see the guys a lot.

“Then there’s my housemate Conor who I see pretty regularly – funny that.

“There are a few houses in and around Oudenaarde with riders in too, so there’s always someone around to go riding with or bump into in the smoky sign on of some kermis.”

How’s the Vlaams?

“Ja, altijd verbeteren!

“Ik studeren met ‘Rosetta Stone’ en natuurlijk Ik spreken met de locale volk een klein beetje.

“Maar het is moeilijk omdat hun Engels is altijd beter!”

We reckon that’s something like “It’s getting better all the time ! I’m studying with Rosettta Stone , and of course I speak a little bit to a locals. But it’s hard because their English is always better than my Flemish!

Joshua Cunningham
Winning a bike race is indeed complex, particularly in Belgium. Understanding the structure of the system and how to progress up it helps Joshua plan his season.

I saw a picture of you on the track, where and what was that about?

“I wasn’t riding myself, but I was at the Wielercentrum Eddy Merckx in Gent helping my coach and my housemate gain some aero advantages on the TT rig.

“Tinkering, timing laps, tinkering, timing – I tend to keep my distance from TT bikes, but it was an interesting morning nonetheless.

“It’s a great facility they have there.”

What do you want from 2013?

“Just to keep the progression going, reach some new levels, in order to keep bike racing as a justifiable priority in my life.

“I am 22, so I have to keep the momentum going and move through the ranks swiftly if I am to make a career out of this.

“I’m at the stage now where I can really hold my own in the races that people take note of, so in 2013 I just want to capitalise on that really.

“In a sentence though; I just need to get my arms in the air.”

Tell us about your Open University course.

“Well, after training and racing, there often isn’t a great deal to do in Belgium!

“Don’t stand if you can lean, don’t lean if you can sit, don’t sit if you can lie down” is the golden recovery rule, so I wanted to do something productive while still adhering to it!

“The course I’m doing is called ‘Making sense of the arts’ and is a combination of English, History and Art.

“It’s only an openings course, but I’m enjoying it’s another string to the bow so I’m glad I signed up.”

Have you encountered any of the Belgian or Dutch guys who write poetry about bike races, yet?

“Not about bike races specifically, but bicycles are a pretty common topic!

“Saying that, Dave Millar and some chums from Garmin formed “The Procyclist Book Club” on Twitter so maybe they would have more of an idea than me.

“If I ever get a contract I’ll see if they let me join and let you know!”

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

Related Articles

Dan Patten’s Blog – Back in the Game!

Dan Patten's Blog - So, I'm recovering well - so well in fact that I came my closest to date to winning here in Belgium last Sunday, finally ending up in 3rd place, but so close to taking the win.

Tom Murray – Unfinished Business

Continuing our series about racing in Belgium, we had a chat with Tom Murray last week, who is back racing on the continent after the Plowman Craven Madison team ceased operations.

Callum Gough – Vastly Experienced, and Happy To Pass It On

Callum Gough is a life member of Liverpool Century but races now as a vet for Onimpex Racing Team — back in the 80’s Gough’s name was one that appeared regularly in "the Comic" [Cycling Weekly] as a winner of road races both in the UK and on the continent.

Dan Patten Blog – Back to the Front

So last time I was posting here on the Dan Patten Blog about the great weather we were experiencing in Belgium at that time. Unfortunately the sun has gone and the rain has returned. Clearly 20 degrees+ in March was a treat. I'm hoping a treat that returns soon.

Mario Willems – Most Successful Kermis Rider This Season

"Ed! All this Tour de France nonsense - you should be talking to Mario Willems, he's the top man in the Flanders kermis' right now!"

Scott Auld – “if you are a good bike rider you can do well in Belgium”

When friends of VeloVeritas Dave and Vik – both devotees of Belgian palmarès websites tell me there’s a young British guy I should be speaking to then I take notice! Scott Auld is the man, with an ever-growing list of podium finishes in the Flatlands. We caught up with him recently...

At Random

Armand de las Cuevas

It hasn’t been a good week for the sport of cycling’s past champions; but not just men who won races, colourful men with personality. First we lost six day star Andreas Kappes to a bee sting, of all things. And we heard today that Armand de las Cuevas had taken his own life on the Island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean, which was his home in recent years.

Kyle Gordon – Scottish 10 Mile TT Champion 2019

VeloVeritas caught up with that versatile man, newly crowned Scottish 10 Mile TT Champion, Kyle Gordon [RT23] the day after his near 30 mph ride on the exposed dual carriageway west of Dundee on a bitterly cold Sunday morning.

The Peebles Criterium 2011 Preview

On Tuesday 14th of June we have a major new event for a summer evening in Peebles, in the Scottish Borders. For the first time, a major new road event will be taking place in the town centre: a Belgian-style kermis event with lots of the community involved and pubs and restaurants along the circuit; The Peebles Criterium 2011.

Le Tour de France 2010, Stage 10: Chambery – Gap; Lance Don’t Employ No Cissies

It couldn't go on like that. Men can only 'death race' for so long and then they need a 'blaw.' Today, on the stage out of Chambery, they took the chance to lean on their shovels and left the minnows to grab the glory. I really didn't expect to see the finalé but when the box kindled up, there it was - with 12 K to go and a race average of 34 kph.

Janet Birkmyre – 123 National, Worlds and Euro Masters Titles, and Counting!

Janet Birkmyre won’t be a new name to you if you follow Masters racing; the woman has won on a prolific scale but not just as a Master, at UK Elite level too. Here’s her tale...

Louis Meintjes – u23 World Road Championship Silver Medallist

The U23 World Road Championships race threw up a number of surprises; all of the big name Belgian, British, French and Italian favourites failed and Slovenian Matej Mohoric moved seamlessly up from junior to U23 Champion of the World. In second place was a young man who chased the Slovenian all the way to the line and once again reminded us that African cycling has to be taken seriously. Louis Meintjes (MTN-Qhubeka and Republic of South Africa) kept the African Pro Continental squad’s dream of a season rolling with the silver medal.