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Freddy Ovett – Racing with U23 AG2R and “learning how to win”

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‘Ovett?’ – is he any relation to Steve Ovett?

Yup, his son – but we’re not here to speak to or about dad, we want to hear what Freddy has to say.

From runner to riding for the Ag2r-La Mondiale development squad in just two years – that’s special and we just had to have a word.

Especially when we found out he’s ‘one of us’ – a Scotsman.

Freddy Ovett
Freddy Ovett. Photo©Chambéry Cyclisme Formation

They say to be a champion you should pick your parents wisely – you did a good job there…

“Yes, I think it’s fair to say I did get off to the right start athletically speaking with my genes.

“Perhaps a bit of luck played it’s role there or perhaps a bit of moral fate, who knows, I’m certainly not complaining about it that’s for sure.

“In saying that, I haven’t known any differently, to me it is quite normal to have a parent who achieved great things athletically and to talk about those achievements with them as if they really aren’t a big deal, it’s quite strange now I think about it, but unique.”

Born in Dumfries, can we claim you as a Scotsman?

“That’s for sure, you certainly can.

“I was born in Scotland like you say and lived there for seven years.

“I have a secret little plan to compete for the old white cross in Gold Coast City on the road with a bit of luck, perhaps with my good pal Tao Geoghegan Hart, that’d be fun.”

Your folks moved to Australia in your youth?

“We shifted to Australia when I was young.

“My parents fell in love with Australia on their worldly-travels and admitted to themselves that the land of Oz would be much more suitable to bring up pretty sporty/active children than the UK.”

Freddy Ovett
Freddy with his Olympic Champion dad, Steve.

You were a runner in Australia – what were your performances like?

“I was a talented runner and had some quite strong results when I was young.

“Looking back I now appreciate how difficult a sport it really is to be successful in.

“But I gave it a good go and really enjoyed the whole process of it all.

“There was quite a large amount of pressure involved also as I’m sure you can understand.”

A scholarship to the University of Oregon, nice, how did you win that?

“Vin Lananna contacted me randomly in my last year of high-school and lured me into the historic running sanctuary that is the University of Oregon.

“I honestly had one of the best years of my life there.

“College really does live up to all expectations…”

You turned to cycling due to a running injury?

“I was running well in Oregon and was very keen to have a breakout season. Because of this I picked up a bizarre injury that no one really could put their finger on.

“I got into some cross-training, then onto the bike, then onto bunch rides, then invited to institute-camps … one thing lead to another.

“I seemed to fair very well against some good riders very early on and this sort of rang alarm bells for a few people quite high up in Australian Cycling.

“I didn’t really know what I was doing and how well I was doing it; I was just trying to get fit to go back to Oregon.

“Eventually they sat me down and convinced me that I could have a good future in the sport.

“I agreed.”

I’ve read that your dad was initially upset about your change of direction?

“No, that’s not true at all.

“He, along with my Mum have been incredibly supportive since I started the sport two years ago.

“I couldn’t have asked for more supportive parents.

“In fact, Dad is probably more pleased seeing me in cycling as he believes it’s what I was supposed to be doing all along.”

How did you hook up with Baden Cooke?

“Baden got in touch with me after my first ever road race – the Australian national U23 champs in 2014.

“I finished in the front bunch.

“Shocking a few.”

Freddy Ovett
Being thrown in at the deep end seems to be working for Freddy.

Why France?

“Good question.

“Basically, Baden thought it would be best to really throw me into the deep end.

“This way I can learn quicker than anywhere else.

“Also it would be a mental test to see how I would cope with the difficulties of the situation.

“As people who know cycling quite well are aware of, French amateur racing is looked upon as some of the hardest racing in the world.

“For someone coming to it with only one year of riding under his belt, it really would be a test.”

Are you enjoying your new base in Chambery – is it a culture shock?

“Chambery has been good for sure.

“Yes, a culture shock and yes, the French operate very differently to the rest of the world, but I expected this, so it wasn’t a huge issue.

“I’ve adapted well and pleased with how I’ve responded.

“There’s been countless guys who have come over to European teams and have just suffered and cracked, mentally and physically, that certainly hasn’t happened to be, so it’s been a good year.”

Tell us about your 2015 programme thus far.

“It’s been busy, a lot of racing, perhaps a bit too much. Last year in my first year of racing, I had perhaps 15-20 race-days.

“This year I’ll finish with around 60.

“I’m a guy who responds well to training and it’s build-up so this amount of racing has been a good test on the body.

“Baden and I wanted to use this year to race as much as possible to learn the techniques of racing, not to focus a huge amount on results but the feeling of racing and understanding why certain things happen in races and how you have to respond to them.”

Freddy Ovett
Next season is the one that Freddy and his support team are really targeting. Photo©Chambéry Cyclisme Formation

How have the results been?

“Pretty good I’d say.

“In the French races I’ve always been thereabouts, usually finishing in the front group, sometimes behind the winning breakaway, sometimes in it.

“Yes, I haven’t won a race but I believe learning and understanding how to win is a skill you have to learn. It’s not like running where if you’re the strongest you have the best shot of winning.

“It’s just a different ball game like that.

“Bit more of a chess-match, especially in French-racing with the constant attacking.

“Maybe if all of my races finished on top of a decent climb I’d have a good amount of wins but French racing doesn’t quite always work on that basis.

“I was selected to ride with the Australian National u23 team at the Giro Valle d’Aosta in Italy (where I worked for Rob Power who won yellow – also I crashed out towards the end of the tour) and the Tour de l’Avenir (which I unfortunately had to abandon with a throat infection).

“That’s been nice to receive some recognition and acknowledgment from the national-team that I’ve been having a good enough season in France that’s worthy of selection.”

I’ve heard your power to weight ratio described as ‘phenomenal’…

“I do enjoy climbs, especially the long ones and yes it does seem to be the area where I excel at most, so perhaps my power to weight is quite respectable.

“It’s something we’re constantly working on with my coach, the pursuit of reaching certain numbers that really proves you can ride with anyone up climbs.

“It’s a long process but I’m on board for the ride.”

The tactical side of things must be difficult for you coming straight in at the ‘deep end’?

“For sure.

“This is something people forget, including myself, a lot.

“It can be frustrating missing out on a win or a very high place because of my lack of experience and choosing the right thing to do in given race situations.

“I can say that this has happened quite a lot this year. But every time it does, I’ve learned from it so I can deal with it accordingly next time.

“We know I have the physical abilities but now it’s a matter of turning that into results, and that will take time for me to understand tactical bike racing at a high level.”

Freddy Ovett
Tactics take a while to learn, but Freddy is learning quickly. Photo©Chambéry Cyclisme Formation

Who coaches you?

“I’ve been working with Ben Day at ‘Day by Day Coaching’ for the past year now.

“I couldn’t be happier, Ben is an incredibly gifted coach, and as a past pro his experience is second to none.

“He has great faith and belief in me, which really means a lot.

“Like his company states, it really is a ‘day by day’ process with him and I, working on the little things.

“I’m confident he’s the guy who will steer me to a professional career.”

How does the cycling approach/work load/diet compare to athletics?

“Interesting question.

“In some ways it’s very similar and in other ways it’s starkly different.

“The whole process of preparation is the same, readying yourself through training in order to race successfully. Of course, the hours and intensities are very different, extremely different in fact.

“With cycling you have to be a lot more patient with the approach, I feel, understanding that that aerobic-engine takes years to build – not like track-speed in athletics which you can improve in weeks.

“The whole diet and food side of things is a funny one; I’m very happy I didn’t grow up in cycling and have the same mentalities as some of my colleagues do towards food!

“I feel like runners are a lot more relaxed towards their eating habits than cyclists, I’ve stayed that way. There is this evasive ‘pursuit of leanness’, which I feel cyclists live their lives by, it’s quite funny in fact some of the old wives-tales a lot of the European riders adhere to.

“For me I’m lucky to be naturally quite lean, so I’ll continue you with my mid-ride bakery stops.”

2016?

“Firstly, I’m really looking forward to 2016.

“I want to have a big summer in January in Oz and really try to get myself off to the best possible way by fighting for the Australian u23 National Road title.

“From there doors can open to races like Down Under/Sun Tour/Cadel’s Race etc.

“The plan for Baden and I was always to use 2015 as a year of development and learning and then in 2016, my last year u23, to really go after some big results in the u23 races in Europe to set myself up in hopefully becoming professional.

“Right now it’s a decision of finding the right team that has the right race-calendar, right team-approach and best-fits my needs and goals in order to have a successful year. We have some good options in place so it’s an exciting time, for sure.

“For now I’m focused on finishing the year off well, having a good rest and then getting stuck right back into some good basic training.”

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.

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