As road racing in Scotland and the UK thinks about making a start to the year, over in mainland Europe the season is already well underway.
An interview with this young man is long overdue as he starts his fourth season in La Belle France.
The basics, how old are you, where are you from and how did you get into cycling, Morgan?
“I’m from Menstrie in the Hill Foots, I’m 21 years-old, 22 on March 1st.
“I was originally a rugby player up until I was 17 years-old.
“My dad was a club cyclist and he coaxed me out on the club runs then out with the chain gang.
“I improved as the weeks went past and my brother – who follows cycling – heard that the Spokes junior race team was having a selection camp.
“I was accepted to attend the camp, did well and was signed for the Spokes team.
You were off to France straight out of the junior ranks, what was your parents’ reaction?
“My Mum and Dad were a bit shocked, it was all slightly unreal, it happened so fast; I was racing with Spokes in France after the Junior Tour of Wales when I was approached by CC Villeneuve Saint German Soissons Aisne to join them for the next year.
“I spent my first year with them, my first as an u23, it was a huge eye opener and learning curve.”
Then Velo Club Corbas for two seasons?
“My original club folded and I joined Corbas, initially I wasn’t riding the Division 1 races for them, I was riding at Div. 2 level.
“I didn’t get a bike or wage and despite the fact I may have been in at the deep end in the higher level races I’d really have liked to learn the ropes at the higher level.”
What were your results like with Corbas?
“Season 2021 was a solid one with some satisfying results – winning my first ever Jersey at Stage One of the DN2 Coupe De France Boucles De Printemps where I accumulated enough sprint points to took the green jersey.
“Unfortunately, I lost it on the last stage by one point.
“Then there was the Elite National Circuit De Monts Livradois – which has a very hilly parcours – where I was 14th.
“That result really boosted my confidence in my climbing; making the front group of 20 out of 150 riders on a hard climb.
“I took 11th place and won the sprint points classification in the elite national GP Marcel Bergereau where I spent about 100km in the break of the day with 13 riders on a pan flat circuit with an average speed of nearly 29mph for 130 K.
“My team mate Vebjørn Bredesen Rønning finished second that day.”
EC Saint-Etienne Loire for 2022?
“In the end it all comes down to who you know.
“The soigneur at Corbas was a really nice guy, very helpful, he was a big help in all the French admin. stuff I had to get through – licences and the like.
“He moved to St. Etienne and mentioned me to the club, they started to watch my performances and liked my aggressive style of racing, especially in one race where I was in a break with the Saint-Etienne guys.
“I hadn’t planned to leave Corbas but Saint-Etienne approached me and it was too good an opportunity to miss.”
Your season started early, this year.
“We had a training camp down on the Mediterranean at the end of January but then I contracted Covid.
“I was running a temperature but freezing at the same time, I lost five days off the bike – along with my appetite, I’d prepare food then couldn’t eat it, my tummy was sore and I had sickness.
“At my first race I was surprised at my form, I thought it would be a wakeup call but it didn’t knock me back as much as I thought and I actually had good legs.
“My next race I was going well but perhaps got a little carried away at with my form and ended up cramping – but was still top 10.”
And how about that dreaded post-Brexit ’90 days’ rule?
“I’m blessed there, because I’d spent two-and-a-half years in France I was applicable for residency, it took a lot of administration and meetings but on July 5th 2021 I was granted residency.”
And you’re still a ‘Rayner Man?’
“Yes, but this will be my last year as I will be coming out of the u23 ranks.
“I’ve been funded by The Rayner Foundation since 2020 and without their help it would have been very difficult for me to live and race in France – Jos Ryan in particular has always been very helpful.”
Do you have a coach?
“You have to be flexible with your training because you can called up to ride a race at very short notice, Davie is good at guiding me through that ‘last minute’ stuff.”
Were you doing your Tesco shifts over the winter?
“Yes, I did three or four shifts each week for two months – you have to keep the pennies coming in!”
I noticed you ride a bit of cyclo-cross in the winter.
“It’s a big passion of mine but to do a full road season in France at the intensity you have here and then a full ‘cross season straight after that is very difficult. I did it one year and it destroyed me.
“But perhaps in the future, although my focus is on the road for the moment.”
Four years in France – are you happy with your progress?
“Definitely – 2020 was a bad year for everyone due to the pandemic but 2021 I was super-happy with my progress, I was competitive at a higher level and racing with a lot more intelligence.”
Success in 2022 would be?
“To win a race!
“There are some races coming up with parcours which play to my strengths; a big goal is to gain selection for the Tour de Savoie Mont Blanc in August, the parcours suits me, it’s a famous u23 race with Egan Bernal and Enric Mas as previous winners.”
Here at VeloVeritas we’ll keep an eye on Morgan’s progress; we love to see young men out there in the Heartland, ‘just doing it!’