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Brother UK Cycling Podcast – Episode 27

Episode Description

Fred Wright is a leading member of a group of young British riders already being hailed as a new golden generation to succeed, and perhaps even surpass, the likes of Wiggins, Cavendish, Thomas et al. 

This year, Wright, 23, lit up both the Tour de France and La Vuelta a Espana with relentlessly combative displays, earning 11 top-10 finishes and three podiums across the two Grand Tours. For much of this summer, his red Bahrain Victorious jersey was seemingly everywhere. 

It’s not only Wright’s tenacious riding that earned him so much attention, however. His raw, post-stage interviews, gloriously unscripted, were wonderfully refreshing. Even with the disappointment of a near-miss in his breast, Wright’s unquenchable optimism shone through. His unshakeable belief that the big win will come has won him legions of admirers. 

Wright will be a guest of honour at the Dave Rayner Foundation’s annual dinner and charity auction in Leeds on November 23, 2012. While Brother UK is not officially linked to the Rayner Foundation, it is an organisation we admire. Its activities in promoting the careers of young British riders complement our sponsorship of British domestic road teams. In 2018, Phil Jones MBE, our Managing Director, rode the entire route of the Tour of Britain one day ahead of the race to raise funds for the charity. 

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Episode 27: Fred Wright Interview

Episode contents

  • 00.02 – Introduction
  • 00.39 – Hello And Welcome
  • 02.24 – Part One: The Evenepoel Effect
  • 06.45 – Part Two: Ghent Calling
  • 13.16 – Part Three: Classically Trained
  • 17.14 – Part Four: A Winning Mentality
  • 22.01 – Part Five: Offseason Blues
  • 26.31 - Part Six: Solid Foundation
  • 28.20 – Outro 



Timothy John

“If your passion lies in elite British road racing and you want an inside line on the teams, riders, organisers and sponsors that make this sport such a compelling spectacle, you’re in the right place.

“I’m Timothy John and joining me for every episode is my co-host, the Managing Director of Brother UK, Phil Jones.”

Phil Jones 

“Thanks, Tim. It’s great to be here. We’re going to use this platform to talk about all the key issues surrounding the sport. With special guests, deep dives into hot topics and plenty of chat, we’ll keep you informed about all things UK racing. Stay tuned!”

Hello and welcome

Timothy John

"Hello and welcome to this special edition of the Brother UK Cycling Podcast, where our guest today is a leading member of a group of young British riders already hailed as a new golden generation to succeed, and perhaps even surpass, the likes of Wiggins, Cavendish, Thomas et al. 

"This year, 23-year-old Fred Wright lit up both the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana with relentlessly combative displays, earning 11 top-10 finishes and three podiums across the two Grand Tours. For much of this summer, his red Bahrain Victorious jersey was seemingly everywhere. 

"It's not only Wright's tenacious riding that earned him so much attention, however. His raw, post-stage interviews, joyfully unscripted, were wonderfully refreshing. Even with the disappointment of a near-miss in his breast, Wright's unquenchable optimism shone through. His unshakeable belief that the big win will come has won him legions of admirers. 

"Wright's young career encapsulates two shifts in professional racing. Firstly, the willingness of WorldTour teams to give young riders opportunities to express themselves, and secondly the return of racing with panache. It is thanks to Wright and riders like him that the days of suffocating racing are largely over. Any breakaway he instigates is likely to stay away. 

"Wright's career is built on the pillars of British cycle sport's most established institutions: Herne Hill Velodrome, a venerable club in VC Londres, and British Cycling's Olympic Academy. He has never required the support of The Rayner Foundation, but might be considered an honorary rider, and will be a guest at the Foundation's annual dinner and charity auction on November 12.  

"Fred, thank-you very much indeed for joining us."

Fred Wright

"Wow. That was a nice big introduction, I must say."

Timothy John 

"All of it true, though. All of it true."

Fred Wright

"It was nice. Really nice."


Part One: The Evenepoel Effect

Timothy John

"I mean, just to pick up on this theme of young riders being given opportunities these days in the WorldTour. That story's been pretty well told: the Remco Evenepoel effect. 

"But hand-in-hand with that, it seems we've got back some really exciting racing these days. The days of the doomed 'television breakaway', haven't they? Riders out front to get a bit of

television time for the jersey.  

"Guys like you are driving breakaways with purpose. Where do you think that's coming from?"

Fred Wright

"That's a good question. I don't know. I've not really been asked what's making cycling change. I think, what you said, the script has maybe changed a little bit. I think, generally, there is more pressure on teams to perform.

"I think a lot of the older riders say that there's less respect in the peloton. I can sort of see where they're coming from, but I think the sport is changing a little bit. I'm sure back when

they were my age, older riders would have said the same thing. 

"It's an interesting one. I'll keep trying to find opportunities where I can. I think the sport is in a great place, in that sense. Everyone wants to take an opportunity, and they're not afraid to take opportunities. 

"Thinking about the breakaway working, it makes it more exciting to watch, basically."

Timothy John

"A hundred per cent. Whatever's driving that change, it's a change for the better. 

"Even ten years ago, with Sky, typically, controlling the race, suffocating the race.  Those days are gone, aren't they, with guys like yourself. Wout Van Aert on the attack every day at the Tour de France; Van der Poel did the same at the Giro. 

"It's been wonderful to watch."

Fred Wright

"If it's great to watch, it's good for the sport, innit? Ultimately, what we're doing is intended as entertainment, so let's make it as entertaining as possible."

Timothy John

"Brilliant. Well, you've certainly delivered your fair share of entertainment this year. Let's go right back to the beginning. How did you get into this sport? I mentioned Herne Hill there, right at the top, and I think that was your entry point."

Fred Wright

"Yeah, so I started there at one of the summer holiday clubs when I was eight, probably; eight or nine. I started on the track. I did some riding on my mountain bike, as well as riding on the track. 

"I was quite good on the track straight away. I could tell. I was like, 'Oh, hello.' As an eight or nine-year-old kid, I thought, 'I'm quite good at this,' so I stuck with it, as well as having loads of friends who would go to this summer holiday club. 

"I think it was that perfect mix of finding something that you're good at, and, the other side of it, which was being able to go to a place and mess around with your friends. That combo

got me into the sport."

Timothy John 

"Were you good at other sports, Fred? Or was cycling the sport that you'd been searching for, in a way?"

Fred Wright

"I was quite sporty in general. I loved doing different sports like running and playing football, but cycling was like, 'Oh, ok. I am quite good at this.'

"If I did play for the school team, I'm pretty sure I played left back or right back, so I was never going to go anywhere playing football."

Timothy John

"I hear you loud and clear, and, in fact, most cyclists I know were pretty awful footballers at school."

Fred Wright

"I'd like to think I'd be better than your average cyclist at football. If you had a football match with a load of pro cyclists, I think I'd be in the top - this is sounding quite pompous - but I'd been in the top 30 or 35 per cent. I'd be in the top quarter of cyclists who play football, I reckon."

Timothy John

"I'm sure the Premier League clubs will be listening in, just in case there's a late opportunity to sign you!

"Was it clear what type of rider you'd become? And, in fact, that's probably still a fair question, even now. I mean, you were second at the Commonwealth Games time-trial this year to Rohan Dennis and ahead of Geraint Thomas. You're a more than useful time-tribalist. 

"You were a very strong track rider. It would be wrong to pigeonhole you as a breakaway specialist, wouldn't it?"


Part Two: Ghent Calling

Fred Wright

"Growing up, because I started on the track, that was almost what I wanted to do in my head: to go to the Olympics on the track and to pursue a career on the road. 

"Obviously, it didn't work out that way. I wasn't quite good enough, potentially, at the team pursuit. Then, when I was a second-year U23, things on the road started to click a lot more, and it became clear that it was time to switch. 

"I still have that dream of doing track at the Olympics, but I have to switch and think: 'Ok, that's not going to work out. I'll try and get myself a pro contract.'

"I'm really glad that it has worked out like it has because I think I'm in a really great position on the road now. I'm also, potentially, going to try and do a bit more track in the winter, coming up.

"Yesterday, it was all confirmed that Ethan [Hayter] and I are goiung to do the Six Days of Ghent, which will be really good fun."

Timothy John

"Just speaking as a fan of the sport, that's absolutely wonderful news. For listeners who haven't been to the Ghent Six, it's an amazing experience. For you and Ethan to pair up for Ghent is incredible."

Fred Wright

"I genuinely get that, just because of Herne Hill. There's always been loads of people going to Ghent. It's going to be pretty special. 

"The other day, I was thinking of things I wanted to do when I was a bit younger, and the Tour de France was up there, but, actually, the Ghent Six Day was up there. I'm really looking

forward to it."

Timothy John

"Wow. Absolutely wonderful to hear that. You mentioned, almost immediately, you had the sense, 'I'm pretty good at this. I can do this.' Was that feeling pretty rapidly cemented?"

Fred Wright

"Not quite realising how strong I am: even now, I sometimes underestimate myself, I knew that I was a certain level in cycling, but maybe it's that next level where I don't have that belief in myself. 

"My dad always says: we turned up at a regional omnium in Portsmouth when I was 10 or 11. It's a D shape, but it's a track. You start with a two-lap time-trial. 

"This was my first time doing anything except racing at Herne Hill. My dad wasn't too sure how I was going to go, perhaps not very well. Then, straight away, from that two-lap time-trial,

which I won, he was like, 'Oh, ok. He's quite good at this.'"

"This year's been a turning point in that I really do think I can do what I want to do in the sport, but before that I wasn't so sure." 

Timothy John

"What about winning the Junior Tour of Wales? That must have been a real confirming moment. Look at the history of riders who have won that race. It's incredible. It's like a who's who. That must have been a real mark in the ground."

Fred Wright

"That's a funny one again because, at the time, it was a bit of a shock because of the way the race panned out. I ended up in a break on the last day. Obviously, because Ethan was my team-mate and he was leading on the last day up The Tumble, the break ended up getting quite a big gap, and so I won it because I was in the breakaway. 

"Looking back on it now, I'm almost more proud of that now than I was at the time, which is interesting. Looking back at the riders who have won it, I think: 'Wow, I won the Tour of Wales

as a junior.'

"It almost feels like a bigger thing now than it was a the time."

Timothy John

"The winner's list for that race is a veritable who's who. It's almost the ultimate junior race.

"You mentioned going to Portsmouth with your dad. What role has your family played in your career?"

Fred Wright

"I owe so much to my parents for taking me up and down the country. Whether the races went well or badly, it was never: 'No, we're not going to go up to Blackpool' or whatever. 

"It's a sport that's not that easy to get into, and it does require a certain amount of financial support. To begin with, I was maybe a little bit limited with my dad putting together a bike. 

"He said how great it was, but I don't think when I was racing in Assen, that it was the best bike, but that's almost a good thing to be limited in the at regard. 

"But you do have to have a certain level of financial support, and I'm so grateful for that and will always be grateful for that."

Timothy John

"That's a fair point and a legitimate concern. I remember years ago, talking to Roger Hammond, and he said carbon  wheels should be banned in junior races because the cost is astronomical, and most families can't afford it. I thought at the time it was a fair point, and it's not getting any cheaper, is it?"

Fred Wright

"I don't know what the solution is, but there's definitely a lot of potential there to make the sport more accessible. I still had parents who could take me to all of these races. This was before I had the support of British Cycling and all that stuff, which helped a lot. I started getting Sports Aid grants. Once the ball's rolling there, it's a bit easier to keep up with everything, but that initial, when you're 14 or 15 and trying to do better as a junior: yeah, I'm so grateful. 

"I think of one trip with my mum where we went to Blackpool for the U14 national circuit champs. I was feeling a bit unwell, and I didn't finish because I was unwell, and my mum had driven all the way up to Blackpool."

Timothy John

"A very long way from London! 

"How about the coaches who have played a particular role in your career? Stuart Blunt, of course, has overseen what people are starting to call a golden generation. Matt Brammeier

came later in your development. Are these people who have influenced your career?"

Fred Wright

"Yeah, I think, again, I've been so fortunate to have had people like Stuart. Then, after Stuart, on the Academy, it was more like Keith Lambert, who's the reason I'll be at the Dave Rayner dinner. He supported guys like Jake [Stewart] and me when we first got onto the Academy.

"After that, it was Matt Brammeier, but Keith was still working for BC far beyond…He was also working so hard for BC, doing everything. Very impressive."

Part Three: Classically Trained

Timothy John

"It's almost the classic education: the club, a full three years with British Cycling's senior Academy, then the top under-23 races - the under-23 Paris-Roubaix, the Baby Giro, Tour de l'Avenir. You rode the Tour de Yorkshire, I think, as still quite a young rider in 2018; the Tour of Britain. 

"Is that how it feels? Does it feel like the classic British Cycling education?"

Fred Wright

"I'd say so, just without the bit that I'd maybe envisioned when I was 14, which was going to the Olympics. It never quite went where I wanted it to go on the track, but it was quite clear in the year that I did the Tour de l'Avanir and Baby Giro that I could mix it up in breakaways on the road and was strong on the road. 

"I think it was Brammeier, actually, who sat me down in March, February time of that year and said: 'Fred, I think you could get a road contract.' Even then, I didn't realise what he meant. I thought he was talking about going to an under-23 road team. I didn't quite realise that he was saying I should join a WorldTour pro team. 

"By the end of that year, I was riding for this team, but even in March, I didn't think I would be. 

"My general thinking has always been, and even now: you did that introduction talking about the Vuelta and the Tour, I have, is it imposter syndrome? I don't know. 

"Especially now, because I've had a four-week break, and I'm feeling absolutely rubbish. I just look back to then and think that doesn't feel like me. [It feels like] a different Fred Wright. Maybe I just go through different phases of being myself."

Timothy John

"A sort of Superman character? You put on the Bahrain kit, and you're a different Fred Wright?"

Fred Wright

"Well, I was in Bahrain kit on my bike yesterday, and I will be today, and I didn't feel very good, so maybe its something else!" 

Timothy John

"And was Bahrain the ultimate British Cycling Academy connection? Was Rod running the team when you were signed?"

Fred Wright

"I signed with Rod when the team started off as Bahrain-McLaren. That second year, I was a bit worried after he'd left for INEOS, thinking: 'Is it going to be any different?' 

"But they've really taken his approach to doing things, and I really feel part of the family and part of the team. I'm really happy there, basically.

"We've got big ambitions after last year, maybe, wasn't quite as good as the year before. I've definitely found my place within the team, and I'm one of the key riders in the team, which is really exciting. 

"Again, looking back to the year I joined the team, I didn't think that after three years, I'd be one of the guys to ride for. It's really exciting, especially looking into the Classics next year and then what comes after that."

Timothy John

"We haven't even mentioned the Classics. We've talked as if you're a Grand Tour rider almost exclusively. You were top ten, of course, at Flanders. 

"A rider of your strength would seem to be a natural fit for the Northern Classics. Are they at the top of your to-do list?"

Fred Wright

"To begin with, especially for the next three years that I've signed with the team…

"I really like the way my seasons have worked for the past two years. It's quite scary, you know, when you do the same thing. I've pretty much had the same season this year as the season before. There was Covid a little bit this year, but it was largely the same, and I want to do the same, pretty much, for the next three years.

"But it does go quite fast when you repeat the same thing. It almost rolls into one. I almost can't believe I've done three years now. It goes quickly when you get up into the ranks."

"I really want to do the Classics and the Tour again next year, is what I'm thinking. I still need to finalise with what the team is thinking, but we'll find out more in December."


Part Four: A Winning Mentality

Timothy John

"I just wondered where the need to win comes in. Is that part of your mindset? I mentioned at the top the visceral disappointment in the post-stage interviews that have done so much to endear you to cycling fans around the world. 

"Your disappointment was tangible, but, at the same time, what was equally obvious was this unbreakable spirit: that tomorrow was another day and you would go again, and it was just

so inspiring. 

"Do you get on a bike with the need to end the day with your hands in the air? Or is there something different that drives you?"

Fred Wright

"I know that I don't quite have that, 'I have to win, and there's no other option' mentality. I'm not quite at that point. Put me in that scenario and, of course, I want to win more than anything else in the world when you're in that position. On a day-to-day training basis, I think if you obsess over winning in your training, especially in this period now...

"I kind of take it, not on a day-to-day basis, but I'm not looking too far into the future. I sort of surprise myself: 'Oh, I am going well.' But whatever I've got, positivity-wise, and maybe not

wanting it so much when I'm training day-to-day, maybe means I can train better almost because I'm taking training day-by-day and not pushing myself too hard. 

"I think you can train more productively if you understand yourself…I don't know, I'm waffling here…"

Timothy John

"I wondered how that fed into your style of racing. You're a guy who can make things happen for himself. The rider who needs to win is the rider who's protected. He's on the highest of highs when he wins, and his entire world collapses when he loses. 

"You have a different approach. You make things happen for yourself. You don't need seven guys to open a door for you with 200m to go. You can get in the breakaway, you can shape

your race, and I wondered if that in any way tied into your attitude to winning and losing?

Fred Wright

"That's a fair point, but, then again, next year….That stage wt at the Vuelta, when I was second to Pedersen in the sprint, I had the full team riding for me and helping me. That was such a cool experience, having Mikel Landa on the front, on the climb, trying to drop the other sprinters. I'm telling him on the radio: 'Go a bit easier! Go a bit easier! Please!'

"That was great. I'm really looking forward to having more opportunities, but I can see how there is a lot of pressure with that when it doesn't go so well. I think owning it… I'm going to have to try and…

"The one day when I should have won the race was stage seven at the Vuelta. That was the one day where I know I definitely messed up. I understand how maybe I messed up in the others, but I don't think I would have done untying differently in the race scenario, but on that stage I know I definitely could have played that sprint a lot better because I was the fastest guy there. 

"That was the first time I really feel…Seeing the team afterwards. Everyone tried their best to support me, but I could see the disappointment on their faces, and they didn't have to say anteing for me to realise: 'I really wish I'd won that.' I understand that's part of it.

"Looking back now, that doesn't last forever. I'm already looking for the next race. Maybe I'll get to the end of my career and think, 'I wish I'd won that stage of La Vuelta but I don't think

I'll be saying that after a few more years. Hopefully, I should have won a stage by then."

Timothy John

"Absolutely no question about that. 

"The other side of that coin, of course, is resilience. You're almost the embodiment of that phrase, 'What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.' That you're perpetually willing to come

back. We saw that all summer. 

"Is that a quality you've always had, or is that something you've discovered through the disappointment of near misses?"

Fred Wright

"Not fully realising how good I am, maybe, is what means, 'I'll try this and see what happens.' Because of how I am and my belief in myself, or whatever, I'm more likely to say, "Let's give it a crack,' and keep plugging away and see what happens. 

"That's what I was trying to say with the training. I will just keep plugging away. I've got a good undersigning of what I can do, so let's just try and push that as much as I can, really. Take each race as it comes."

Part Five: Offseason Blues

Timothy John 

 "I think that will be the most fascinating aspect, Fred, of watching your career develop: we'll see your self-confidence develop on the road. 

"You've spent almost a lifetime in cycling. Do you ever feel that you've missed out on the everyday experiences of teenage life and lift in your early twenties? Or are you living the dream here?"

Fred Wright

"Again, it's an interesting one because I had four weeks off, went out and drank quite a lot. Each offseason, I've had good fair share of having fun, basically.

"Let's say this offseason: in the first week, I think, 'This is great. I'm seeing my friends. I'm going to go to the pub.' And by the fourth week, I just feel rubbish in myself. I just feel…

"By week four, you're so happy to be back in the routine. Even this week, I'm not riding my bike. I'm planning on slowly getting back into it, so I'm literally doing 12 hours on my bike this week, which is not much at all. I'm going to the gym a bit but basically not doing much at all, but it still feels so good to get back into a routine and start feeling healthy again.

"Personally, I think that's the best way to do it. I think you have to switch off. In even in my breaks in the season, I'd switch off; maybe not to the same extent as the offseason. 

"What I did really well this season was, in between the big races, I'd take periods of forgetting about cycling and doing almost what I wanted to a certain extent. 

"You can get so obsessive with your weight that I think it's important [to take a break]. Even I think about my weight a lot more than your average person does, so it's definitely important to enjoy your time. 

"I've gone away from your question, but I definitely felt that I missed out with friends going to uni, but I like to think I've done well to get enough of that to make me realise that my job is the best job in the world."

Timothy John

"Absolutely...And I wonder if the guys in your friendship group are also your professional peers: guys like Ethan, Jake Stewart, Matt Walls etc. Has that helped? The fact that you are living the life of a bunch of young guys, as well as a bunch of elite athletes?"

Fred Wright

"I think that was what was great about being part of the British Cycling Academy: it was almost a little bit like going to university. 

"It is slightly different in some regards because you're put in a position where you have to get on with these people. You almost have to be mates with these other cyclists, which obviously I was. I'm not saying that I didn't like any of them, but it is a particular situation. If someone was on a uni course, they don't necessarily hang out with the people who do their

course. They hang out with whomever they want.

"It was great. We had such a laugh. If I could speak to some of the people on the Academy, I would definitely say that you don't realise when you're in it how good it is and how much fun you have. 

"Ok, we were in Belgium or Italy or whatever, kind of feeling a bit lost, but that was part of the fun of just messing around."

Timothy John

"Ha, ha! Did that make you grow up fast? The fact that you were placed in that position of responsibility, I guess: that you were funded by the Academy, who clearly had high hopes for you. 

"Or did you feel that you were given time to develop as a person, as well as an athlete?"

Fred Wright

"Yeah, I think those experiences, and I guess the experiences of any British rider who goes to Europe or who joins a team in Europe, you do have to grow up pretty quickly. 

"I almost think that's one of the reasons why pro teams are becoming more and more interested in British riders because not only is my generation of riders doing really well, I think there's that kind of focus and maturity that you have to develop from a young age as a British rider. 

"I think teams see that dedication, and they're a big fan of it. If I could say anything, I'd say to pro teams, 'Sign more British riders.' 

"There are so many pros. I think Luke mentioned it at the Worlds: the amount of British pros now compared to any previous [era] is crazy, and I only see it getting more and more, which is exciting."


Part Six: A Solid Foundation

Timothy John

"It's extraordinary how that's changed over a period of about 20 years. That's absolutely amazing.

"Just finally, a word for the Rayner Foundation. You've never required their support, but, clearly, it's an organisation that you admire, and you'll be there at the dinner in Leeds on Saturday November 12."

Fred Wright

"I never got that support, but I was supported by British Cycling, and I didn't need it, but had things have changed, and I joined a team in Europe or whatever, then I know that support would have been there which is really nice. 

"I can just sort of see how much it's helped guys like Jake. There are just so many. 

"You can talk about the success of guys who have gone pro, but I think it's also important to talk about just, in general, the experience that the Dave Rayner Foundation gives. They might not make it, but you become a better person. 

"I think in general: even at my local club, it's not just about making people who are pro cyclists, it's just about making better people, and I think that's what these organisations do, which is really nice. 

"If you want to go and race your bike in Europe, and you're half-decent at it, then why not?"

Timothy John

"Ha, ha. I think you make a superb point: cycling makes better people. It also produces wonderful athletes, but the bottom line is that it produces better people, and who would disagree with that?

"Fred, thank you very much indeed for your time today. I hope you have a wonderful time at the dinner and wish you every success for 2023."

Fred Wright

"Thank you very much. I'm a little bit gutted that the post-dinner antics that I've heard about might not be the same because I'm off to the Ghent Six not long afterwards, but we shall see. I'll definitely be there, but…"

Timothy John

"A small price to pay!"

Fred Wright

"Yeah, a small price to pay. It's all good."



Phil Jones

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