Parlay

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[en] A relaxed conversation with Reuben Thompson, Groupama FDJ La Conti's rider.
[es] Una charla distendida con Reuben Thompson, ciclista profesional del Groupama FDJ La Conti.

Show Notes

[en]

We’re pleased to share the 8th episode at Corner.RED. This time Reuben Thompson, Groupama FDJ La Conti’s kiwi rider and recent Giro Ciclistico della Valle d’Aosta 2021 champion, joined the podcast from Besançon (France) where he’s preparing for the next upcoming races.

Reuben has been riding bikes as far as he remembers, what started as dirt jumps after class with his schoolmates led him to triathlon, a sport he practiced competitively back home. In his ambition to become a stronger swimmer, he joined a boarding school in Cambridge, New Zealand; one thing led to another and after some differences with TriNZ, he decided to put triathlon aside for some time and sent his CV to different cycling teams in Europe. Reuben got pretty promising responses which helped him decide to steer his sporting career towards cycling, so far this has proven to be a fruitful choice.

Through this 20 minutes-long interview, our guest goes through his season so far, his training routine, both physical and psychological and also shares some surprising dietary facts. When he’s off the bike, Reuben enjoys playing guitar and he quotes Pink Floyd and Metallica as his favourites bands; contrarily, when he’s actually training his musical taste changes dramatically and he prefers some Drum and Bass to give it all uphill; our guest has been kind enough to share a purpose-built Spotify playlist with songs he listens to during these sessions:

We hope you like this relaxed talk with Reuben, see you in our next episode!

[es]

Nos complace compartir la octava entrega en Corner.RED. En esta ocasión Reuben Thompson, el ciclista neozelandés recientemente ganador del Giro Ciclistico della Valle d’Aosta 2021, se unió al podcast desde Besançon (Francia), donde prepara sus próximas carreras bajo la órdenes del Groupama Française des Jeux La Conti.

Todos los recuerdos de Reuben están ligados a la bicicleta, desde aquellos saltos de dirt jumping hasta el triatlón, la modalidad donde comenzó a competir más en serio. Hace unos años se mudó a un internado de Cambridge, Nueva Zelanda con la ambición de mejorar uno de sus puntos débiles en la práctica del triatlón, el nado. Tras varias idas y venidas con TriNZ, decidió probar suerte en el ciclismo y envío su currículum a varios equipos europeos, obteniendo respuestas muy positivas que le ayudaron a decantarse finalmente por este apasionante deporte.

En 20 minutos de entrevista nos explica su como ha ido hasta los momentos esta temporada, su rutina de entrenamiento tanto física como psicológica, compartiéndonos detalles sobre su dieta como ciclista profesional. Cuando se baja de la bicicleta, a Reuben le gusta tocar canciones de Pink Floyd y Metallica en su guitarra, subido a ella opta por otro género totalmente distinto, el Drum and Bass. Nuestro invitado ha tenido la amabilidad de compartirnos una playlist de Spotify que escucha mientras entrena, para darlo todo en esas escaladas que le definen como ciclista.

¿No hablas inglés? ¡No hay problema! Hemos traducido la transcripción de la entrevista para tu comodidad.

Esperamos disfrutéis y compartáis esta distendida charla con Reuben. 

¡Hasta la próxima!

What is Parlay?

[es] Un podcast donde charlamos con deportistas de diferentes disciplinas alrededor del mundo.
[en] A podcast where we chat with sportspersons from all over the world.

Hello and welcome to the 8th episode

at Corner.RED, today we

have a prospect rider from New

Zealand joining us, he

rides for the Groupama Française des

Jeus La Conti team,

and he's joining us from Besançon

France, where he's preparing for the

next upcoming races.

But firstly, my podcast partner,

Eduardo, is also joining in

today. How are you?

Hi, Carlos. All good.

How are you?

All good, thank you.

Could you tell us a little bit more

about our guest?

Yeah. Today we're going to have a

chat about cycling with

a rider from, as you said,

Groupama Française des Jeux, which

is Reuben Thompson.

That will give us a good insight

about cycling, about this sport

that we all find exciting.

Now we have the Tour de France going

on and well, let's hope he's

going to give us a good insight to

share good stories about cycling.

We have Reuben with us.

So, Reuben, welcome to the podcast.

Thank you very much.

So, Reuben, just to start up the

just tell us about your story in

cycling and what inspired

you to choose this sport above all

others?

Well, yeah, I've rode a bike since

I can remember. As a kid I

always had a BMX bike

and with my neighbours,

I remember always building

dirt jumps on the weekend and

after school and we'd spend

all our time running our bikes on

these jumps.

I had a friend doing a triathlon and

so and he got me into

triathlon.

And there are quite a few races

locally which I got into

and things sort of got more serious

with that, to the point where

I wanted to be a professional

triathlete and made the decision to

move up to Cambridge in New

Zealand, to go to boarding school;

mainly for my swimming, because I

was quite a weak swimmer and they

had a really good swim squad.

And up in Cambridge, there's the

the velodrome, and that's where

Cycling New Zealand is based, and

there's lots of cyclists there and

quite a lot of influence

from the cyclists while I was there.

And

the year of 2019,

I'd won the national championships

and I wanted to go to the world

championships with the New Zealand

team. But at the Oceania

Champs, I didn't have the flashiest

race and missed out on

that spot.

And I was having some trouble with

Triathlon New Zealand.

I needed a signature to

try and raise the Superleague

qualifiers, which is another form

of triathlon, just to try and

add some form of money while I was

doing it and get some momentum

with it all; and I had no

reply from TriNZ.

And at the same time I'd been doing

a little bit of bike racing and my

results weren't bad.

I was third at the national

championship that year,

so I thought I'd send my CV to

a few cycling teams in Europe at

the same time, got some really

good responses and there seemed to

be a lot more support from

the cycling side of things.

Yeah, I had an offer to come to

France and be put

up in a house and be fed and

whatnot. So yeah,

as an 18 year old that's sounded

pretty good, it's the opportunity I

needed to sort of really kick things

off. So this time two years ago,

I decided to put the triathlon to

a side for a little bit and come and

give it a really good crack at the

cycling for a couple of months.

Yes. Thanks for your insight in

terms of your initiations

in this sport.

I can see that, though, in Europe

this season is going quite well.

You've been involved in the Giro
Ciclistico d'Italia, where

I can see on the GC, you finished

on the top 20, I think is

a good result.

What are your feelings about this

race? How did you feel?

Are you happy with that final

position or you would have been

maybe able to climb a few

steps in the ladder?

Yeah, that was I mean, a great

experience, my first 10 day

stage race. But yeah, the result was

quite disappointing and not

what I feel I'm capable of.

I had a crash on stage nine where

I lost 5

or 7 minutes and

also lost some time

in the heat on one stage,

which was something I just wasn't

quite used to.

But, you know, all in all, it was a

great experience and we had the best

sprinter in the race.

He'd just come off two

wins from two stages

at the nation's cup with

the Dutch national team.

And yeah, on stage one, we didn't

want to take our control fully and

neither did the other teams that

seemed in the break held on by 30

seconds, the next bunch sprint

opportunity our sprinter had a

crash with a few K to go,

which was super disappointing.

And then on the final stage

he won the bunch sprint but

we were down to only 3 guys after

having 2 guys pull out with

injury and sickness

and just didn't have the horsepower

to control all day.

And yea, 3 guys again

managed to stay on the road so we

couldn't pull off a stage win as a

team. It was overall

quite disappointing, not what we

went there for, but yeah, all really

good learnings and certainly gave

me a lot of motivation to

go to work after the race and come

back stronger for the second part of

the season coming up.

Quite frustrating, but, well,

in your case, that fall explains

the time gap between the race winner

and you. And now that we're talking

about stage races, what's

your psychological preparation like?

What sort of work you do to

prepare stage racing?

For me, yeah, I've been working with

a sports psychologist since

the start of the season with the

team. To be honest, the main focus

has been just creating

an environment where I'm happy here

in Besançon especially making sure

that I, although I'm away from my

friends and family in New Zealand,

that I'm still happy here.

And ultimately, we

talk about happy watts in cycling,

that quite often when you're

happiest, you're riding at your

best.

So for me, that's the main thing

to ensure I'm performing well,

just being happy.

There's one thing that I like to ask

you. This is an observation

or a curiosity that I have

as someone who watches cycling from

home on the TV.

Do you guys get to enjoy

the surroundings of the stages

when you're competing?

Because you go through some

beautiful places and

it's not the same having a

helicopter view of you guys

on the race.

But I'm just wondering,

as a professional rider, do

you guys get to enjoy anything

around you?

Or are you 100 percent focused

on the race and there is no

attention paid whatsoever to

your surroundings?

I'm just wondering

Normally no attention whatsoever.

I quite often have Mum

watching the race and after she'll

go, oh, did you see

this? Did you see that?

And no Mum, I'm sorry, I

didn't. I was head down racing.

But yeah, when you can if there's

a moment where the race is off a

little bit, you try to have a look

around. But yeah, most of the time

it's pretty focused.

Eyes on the road.

Yeah?

Yeah, yeah.

OK, I can

actually tell you you're not the

only one.

There is a cycling pundit on Spanish

TV, his name is

Perico Delgado and he actually won

Tour de France.

And he used to say when he started

commenting Tour de France: "Wow,

this is

what France looks like, because when

I was competing, I didn't get to

enjoy any of it".

As you said, well, sadly,

you are heads down on the road.

You're competing.

But I can honestly tell you some

of the surroundings, if not most

of the surroundings, when you're

competing, they're beautiful.

Yeah. Yeah. No, exactly.

It is a shame. But when I'm retired,

maybe I can do a leap of France in a

campervan and check things

out properly.

And check the landscape, which is

beautiful in France, as you are

aware, I believe no?

Where you are it's a beautiful area.

So as Carlos was mentioning

before about these psychological

preparation for the races.

Obviously, a race or a stage

itself is a psychological game

itself.

You compete against others, your

team, against other teams.

How the team prepares the

cyclist for these specific stages.

Let's say, for example, if you have

a GC rider or yourself

is trying to to get to reach the

first place of the general

classification, how do you prepare

things to battle that

psychological game?

And especially when things don't go

according to plan?

What are your strengths that you

train to overcome those situations?

It's a hard question.

Most of the time we have our

power metres on the bike.

So every day when we're training on

the bike, we can measure our

effort and and ultimately know

if we're going well or not.

So if we're heading into a race

and we've done the work, we've

put all the training together, you

can say with your power numbers that

you're going, well, usually if

you're a GC guy, you can take that

confidence and knowledge into the

race and

know somewhat where you're going to

stack up. And then ultimately,

it's all about having that

self-belief and confidence because

the top 10 or so guys at these

races, quite often

we're all at a pretty even

level. And I honestly think that

it's the mental game that makes

those top few better than the rest.

Yeah, the mental strength, no?

That makes them be above above

the rest.

Yeah, the self-belief ultimately,

I think.

And you as a climber,

because I've seen you in your

profile, let's say, I think

it's the area you feel more

comfortable as a rider.

How do you find the moment to launch

an attack? For example, because

we always see on TV and

from my point of view as a fan

of cycling, I like those those

cyclists that they just

have this kind of attacks like

sharp, in a very few seconds,

they change the race.

When do you see the weakness

in the peloton or the other riders?

Tell us about what goes around your

mind when you try to launch

that kind of attack?

A good one normally is.

If you're hurting, everyone else is

hurting. Quite often, that can be

a good time to attack.

Although this season I haven't ever

been the one attacking so much, I've

been trying to follow the attacks.

But yeah, for me as a climber,

yeah, I prefer it if there's a

steeper section to try and

attack there and and use my strength

of being a lighter guy to try and

make the race.

I certainly wouldn't attack on a

flat like a bigger, stronger

guy could.

So, yeah, using the terrain

to my strengths.

Yeah.

All right Reuben, so now that we're

talking about this particular topic

and following the thread of the

conversation, could you talk

us through about your training

routine as a rider?

What is a training session like from

the minute you wake up until the

end of it?

So, yeah, I'm usually training 20

to 30 hours a week, sort of depends

on the cycle that were in.

So I'm racing

coming up soon, so the last week

I've done pretty much nothing, just

sort of 2 to 3 hours easy

rides to keep the body moving,

but trying to reduce the fatigue.

But then, yeah, when I'm doing big

box of training, it'll be wake

up and eat, I am out on the bike

at 9 o'clock to do

sort of anywhere from 4 to 6 hours,

usually will do

a cycle of sort of

4 or 5 days where the first

2 days when you're fresher

you use those to get the intensity

in and that real quality work

and then the sort of 3rd and

4th day of the cycle to

maybe do the bigger endurance

ride; so 6, 7 hours on

the bike and maybe some strength

efforts where we use low cadence

or the likes and then

a recovery or rest day

and then repeat that cycle

again when we're doing doing

a bike block. But yeah, like I said

the last week, I've done pretty much

nothing trying to freshen

up for the next block of racing.

Yeah, I looked at the team schedule

and you have two races coming up,

right?

Yes, I have.

I'm not sure how to pronounce this

right but,

Giro della Valle d'Aosta?

Yeah, that sounds about right.

Which is in Italy. It's a 3 day

stage race, a big one for

U23s. And then

I have Tour d'Alsace

next week, which is 5 days, which

is also a big one.

Busy next couple of weeks for you.

I see. Now, are we talking about

training, could we take it into

a more nutritional side?

What's the riders diet like?

So, yeah, on the team we have a

nutritionist who provides us

a plan for each day depending

on on our workload.

So if we're doing a big day, we're

obviously eating more than a smaller

day. For me, it's

all about eating lots of whole

foods, lots of fruit and veg

and yeah, heaps of carbs.

Well, yeah, with those 5, 6

hours a day riding a bike, as

you were saying.

You're definitely going to need

those carbs.

Yeah. Yeah. Some days I'll eat

7000, 8000 calories and I will

still be in deficit.

So you know it's a lot of food.

Yeah.

So tell us about the Tour

de France, it's going on.

Give us a bit of your opinion,

how your team is doing first

of all, your opinion about what

is the performance of the team, if

that could have been better

in terms of putting

riders in the main positions

or the general classification?

Yeah, I think the Tour has been

quite disappointing for Groupama FDJ

so far. We had the first

sprint opportunity for Arnaud

Démare.

He had a crash in the final

5 K, and from what I saw,

that crash affected him quite a

lot. We also had one of us lead out

men crash out and abandon

on stage one.

He spent the next eleven days in

hospital following that crash.

So really wasn't the ideal

start for FDJ,

but they found their feet a

little.

Arnaud was 3rd

in one of the sprints on stage

5, I think.

And then unfortunately

they missed timecut on

stage 9, which left

the whole sprint chain from FDJ

out of the tour and then

for the rest of the team, now, from

what I've seen they've been making

sure that person in the breakaways

to get that stage win and the day

before the rest day, FDA

rode the front of the break all day

to make sure it went to the line,

unfortunately David Gaudu

didn't quite have the legs in the

final to go for the win,

but not for lack of trying.

Yeah, hopefull in this last week,

they can turn it around a little

with the remaining 4 guys that they

have.

Try to grab a win, yeah?

For the rest

of it. Yeah.

From all the riders on the GC

in the Tour, tell us which

one is your.

I would say your favourite or the

one that you most admire as a

cyclist?

Ummm.

Leaving Pogačar aside.

Yeah.

I love what Ben O'Connor's doing at

the moment. He's an Aussie guy who's

raced a bit in New Zealand.

He's won the New Zealand Cycle

Classic, which is the only

UCI tour in New Zealand.

And yeah, he's currently sitting

5th on GC, which is spectacular

and already has a stage win, and,

yeah, for a guy who was without

contract at the end of last season,

pick up a contract, find his feet

and be so consistent this

season and then be here performing

at the Tour de France.

Yeah, pretty inspiring by a guy

from Ozzy.

So Reuben, as Eduardo and

I were preparing your interview

yesterday.

We realised that there haven't been

many New Zealand writers

participating on the Big Three, that

Tour de France, Giro d'Italia and

Vuelta a España.

How does it feel being a prospect

and partaking in these events in the

near future?

Certainly that's the dream.

My ultimate goal is to be the first

Kiwi to podium a Grand

Tour. We've still never had a Kiwi

win a stage in the Tour de France.

So there's certainly a lot

of cool milestones that could

be possible to achieve and the sky's

the limit.

All right, Reuben.

So now that we nearing

the end of the interview, I was

going to ask, what is Reuben

Tomson off the bike like?

Any activities, any hobbies?

What is it you do?

I'm studying.

Well, not very seriously, but

I do my French lessons

a couple of times a week and

trying to pick up a bit of French

while I'm here and

then...

lots of Netflix.

Oh, and then I've

just bought myself a guitar.

Well, I used to play a bit of guitar

when I was younger and yeah,

I've brought myself one of those to

have a bit of a hobby while

I'm not riding here in France.

Right. So since you've mentioned

those French lessons, can you say

anything to the audience in French?

Oh,

Bonjour, comment ça va?

That actually is a great

conversation starter.

Better than my French.

Right, you've also said you like

Netflix and playing guitar.

So I guess music is going to be on

top of your favourites list.

What are your favourite bands?

My favourite bands for playing their

music on guitar.

I like Pink Floyd and

bit of Metallica

and those would be my 2 favourites

that I play on guitar.

And then while I'm on the bike,

I should listen to a lot of

upbeat stuff to get you

pumped up.

There's a big culture of Drum and

Bass with young people in New

Zealand. So I love about a Drum

and Bass on the bike and, anything

really

That gets you on the mood whilst

you're training, right?

Yeah, yeah. Or if I have some really

hard efforts, I've got a specific

playlist on Spotify with a few

upbeat songs that I save

only to pull out to get me

through a hard session.

Right. So now that you're saying

that you have a purpose built

playlist on Spotify.

Would you mind sharing it with us so

we can post it on

your bio in our website?

That will be available alongside

your interview.

So, yeah, I can do that.

Great! So that way, the audience is

also going to be able to listen

to, the same songs you listen

whilst you're training, that's

awesome.

Sure thing!

Metallica is a good

boost for you, to give you

motivation.

Yeah. Some heavy, heavy rock to

get you going, yeah that can do the

trick.

I just would like to thank you

obviously and to give you

the best of luck on your future

on the bike and off the bike.

And I hope to see you

in the main stages.

Wherever you race, we will

follow you if you go to that Vuelta

a Burgos for sure.

And then we next upcoming race

till the end of the season.

I would say my last question

to you is, what

is your main objective on a short

term until the end of the season?

That would be by the end of
September.

Yes. Short term, my big big goal

is this weekend actually at the Giro

della Valle d'Aosta,

it's one of the biggest races for

U23's and

really, really good profile for me.

3 days, all mountain

stages and 2 of those days

are summit finishes.

So yeah, it suits me really well.

And after a somewhat disappointing

first part of the season, I know my

level was enough to be up there

contending.

So yeah, I want to take the

learnings I've had so far this year

and really show what I'm capable of

in this and this next part.

And take it for the next season, I

believe. Yeah.

All the learnings that you're going

to get this season.

Good stuff Reuben.

Good stuff.

And since you're saying that your

next goal is to do good at the Giro

Ciclistico della Valle d'Aosta,

what if I teach you some Italian so

you can impress the locals?

Just a sentence.

And since you've used the example of

"Bonjour, Comment ça va?" in French,

what if I teach you the Italian

equivalent?

Yeah, OK, go on.

All right. So that will be

"Buongiorno, Come stai?".

"Buongiorno, come stai".

Well done.

That's great, yeah.

Well done. So well, as Eduardo

was saying, it's been an enormous

pleasure having you as a guest on

the podcast.

Likewise, I'd like to wish you the

very best on your cycling career

and well, hope to see you

on that Vuelta a Burgos that

maybe you'll be partaking on, and

in different stages in cycling.

I'll be really looking forward to

that.

Perfect, Thank you so much for

having me on.

Thank you very much, Reuben.

So that was the end of our interview

with Reuben Thompson, Kiwi

rider for Groupama Française des

Jeux La Conti team.

Thank you very much for listening,

and until the next one!