Listening to the way Tom Southam talks about his 2009 season, it?s hard to believe that at one point he was very close to retiring completely from the sport.
?There was definitely a point when I thought of jacking it all in,? Southam tells Cycling Weekly. ?I was well over it.
?But I didn?t hate it enough to stop and little by little I came round to it again.
?When I was out in Bendigo [Australia, where Southam is based in the winter] I started riding again.
?And when you start riding you want to start racing, and when you race a lot you start wanting to do it well.
?At first I just wanted to do it half-heartedly, but then I thought, am I going to sacrifice this time of my life but do this properly, or do I give it up completely??
Southam went for the first option, and two years on there?s no sign he?s regretted his decision. Having first raced with Drapac and then at Halfords-Bike Hut in 2008 with Rob Hayles, he?s now half-way through his first season at Rapha-Condor. And it couldn?t be going much better.
?Last year I got back into racing in the UK, but it was still like one day out of seven, it wasn?t quite like being a full-time bike rider,? Southam says.
?Now it almost feels like I?m back doing it properly all over again.
?I?m definitely 100 percent glad to have come back. And this is a great team to be doing it with.?
Since the Ras, which Rapha-Condor won with Simon Richardson, Southam says ?everything suddenly came together for us.?
?The last eight days have been really good,? with Rapha-Condor currently leading the Tour Series, and Dean Downing winning his second straight victory in the Woking criterium on Tuesday. After working for Richardson in the Ras, Southam has been a regular part of the team?s line up in the one day races as well.
?I?m been keeping myself busy, which is how I like it,? Southam says.
?With the crits it?s been race, travel, race, travel… Today [Wednesday] was the first long training ride we?ve been able to do for a while.
?It?s weird, I didn?t like crits, and I never did any with Amore e Vita or Barloworld.?
?I didn?t feel I had the engine, I thought I was too much of a diesel, but in fact, we?ve been doing well and I?m enjoying them a lot.
?And what?s equally weird is that however hard I train over the winter, it?s always May or June when I start going well.?
Southam will be doing the Smithfield Nocturne this Saturday. Straight after that he?ll be heading out with the team to the Tour de Beauce in Quebec, Canada.
?We start on the Tuesday so it?s quite a tough schedule, but the race looks interesting.?
?It?s got two hilltop finishes, a crit and a 20 kilometre time trial at the end. All the top American teams will be there. Darren [Lapthorne, Rapha-Condor team-mate] got fifth there last year, so we?ll see what we can do this time round.?
And afterwards? ?The Nationals and then it?s two weeks to the Tour of Quinghai Lake, then it?s only three weeks til the Tour of Ireland.?
?Everything comes round really fast at this time of year,? he points out. But Southam?s not complaining at all.