Changing teams and stepping up to the WorldTour is the dream of many riders in the peloton, but when it means being able to finally go full-time as a professional athlete, it must mean more.
That's what British rider Joss Lowden will do in 2022, having signed a two-year deal with the newly formed Uno-X women's team, she will step up to the top tier after closing out her time at Drops - Le Col on a high after smashing the Hour Record at the end of September.
"The biggest change is that I'm not going to work alongside racing," Lowden tells Cycling Weekly. The 34-year-old has worked for NTT Data for the past decade part-time until this summer. "I really backed off the amount I'm doing because I just couldn't do it," she says. "But when I go to Uno-X that's my full-time job, full commitment, so I kind of expect my life to change quite significantly."
Lowden says she's used to doing a lot, juggling a career and racing, which is also a form of work but with more fun, and that restricts the amount of resting time, so she's looking forward to seeing what that can do for her performance-wise. She also hopes she manages to learn how to switch off and utilise that time after so many years of having to manically balance various commitments.
NTT has always been supportive of her racing, allowing her to work flexibly, working every day but spreading the number of hours across the whole week sometimes.
"I like the fact that I have distractions and other things to think about when I'm training and when I'm at home but when you're racing it's hard," she says, although states she never finds herself mid-race in the bunch thinking about an email she needs to send after she crosses the finish line. At this year's Tour de Feminin, which she won, Lowden remembers standing outside Prague airport on a work video call trying to sort something quickly before the team's transfer to their hotel.
"There'd be plenty of times where I knew I had loads of work on and I'd be like 'I've got to get on the turbo' and I'd train and come back to it, but I just wouldn't be able to focus, my head would be somewhere else," she says.
"It's the reality for quite a lot of bike riders, especially in the women's peloton, but it's certainly something that when I got the opportunity to step up and have a proper contract with a proper salary I thought well that's what I've been working for since I was pretty young, before cycling it was running and to be a professional athlete is really what I aspired to be."
In terms of her hopes, the bucket list she has for starting her life in the WorldTour and looking into the future for when she eventually retires, next year she definitely wants to be part of the women's Tour de France, as well as go well at the Commonwealth Games, but then she's also thinking ahead to the 2024 Paris Olympics.
"You can't not think about things like Paris Olympics," she admits. "And I know it's three years off but I think about things like 'oh could I take a year out and go have a baby and then come back and go to Paris?' because I mean that is the reality of women's cycling.
"I mean, men's as well," she clarifies. "When do you fit families and stuff into it? I guess that was one of the things about Uno-X which I thought was just so appealing is that they're so positive and so fully embrace the fact that your cycling is a professional contract, it's a work contract, and people take maternity leave, they go off and they have children and they come back to racing, they're really keen to support. I think it's really positive and really progressive.
"I've got a bucket list, I think, but I am quite appreciative that I don't know what's in the bucket."
In between all the big goals and aspirations for both life and cycling, there are decisions to be made. One is whether to move to Andorra for next year, to take advantage of the benefit that training at altitude there brings. Moving her life will be made easier by the fact her partner Dan Bigham is also a cyclist, and life in their household often revolves around cycling.
As a cycling couple they try to plan their individual calendars for the year to make them fit, and when they're at home and training there's also collaboration in terms of aligning hours and volumes so they can sometimes ride together and more importantly roughly eat the same sort of food.
"It complements each other pretty well and I guess we both get it when the other one's away and busy, so it tends to work," Lowden says.
While her real-life work and video calls are coming to an end, the proper work on the bike is just about to begin.
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Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.
Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).
I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.
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