Backpacking, gastric issues and midnight snacks: The best unused quotes from the 2020 season

Which veteran pro rider never sleeps? Do young Australians party or have it in tough in Europe? It appears they do both. And who should never eat ice cream?

A journalist’s job is to select the best and most pertinent quotes from an interview to include in an article, with the unused forever residing in transcripts likely to be never seen again.

Usually, those quotes not deemed worthy enough of being published to readers don’t contain anything of interest.

They can be cliché-heavy (“The Tour is the Tour,” as Geraint Thomas is particularly fond of saying); are nondescript (“I would like to win a race”, says every single bike rider); or they are just a bit dull (“I’m happy to come away with fourth-placed”, as team press releases scream about, deceiving themselves about the achievement of the result).

Sometimes, though, golden quotes don’t make the published article: word limits count against their inclusion; the anecdote is not related to the article’s purpose; or simply the article never sees light of day.

During 2020, I interviewed dozens of different figures from cycling: pros, amateurs, fans, riders, coaches, sports directors, males, females, juniors, veterans.

I would estimate that 70% of all transcripts are hidden away in Microsoft Word files, unpublished and left over. But I’ve trawled (read: skimmed) back through them to pluck out some of the best unused quotes of the year from my interviews.

The nocturnal owl that is Adam Hansen

Adam Hansen at the 2019 Santos Tour Down Under (Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)

Context: I was speaking with Matt Holmes as part of a CW magazine feature on the record seven Britons who made their Grand Tour debuts in 2020. Holmes completed the Giro d’Italia.

Quote: “Apart from rest days, we didn’t have any time for anything else, really. Although that doesn’t apply to Adam Hansen. This should be more known and he should be famous for it, but Adam just doesn’t sleep.

“He rides his bike all day and then is up at 3am in the morning making business calls around the world. I have no idea how he does it. It’s amazing.

“I didn’t room with him at the Giro, but I did at Tirreno-Adriatico and he would wake up at 2am to call someone and would be snacking with his laptop open.”

The perspective of life with Ludwig

Cecile Uttrup Ludwig wins the Giro dell’Emilia 2020 (Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

Context: I spoke with Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig as part of a short CW magazine feature. We spoke for almost an hour, the Dane’s gratefulness and happiness evident throughout. I asked her what makes her happy, but unfortunately this quote from a very long answer was never printed.

Quote: “Sometimes, I’ll stop riding after three hours and have a coffee. I pinch my arm: is this really my job? I am getting paid to have a coffee, what the f**k? This is crazy good.

“When I am training with a good group, the sun is shining, I’m riding well, I think ‘f**king hell, this is why I do it. I am so f**king happy at the moment. This is insane. Today is good, I am so happy, I am having so much fun.’

“I feel so privileged. There are people starving, there are so many people in the world, and yet I spend evenings watching beautiful sunsets, with the best company, eating good food, maybe having a glass of wine.

“I really look up to people who can enjoy life, take days off and evenings off, and not think about anything else. I am peaking with happiness.”

Don’t give Ben Swift an ice cream

Ben Swift at the Giro d’Italia 2020 (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images,)

Context: I was speaking with Ben Swift about the Monsal Head hill-climb, as part of an upcoming CW magazine feature.

Quote: “I rode Monsal in 2016, my last year with Team Sky. I rode Il Lombardia the day before, and just before I took my flight back to the UK, I had some sort of weird ice cream in the airport. I don’t know what was in the ice cream but weird stuff was coming back up with it.

“It gave me bad gastric problems and I had these horrific burps. They were so bad that people in the car on the way to Monsal were opening their windows. It was just this horrible gas coming from my stomach.

“It’s not an excuse but riding Lombardia and then having these burps wasn’t very conducive to doing well at Monsal. Not that I’m making excuses.”

Dreaming of the Classics

Matti Breschel, dreaming of cobbles (Photo : Yuzuru SUNADA)

Context: I spoke with Matti Breschel as part of a feature I did on Fabian Cancellara’s 2010 season, his best year. Breschel was one of Cancellara’s most important team-mates. Read the article here.

Quote: “Was I obsessed with the Classics? Oh yes, I would definitely say throughout the whole winter I was. I would have these inner movies, small movies in my head where I saw cobblestones when I was out riding.

“They got me through the hard winters in Denmark, training for six hours in the rain and snow. I would see these movies in my mind all the time. I was very concentrated and really scared and paranoid not to crash or get sick. I was obsessed.”

Simmons and his grand ambitions

Quinn Simmons at Flèche Wallonne 2020 (Photo by Bas Czerwinski/Getty Images)

Context: I spoke with Quinn Simmons as part of a planned interview in CW magazine, but the suspension of racing due to the pandemic meant that the interview was never published.

I was struck by Simmons’ confidence and self-belief, despite only being 18 at the time I spoke with him. The American has a touch of arrogance, similar to his heroes Cancellara and Tom Boonen, and was calling out what he calls the dearth of style in the peloton, on- and off-the bike. I asked him how he finds the expectation that greets him.

Quote: “It doesn’t matter. I am here to win bike races and I am never satisfied just to race. I always want to win. Whether or not that is a good or bad thing, I don’t care. If I could only win one race in my career it would be Roubaix. Hopefully I’ll win more than one though.”

The adventurous lifestyle of Brodie Chapman

Context: I spoke with Brodie Chapman as part of a feature I wrote about how it is never too late to become a professional cyclist. Read it here. Australian Chapman recounted adventures she had in her early 20s.

Quote: “In 2016 I did a bikepacking trip in Japan. It was super cool. You follow your own accord, sleep wherever, bivvy under stars, stay with random people, hitchhike.

“I also went backpacking in Germany when I was 20 as part of a university student exchange. The way to socialise with international students is to drink cheap beers and I formed so many good friendships there. I learnt the language really well and got a delivery job riding a fixie bike.

“While I was there I travelled around Italy, Poland, France, Barcelona. I was so loose I can hardly remember it. I worked at this crazy vegan festival in Cornwall because I got free food. I’d do anything for free food! I got to go to so many places I never expected to go and I would ask: how did I get here?”

Struggles of Australians

Jack Haig at the 2019 Tour de France (Sunada)

Context: I spoke with Jack Haig numerous times this year, and in this quote he talks about the difficulties that Australians in their U23 years have moving to Europe

Quote: “Maturity and experience goes a long way and it’s something that is overlooked if you’re not European. Being comfortable in every part of your life is tough.

“Us Aussies are spending nine months of the year in Europe, trying to set up our lives, figure out how stuff works. People don’t understand how much of an impact that has on a young pro making the transition from moving away from home that is the other side of the world. It affects everything.

“You’re trying to do visas, residencies, phone plans, WiFi contracts, figure out getting to and from airports all of the time, who you need to see for some physio treatment, all while your body is changing rapidly and you’re likely doing too much training or too much intensity because you’re so keen. It takes the body three years to adapt to a pro’s demands.”

Belgian’s sprinting striker

Jasper Philipsen sprints to victory on stage 15 of the Vuelta a España 2020 (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Context: I spoke with Axel Merckx about his former rider Jasper Philipsen as part of a profile of the Belgian that was due to be published in March, but was scrapped due to the pandademic.

Quote: “Compare cycling to football and Jasper is like a striker. Sprinters are those kind of guys who are only there to win races – and when I worked with Jasper he wanted to win as often as possible. He’s one of those who isn’t happy if he doesn’t win. Only champions are like that.”