This article is part of Cycling Weekly's 'the ride that changed me' series. Our writers hear from a range of professional and ex-professional cyclists about that one day on the bike that changed the trajectory of their career for good.
When asking a rider to highlight a formative moment in their career, it would be easy for them to circle their first pro win, a solid performance in a prestigious race, or signing for a major WorldTour team.
Fred Wright is someone that could tick all of the above off any sort of metaphorical career to-do list. The Londoner rides for Bahrain Victorious, is the reigning British national champion and has consistently hit the high notes in the Spring Classics as well as the Tour de France.
Speaking to Wright outside the Truman Brewery on an autumnal evening in east London - prior to him speaking on stage at Rouleur Live - I assume that when I ask him to talk me through a ride that changed him he’ll maybe pinpoint one of the many days in which he’s shown that a maiden Grand Tour stage win is getting ever closer.
Although clearly I assumed wrong, as Wright explains.
“I could say a pro race, or something like that, but actually, I think it was probably when I was 11 or 12 when I went to a youth Omnium track event with my Dad,” he says. “I can't recall exactly when it was but I was completely new to the sport, it was kind of like a regional level race, I had no idea how I was going to do.”
“I was so nervous,” he adds. “I didn't know what to expect or anything like that. I think the first thing you did was just like a one lap time trial. Basically, I managed to win the one lap time trial.
“My Dad's got a good memory of me walking over to the results sheet, because they'd always just post them up like where the sign on is and stuff, and realising that I was on the top of the list and 12 year old me being like 's**t! I am actually pretty good at this’ so I’d say that day.”
"I think I'd say that's probably where this all started"
Wright smiles and remembers that at that point, something clicked, and he was instantly hooked on everything based around competition and two wheels.
“I think that's kind of when I knew that I wanted to race bikes properly,” he says. “I had no idea how I was going to do, I was about 12 years old, and won my first little race as part of an omnium. I was just like ‘wow’ I think I'd say that's probably where this all started almost.
“I was going to say Flanders but actually, I think in terms of how and where it all started, and what kind of race had the probably biggest impact on what I then went on to do, it probably would have been that back then.”
Wright labels that day as his “oh yeah” moment before turning professional. His teammate, Matej Mohorič, has previously told CW that those early moments before hitting the top level are often the ones that are most pivotal.
Equally, that “oh yeah” moment can materialise at any point later down the road, as it did for Annemiek van Vleuten. I tell both of the riders about the Dutch superstar’s “ride that changed her” and they both agree that bike racing is full of “oh yeah” moments, even when you least expect them.
“I'd say, to be honest, the Tour of Flanders, not this year but the year before, was a kind of similar 'oh yeah' moment,” Wright says of his seventh place at the 2022 edition of the iconic race.
“Although I still think it's probably the bits before being a pro that I'd say are probably more important in terms of being more formative and teaching you how to set yourself up and learn about what you want to do.
“I know that being 12 and winning the regional omnium, of course, in the grand scheme of things, it means nothing.
"But at the time that was like 'wow, I'm really good at cycling’ and got me wanting to cycle more and race more basically.”
Join us for the next instalment of 'the ride that changed me' in a fortnight's time.
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