Reuben Thompson is one of the most talented young riders around right now. He’s exploded onto the scene in cycling having previously balanced life in two camps. We caught up with the 18 year old who’s taken the European scene by storm in just a few very short weeks.
First of all at the end of June you arrived in France, and as we’re almost at the end of July you’ve already picked up a handful of wins on the French cycling scene and top ten finishes in your first UCI 2.1 stage race. What do you put this insane early run of form down to?!
Reuben: Definitely the move to ESP Coaching is a huge factor. Up until May I was still balancing triathlon and cycling. After Age Group Road Nationals I made the decision to focus on the road, making some big changes with my training and also changing coaches. Patrick and Tammy had me on the rivet for a couple weeks but I think I adapted really well to the training load. I also had a big change in mindset when coming to Europe. Previously in NZ I was really content in just making breaks and pushing for podium positions. Coming to France I was looking for wins and I think tactically I am riding a lot better to achieve this.
RC: Has it been a surprise to you just how quickly you’ve shot to prominence over in Europe? How well prepared did you feel not just in regards to your own abilities but also in terms of being prepared for the intensity of the competition?
Reuben: It has been a surprise yes although I felt very well prepared with a great training block in NZ prior to coming here. I was confident of my ability but also very unsure of what the level would be like here.
RC: Tell us about your objective for your European campaign over there. What do you hope to achieve on the continent with Velo Sport Valletais?
Reuben: My objective here is to get the results to secure a good development team contract for the 2020 season and also to secure a spot for Road Worlds in Yorkshire. With Velosport Valletais I will be racing a mix of Division 1 and 2 French races and then I will be leading the team for Rhonde Des Vallees and GP De Plouay. These will be my focus races along with the NZ campaign races.
RC: Most young Kiwis looking to take opportunities on the European continent seem drawn to Belgian cycling, for you it’s been France. Why? What does France offer that Belgium doesn’t?
Reuben: I had a lot of opportunities with several teams in Holland and Belgium but was set on going to France instead. For me France has the climbs that Belgium doesn’t have. If I was to show my true potential I wanted to be able to race climbs. I didn’t think the flat racing in Belgium would suit me as well.
RC: Talk us through your victories to date so far, and how you’ve dealt with what’s surely been more attention tactically from other riders in races now.
Reuben: My wins here have all come from breakaways. I have made sure to do enough work to keep everyone happy but still leave a lot in the tank for a good finish. I’ll then leave it to a climb to get away on my own. I haven’t seemed to be marked as such but have actually found people will commit to the moves a lot better with me because they know I will commit fully as well.
RC: Where do you head from here? Tell us about your calendar for the rest of your Europe campaign.
Reuben: I am now down in Lyon with the National Team for three weeks of racing starting with the Ain Bugey Valromey Tour which is UCI 2.1 [Reuben would go on to finish 3rd and 2nd in stages 3 & 4, resulting in 6th overall]. I will then head back to my base in Besne for a small training block before Rhonde Des Vallees and GP De Plouay in August. Hopefully I will have enough there for a Road Worlds spot and can then put the final touches on preparation for that in late September.