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Cyclist Magazine Podcast Episode 14 – Ben Tulett, the next big thing in British cycling

Cyclist magazine
5 Nov 2020

James and Joe catch up with Ben Tulett, the next big thing in British cycling and the youngest finisher at Liege in over 100 years

Ben Tulett may only be a teenager but he is undoubtedly the next big thing for British cycling. He is a two-time cyclocross Junior World Champion, a teammate of Mathieu van der Poel at Alpecin-Fenix and, aged 19, the youngest rider to finish Liege-Bastogne-Liege since 1909.

Following in the footsteps of fellow young star Tom Pidcock, Tulett is showing a rapid rise towards the top of the sport and ultimately the dream he has harboured since he was five years old, namely winning the Tour de France. He is definitely one to watch.

The Cyclist Magazine Podcast caught up with Ben recently to discuss being teammates with Van der Poel, why racing Liege is like riding in Kent, having a Belgian fan club and his greatest accomplishment – holding the record at his local 10.

Here are some of the highlights:

Cyclist: So Ben, you’re a multiple World Champion and pro rider for Alpecin-Fenix but I know you best for your greatest achievement, holding the Q10/27 Bexley 10-mile time-trial record!

Ben Tulett: I set that back in 2018, it’s such a good 10. Up for five miles and down for five miles. It is so savage especially on the way out, you have to climb all the way up to the roundabout at the five-mile mark.

I really enjoy always giving that a good crack on a Wednesday evening. I mean, it's just so much fun to just go up there every Wednesday and it's such a friendly atmosphere up there.

It's competitive, but everyone's just enjoying themselves. It’s just 20 minutes of sheer pain and agony. And you just know you have to go really hard at the beginning.

I also set that record on junior gearing so was spinning like crazy on the descent to the finish. I think I will need a 55t chainring if I want to go under 21 minutes.

Cyc: But really, we should all be talking about the fact that, aged 19, you became the youngest rider to finish Liege-Bastogne-Liege since Victor Fastre in 1909. How was racing your first-ever Monument?

BT: I think one of the strangest things was looking at that race and seeing that it was 260 kilometres long. What I realised after the race was that 260km is so different to even just 200 kilometres or 210 kilometres, a distance which I'd raced two or three times previously.

That extra 50 or 60km is just a world of difference, especially after already doing 150km in the Ardennes before you hit the really hard final 100 kilometres of the race.

And that final 100km is really where the race is made. La Redoute, Roche-Aux-Faucons, all of the big climbs of the race, they're all literally in the final 50 kilometres of the race so you have to be fresh for hitting those climbs if you want to have a result there.

It's really hard to not think about not reaching the finish and you have to really put that in the back of your mind when there's still 70km to go or whatever.

Luckily, I never had the feeling that I wouldn't have finished – which was quite nice to have but I think it really hit me in that final hour of racing, you really begin to feel just absolutely knackered.

Cyc: You were also racing with at least 25 guys who were old enough to be your dad including Chris Froome and Greg Van Avermaet. Were you starstruck at all?

BT: You couldn't have put it better, I massively had that feeling. I found myself at one point in the race next to Chris Froome and it was just a massive shock to the system.

I felt like I had to pinch myself because you watch these legends of the sport growing up your entire life, and then suddenly, you're on a start line with them. And you're on par with them in the race.

It's a bit of a strange feeling but it was also really cool. I just loved every minute of racing and just took as much as that in as I could and tried to learn as much as well.

Cyc: How much harder is racing at WorldTour level?

BT: Ultimately, the race speed is incredibly high, especially in the final two to three hours of the race, so you really notice the difference in speed because it just gets faster and faster as you approach the finish.

I think that is a big difference between even compared to 2.1 races that are still professional races, the WorldTour events are just raced a lot harder from the gun.

Especially at Fleche Wallonne, for example, as the breakaway had 10 minutes of an advantage at one point so we really had to get a move on in the final 100 kilometres of the race to catch them back and we almost didn't.

Cyc: But you did amazingly at Fleche Wallonne, finishing 35th in what was your first WorldTour race?

BT: Yeah, I went into it not expecting anything and just giving it my best for the team and just seeing what would happen. So as the race unfolded, I found myself near to the front and just gave it a good go on the final ascent of the Mur de Huy.

It is a savage climb, I'm not gonna lie, but I think we actually have a really good sort of simulation of that type of race around where I live in Kent. We have things like Toys Hill, very similar types of hills to the ones that you find in the Ardennes Classics.

We also have York's Hill which has incredibly similar gradients to the Mur de Huy so I think we actually can replicate that type of race really well around where we live here.

Cyc: So what type of rider are you?

BT: My ambition is to ultimately be a GC rider, that has been my goal and dream since I began cycling, to compete in a Grand Tour has always been the biggest dream.

I’d love to target races like Liege but it is the GC, racing those long climbs – that's what I love most about cycling and hopefully, that is where I will make my name for myself.

Being on the Tour de France start line one day is enough of a dream, let alone anything else. But I’ve just got try and be the best rider I can be.

For more, listen to the Ben Tulett podcast below

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