November 27, 2020

Old boys update – Zeb Kyffin (2010-2016, Ascham)

Zeb Kyffin is a British cyclist, who currently rides professionally for UCI Continental team Ribble Weldtite in road racing. 

Zeb’s 2020 in review.

I went into 2020 with a really good season under my belt. This was my first season at UCI continental level, ‘professional sport’ in non-cycling terms, racing in the upper tiers of the sport against some of my childhood heroes.

Racing Tour de Yorkshire, National Elite Men’s Championships and a flurry of pro kermess’ in Belgium had set me up for what I thought would be my year. My year to prove what I am capable of and cement a place in the professional peloton.

January – No COVID – 2441km on the bike

Basically, my third month of big volume winter training. Building that base aerobic required to race 4 to 5 hours. Not much to report, but I was a few months away from finishing my degree in Industrial Design at Northumbria University, so I was just keeping my head down and staying focussed on training and studying.

February – COVID? – 2531km on the bike

The team received an invite to the UCI 2.1 ranked race Tour of Saudi. This is about as big as it gets before household name races. I was keen to be selected and showed promise throughout my winter testing. The team took me as a ‘domestique’ for our sprinter. There were a few flattish days out in the desert, where we needed some horsepower to keep our sprinter safe for the finish. 

I had a crack on a few of the hillier days and found myself surrounded by the names I watched on TV, a pretty surreal experience. I think I learned more in that week about myself, suffering and tactical nous, than I have in the last three years of my ‘career’. If it’s anything to write home about, I finished higher on general classification than Mark Cavendish, you might know him.

March – Definitely COVID – 2424km on the bike

We raced the first round of the Holland Cup, another pro race on the continent which is a grim, wet, flat 200km full gas race. Not fun. We had a sense of the beginning of national lockdown as we left Holland and returned home. The following week, the team raced a National Series race in Scotland. We executed the team plan perfectly. I won solo, a very good indication of early season form. This could be the year I was hoping for!? Five days later, we began three of the hardest mentally challenging months I’ve faced. Lock down had begun.

April, May, June, – Combined total of 7437km on the bike

You might have noticed by now I rack up a lot of time on the bike. This is mainly due to the physical demand of the sport, but it was also my escape from daily stress, usually university related. 

With all racing being ripped away from underneath me, I really didn’t have a lot to do but train and nail the last few months of university. I had three months where I probably tripled the amount of daily hours I studied. We couldn’t leave the house other than to exercise, which I made the most of! This increase of focus at university resulted in me receiving a 1st for my dissertation, and 1.5% away from a 1st in the rest of my degree. A pretty bittersweet end, but this was far above my previous expectations and I guess, I have a national lockdown and lack of racing to thank for that.

As a team we participated in a huge amount of E racing on the platform ZWIFT, which became understandably increasingly popular during lockdown. This allowed us to maintain our public image for sponsors and for us to feel like there was a season left.

July – 2234km on the bike

I got a job at Sigma Sports in London, the country’s most premium cycling and triathlon retailer. I moved to Chiswick and now live with my sister and two of our friends. Settling into a new (huge) city and finding new training roads and friends was a massive hurdle. Although lockdown was now slowly lifting, this really was a big change, made harder by the global pandemic. I got to see my girlfriend after five months apart, so not all bad!

August, September, October – 6000km on the bike

I now work nine hours a day as a sales advisor and customer support agent. I am basically a really expensive cycling Google. Luckily, I love working there and they are very supportive of my training and future racing needs. A full working day on top of 15-20 hours a week on the bike is not an easy feat!

I managed to squeeze in a local time trial – I won by over a minute on the 40km circuit, which was a nice way to introduce myself to the locals. I have a new ‘gang’ of training buddies, all of the same standard as myself. It is really great to be pushed this much more than I was up north, where the pool of riders was far smaller.

November

I have rested for a few weeks and am reflecting on what I’ve learnt this year, before hopefully a COVID free 2021 of racing around the world. 

A few final thoughts, which I think are important to remember as a young man. 

Do not rely on ‘talent’; hard work gets you everywhere in life. You need to put the hours in, as it’s not going to be given to you on a plate. Be that in sport, school or both at the same time. 

Be honest with yourself, every day. The only person you are kidding by not doing something to your full potential is yourself. It is easy to say you’ll do it tomorrow, but then you have missed a day of opportunities.

See the positives in everything. Many people would be demotivated in the year we have just had, they would find every reason to give up and say why it’s been so awful. Instead, be the person who finds the positives in the terrible year we have had. I had a lot of low points, not wanting to put the work in to progress because it looks like a waste of time. But I am happy that I saw the biggest positive of them all, if everyone else quits for a year, but I don’t, then I am one year ahead.