Adam Blythe interview: “I want to show off being British champion as a national champion should”

Yorkshireman keen to prove himself at Aqua Blue Sport

Racing for his fifth different team in the last five seasons, Adam Blythe is well aware 2017 has the potential to be a big season in his still relatively young career: a two-year contract with Aqua Blue Sport and the British champion’s jersey on his back means there can be no hiding, that’s for sure.

The new Irish UCI ProContinental outfit underlined their intent for their inaugural season with a string of WorldTour signings in the winter, Blythe included, and have been keen to showcase themselves in every race so far this year.

Where Blythe’s role has been in the sprints – with three top-ten finishes at the Dubai Tour marking an encouraging start to the year – his team-mates have been getting the navy and gold jersey plenty of exposure in the breakaways.

For Blythe, with the pristine white jersey (and shorts) and red, white and blue stripes of British national champion, he can’t be missed anyway – and he admits he’d be doing the jersey a disservice if he was.

British champion Adam Blythe is keen to make the jersey as visible as possible in 2017 (pic – Connor Hallahan/Aqua Blue Sport)

“This may be the only time I’m British road race champion in my career,” he confesses. “If I can make the most of it, and show off being the national champion as a national champion should that’s the main thing for me.”

If he needs inspiration he need only look at the last man to have pulled on the jersey, Team Sky’s Manxman Peter Kennaugh, who Blythe admits was the perfect national champion in the two years he held the title.

Kennaugh won races on the biggest stages, including at the Criterium du Dauphine, and when he wasn’t racing for himself was a regular presence on the front of the bunch, pulling for his team-mates.

“Pete Kennaugh was a brilliant national champion,” Blythe reflects. “Always getting up there and racing and making the jersey visible – so that’s the main thing for me.”

The victory in Stockton last summer, where Blythe outsprinted Tour de France-bound Mark Cavendish to become British road race champion for the first time, was significant for more than just the jersey, however.

It was Blythe’s first major success since he won the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey Classic in 2014, foiling his WorldTour opponents on The Mall to win for British domestic team NFTO.

Adam Blythe says becoming national champion has taught him to back himself more often (pic – Muscat Municipality/Paumer/Kåre)

And with it, he says, has come a renewed belief in his own abilities.

“Maybe I turned a corner [with that win], I don’t know really,” he says. “When I was at home, I trained really hard so I knew I could do well – it was more about proving to myself I could do well and realising I should back myself more than I have done in the past.”

Adam Blythe, British champion, Aqua Blue Sport, 2017, pic - Connor Hallahan/Aqua Blue
Adam Blythe, British champion, Aqua Blue Sport, Mark Christian, 2017, pic - Connor Hallahan/Aqua Blue Sport
Adam Blythe, British champion, Aqua Blue Sport, 2017, pic - Niall O'Connor/Aqua Blue

It’s a more measured Adam Blythe to the rider who won at RideLondon to crown what had been a stellar season for then British new boys NFTO.

For Blythe then, the rewards were immediate: moving straight back up to WorldTour level to ride with Orica-GreenEDGE, before re-uniting with NFTO directeur sportif Sean Yates at Tinkoff last season.

His latest move, to Aqua Blue Sport, has echoes of his switch to NFTO however, where stepping down from UCI WorldTour level saw him reap the rewards of being able to ride for himself.

But the Yorkshireman insists he doesn’t see his latest career move as a step down, with the opportunities to race at the highest level still presenting themselves – starting with the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad this weekend.

“I wouldn’t say it was a step down this time, it’s more a step sideways,” he explains. “WorldTour and ProConti: there’s not a lot of difference apart from the money involved. You’re still doing a lot of the same races.

“I’m looking forward to it. I think there’s always a bit less pressure when you’re at a lower-ranked team – but you’re still there to do the same job, of course.

“It was a good option for me, and they offered me a great opportunity; everything I wanted to do in cycling, they were helping me with. It was a bit of a no-brainer really.”

Blythe says joining Aqua Blue Sport was a ‘no-brainer’ (pic – Aqua Blue Sport)

Already Blythe and his new team-mates have been able to test themselves at the Dubai Tour, while the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad will be the British champion’s first WorldTour race of the season.

Alongside the Omloop, Aqua Blue Sport have already received wildcards to the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, and will soon be at La Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege for the Ardennes Classics.

Certainly, the opportunity to race at cycling’s top level have been plentiful already but for Blythe this season is more a chance to prove himself.

“My target ultimately is to get the most out of myself,” he insists. “We’re not 100 per cent on the race programme yet, but it’s about making the most of what I’ve got and hopefully that will mean results. For me, and the team, results are obviously important.

“I think it can be a big year. It’s nice to have a two-year contract with the team, which will allow me to grow with them.

“It means I can take the time to get to know my team-mates, and what works well together. But I definitely hope it can be a big year for me.”

Blythe is keen to keep his targets at a realistic level, but wants to show himself in as many races as possible (pic – Niall O’Connor/Aqua Blue Sport)

So what would constitute a good year for Blythe and Aqua Blue Sport? Again, the 27-year-old offers a considered response, a measure of the maturity he has developed through the past few years.

“I think you need to be realistic with yourself,” he offers. “Sometimes you don’t realise how hard racing is, and other times you do realise and talk yourself out of it before you’ve even got out there.

“For me, it’s just about getting up there in as many races as I can and not putting too much pressure on myself, but ensuring there’s the right amount of pressure when I need to.”

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