Telegraph, photo in your own words
This year has been far from expected. As I lifted the surprisingly heavy and springy trophy, smashing it against the podium roof as I did so, the empty square down below was definitely not how I had ever pictured celebrating winning a big race.
In 2010, aged fifteen, I raced in mainland Europe for the first time, in the Flanders region of Belgium. The racing was intense, another level from that of the UK, but the main attraction was the crowds. Even for a ‘nieuwelingen’ (youth) race, there felt like a crazy amount of people out on the road supporting us. We truly felt like we were emulating our heroes even in those early times.
So here I was, the biggest victory of my somewhat fledgling career, stood infront of the spectacular Gothic Duomo di Milano, with not even a man and his dog to cheer. This moment made me realise how privileged we had been. Not only to have raced at all, in a country that had suffered at the very forefront of the European Covid pandemic. But to have done so with the incredible Italian tifosi lining the roads, outside and in mostly incredible weather for all of the 2000 miles and 85 hours of racing. For me, this is Cycling; the fans, the scenery, the great outdoors; mountains, coastlines and everything in-between. A sport that covers the length and breadth of a country in one race. A sport that somehow managed to provide distraction from all the complication of this virus-stricken year, in a moment it was perhaps needed most, the winter looming, second waves, lockdown-two and all.
I was incredibly lucky my team mates and entire staff managed to get into the Duomo square at that moment, screaming and cheering in support. They were the only people that mattered, with none of my family present and of course, no members of the public either. As I smiled under my mask, it occurred to me, that I might likely see these photos for the rest of my life. And as I stood up there, alone, my very presence the result of the team and all of their incredible individual and collective sacrifice, I took off my mask and shared my smile with them. We will remember 2020 in many ways, positively and negatively, and this moment is just one of many incredible memories as I look to 2021 with hope, excitement and anticipation.