Thomas Fuller is a lover of all things two-wheeled. He rides road, cross-country MTB and Enduro-style MTB all with regularity, with a special place in his heart for XC racing.
But when the USA Cycling Talent ID camp came to SoCal to evaluate the next crop of junior road cyclists, Thomas was excited to test his talents amongst the best riders on the west coast.
Following the Talent ID Camp Thomas received an invitation to represent USA Cycling as a member of the U.S. National Team at the Junior Tour of Ireland.
With only a few short weeks to prepare for his first stage race, not to mention airline flight and travel abroad, it was a scramble to ensure he was set-up to make the most of this opportunity.
Following his racing adventure in Ireland we caught up with Thomas for our 4-question Athlete Profile interview to discuss what he termed as, “an opportunity of a lifetime”. Enjoy!
Primary Sport/Discipline: MTB/Road
Average Hours of Training Per Week: 10-14hrs
Upcoming Goals: The 2017 Road Cycling Season
Thomas Fuller had a blast with his new teammates at this years' Junior Tour of Ireland. Photo Credit: Sean McNicholl
Question #1: Thomas, after a fantastic Varsity NICA MTB season, you attended a USAC Talent ID Camp where you were selected to represent the US National Team at the Junior Tour of Ireland, congratulations! As your first stage race - tell us how you prepared for the event and what your expectations were leading into the race?
Thomas Fuller: Thank you, I couldn’t have done it without BWC!
This has been one of my most successful seasons of racing. I started the NICA season with the goal to get on the podium in at least one race, and finish top-10 in the overall standings. But after a successful 3rd place finish at the opening race, Coach Joy and I revised our expectations upward.
I am happy to report that I finished the season with two podium placings and 5th overall!
Training for, and racing, the NICA races really built my engine, so even though I headed to the USAC Talent ID camp with a nasty cold, I was still in a position to perform well.
I felt confident that my road skills had improved substantially since I first began road racing. This was mostly due to participating in many BWC and Team Redlands group rides, as well as mentored races from GS Andiamo. This is all in addition the great training program Coach Joy created for me that combined both road and MTB riding all season long.
Making the US National Team for the Junior Tour of Ireland was incredible!
We only had two weeks after selection to get ready, which went by fast! Luckily I had Coach Joy to guide me.
She even took me on a series of training rides to prepare me properly for the race not to mention helped me develop a nutrition strategy for the six-day event.
This emphasis on fueling helped me so much during the race as I learned just how crucial it is to eat properly for the next day during a stage race.
Coach Joy also talked with me about travel stress, mainly how to minimize it, which really helped as I had never traveled by plane before.
While I was in Ireland racing, Coach Joy checked in with me via telephone regularly, to help me make sense of the racing, which put me in a great frame of mind for each stage.
Coaches Perspective/Coach Joy: To say it was a whirlwind from the time Thomas completed the NICA season through his travels to Ireland would be an understatement!
At the Talent ID Camp, I was confident that Thomas’ fitness was in a great spot, so when we found out he was selected for Ireland, we focused on fine-tuning his riding skills to make sure he was prepared to ride within a fast-paced peloton.
Because I knew Thomas was going into uncharted territory at the race, not to mention the international travel, we opted to focus our efforts on every minor detail we could prepare him for that would reduce stress and ensure he could perform optimally.
I am excited that all of the hard work paid off and Thomas had a great ride in Ireland!
It was all smiles until the racing started when the Junior Tour of Ireland revealed itself to be a load of hard work. Photo Credit: Matt McNamara
Question #2: Once in Ireland, you were met with 150 competitors and 6 challenging stages. What were your highlights from the event, what was the hardest part, and what was the most fun?
TF: The Junior Tour of Ireland (JTOI) was an amazing experience!
Everything was new to me, from stage racing to traveling abroad. The race was crazy and I wasn’t quite prepared for how fast the European riders were. Luckily, I had a good TT to kick off the race and then focused on the next five 5-days of fast and hard racing.
For Stage 2, the Doonagore Road Race, I was super excited! I wanted to get a good start and to learn the flow of the race. The first 50km were fast and hard. I went for some KOM points, then when we hit the Castle Hill climb, which was a 3km climb at a 10% grade, I got popped and had to fight hard to join one of the groups chasing back to the peloton.
I was trying to figure out why my legs were burning so badly when I noticed that my seat post had fallen a couple of inches!
I fought through that discomfort until my team car stopped to help me fix it, then I got to motor-pace behind the car for more then 30km. What a rush!
I had fallen into the rhythm of suffering behind the car when suddenly there was a group in front of me, and even better, two of my teammates were in it. I rolled to the finish with that group, which was 6-minutes behind the leaders.
I was not happy to lose that much time, but was pleased with how much time I was able to make up after my mechanical. I could have easily lost half an hour on that stage if I hadn’t kept pushing myself.
Stage 3, The Cliffs of Moher, was even more interesting, as it poured rain for the majority of the race. Early-on there was a giant crash that I managed to avoid, despite one-rider coming into my back wheel.
After that it was pretty mellow for a while as the peloton slowed to allow the crashed riders to catch up. At the 60km mark we hit the Cliffs of Moher climb; I fought hard, but got dropped just before the top. I gave it all I had to chase, but ended up in the second group. Eventually a teammate caught me and we were able to organize the group to get to the finish.
At this point I made it my goal to finish in the lead group at least one of the days of the race.
Stage 4 was The Wild Atlantic Way race, which was possibly the hardest day for me. They should have called it The Wild and Windy Atlantic Way!
The wind was so brutal I even had to work hard on the downhills to stay with the leaders. I got dropped on one of the climbs, but worked with a few riders to catch back onto the peloton on the descent.
It was on the next downhill that I met my hardest part of the race; I got dropped just before reaching the super-fast 30km stretch along the coast to the finish. I was stuck in the race-caravan with only enough energy to stay with my team car and occasionally the car in front of it.
After bouncing between those cars for a few minutes, I found the energy to start making my way through the race-caravan and back into the peloton.
This experience was amazing! I was maxed-out on gears spinning as hard as I could and finally summoned the effort to get back to the group. As it turned out the group I chased back to was only the second group on the road and we worked together to finish just behind the leaders.
Gallow’s Hill was Stage 5, and it was easily my best day of racing at the JTOI. I felt comfortable on the climbs and made it all the way to the finish with the leaders. I did get dropped in final Km’s, but finished only a minute behind the winner.
The final stage was The Ennis Circuit Race, which was shorter than each of the road races. I am pleased to report that I rode well and finally finished in the lead group!
All in all, it was a super-tough week of racing, but at the same time I was excited to be there and learning as much as I could about the sport of road cycling!
I was surprised to find that I felt better after each day of the race and really enjoyed this once in lifetime experience.
Coach Joy: Quite literally, Thomas had nearly every imaginable type of adversity thrown his way during the stage race!
Luckily, he is tough as nails.
With that said, I was sure to tell him these challenges are all part of road racing, and that ‘in time’ everything will fall into place.
I was so proud of him for staying focused and charging forward during each stage. To me, this shows great mental fortitude, which is the biggest key to success in stage racing.
Reviewing his race files, stress scores, and race reports, I knew Thomas’ was having the time of his life, while also digging a massive hole that would have to be recovered from when he got home.
As his Coach, knowing how deep he can go, and seeing him push far outside his comfort zone, was very exciting. The sky is the limit for him in this sport!
Prior to the Junior Tour of Ireland, Thomas had never flown on a plane, let alone traveled with his bike, it was quite the adventure! Photo Credit: Kimberly "Mama" Fuller.
Question #3: What is one of your long-term cycling goals? And what is next on your cycling ‘to do’ list?
TF: My main long-term goal is to become a professional road cyclist, which means I have to put in the time and work to move up the ranks.
I am looking forward to next spring’s stage races to really test myself, especially since I am moving out of the junior ranks and into category racing.
I love my MTB, so I would like to fit in some Pro mountain-bike racing when it fits into the schedule.
Next on my cycling to-do list is to spend a couple of weeks without protocol, having fun on my trail bike, before gearing up for the Mammoth Grand Fondo.
I’ve never done a Grand Fondo before, and I am excited to see how it goes!
Coach Joy: Since Thomas has completed his Varsity season racing NICA, he now has the chance to race early season SoCal Stage Races on the road, which is sure to be challenging and fun!
I am so excited for him to have these opportunities, where he can test his skills and tactics against the best in the country.
Having the chance to race more road events will solidify which direction he wants to go with his cycling.
Until then, I am excited to have the chance to ride the Mammoth Gran Fondo with Thomas next month - he is going to have a blast and I am sure he will have a great performance!
Ireland is one of only a few countries that drive on the left side of the road. Just another first for Thomas on his adventure. Photo Credit: Matt McNamara
Question #4: Describe your favorite workout in your training program, also, please share a ‘knowledge-bomb’ you have learned while training with Big Wheel Coaching.
TF: One of my favorite workouts from Coach Joy are the 10-minute Over/Unders. They are super-painful to complete, but they really helped me during my MTB season.
As for a knowledge bomb, here’s one; listen to your Coach!
In the past I would sometimes choose to ride with friends instead of doing my prescribed workouts, or I would add in activities that didn’t support my overall goals. Coach Joy was patient and reminded me that being successful requires discipline and focus, not to mention sacrifice.
It took some time, but these days I am “all in” on the training plans Coach Joy creates for me, understanding that she wants the best for me, and has the knowledge to help me be successful at the highest level.
Coach Joy: This is awesome! Thomas loves to work hard and really embraces the suffering that comes along with performing at the highest level.
I was excited to quietly sneak in the Over/Under workouts into training to see what his mental and physiological responses would be.
I am excited to report that he nailed them, which allowed us to layer on harder and more potent work afterward to ensure he was ready for the volatile efforts of stage racing.
Thomas is young, confident, and head-strong, so it’s natural to question authority a bit, but it has been wonderful to see him fully “buy-in” to the training process as it is prescribed and reap the benefits.
Great things await this young man!
It wasn't all hard work in Ireland, Thomas and the team made time to enjoy the sights and local scenery. Photo Credit: Matt McNamara
We hope that you have enjoyed reading about Thomas Fullers’ success at the Junior Tour of Ireland. In training for, and racing abroad he accomplished many things, not the least was which was a series of ‘firsts’ that made his experience powerful and memorable.
By enlisting expert advice, having an open-mind, and inserting plenty of good old-fashioned hard work to compliment a purposeful training plan there is almost no limit to what an Athlete can achieve.
So the question is, how can these principles be applied to your goals and help you accomplish heights previously thought to be unattainable, just as Thomas' has?
Until Next Time, Be Safe, Train Hard, & Have Fun!
-Brian & Joy McCulloch
Big Wheel Coaching