The rising star of road racing takes time out from winning the British Junior National Road Race Championships 2009 to talk to Raise Your Game about his dedication to sport.
Raise Your Game: How did you first get involved in cycling?
George Atkins: I first got involved through my dad about five years ago. He's a club cyclist and he cycles purely for enjoyment. He took me along to a few races and I got involved from there.
RYG: How dedicated do you need to be to reach this level?
Leicester, Great Britain
- British National Junior Road Race Champion 2009
- Gold - criterium race, European Youth Olympic Festival, Belgrade 2007
GA: You have to be pretty dedicated. At the moment I'm riding six or seven days a week, sometimes even twice a day. You can ride for up to four and a half hours at a time, but it's not just about what you do on the bike, it's what you do off the bike as well. You have to be committed, but if you enjoy it you will be committed.
RYG: What do you say to yourself to get yourself through those painful stages in a race?
GA: You just have to look at everyone else's faces and think "If I'm in this much pain then so are they." Some days you can crack and you won't do well, but there will be days when you do well. Those are the days when you look at everyone else and think "I can suffer more than these people." It's quite silly, but you have to think about it less to be better!
RYG: How do you motivate yourself to train when the rain is pouring and the weather seems to be against you?
GA: The mp3 player is a good thing! The headphone in one ear always helps with training. You also have to think "If someone else isn't out there and I am, then I'm gaining something."
RYG: What's more important - attitude or talent?
GA: They're both important, but at the moment I think it's mostly my talent. I haven't had a great season health-wise. I've had a few weeks here and there where I've been ill and haven't been able to train, but then that's where your attitude comes in. It's all about how you tackle it and move on.
RYG: What types of food do you eat leading up to a big race?
GA: You need to make sure that you're taking lots of carbohydrates onboard from around two days before a race. The night before a race I'll have a big meal and then on the day I'll have scrambled egg on toast and some cereal.
During the race I'll eat energy bars, but they don't always agree with everyone! I tend to eat energy gels which are a type of concentrated carbohydrate and they are very easy to eat.
RYG: How do you make sure your body is prepared to tackle the big races?
GA: The main thing I look at is my sleep pattern. I keep the same sort of routine with my sleep. Getting to bed at 10:30pm and waking up at eight in the morning gets you into a routine and makes things easier. Apart from that, try eating your meals at the same time every day.
RYG: Do you find that having a routine and keeping to that routine helps improve your confidence?
GA: Yes. It helps calm you down. When you're in a routine and you're used to it, that helps a lot.
RYG: What advice would you give to young people looking to follow in your footsteps?
GA: Ride, race hard and enjoy your racing. You will need commitment, but just make sure you're enjoying yourself!
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