Hi everyone and welcome to my new blog!
My name is Toby Atkins, I’m a 22 year old elite cyclist on a journey back to full time cycling. As part of my journey, I’m lucky enough to have taken on a new partnership with My Pinnacle Nutrition as I look to make each small part of the journey count.
So I suppose the best place for me to start this new series of blogs is ‘who am I’ exactly? Well, as I said, I’m 22 years old, I’m a student and I’ve got a bit of a back story as to how I ended up where I am now, so hold on, its quite the read!
Hold on to your hats!
I started cycling when I was 16 years old. I grew up in New Zealand where sport is truly ingrained in the culture. Nonetheless, cycling was still a bit of an odd ball sport when I started it. In a way, I kind of fell into cycling as my school’s sports coordinator challenged me to see if I could finish the local 100 km hilly road race. Little did I know at the time but that’s when cycling started to hook me!
As I progressed through school I knew that cycling was the one thing that I truly wanted to do. My results got better and better with me routinely placing top 10, with the occasional top 5 finish, at a national school boy level. After the end of year 13, aged 18, I knew I had to make some tough choices. In the end, I started a business management degree in 2013 in New Zealand. I decided, until I was good enough to justify taking a year out, I would continue to improve academically whilst training like crazy to make my dreams come true!
After two years of study and a few results under my belt, I was lucky enough to be offered a place on a professional cycling team in Italy – the dream came true!
After spending the kiwi summer training harder than ever before, I was ready. I flew to Sicily for a pre-season training camp. I’m a bit of a sprinter/roleur by trade but I was keeping up with the team’s climbers in the mountains. Team management were impressed and I was incredibly excited for the year ahead.
Week two of the camp and my world came tumbling down around me. Simply put, I was asked to take my ‘vitamins’ (performance enhancing drugs), and just like that my cycling dream came to a crashing halt. In all honesty, I could write a book about the experience, but there are numerous interviews online that tell the story, so I'll leave you to explore that rather than drag on too much here!
Having removed myself from this sticky situation I had to step away from the sport for a few months. As you can imagine I felt like my sport had betrayed me. Luckily for me, since then, I’ve had some incredible experiences stem from it.
A new chapter
My experience has lead me to be hugely cautious when it comes to nutrition within sport, hence I knew I wanted to be associated with a brand that truly values clean sport. MPN fits that bill perfectly! 100% natural products with a business ethos that depends on being completely clean!
One of those incredible experiences I mentioned above was guest riding with Cycling Team Friuli, another professional Italian team based just outside Udine. I was lucky enough to ride for the team over the European summer and not only learn a lot but become a much fitter racer too. I’m truly thankful to the team as they taught me to fight for what I love, along with making me a substantially stronger rider!
After that incredible summer I returned to New Zealand in 2016 to complete my third year of University. Initially I thought I was in for a standard year of study and the inevitable restriction on training that would entail...
Early in the year, the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale - world governing body of cycling) got in touch with me and asked me to speak at the Junior World Track Championships about doping in sport. Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity! The trip to Switzerland was incredible and hugely different being on the educational side of riding rather than actually racing! Ever since then I keep in contact with UCI and WADA (World Anti-Doping Association) and attend events, where needed, to give an athletes perspective on the real world issue of doping in sport.
As you can imagine I’m hugely passionate about drug free sport and I will continue to fight on the front line to keep our sport true and trustworthy. I’ve got another special trip lined up soon, so keep up to date with the blogs to hear more about that!
The road ahead; stay tuned
I now have another 8 months of University before I complete my degree, which leads me nicely to where I am now and what I would like to do. I’m currently doing the internship element to my degree with Titan Motorsport in St Neots, Cambridgeshire. I will then return to New Zealand in February, where I will complete my dissertation, before coming back to the UK to race full time next winter.
So, I have 9 months to get back to the form of my life as I look to tackle the UK Elite/Premier Series. I will be doing a series of blogs logging the day to day life of an elite athlete giving everyone, who does not have personal experience of it, an insight into what it takes. Hopefully everyone will learn something they can apply to their own training and get an enjoyable read along the way!
The first blog of the series will be early February. Until then, keep up the winter training, and happy new year!