Sam Redding is contemplating a gear change in a bid to prolong his cycling career.
A life in the saddle once beckoned for the talent, as he rode on the wheel of stars such as Luke Rowe and Andrew Fenn in British Cycling’s National Endurance Squad.
From Horndean Technology College to Portsmouth-based club i-Team and on to the Talent Team, the acceleration was swift for the rising star.
But suddenly the brakes snapped on.
Redding came a whisker away from the holy grail for the country’s best young cyclists – the Olympic Development Programme (ODP).
And he soon struggled to keep pace with the leading lights as he was left to juggle the extra responsibility of work and studies on top of his training.
Rowe and Fenn continued on a path which has seen them rise to World Tour outfits Team Sky and Omega Pharma Quick-Step respectively.
Meanwhile, Redding had little option but to concentrate on his studies and prepare for a career in the wider world while picking and choosing races at home and in Belgium.
He is not bitter about his route to a joint honours degree in maths and sports science at Loughborough University.
The 22-year-old occasionally catches himself wondering what might have been, though.
And it was a sense of unfinished business which saw him grab the bull by the horns this winter and join Plymouth-based amateur team Spin Rotor Primal C-Originals (SRPC).
Fewer lectures in his final year meant more time for training and soon he was racing the likes of Olympic champion Ed Clancy and former British road-race champion Kristian House in the Tour Series – a unique, team-based British competition.
It was a magical experience for Redding – one which will live long in his memory.
But despite forging himself into a key cog in the SRPC team, his impending graduation means work must now take the front seat once more.
A job in London lies in wait after a summer holiday, which will include a trip to watch the Tour de France.
After a year in industry – sandwiched between his Loughborough studies – Redding is under no illusions what full-time work will mean for his cycling.
And he therefore finds himself at a crossroads.
His heart remains in road racing, with the challenging climbs suiting his skills.
That was in evidence when he finished 12th on the queen stage of top Irish four-day race Rás Mumhan this season.
But his head is telling him a return to the track may be a better fit for his new life.
And as he contemplates setting up home in the shadow of the 6,000-seater London 2012 Olympic velodrome, his head is set to rule.
‘I’ve got a job starting in September and now I am just trying to think of the best way to keep the cycling up,’ he explained.
‘I’m hoping to live in Stratford, so what I might try to do is ride more track.
‘The velodrome will be open there and with it being right on my doorstep I might give that a go again.
‘After a few years away from the track, I got a couple of decent results at the BUCS (British Universities & Colleges Sport) Championships this season.
‘So maybe that will be the route to go down when I haven’t got as much time to train.
‘You don’t need the volume on the bike like you do for road racing.
‘There are no shortcuts for road endurance – it is just a lot of time on the bike.
‘The track would involve less hours but it is more intensive work.
‘I’m in two minds at the moment as to how it is all going to work but perhaps that is looking a little more feasible.
‘I would still like to do some road racing – I love it.
‘But I don’t want to do it if I feel I can’t do enough to be competitive.’
Regardless of what the future holds, Redding will look back on this summer fondly.
He rode five of the 11 Tour Series rounds for the SRPC team, with a best finish of 27th on his debut in Stoke-on-Trent.
‘The Tour Series was an awesome experience – I really enjoyed it,’ he said.
‘I made my debut in Stoke and that ended up being my best finish but my favourite round was Redditch.
‘It had a nice hill in it which suited me. I was a little bit annoyed because (due to confusion over the finishing lap) I didn’t get the result I maybe could have there.
‘But I was very pleased with how I rode. I got to the front a couple of times and had a couple of digs which was good.
‘It is tough when you get off the front and try to tuck back into the group – that’s the only problem!
‘You can get a bit carried away sometimes and end up getting dropped.
‘But I felt more involved in Redditch, whereas some of the others I felt like I was hanging on by the skin of my teeth.’
The curtain came down on the Tour Series in Ipswich, with the Nigel Mansell-backed UK Youth team taking the title.
Redding had other reasons to savour the experience, though.
‘It was more of a full day because we had the team time trial and the sprint competition, so we were there from the early afternoon until the evening race,’ he said.
‘There were lots of people around, just coming up and chatting to you.
‘And sitting in the pits opposite Ed Clancy and all the other guys was pretty cool, too.’
Locking horns with his professional heroes will have to take a back seat now, though.
After a two-day stage race in Dorset this weekend – and cycling holiday to France – it will be time to step into the real world as the former Olympic hopeful relocates to London for a full-time career and the next chapter in his life on two wheels.
Sam Redding on...
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
British Cycling used to select for the Talent Team by going out to schools and testing children.
I rode a bike a bit when I was a kid, for my paper-round and that sort of thing.
But when they initially came around the schools, I must have tested pretty well.
I obviously hadn’t trained for it or anything.
I did quite a lot of sport, I played a bit of tennis and little bit of rugby.
But other than that I just jumped on the bike.
They were testing power output – and how long you could sustain a power output.
It just so happened I could sustain it for a pretty long time.
I progressed through each stage and got into it that way.
They provided me with a bike and a bit of kit to get me going.
It was quite a swift process from not really doing anything to thinking ‘hey, this is quite serious’.
Then I found a local club through Wheel 2 Wheel Cycles, a shop in Cowplain which has now closed down.
They were the meeting point for i-Team, I guess.
They suggested the club to me, so I started going down to the Friday sessions Guy (Watson) ran down there.
They also do Saturday morning rides and I still ride with them a bit when I am at home now, which is nice.
Guy does a great job with the kids at the Mountbatten track – it’s really good to see them out on their bikes.
What I would have given to have started that young.
Rob (Hayles, former world champion, Commonwealth champion, Olympic silver medallist and British road race champion) went to the same school as me in Horndean.
He came back in and did a talk when I was still there, actually.
I met up with him afterwards and had a chat in the staff room.
He sometimes comes out with the i-Team guys, too, so I have been on a couple of training rides with him.
But that was when I was younger.
I remember he used to just rip it up!
When I got a bit older and started to do the Premier Calendar races, I actually did a few races against him which was nice.
Dani and I got into the sport in the same way.
She hadn’t done a lot of cycling before – I think she came from a swimming background.
And she just turned up to the testing and got onto it in exactly the same way as I did.
So when we were at the early camps we were in the same boat – neither of us knew what was going on really!
We used to ride together quite a lot because she came from Hamble.
She rode at the Mountbatten Centre and came out on the i-Team club rides on Saturday mornings, too.
In our early days we spent quite a lot of our time training together, so it is great to see her doing so well.