Brayden Bloch feels that overall, he has “ticked all the boxes that required ticking” in his first full European road cycling season with a semi-professional team, Equipo Oleka, based in the northeastern Spanish city of Girona.
Returning home to Sydney earlier this month for the first time since February, Bloch feels encouraged by his experience of living independently for the first time, pedalling a distance of more than 17,000km during the season, scaling 202,819m of ascents, and competing in 20 racing days.
The 19-year-old all-rounder – who is also a solid sprinter – got to make connections with some of the world’s top professional cyclists, make new friends from teams across Europe, and nail five top-10 finishes for Equipo Oleka, including a personal best placing of sixth.
Bloch told The AJN on Friday that while he posted his best race results in the first half of his Girona stay, “the whole season was really good for me in gaining experience, especially in terms of racing”.
“It was also a very good team environment to be in.
“One of the biggest things I learned was that it’s not always the amount of training hours you do that proves to be most effective, but rather how specific and targeted your time during training is.”
He added, with tongue firmly in cheek, that an area he needs to focus more on is learning Spanish.
“There’s lots of room for improvement there.”
Last week, Bloch officially received confirmation that he has secured a new contract for the 2024 European season with another Spanish club, Brocar-Ale, which is based in Alacante, a coastal city south of Valencia.
That team competes in U23 single and multi-day races, and the Spanish Cup 12-team series.
It’s a larger team than Equipo Oleka, with a squad of 10 Spanish riders, 10 overseas recruits, a full-time team manager, and a support crew that includes up to five team cars.
And it is currently ranked third in Spain.
“I’m really looking forward to going back to Spain early next year, in a new area, in a new team,” Bloch said.
“Brocar-Ale, from a development aspect, has a very good track record, and coaches who know what they’re talking about.
“They’ve also signed a lot of good guys for next season, who will push me and help me further improve.”
In the meantime, the former Moriah College student and Randwick Cycling Club junior – who is Maccabi NSW’s Junior Sportsman of the Year – is enjoying being back in his home town.
Before it is time to return to Spain, Bloch will compete in the road cycling nationals in January in Ballarat, in the U23 men’s category, and aim to improve on his 22nd out of 51 placing last year.
“I’m definitely aiming for a good result at the nationals, and I now have a lot of experience with riding in a big bunch, so I’ll have a plan, and look to put myself in the best position.”