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Hour record holder Joss Lowden pondered retirement this year, but a contract with new WorldTour squad Uno-X persuaded her to keep going.
At 34 and heading into just her fifth season as a pro, Lowden is still a relative newcomer to top-level racing. However, the British rider considered packing it in after the 2021 season to focus on other priorities in life.
Lowden wasn’t quite ready to hang up the racing wheels just yet, and the Norwegian Uno-X women’s team came along at the right time.
The nascent squad is heading to the WorldTour for 2022, which means Lowden and her teammates will have a minimum salary that they can live off, maternity leave, and other securities that aren’t assured in Continental teams.
“There was a point when I thought that maybe this would be my last season,” Lowden told VeloNews. “I’m just I’m 34 and I thought maybe this is time to stop, but this season has gone so well I was just not ready to finish it. Uno-X has made a really big thing about wanting to support our careers, even if you’ve got maternity leave or a family, and you carry on working like your cycling is your job.
“It should be viewed exactly as that not like a case of you do your cycling, and then you stop,” she said. “You should be able to take time out, have a baby and come back. Because of that, I think I’ve got a bit more of an open mind to seeing it as a profession and something I can carry on doing some more.”
It was the idea of having a family that was making Lowden consider her retirement.
While riders such as Lizzie Deignan and Marta Bastianelli have been able to take time out to have a child and then return to racing, the option is not there for many. Most Continental teams don’t have the finances to fund maternity leave for their riders.
Though Lowden isn’t planning to have a child imminently, she is comforted by the fact that she has the option to do it without giving up on her career.
“I thought, I would do this year and then I try and get pregnant but I’m just not at that point yet,” she said. “I’m not ready for that yet. So, I’ll give it another year, another two years, or something like that and then maybe we’ll see. For now, I’m just enjoying racing.”
Building on a big year
Lowden’s two-year deal with Uno-X came off the back of a big season with Drops-Le Col p/b Tempur.
When she signed the deal, she had won the Tour de Feminin overall and a stage, taken a top-5 result at Brabantse Pijl, and was preparing for a big at the hour record after beating it unofficially earlier in the year.
She went on to smash the hour record in Switzerland after racing at the road worlds in Flanders, where she took 10th in the top trial and helped Great Britain to fifth in the mixed relay.
Though Lowden is leaving Drops, the team that kickstarted her career, she takes with her some fond memories and she will be keenly following its progress next year.
“It’s been absolutely fantastic. I really have a lot of respect, and a lot of time for like Tom [Varney — team owner] and for Nico [Marche — DS] for Bob [Varney — team owner], and everybody that’s involved in this team,” she said. “What they’ve done this year to take it to the level that it is at has been really quite incredible.
“The support we’ve had, the level of professionalism is so much greater than what we’ve had in other years and maybe in comparison to other teams at this level. I think it shows that the team is stepping up and it’s been really good to be part of that. I’m very excited to see how they can do next year.”
The new contract will allow Lowden to put her full focus into racing, training and recovery for the first time in her career. Many riders at Continental level have some sort of part-time job to sustain their racing and Lowden is no different.
After a decade, she gave up her job with NTT Data this year to allow her to race full-time. Though she has been well used to juggling two careers, she believes the new approach will allow her to take her racing up another level and she has big hopes for 2022.
“Going full-time is going to make a big difference. I’ve always worked, and I think being able to focus entirely on riding, and particularly resting is going to be a big thing,” she said. “Hopefully, I’ll go into next season super strong.
“I’ve learned a lot this year. I think my racing has generally improved quite a lot. The girls on this team [Drops] have really helped. We’ve had a lot of experience here and with Nico as the DS, I learned a lot. I think I can go into next season feeling quite confident that I will be in a good place physically. I’ve come on a long way mentally as well.”