Tom climbing up the mountain road on the Isle of Man preparing for the 2021 season. Photo: Tom Mazzone
"We're a small island with a big spirit." proclaims the 'Visit Isle of Man' website. This quality must also be in the DNA of those who reside on this island in the Irish Sea since it is plain to see in Saint Piran rider Tom Mazzone, another of the island's high quality cycling exports.
Tom raced with the Holdsworth Continental team in 2018, battling it out at the Tour de Yorkshire and the Tour of Qinghai Lake in China. He also joined his brother, Leon, in representing the Isle of Man in the Commonwealth Games Road Race on Australia’s Gold Coast.
He demonstrated his pedigree during the 2019 season, with wins in the British TLI National Road Race Championships, a 2nd place on Stage 3 of the Manx International and the race’s Green Jersey.
Before COVID put a premature halt to the 2020 racing calendar, Tom put in an impressive performance at the Grand Prix de la Ville de Lillers in March with a 22nd place finish, and won the Manx National Road Race Championships.
Tom starts this season with a move to Cornish Continental team, Saint Piran, from Vitus Pro Cycling, which sadly folded at the end of 2020.
Although he has clear ambitions as a rider, Tom also has an eye for the future and runs his cycling business, RIDE Cycling, alongside his racing and training. You may also have seen his YouTube channel, where he documents his life as a professional cyclist and promotes the attractions of the Isle of Man.
In this interview, Tom covers his highlights on the bike as well as shares how taking himself out of his comfort zone is pushing what he feels he's capable of.
TGC: I understand you started racing when you were 5 years old. What drew you to the sport?
TM: Yes, I first jumped on a bike at the age of 3 and instantly fell in love with it, a couple of years later I started racing down at my local BMX track in my hometown of Ramsey on the Isle of Man. For me, riding my bike from a young age was all about having fun and enjoying the freedom it gave me, the competitive element was something that ignited inside of me as I got older.
TGC: How has your brother Leon influenced your racing career?
TM: I wouldn’t say it has necessarily influenced my career but it has been something I have taken into consideration more so in the last few years, especially with team decisions for example. If there has been an opportunity to ride on a team together, then that has been the preference. We bounce well of each other and both know each other’s strengths and weaknesses from years and years of training together so that is a benefit in race situations but also it’s pretty unique to be able to race at a high level internationally alongside my brother.
Tom and his brother Leon before the Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony, Gold Coast 2018. Photo: Tom Mazzone
It made the dream of becoming a professional cyclist seem more achievable knowing that, as a kid, you were following in their footsteps from a young age.
TGC: Did seeing fellow Manxmen like Mark Cavendish and Pete Kennaugh provide a road map for you?
TM: It definitely helped to see their success at the pinnacle of the sport. It made the dream of becoming a professional cyclist seem more achievable knowing that, as a kid, you were following in their footsteps from a young age. Obviously, there was a long way to go from there, but it was definitely motivational that your racing hero started on the same path.
TGC: What motivates and drives you as a rider?
TM: My motivation as a rider still comes from within, the love for being out on my bike every single day. Obviously, I have ambitions to achieve results and success, that drive comes from my competitive nature I suppose, but also I am always striving to be a better athlete, pushing the limits and seeing where it takes me.
TGC: At what point did you think you had the potential to race at Conti level and above?
TM: I have always believed I had the potential to race at this level and I’d like to think I have proved that over the years. Even when I rode for Elite team Spirit-Tifosi in 2019, between Holdsworth and Vitus, I was still always at the sharp end and getting results against the UK Continental teams in the British races but I have always wanted to push a little further than that with opportunities to race at UCI races in Europe and beyond.
Racing in Ireland with the Isle of Man National team, pulling off a 1-2 with his brother Leon. Photo: Tom Mazzone
TGC: What would your life have looked like if these opportunities in cycling hadn’t opened up for you?
TM: I’m honestly not sure. I’m certain that I would still have a huge passion for cycling as a sport and would have some involvement within a professional team, maybe as a DS or something, which is still something I would like to pursue once I stop racing. I love sport and travel, so maybe a career that would combine both of those.
I tried my hand at many different things when I was younger, but cycling was the one thing that continually stood out for me.
TGC: Did you have any other interests you wanted to pursue?
TM: Not really! Like most kids, I tried my hand at many different things when I was younger, but cycling was the one thing that continually stood out for me. After school, I moved to France then Belgium and loved being immersed within that cycling culture.
Tom after winning the TLI National Road Race Championships 2019. Photo: Tom Mazzone
TGC: The domestic cycling scene has been under financial pressures for many years and not all teams are able to pay their riders. How do you finance your racing?
TM: Yes, unfortunately, the domestic scene has been struggling, especially over the last few years, for one reason or another but hopefully, post-COVID, it will start to re-emerge soon. Over the years, there have been a number of different ways to finance my racing. When living and racing in Europe, I was supported by the Dave Rayner Fund and initially my parents too. As I have progressed throughout my career, I have gone on to build some great relationships with personal sponsors on the Isle of Man, as well as support from my teams. I also have my own business, all of which has enabled me to finance my racing.
TGC: Tell us a bit more about your own business, what it does, how you set it up and how you fit it in around your racing?
TM: So, at the beginning of 2019 I launched my own business, RIDE Cycling, alongside my racing career. It offers a range of services for cyclists of all ages and abilities, including everything from mentoring, training plans, and skills sessions, to the organisation of networking rides. This has mainly been for my clients on the Isle of Man but I am always looking at opportunities to grow the business further afield too. The essence of it is using my experiences and working within the community to assist and guide people to achieving their personal goals, which has required commitment, planning, and prioritising of schedules around my own training and travel.
Winning one of his only races in 2020, the Isle of Man National Road Race Championships. Photo: Tom Mazzone
I think the main thing I have taken from this whole experience, not only as a rider but as a person, is to really appreciate every moment.
TGC: You’re now riding at Conti level with Saint Piran, after Vitus Pro Cycling p/b Brother UK sadly folded. What have you learned about yourself as a rider from these experiences?
TM: Obviously, 2020 was a difficult year on so many levels, disappointment and frustration of races being cancelled, not being able to spend time with family and so on. Everyone has had their own challenges throughout this period I’m sure, not least losing loved ones. I think the main thing I have taken from this whole experience, not only as a rider but as a person, is to really appreciate every moment. There are so many things we used to take for granted, be it bike racing, travelling, holidays and I feel very lucky to have taken so much enjoyment from the experiences I have had throughout years of racing my bike, which makes me excited and motivated to get back to it again soon.
TGC: What impact did Vitus Team Owner, Cherie Pridham, have on you?
TM: I got to know Cherie very well throughout last year and have since become good friends. Although we didn’t get the opportunity to do much racing together her passion and knowledge of the sport really shines through across many aspects. Not only that but her support for us all throughout lockdown showed real empathy and care. For example, she would always call or message once a week, nothing team related, just to check in and see how we were doing.
I also used some of that time to learn a little more about content creation, making and editing YouTube videos.
Training on the Isle of Man in the colours of Vitus Pro Cycling. Photo: Tom Mazzone
TGC: How did COVID and the suspension of racing affect you?
TM: Like I said earlier, it was very frustrating at first. After working hard throughout the winter to prepare for the season then not getting an opportunity to put it into practice and achieve anything from it was tough mentally more than anything. I used that energy to go out and train hard, setting myself small targets to aim for throughout the year, also spending time to re-focus and try new things, such as diet and training methods to improve some of my weaknesses as a rider. I also used some of that time to learn a little more about content creation, making and editing YouTube videos, which I have continued to do and have really enjoyed actually.
It sometimes takes being in a situation that is out of your comfort zone to make something in your mind click and realise that you are capable of more than you previously thought.
TGC: You mentioned in an interview with Velo UK that your confidence had grown since committing to things you weren’t sure you were capable of. Can you elaborate on that?
TM: Yes, I wouldn’t say that I am not confident in my abilities as a bike rider or as a person but I’m sure, as many people know, it sometimes takes being in a situation that is out of your comfort zone to make something in your mind click and realise that you are capable of more than you previously thought. I think that also comes with experience and knowledge of your own body but, since I had that moment, I definitely have more confidence in any race situation and is something I was starting to benefit from in 2019 and was even more excited to take into the 2020 season. I now feel even stronger and can’t wait to get racing this year.
Tom in his Saint Piran kit, his new team for 2021. Photo: Tom Mazzone
TGC: Do you ever think about life after pro cycling and is it ever talked about amongst fellow riders?
TM: It’s not something I have ever spoken to fellow riders about that much, to be honest. I have had numerous conversations with people in my cycling circle, from team managers to sponsors for advice and post-racing career opportunities.
For me, enjoying what you do is one of the most important things in life and is one of the reasons that I still race my bike even for a limited income.
TGC: What plans are you putting on place?
TM: I have a number of plans in place already and I am always trying to expand my network to see what possibilities there are for me when I decide to stop racing.
For me, enjoying what you do is one of the most important things in life and is one of the reasons that I still race my bike even for a limited income. If I can move into a career that offers me the same enjoyment then I would be happy.
TGC: You’re very active on social media, especially with your videos. How did this come about and is this part of a longer-term strategy for you or just a bit of fun?
TM: It’s a mix of both really. Firstly, it’s something I like to look back on every once in a while and remind myself of some amazing memories from travelling and racing across the world. It’s also beneficial and attractive for sponsors if you are able to promote their products online, which is another side of it but it is something I do enjoy and have learnt a lot about especially over the last year or so with video editing etc. It’s always good to have another skill up your sleeve going forward.
TGC: What do you feel are the transferable skills gained through cycling?
TM: As I briefly mentioned in my answer to your last question, there are a number of transferable skills to take from the sport. I think it also depends on how you apply yourself, especially in the modern world. There are obvious skills you take from riding within a cycling team, such as communication, teamwork, organisation, and much more but there is now also the opportunity to develop other skills such as content creation and marketing for example.
“Enjoy it”. For me, that is the key to success, if you’re enjoying it, everything else will come easier.
TGC: Any advice for young riders looking to follow in your footsteps?
TM: The first thing I always say when someone asks me this is, “Enjoy it”. For me, that is the key to success, if you’re enjoying it, everything else will come easier.
Aside from that, I would say relish every opportunity you’re given, work hard, race hard, and have fun!
The GC would like to thank Tom for taking the time to talk about his life and racing ambitions.
We wish him and his team, Saint Piran, every success for the season.
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