Zwift Academy Exclusive

You’ve had a strange year for your first full time year as a cyclist, with almost no proper racing available. How do you think that’s benefitted you compared to those that have been full time for longer?

Unlike others I have discovered that I don’t require racing to be fit or for any motivation, most of the lads that have been doing this for a long time crave races and rely on them to maintain ‘race fitness’. I, however, don’t. This is something I’ve learnt this year and I simply love riding my bike and it’s my passion, so I don’t need any more motivation than that. 

Just the idea of riding my bike again gets me out of bed and excited to start a new day, moreover, I enjoy training as much if not more than racing; I relish in the fact that I am improving fitness and ability on the bike. With the extra time that I’ve had this year from the lack of racing I have invested my time and efforts into a lot more off-the bike activities; this is something I wouldn’t have been able to do in a normal racing year. 

What has kept you motivated throughout 2020 to continue working to a high level?

This is easy, pure love for the sport and action of pedaling and riding a bike. I don’t struggle for motivation to train or work to get better on the bike, the thought of riding gets me up in the morning. It is a little hard to maintain everything at such a high level like core work, nutrition, sleep etc; however, I know it’s making me better on the bike and therefore will make it more fun. As the zwift tagline goes “fun is fast” - right? 

Congratulations on qualifying for the Zwift Academy finals! What were your intentions when it came to riding the Zwift academy, did you have a goal in mind or was it just training and this is a good reward for being dedicated?


Initially I thought it would be a good training tool and provide an eight week structured block in a period of uncertainty. But the more workouts, races and group rides I did the more competitive I became; and like everything I do I started to commit myself 120%. 

The idea of reaching the finals never entered my mind and I just enjoyed the power PR’s I was getting and seeing a power curve that’s up-to-date. 

We’ve spoken to you before about your training, and specifically using the turbo but what do you think are the real benefits of turbo training and using apps such as Zwift to train with?

Firstly, the specificity of that type of training. There’s no wasted miles and everything you do converts into performance gains. Secondly the constant pedal inertia means no time to ‘coast’ and I believe makes you more efficient with your performances. Thirdly, the increased core temperature also adds to the training benefit and increases your efficiency. I think these three are the main benefits, certainly for me, and when sessions are combined into a block you see a real benefit, I believe you have to do several back to back sessions to see the real benefits. 

Would you rather do 4 hours in temperatures under 5 degrees or 4 hours on the turbo?

Turbo for sure, it’s safer, easier and less admin after with bike washing and sorting kit, much easier. 

We’ve been working with you for a while now and will continue to do so, but which is your favourite product from our range, that you wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to other cyclists?

It has to be the chamois cream! I really like the viscosity of it for a start in comparison to the rest on the market. I have mentioned before and to others that when I started out cycling I always had saddle sores and because of the nature of the problem I chose not to talk about it much. 

I really thought it was just part of cycling and something to just ‘put up with’. However, since changing a few things and most notably the chamois cream, I have not had one saddle sore all year. I always apply the cream no matter what type of ride, if bibs are on so is the cream, I couldn’t live without it. 

I really like all the products, to be honest, but I definitely won't ride without using chamois cream, even if I'm on the turbo.

As a late comer to cycling, have you found it difficult to establish yourself and for people to take you seriously as a rider? 

Yes and no really. I enjoy being the underdog and uncertainty of what I might be able to achieve and deliver. However, the higher up the sport, especially in the domestic UK scene, there’s a toxic level of elitism. If you haven’t come up through the BC ranks and got a glistening palmares, some riders won’t look at you.

Ironically, once I started to perform at a higher level certain riders started to socialise with me and acknowledge me as a rider/person. But not everyone has been like this and I can honestly say that every rider from a certain team made me feel welcome in the national races and almost as part of their team when I wasn’t on paper. 

You train hard and are clearly committed to what you love, where do you feel is a realistic level for you to reach? 

In all honesty I’m not sure, and it’s a relevant question as recently I have really started to question what I want to achieve in the sport. Ideally, I’d love to get as far as possible in the sport but I have already achieved results I never imagined possible, so for me to call myself a full time pro continental rider would be enough. 


What do you think you are doing differently to other riders that’s really helped you progress?

Most probably the consistency. I have never missed a training ride or effort and I endeavour to complete every effort to the specific wattage required. I think with this meticulous mindset and consistency it is really helping me to catch up.

I will always see myself as catching up and trying to reach other riders' levels as they have been doing it longer than I have and should be better than me; that’s just the way I think about it anyway. With this in mind, I see training and preparation as a ladder I can’t afford to miss a rung on the ladder as I have already started years behind everyone else. 

This question might be a little complicated to answer just now with two potential pathways, but what are your personal ambitions and goals for 2021?

In simple terms to enjoy what I do and keep progressing my athletic performance. I don’t really have any specific goals as such, but whatever situation I am in I want to listen, learn and make people around me happier and in a better place than if I wasn’t there. 

As a rider, you’re tall, and much leaner compared to this time last year, what type of races do you think suit you and your style?

Good question. I’m not really sure. Again, another uncertainty for the years coming up. However I don’t think my love for a big grippy Belgian Kermesse race will ever die, and hopefully will always be the type of races that suit me. If you love it you are more likely to do well in it and therefore by default ‘suit you’. 

If you could race one race and get a result, which race would it be and why?

Tour of Yorkshire as it’s on home roads, that would be a dream come true, to take a stage would be incredible.

Are you going to be doing anything differently in the build up to the Zwift finals? 

Not really, just remain focused and motivated, I will do more fat utilisation rides and fasted efforts in order to get my weight down after a few weeks off. 

Where can we watch you racing in the Zwift finals?

I’m not too sure to be honest, I think it's being streamed live on the day, stay tuned to the relevant social channels for Zwift, but most importantly my instagram: @damienreissclayton - shameless plug, I’ll be sharing more about it too in the build up!

Good luck, and all the best!