Team Sky new boy Alex Peters prepared for steep learning curve
Rising British star daunted but excited by new surroundings
By Matt Westby
Last Updated: 12/02/16 9:58am
The difference in body language between Alex Peters and his new Team Sky team-mates is marked.
While Chris Froome, Michal Kwiatkowski and other established riders stride through the team hotel with confidence and authority, Peters tiptoes past almost in trepidation.
"It's quite daunting being here," he admits as we sit down to talk at Team Sky's annual media day. "I'm more scared of the press than anything else."
Peters is 21 years old, from east London and has only recently joined Team Sky. He initially linked up with them as a trainee last August but didn't become a fully fledged squad member until his first professional contract commenced on January 1, 2016.
He has never had to face the full weight of the cycling media before and soon admits that his esteemed company out on the road is also taking some getting used to.
"Today there was a moment," he says. "I was riding along and saw Froome and just thought, 'Wow. This is crazy. We're riding up the same mountain and we're on the same team'."
Peters joined Team Sky from Dutch development squad SEG Racing, with whom he impressively finished second at last year's Tour de Normandie and then seventh at the Tour de Bretagne, having won a stage along the way.
He later added to his growing reputation by placing an even more eye-catching 12th overall at September's Tour of Britain in the colours the Great Britain national team.
He finished 12th on the race's lone summit finish on Hartside Fell, although that result would almost certainly have been even better had he not had to stop behind a crash midway up the climb.
"I couldn't understand how it happened," he says ruefully. "I got held up and the lead group went away. There was no way back."
Peters had already been on the radar of Sir Dave Brailsford and the rest of Team Sky's management long before last year's successes, but his early-season results helped convince them he was ready to make the step up.
"It was amazing when Team Sky first made contact," Peters says. "It was a gradual process, with Sky contacting me through different means and people.
"I was just staying focused on racing and then I heard they were going to make me a stagiare [trainee] and offer me a two-year contract. That was amazing.
"I never had any hesitation signing. There were a couple of other options at the time, but I decided that Sky would be the best platform for me to develop. It's incredible to be here."
Development is Peters' one and only ambition for at least the next year. His long-term goal is to mature into a climbing specialist and general classification rider, but he admits he is so raw right now that he can't be certain of the direction his career will take.
"I'm most passionate about the general classification races, the week-long stage races," Peters, who started cycling seriously when he was 14, explains.
"I want to see if I can be a climber, but it's quite early on in my career, so I don't know what I'm capable of.
"It's about finding out if I can climb the long climbs. Maybe I can't. It's about listening and learning, and this is the best team to do that in and to help me move on to the rider I want to be."
The learning curve at Team Sky is invariably steep and Peters admits that riding alongside climbers such as Froome, Wout Poels and Mikel Landa in training this winter has been chastening at times.
But he is well aware that life will be even tougher when he races for the first time in 2016 at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race on January 31 and then in support of Froome at the Herald Sun Tour from February 3-7.
"I'm OK at climbing, but in this team, everybody is amazing at climbing," he adds. "It's difficult coming in young; you can't produce the power on the climbs in the fourth hour or the fifth hour.
"Maybe you have got a good power-to-weight ratio and you're classified as a climber, but in training and when you hit the races, you are no longer a very good climber.
"You help out the team because this is the only thing you can really do. You can't compete at the end of a race."
With not a drop of arrogance or over-confidence about him, Peters can at least take solace from the fact that he appears to have the perfect mindset for the journey he is about to take.