Zeb Kyffin was named Cycling Weekly's Domestic Rider of the Year for 2023. This exclusive interview originally appeared in the magazine on 7 December. Subscribe now and never miss an issue in 2024.
Zeb Kyffin was working in a “normal” everyday job up until last December. One year on and the 25-year-old Londoner has a job that’s far from normal. Kyffin has just signed his first professional contract with TDT-Unibet and joined the Dutch squad on a two-year deal from Saint Piran.
After being part of the Cornwall-based team’s stunning success this season it was only a matter of time before a higher level squad came calling. Kyffin won the Lancaster Grand Prix in the Saint Piran black and white in July but arguably his best result - and the result that led to interest from above - was sixth overall at the Tour of Britain behind Wout van Aert.
Kyffin tells Cycling Weekly that one of the key aspects to his rapid development this year was being afforded the chance to get amongst it in races across Europe with his teammates Jack Rootkin-Gray and Alex Richardson.
“It's all quite something really,” he says. “I never expected to be in this situation. It's not like it's a childhood dream, which sounds very bizarre.
“I didn't grow up wanting to be a professional cyclist, I just always enjoyed riding my bike. We raced so much more abroad this year that it's all fallen into place quite nicely.”
"I think the biggest thing, which I think a lot of people don't know, is that I actually worked after university at Wahoo in their customer service team in Vauxhall in central London,” Kyffin adds when reflecting on his transformation under former pro turned sports director Steve Lampier.
“I was still working full time in a 45 hour week job until December last year.
“They unfortunately had to make a huge amount of the workforce redundant. So I lost my job in December which hit quite hard. Even if you don't enjoy your job, or even if you don't think it's what you want to do in the future, losing a job makes you feel quite down and small.”
After losing his job Kyffin had a decision to make. Did he get on LinkedIn and start looking for work or throw caution to the wind and attempt to pursue a cycling career full time? The 25-year-old had been riding for Ribble Weldtite up until their demise at the end of 2022 and was without a team until Saint Piran came calling.
“Joining a new team and having Jack [Rootkin-Gray] and Alex Richardson as teammates, both really inspiring people and really motivating people, has been a huge factor in my growth this year,” Kyffin explains.
“I don't recognise myself compared to this time last year, the change is just astronomical. My performances in the UK and abroad and then finishing it all off at the Tour of Britain was quite an unexpected journey for me.”
"We trust each other and want each other to do well"
One of only two British UCI Continental teams, Saint Piran’s domination of the UK racing scene has been unrivalled this year. Richard Pascoe’s team won all four of the National Series races as well as countless others. Kyffin cites the cohesion and togetherness amongst the group as being one of the key factors behind that.
“All those national series where we just locked out the podium, that wasn't by chance, we were racing tactically as a team, we trust each other and want each other to do well,” he says. “That was such a great environment to be in.”
Kyffin says that the turning point where he started to realise he had it in him to compete at the highest level was when he finished second overall at Kreiz Breizh elites in France. From there he went on to seal victory at the Lancaster GP before the Tour of Britain came around.
“Winning brings so much confidence,” he explains. “As soon as I won Lancaster, I felt unstoppable. It was just the best feeling.”
With their home stage race just around the corner, Kyffin and his teammates felt ready for anything that came their way, even if that was a yellow and black juggernaut of Jumbo-Visma.
Kyffin wasn’t fazed though and went toe-to-toe with the likes of Van Aert across the final two days of racing, bagging sixth overall when the race wrapped up in Caerphilly.
“I was in such a world of pain, especially on the last two ascents of Caerphilly mountain [on the final stage] I was just fully seeing double,” he says. “I could taste blood in the back of my throat and I thought I was going to pass out. That's how deep I was going to not get dropped.
“I'd love to progress to be able to attack in that situation I was in and be even better. I think that's what I'm excited about. I feel I haven't yet reached my potential. I want to be able to develop to win from those situations and that's really motivating.”
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