Given the disruption he experienced last year, it’s hardly surprising that Finn Crockett can barely disguise his relief that, just hours from his 2024 season beginning, he’s surrounded by stability.

The 24-year-old road rider will make his first competitive appearance of the year today, at the one-day race, Le Samyn, in Belgium.

Having signed for the Netherlands-based VolkerWessels Cycling Team late last year, Crockett’s winter has been distraction-free and has involved only getting his head down and training as hard as he physically can.

It’s a luxury Crockett was deprived of for almost the entirety of 2023.

Almost exactly a year ago, Crockett’s team, AT85 Pro Cycling, folded with no notice to the riders.

Overnight, Crockett went from a professional cyclist to unemployed.

There’s never a good time for such a career-threatening development to occur but for Crockett, it could barely have come at a worse time.

The previous year, in 2022, he’d burst into the public’s consciousness by winning Commonwealth bronze in the road race at Birmingham 2022 and he’d secured his status as one of Scotland’s most promising riders.

So, unsurprisingly, finding himself homeless, in a cycling sense, was far from what he’d had in mind for his 2023 season.

It was four months before Crockett found a new team, signing with English pro continental team, Saint Piran.

Despite the disruption, the Strathpeffer native managed to gather some solid results in the closing months of the season, including a top-20 finish in the British Road Race Championships and a top 30 finish in the general classification in the Tour of Britain.

And although, on the surface, it looked like Crockett managed the stresses and strains of last year with ease, he admits that, in reality, his season was much tougher to negotiate than it appeared.

“From the outside and considering the circumstances, I guess my year did look relatively successful but I found it so, so hard. Or maybe draining is a better description,” he says.

“After the team folded, I was really happy with how I kept my head – I kept training but the mental side of thing was hard and by the end of the season, I was cooked.

“There were definitely times that my motivation fizzled out a bit overall, I’m proud of how I dealt with a difficult situation.”

Crockett’s winter, as part of the VolkerWessels Cycling Team, has been spent primarily at his home in Edinburgh but a Mallorca training camp earlier this month was a welcome break from the cold, wet rides that he’s been forced to endure for much of his pre-season in Scotland.

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Having recently become a full-time rider for the first time in his career, it’s hardly surprising he’s feeling in good shape and, as he prepares to line up at Le Samyn today, he’s in a good place both physically and mentally.

“The last few months have been really good because it’s been the physically toughest and most consistent winter I’ve ever had,” he says.

“It’s not easy being based in Scotland with weather but you have to just battle through.

“I can’t wait to get a number on and get on the start line because it’s been months since I last raced and that feels like a long time.

“I’m feeling good and am looking forward to seeing what I can do.”

Crockett’s turn in fortunes is, of course, down in large part to his talent and work-ethic.

But he’s not scared to admit that there’s been more than a slice of luck involved in his recent career developments.

Crockett’s father is Irish, which has enabled him to get an Irish passport, something that opened numerous doors that, to those with only a British passport, remain firmly closed.

“I’m not going to lie though, without an Irish passport, I wouldn’t be in the position I am,” Crockett says.

“You see this across all sports – getting abroad, getting to Europe has become incredibly difficult.

“I’d been waiting for over a year for my Irish passport – it only arrived in October and it’s been my trump card.

“The cycling scene in the UK is struggling which meant I needed to go to Europe to get opportunities and so I feel really fortunate to have had this chance which has come through having a European passport. 

“Brexit has made things so, so hard and I don’t think it’s talked about enough, it’s limited so many sporting opportunities.

“If you’re at the very top of your sport as a pro, you’ll be ok but for someone like me who’s grafting my way up, it’s very different and there’s a lot of guys like me who are stuck in the UK.

“But luckily, everything’s pieced together for me.”

There’s few who would grudge Crockett this good fortune and with, he hopes, a relatively uneventful season ahead of him, he’s in optimistic mood about what the coming months will bring.

“It’s going to be a busy season, which is something that really appealed to me with my new team.

“There’s a lot of one day races and classics and, as the season goes on, we’ll go into some stage races like the Tour of Belgium and Tour of Slovakia.

“Year on year, I feel like I’m improving and as long as that continues, I’ll be happy.

“I’m in the best mindset going into a new season that I’ve been in a long time so I’m quietly confident in how I can do.”