WHILE the rest of the country steels itself ahead of a move out of Europe, Joe Nally is getting ready to move in.

The 21 year-old cyclist has endured a fairly hellish year on a personal level, battling the debilitating effects of glandular fever only to then find out his team, Vitus Pro Cycling, had folded, leaving him effectively unemployed. 

There was at least some good news to end 2020, however, with Team Elite Restauration 89 stepping in to offer the Fifer a chance to get back on the bike next year. 

Nally has grasped that opportunity and will soon be packing his bags and heading to Toucy, a village in north-central France, where he will be based for most of 2021. 

After spending most of this year in his sick bed, the former Hardie Bikes cyclist feels it is just the change of scenery that he needs. 

“It’s an exciting move and all happened quite quickly, a couple of weeks really,” he explains. “So I’ll be moving out to France in February. 

“I had a choice between staying in Britain or going to France to race and I made the decision that it would be safer to do the latter. The calendar I was given from them looked a lot more promising than what I was told by the British teams. Going to France should mean a higher likelihood of racing which is what I feel I need at the moment.

“I’m going to be based in Toucy which is a couple of hours south of Paris, kind of in the middle of nowhere. I’ll be living there from February to October so it’s another new adventure. I’ve lived in a few different places before but France isn’t one of them. That’s just the cycling life. You take your bike and go where you’re needed.

“It’s a step into the unknown for me so I don’t know what to expect. But I know it’s going to be a fresh start and that’s what I need right now. There’s another Scottish rider on the team, Alex Dent, and there are a few other folk I know in the towns close to where I’m staying. The team provides a house for us so I’ll show up in February and take it from there.”

Nally had signed for Vitus in September 2019 with a view to representing them this year and next. The loss of several key sponsors, however, saw the firm go under.

“It wasn’t totally unexpected what happened but it was still shocking when it did. I had signed with them for the 2020 season, expecting there would then be a second year after that.

“It just came down to them losing sponsors really and not having enough money to run it. I’ve handed my bike back so I think that’s me - I can move on now.”

The former British national points champion’s biggest adversary this year wasn’t to be found on the track or on the road. Instead it was the Epstein-Barr virus that led to glandular fever.

“I was really floored for a while,” he reveals. “It wasn’t until July or August that I was able to train normally again. And even now I’m still not where I want to be fitness-wise. So it’s been an entire year of setbacks.

“I’ve been a bit up and down trying to cope. Throughout the first lockdown I was okay as I had a really good focus. A lot of people were worried about the bigger picture and what was going to happen but for me it was quite simple: get healthy.

“I found in the summer that if I trained too much I almost had a relapse. I felt exhausted. I’m not like that anymore but it’s taken longer than I thought to get back to normal.

“I went back home to recover and was there from January until September. I then went to Tenerife for 12 weeks. It was meant to be a training base with some part-time work to cover my expenses. But the work fell through due to a lack of tourism which meant I couldn’t stay longer. It was nice just to get away and get some sun on my face having been stuck in the same house for so long.”

The hope now is that a year in France can get his career back on course.

“It should be a really good racing scene for me to show myself off a bit to the big professional teams. It’s mainly just exposure I’m looking for. Hopefully there’s a steady build into it and then by the summer I should be in a good place to get some results. 

“The ultimate goal was always to turn pro by the time I leave the under-23 category so I have next year to try to do that. It will be tricky and I might have to extend it by a year or two. But the target is still the same.”