Like several of his fellow countrymen in recent years, Joshua Golliker chose the abroad experience within the Groupama-FDJ development team in 2023. After a successful season among the Juniors, the young Briton gradually made room for himself, and even scored the two most prestigious victories of the team this year. Let’s get to know him better.
British Cycling’s database is probably second to none. As proof, the name of Joshua Golliker appears from the year 2013. He was just nine years old at the time and just added cycling to a range of other sports. “There weren’t really any cyclists in the family, but my father took me to the local club, and that’s where it all started,” he recalls. The young Englishman obtained his first license at the Redhill Cycling Club, south of London. The following year, he joined the Preston Park Youth Cycling Club, as his appetite for cycling kept on growing, both on the track and on the road. “When I was younger, I really liked the track and I was better at it,” he says. “There may be a small correlation with the 2012 Olympics (in London, editor’s note), but I think it’s mainly because British Cycling focuses a lot on this discipline with its program, looking for talents”. At this stage of his course, the said database is actually almost exclusively provided with results obtained in velodromes. Among the U10 and U12, he stood out from time to time, without being the local monster. “I wasn’t the strongest to be honest,” he agrees. “I was a hobby cyclist and didn’t take it too seriously. I just enjoyed riding my bike so I kept it going, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. I may have won once or twice in my early years, but that made the victories even sweeter.”
The pandemic’s break, and the first exploits
When he entered the U14 category, Joshua Golliker still practiced other sports, such as swimming. Yet, his taste for cycling was the most pronounced and he gradually focused his efforts on this discipline. In 2018, his results became more convincing on the regional scene and his training therefore intensified even more as a U16. In his first season at this level, he won a track tournament and also got his first road experience on the continent, on the European Youth Tour of Assen, in the Netherlands. The spiral seemed on, and yet… The year 2020 sounded like a sudden stop for the 16-year-old young man. The pandemic exploded, lockdowns were declared, and “his motivation and his enjoyment” suffered from it. “What I love is cycling for hours and hours, so not being able to do that much anymore was hard,” he explains. “Also, as a competitor, if you don’t race and can’t put yourself against other riders, it’s difficult to know where you are in the sport. It was a bit of a bad time, but then I found enjoyment in going to the gym. I was going there very often, I enjoyed it, and it became my main activity.” The bike was not stored in the attic, however. His five weekly rides just became one, or two occasionally. Several months passed before his passion for cycling gradually reappeared. At the end of 2020, it was back. “I got back into cycling after the first lockdowns, and I enjoyed it and loved it a lot differently than before,” he confesses.
He was then set to enter the junior category, in the trainSharp Development team, with some freshness of mind and a brand-new momentum. However, his motivation did not immediately translate into results, which led him to some questions. But in the summer, the efforts began to pay off. He podiumed of the Totnes Vire, at the regional level, but most importantly placed fifth in the Tour of Mendips (2nd in the last stage, editor’s note), a national event won by Max Poole. “I was finally starting to perform well, and I thought that maybe there is a future for me in the sport,” says Joshua. The following winter, he maintained the good dynamic thanks as he “enjoyed” training, and he stood out quicker in his second Junior year. He easily dominated the Deux Jours de Cyclopark on the outskirts of London before tackling a higher level. “I did well on the first national race of the year (4th), where I was alone in front for almost an hour and a half,” he relates. “Then, a month later, I won the Velomax, which was very, very important for me at the time. After that, my team manager told me “You have a lot of potential, you’re starting to have results, but without big results on the continent, you will not find a place in a development team”. He put me in touch with my current agent, who advised me to go to France for the summer to compete in bigger races.”
The 2022 breakthrough and the successful “internship” in France
After a few additional top-10s on his homeland and a solid performance in the Netherlands on the Acht van Bladel Juniors (6th), the young man followed the advice and obtained a six-week internship with Team 31 Jolly U19 cycles, in south of France. He arrived at the beginning of July and was hosted by the family of another rider. “It was a whole new experience,” he said. “It was my first time going away from my family alone. Ironically, I crashed on my first day in France. I thought it wasn’t a good start (laughs).” More fear than harm, fortunately. The young Englishman therefore came with full possession of his faculties, and a certain candour, at the start of the Ain Bugey Valromey Tour, one of the most popular races for this age category. Right from the first day, he managed to follow some of the favourites (6th), and was still up there in the fifth stage (11th), securing an unexpected ninth place overall. “I only realized afterwards how big this race was, because I was just there to enjoy and ride my bike,” he says. “I don’t think I rode the race properly with any brain whatsoever. My final position was very good, but it could have been much better if I had been more aware of my strength. After that, I remember thinking: “If I think a little more, I can do a lot better”. I then used this philosophy during the French races that followed.”
This is how the “Joshua Golliker raid” started. On the regional scene, the Briton won the Ronde Sud Bourgogne and the Tour de la Vallée de la Trambouze one after the other, crushing the competition and scoring a stage victory each time. But the best was yet to come. In mid-August, the Ronde des Vallées, in Brittany, meant a return to the upper level. Yet, the outcome was the same. Second in the first two stages, the English rider eventually conquered his third consecutive stage race on French soil. “My parents came on this race to take me home right after,” he says. “I think that gave me even more motivation. I knew that I was not able to win the race in the sprint and that I had to get away. On the first stage, I found myself with another rider at the front, he didn’t take a single turn on the last lap, but in my mind, the goal was to push time to the peloton to make the following days easier. I took the yellow jersey in the time trial the next day, then on the last stage, I didn’t ride so clever. I really struggled on the final circuit, but luckily, I managed to keep the jersey for a few seconds.” Thirty-eight, to be precise, allowed him to conclude his internship in France in the most beautiful way, and with five victories in the bag. “To be honest, I didn’t expect that,” he concluded. “I knew I was strong, but really not that strong. It was a shock to me, but it was also a real learning experience thanks to the support of the team.”
“I believe that if you are happy, you’re going to do better”
His return to the country did not alter his momentum in any way. On the Tour of Mendips, he took the third and final stage, the mountain classification, and finished second overall. Then came the Tour of Wales, where he shined again against some of the best Juniors in Great Britain, including Joshua Tarling and Noah Hobbs. “There was a very big competition,” he confirms. “I remember attacking with Noah on Black Mountain, and he managed to outsprint me. The final stage finished at The Tumble, one of Wales’ major climbs. Josh Tarling won after attacking ten kilometres before the climb, but I remember being the fastest rider up the hill and finishing first from the peloton. This result meant a lot to me.” In addition to two stage podiums, Joshua Golliker took third place overall, which, according to him, marked the end of his season. The following month, however, he did obtain an excellent fifth place in the Keizer der Juniores in Belgium, but that while being “sick” and on terrain “that didn’t really suit him”. The year 2022 eventually closed with seven victories, and his consistency in the top positions obviously caught the eye of many teams. “I remember receiving the offer from the Groupama-FDJ continental team during my stay in France,” he says. “So much happened when I was there. I didn’t understand what was happening. It was crazy for me to be talking with teams halfway through the year and to be able to secure a contract so early. The Conti was the first major development team to send me an offer, and I knew it was probably the best one I could get.”
Without much hesitation, the 18-year-old young man signed with the French team for 2023, and therefore prepared to become a pro rider. “Growing up, it was an aspiration, a dream, but not something I knew would happen,” he assures. “To come this far from where I was is quite impressive to me. I think I just loved what I was doing, and that showed in my performance. I believe that if you are happy, you’re going to do better.” Realizing his dream yet forced him to put his schooling on hold. He regrets it, as he has “always enjoyed studying”, but did not consider it “viable” to take exams during the season. Track cycling was also somewhat left aside with his arrival in Besançon, which proved tricky in certain respects despite being “amazed” with the infrastructures and the professionalism of “La Conti”. “As I said, I was riding for fun until then, and I didn’t imagine that there could be so much behind racing a bicycle,” he describes. “I was truly blown away.” Discovering a new place, a new language, and being far from his loved ones, still made it for a hard start. “It was quite difficult because I am very close to my parents,” he says. “I still call them every day. It was quite hard to leave, but I think I learned a lot and it was really important for my personal development. It made me a better person.”
“Clicking” in the national championships, triumphing in Italy
Within the team, integration happened quite smoothly, in particular thanks to numerous British fellow countrymen and English-speaking teammates. At the sporting level, adjustment proved a bit slower, and the first part of the season was relatively discrete. “It took me a little time to get used to all the changes, to be a racer more than a rider,” he says. “I didn’t realize how big the gap was between the Juniors and the U23. Many things that work as a Junior no longer work as a U23. Sometimes I felt strong, but I didn’t fully understand how racing worked. So I had to learn, rather than going full gas from the start and expect to win.” Time did its work, and the young man scored his first noteworthy result thanks to a breakaway on the Alpes Isère Tour (4th), at the end of May. However, he could not finish the race due to a heavy crash on stage four. This came as an opportunity to take a rest. To reset. To bounce back better. Joshua Golliker eventually returned to competition at his national championships, the start of a great summer. “Very unexpectedly”, he obtained bronze on the U23 time trial, but his performance in the road race, among the elites, meant much more to him. “I was the only non-WorldTour rider in the top 10,” he emphasizes. “On the last lap, I was taking turns with riders who were leaving for the Tour the following week. It was huge. It made me realize that I still have a lot left to achieve this season.”
While some were racing the Tour de France, he headed for the Giro della Valle d’Aosta with “La Conti”, and with quite a bit of confidence. “We did a training camp in Aosta before the race, and I was really performing well,” he says. “The race came, I felt great on the first day and I told the soigneur who was with me: “I’m going to win”. And that’s what I did the next day. I had confidence in myself, I think that was the most important thing.” At the top of Val Veny, the Briton took the win after a thirty-kilometre solo. “I was in disbelief,” he says. He took the leader’s yellow jersey at the same time, which he managed to keep the next day, but which he lost during the queen stage featuring 4,500 meters of elevation gain. His losses were significant, the general classification was no longer a priority, but he was determined to finish the race on a good way. Towards Breuil-Cervinia, he broke way with Colin Savioz and a few others, then went on to put on another solo display. He joined the line as winner for the second time of the week, and by a very large margin. “I think the second victory meant more than the first,” he adds. “The first proved to everyone that I could do it, but the second proved to me that it wasn’t just luck. I only realized later how important these performances were, and I’m happy to already have this type of success under my belt. This gives me good hope for the future.”
“I perform better as the stages go on”
The near future resulted in a top-10 stage finish on the Tour Alsace and a fifteenth place overall in the Tour de l’Avenir. “It’s probably the highest level I’ve faced this year,” he said. “I did well, but I’m a little disappointed with the way I raced because I made some very bad decisions that may have cost me a victory.” Other opportunities should present to him in 2024, for his second season with “La Conti”. “I think this year has highlighted that I still have a lot to work on,” he says. “I’m working on becoming a more all-rounded rider in the future. I may not be a pure climber, but I still can climb quite well. I think I’m more a rider who performs well on very tricky and hard days, on the stage races. I perform better as the stages go on and don’t get as tired as other riders.” This is why the young man is, for now, more interested with the Grand Tours. Aside from the sport, the young man is passionate about long walks, politics, philosophy, or even coding, for which he has even started a course. All that in his spare time, and mainly alone, as a reflection of his way of riding. “He did fifty miles alone in front, but it is probably in this way that he can better express,” underlined his sports director Jérôme Gannat after his second victory in Aosta. “He likes solo effort and has the capacity for it.” “I hope to continue to develop in this way,” concludes Joshua. “I think it’s always a nice ending when you finish alone. It means a lot more to me because I enjoy it a lot more. It always seems more of a momentous achievement”.