Added to basket
  1. Home Brother
  2. Cycling
  3. Brother Cycling Podcast
  4. 2020
  5. Episode 3: Team Brother UK-OnForm

Brother UK Cycling Podcast – Episode 3

Episode description

The UK's elite road race scene is built on talent, dedication and enormous reserves of goodwill. In the third episode of the new Brother UK Cycling Podcast, co-hosts Timothy John and Phil Jones, the Managing Director of Brother UK, talk to three people with first-hand experience of the value of family and community support.  

Team Brother UK-OnForm's manager Simon Howes and his partner Michelle Jenner join Tim and Phil to describe long weekends (at bike races), sun-soaked getaways (at training camps), and the delicate art of preparing a casserole amid an enormous kit delivery.

Welsh hill climb champion Rebecca Richardson, a Brother UK-sponsored athlete and member of the Team Brother UK-OnForm senior women's road squad, is a single parent, business owner and elite rider. She talks frankly about an athlete's need for positive voices and the value of logistical and emotional support from her parents and the cycling community, as well as financial support from Brother UK.

Plus, Phil and Simon lift the lid on the reincarnation of the elite Brother UK-Tifosi women's team as CAMS-Tifosi. The pair offer a privileged insight into the mechanics of cycle sponsorship. 

Please note, this episode was recorded before UK Government measures to enforce social distancing. Brother UK strongly endorses the government's advice and urges listeners to this podcast to #stayhomesavelives

The Brother UK Cycling Podcast

Subscribe to the newsletter keeping domestic road cycling fans up to speed

Episode 3: Team Brother UK - OnForm

Episode contents

  • 00.05 – Introduction
  • 00.38 – Coming Up
  • 02.02 – Part One: Meet The Guests
  • 03.35 – Part Two: Building Team OnForm
  • 20.12 – Part Three: The Personal Manager
  • 25.01 – Part Four: Family Support
  • 36.28 – Part Five: The Handover 
  • 43.04 – Part Six: Providing Platforms To Perform
  • 48.48 – Part Seven: Covid, Cancellations, Hopes and Fears For 2020
  • 55.44 – Part Eight: Social Shoutout
  • 57.28 – Part Nine: Reflections

Transcript

Timothy John 

"Hello and welcome to the new Brother UK Cycling Podcast with me, Timothy John, and my co-host Phil Jones, the Managing Director of Brother UK, better known to the cycling community as Road Phil. Phil, good to see you." 

Phil Jones 

"Thanks, Tim. I’m really excited that we’ve got this podcast together at long last where we’re really going to dive beneath the surface of what’s really going on in the road cycling scene, bring some of the best riders, the best managers and the best personalities behind the sport, get them in the studio and start telling the story of why this sport is so great in the UK." 

Coming Up

Timothy John

"Coming up in today’s show: Simon Howes, the General Manager of CAMS-Tifosi, the UCI Women’s team, and also of Team Brother UK-OnForm.” 

Phil Jones

“How do you keep riders fit and motivated when, effectively, it looks like a lot of the race programme is disappearing in front of our eyes?”

Simon Howes

“Yeah, it’s challenging. It’s going to be challenging. There’s no doubt about it.”

Timothy John

“We couldn’t have begun this year thinking about something called the coronavirus and now it’s decimating the calendar.”

Timothy John

“Michelle Jenner, Simon Howes’ partner and unofficial personal manager.”

Michelle Jenner

“He said, ‘I’m just going to do the team kit.’ I said: ‘I’m just going to try and do a casserole.’ 

LAUGHTER

“I was just stood among all this team kit while chopping carrots and trying to get the dinner in. I got the dinner in, and then we carried on packing. About an hour-and-a-half later, everything was bagged up and ready.”

Timothy John

“And Rebecca Richardson, the Welsh hill climb champion.”

Rebecca Richardson

“And I remember this moment where I could sense that she was getting tired, and I was tired, and I remember wanting to say, ‘It’s ok, mum. I’ll take the weekend off.’ And then I thought: ‘No! We’re almost there. We’re going to get there!’”

LAUGHTER

“And then three weeks down the line, it was all over.”

MUSIC

Part One: Meet The Guests

Timothy John

“Our guests today are living, breathing illustrations of the value of goodwill and family support in domestic cycling and how that combines with the support of a major business like Brother UK. 

“Simon Howes is the founder and general manager of Team Brother UK-OnForm, a development team. He’s also the founder and manager of the CAMS-Tifosi UCI Women’s Team, which last year, of course, was Brother UK-Tifosi p/b OnForm. And if you’re confused at this stage, don’t worry, because we will be discussing in depth the transformation of that team. We’ll also discuss Phil’s goal in bringing new money into the sport. Simon, good morning.” 

Simon Howes

"Good morning all."

Timothy John

“We’re also joined by Michelle Jenner, who is Simon’s partner, and probably his personal manager as well. She is the lady without whom either team, Brother UK-OnForm or CAMS-Tifosi, would function, and we’ll find out exactly how Michelle helps Simon to keep the show on the road in this episode. Michelle, good morning.” 

Michelle Jenner

"Good morning."

Timothy John

“Finally, we’re joined by Rebecca Richardson: athlete, rider, mother, business owner, lecturer, Welsh hill climb champion, Monsal Hill Climb champion, and somebody who relies, I think, on her own support network, within the family and within the sport, to represent Brother UK as a member of Team Brother UK-OnForm and also as a sponsored athlete in this year’s hill climb campaign. Rebecca, good morning.”

Rebecca Richardson

"Good morning."

 

Timothy John

“Simon, let’s start with you. You and I first met in 2013 when you were running IG-Sigma Sport, a UCI-registered men’s team, but your history in our sport goes much further than that and began as a rider. Tell us how you discovered the sport. Give us an overview of your riding career.”

Simon Howes

“Yeah, crikey, now I’ve got to admit to my age, I guess. My love of cycling started in 1982, when I was a young boy and has progressed as a rider and then various other levels to management, which is where we are now. I’ve been in the sport for many, many years, and it’s one I love and feel passionate about.”

Timothy John

“I think as a rider, Simon, you were on the cusp of that very early development of British Cycling from a national federation to what has become a superpower in world cycling. You were on the fringes of what later became the World-Class Performance Plan, working with Peter Keen, I think. Tell us a bit about that.” 

Simon Howes

“So, yeah, as you say, it’s an amazing situation now that British Cycling and British riders find themselves in. I was slightly on the cusp [of the World-Class Performance Plan], if not slightly before. 

“I took myself to Belgium  at the age of 17, 18, as a first-year senior. I’d go to races in Europe - Belgium, Italy, France - and I’d be the only British rider in these events. Now, I see the start lists and there’ll be three or four British teams. So, yeah, it’s very different now. It’s for the better. 

“Peter Keen was involved. It was at a time when Chris Boardman was becoming a household name through his Olympic successes, and Peter was his coach at the time. I went down to

Chichester University, Peter’s base when he first started, for some testing.

“I got on the national squad as a result of that test. It was at a time when numbers and power-to-weight ratios [were first analysed]. I forget the exact number, but I think it was something like 5.4 watts per kilogram, but that one test got me onto the national squad at the time. It’s crazy that you do one test.” 

Timothy John

“You, this year, I think, will celebrate a unique achievement. When you and I first met, as we discussed, you were the manager of IG-Sigma Sport, a men’s UCI Continental team that rode in the Tour of Britain. This year, you’ll be doing the same thing in a parallel field with the women’s team.”

Simon Howes

“Yeah, so I believe that’s correct. In 2013, I was the manager, the DS of a men’s team in the Tour of Britain, and this year, it’s already been announced that our UCI women’s team, CAMS-Tifosi, will be taking part in the Women’s Tour.

“So, yeah, quite unique, I believe. The first manager, the first DS [to work] at both events, so, yeah, quite a unique and quite a proud thing for me, as well. It shows the years of

experience I’ve achieved at a management level.”

Timothy John

“It’s interesting, having made that shift from men’s professional cycling to starting Team OnForm, which, although it is a mixed team - it has a junior men’s team and a senior men’s team - began, I believe as a women’s team.

“You also had tremendous success with Brother UK-Tifosi p/b OnForm, now CAMS-Tifosi. You’re pretty well placed to describe the differences between managing female athletes and

male athletes. You could probably write a book on it. What’s the headline?”

Simon Howes

“I’ve been asked this question a few times really about how do I manage the boys differently to the girls. I actually find it quite a difficult question to answer because I don’t believe I do it any differently. We call it the Simon way, my way, I don’t know. They’re athletes. You mentioned that in the question. They’ve both got the same drive, the same passion, so you deal with them in the same way. 

“Actually, the differences lie individually. An athlete might need telling off or a firm word, or the opposite. They might need comforting, progression and development, so you deal with

them individually. It’s not so much about male or female, it’s about individuals.”

Timothy John

“Give us a sense of the early days of Team OnForm. It’s grown rapidly. It’s a talent pipeline now to CAMS-Tifosi on the female side. How did it begin?”

Simon Howes

“As you say, it grew very rapidly. In the first instance, I’d been to a round of The Tour Series and come back and thought I would run my own team or seek to put my own team together. Obviously, when you have those initial thoughts, there are so many things that you need to put in place. There’s sponsorship, riders, management, support, volunteers - all of those things. 

“The initial goal was to set up a women’s team and that has spiralled. I won’t say it spiralled out of control, but it spiralled very, very quickly from being, potentially, a six to eight-rider women’s team to, as we’ve already mentioned, a men’s team, a junior team of girls and boys. So it went from being a six-rider team to 40, I think in year one. It was mammoth task, in terms of riders.”

Timothy John

“It occupies a particular place on the spectrum between club cycling and professional cycling. It’s an amateur team - and it is a team, isn’t it? It’s by invitation. It’s not a club - but you’re operating to professional standards. Tell us about balancing those requirements. You’ve got people with full-time jobs, for example.”

Simon Howes

“It’s an amateur team. There’s no question that it’s an amateur team. The riders work part-time. Everyone involved in the team is a volunteer, so everyone gives up their own time to support the team. That said, that’s not an excuse not to be professional in every single thing we do. So it’s definitely an amateur team, no question, but run professionally and that’s really important to me. It has a club feel, but results and professionalism are the key drivers. It’s very much an amateur team with a professional set up." 

Timothy John

“Tell us about that set up, because it’s the full nine yards, isn’t it? Anyone who’s been to a race and seen the Team OnForm presence would know at a glance that you’re doing the job properly.”

Simon Howes

“Some might say that we show off! It’s not showing off in any way. Having been a bike rider, I know what my expectations would have been, so the team are run to meet my expectations. If it’s not set up as how I would have wanted as a rider, I don’t believe I’m delivering the team as it should be. So we start with the gazebo. Lots of teams now do. We were, probably, four years ago, at the forefront of gazebos.”

LAUGHTER

Timothy John

“The forefront of gazebos!”

Simon Howes

“It’s now become a competition about who can bring the biggest. We talk about staff (we call them staff, but they’re really volunteers). In year one, we had a psychologist and still do now. We really take rider care as the key. 

“I always say a happy rider, a happy racer is a successful rider, a successful racer. The more we can offer those riders - mechanical support, soigneur support, psychological support, and being an organised team [the better]. Organisation is massively important. Many teams aren’t as organised as they can be. We try and deliver above that, so, as you say, an amateur team with professional standards.”

Timothy John

“Rebecca, this must be music to your ears. You will have watched this from across the paddock last year. You were involved with Brother UK-FusionRT, and we’ll talk about that in-depth later, but give us a sense from a rider’s perspective about what Simon has just discussed: having that support, creating happy riders able to deliver top performance.”

Rebecca Richardson

“Yeah, so I got some experience of this with FusionRT, which was my first team. I was lucky that it was my first team because the manager, Terry Williamson, had a huge amount of experience, and it just so happened to be the most successful season that the team had enjoyed, and one that he retired from. As an introduction to the sport at team level, it was a fantastic experience. 

“But you go to races and you look around and OnForm were always a team that I had looked towards and been impressed by the way that they present themselves. I’ve looked at the

pathway and the development aspects and Simon’s approach.”

Timothy John 

“And, more generally, that connection between being a happy rider and a successful rider, because, of course, the major part of your career, which we’ll discuss later and in a separate podcast, is as a hill climber. The hill climb, of course, is a solo event where you’re very much running your own show. You’re responsible for your own happiness, if that’s the right phrase. 

“Tell me about that connection and how you manage that pressure, that expectation, and make sure that you’re in the right frame of mind when you start the race.”

Rebecca Richardson 

“Yeah, you absolutely need to be in a good mental place. It’s all about mental stability and, more than that, you need to have some positive mental aspects. Going into racing, it’s a team sport but it’s an individual sport too. You have to have your own motivations and they need to come from quite deep inside you: why are you there? What’s motivating you to race? 

“For me, riding for a team for the first time, I was really motivated to be a good team player and learn some of the tricks of the trade. It gave me immense satisfaction to help team-mates who’d maybe been going through the cycles of becoming better and developing as riders and then watching them succeed: riders like Claire Steels and Emma Lewis and Molly

Patch. Actively helping them in races, covering moves and things like that, was my motivation last year and that created some happy, good feelings.

“Moving onto the hill climb scene, I came to the end of the road racing season and realised I wanted to do something for myself. I wanted some of my own successes. I started doing the hill climbs and could never have imagined where that would have taken me. Obviously, it’s taken me quite far with the wins that I’ve had and that really spurred me on for this year with the road racing.”

Timothy John

“Give us a sense of…I mean, I don’t want to get too far into hill climbing, because we’re going to discuss that separately, but tell us about the role of a specialist hill climber within a road race. How are you able to place those skills at the team’s disposal?”

Rebecca Richardson

“We did a training camp last year with FusionRT, and it was in Mallorca. It was quite hilly, and the team had some really good hill climbers there. I won’t beat around the bush: I’m one of many fantastic hill climbers, and if they came to any hill climb competition, I would be worried! It just so happens that most people are pretty tired by the end of the season and don’t appear. I’m quite humble about that.”

LAUGHTER

“In the team, there were some really good hill climbers, and, actually, there were some very nuanced characteristics about how people climb. When we practiced at the team training camp, it became quite evident where some people were stronger on a hill than others. 

“For example, me and Claire Steels had quite different characteristics, but we could help each other in a race. There were a couple of occasions where I paced Claire on some low gradient climbs, where I was much stronger, where I knew I could cover any moves, and protect her going into crosswinds as well. And knowing too that she had the kick, where I didn’t,

to come over and attack. I believe it helped the results she got in a couple of races. That was really satisfying for me, yeah.”

Timothy John

“Simon, you must be looking forward to having this skill at your disposal: having somebody who understands climbing at that level. As Rebecca says, it’s a nuanced activity amid the hurly-burly of a road race.”

Simon Howes

“That’s exactly right. Whenever you look to build a team, you search for riders who have their own individual characteristics and abilities: sprinter, climber, rouleur, team player, etc. It’s very important, and that’s why Rebecca is in the team because she’s our climber. And, as we know, races vary throughout the season from a town centre crit to a hilly stage race. Obviously, it will be great when Rebecca comes to those races.”

Timothy John

“Yes. Phil, you and I, got quite a good insight last year. We went to the Vitus Pro Cycling p/b Brother UK team camp in Calpe, where they had a timed ascent: a miniature hill climb. Well, there was nothing miniature about it. It was a pretty serious climb. It was a hill climb competition within the wider context of a team training camp, and it was interesting to see the different approaches that the different riders took that day. You were helping with the timing, Phil, I seem to remember.”

Phil Jones

“Yeah, it was really interesting. That uncovers which role each rider has within the team. We had Ed Clancy. He’s just about brutal power. The character that he brought and the status that he brought was almost as important as his performance on a bike. He was really a statesman in the team, which I thought was great. 

“And then, equally, they had someone like Adam Kenway, a former national hill climb champion, who was  really up for it and thinking much more about his pacing. Ed was like, “Ok. I’m

just going to try and survive and get up,’ and Adam was like: ‘Yeah, I want to go for this, and it’s going to be a really good test for me.’

“I think there was no better demonstration of what each rider’s role is until you come to that moment of truth: ‘It’s an almighty great climb, and we’ve all got to try and get up it, and who is going to be quickest?’ 

“There was quite a bit of competition within the team as well; quite a bit of banter. I thought it was as good a team building exercise as it was in gaining data for Cherie Pridham to understand who is going well and who’s not. It was fascinating, and I was very happy I was in the team car, because if you’d sent me up there, I probably would have done the reverse of a Strava KOM and [we would have] seen who had have been the slowest time up. That would have been me.”

LAUGHTER

Timothy John

“We’re onto team training camps already, which I think is a really good time to bring Michelle into the conversation and to talk about your role in supporting Simon and, by extension, supporting Brother UK-OnForm and CAMS-Tifosi. You were telling us an interesting story earlier about preparing for the first training camp you helped with, where, I think, the mother of all kit deliveries arrived at your home address. Give us a sense of that.”

Michelle Jenner

“Two or three large boxes arrived Friday, as we were off to the training camp on Saturday. I was off to a presentation at my running club, so I left Simon at home with one of the riders who was staying the night. They got excited and wanted to take the kit to the camp. I got home at about 11 o’clock and there was stuff everywhere. They’d got what they needed in the cases. 

“I think we left at seven o’clock the next morning. We did the team camp, walked back in the front door, everything was then emptied all over the floor into piles and then sorted out.

There was a momentous amount of kit.”

LAUGHTER

Timothy John

“I mean, this is a world within a world, isn’t it? The cycling world and the realities or running a domestic cycling team. And yet it’s not quite so strange to you, I think. You grew up in a cycling family.”

Michelle Jenner

“Yeah, my brother started as a schoolboy. So, as a child, most weekends were spent at the edge of a road, waiting for him to whizz past. He also did cyclo-cross and track, so it wasn’t just the summer, it was the winter as well. He’s still a cyclist now, competing in the veterans league. 

“So I probably had about 15 or 16 years where I wasn’t involved in the cycling world, but still very aware, and when I got back into the cycling world, it was amazing to see the same names and faces.”

Timothy John

“It’s a tight community and very supportive. The work that you do behind the scenes is key to that.  So re-entering the cycling world I guess involved the gentleman sat to your right, but you’d known each other pretty much your whole lives.”

Michelle Jenner

“Yeah, so when my brother was a cyclist…He’s slightly older than Simon, but because we all lived locally, Simon’s name was quite well known at the race, just because of his ability at such a young age. I’ve known all the family for about 35 or 40 years.”

Phil Jones

“Hang on, Simon, you told me you were only 35! You’ve been outed!”

LAUGHTER

Timothy John

"The numbers are not adding up!"

Michelle Jenner

"He was very young!"

LAUGHTER

Phil Jones

“Michelle, you made me laugh, because when we came along to the CAMS-Tifosi launch in the City recently, it was an amazingly attended event with all sorts of people in the room. You and I got chatting, and you were telling me your casserole story, which I thought was hilarious. Will you just tell us the casserole story?”

Michelle Jenner

“Again, it was the CAMS-Tifosi kit had landed at our front door. I’d worked from home to take delivery of it, as time was getting tight for it to be distributed. I went into work, came home from work and, again, it was all over my kitchen floor, all these piles. Simon said: ‘I’m just going to do the team kit.’ And I said: ‘I’m just going to try and do a casserole.’

LAUGHTER

“So I was stood among all of this team kit, chopping carrots and trying to get the dinner in. So we got the  dinner in and about an hour-and-a-half later, everything was bagged up and ready.”

Phil Jones

“Yeah, and I think this was the funny thing for me. These are the stories below the surface. We turn up to races and watch them and love all the polish and the bikes and the gazebos and the riders looking great, but the journey to get there involves a heck of a lot of sacrifice from a heck of a lot of people: your family and all the goodwill that exists among the volunteer community. But when you told me that casserole story, I thought: ‘That’s it!’ 

“‘I am trying to make a casserole and your kit is everywhere!’ Well, that’s kind of what we’re all signed up for. If you want this sport to succeed, then these are the realities of what goes on behind the scenes. 

“To some degree, what we want this podcast to be all about is telling these stories and bringing them to life, the characters and the personalities; not just the riders on the bikes, but the people who sit behind this entire sport and help it to be what it can be.”

Michelle Jenner

“There’s always a box of equipment, clothing, bikes, somewhere in the house.”

Timothy John

“This is something, Rebecca, where you will have an insight, too. You run your own business, you’re an architect. You’re a mother, you have a young son. How does family support help you do what you do: to function as an athlete?”

Rebecca Richardson

“Good question. I don’t know. I’d have to go back, maybe four or five years, when I was coming up as a club rider. Somebody said to me: ‘Hey, you should have a go at racing,’ and then the evolution to race at this level has been a bit of a journey. 

“Initially, I didn’t come from a cycling background, like Michelle and Simon. I came from an active family, but never one that went to clubs or anything like that. My dad went up mountains, rode bikes, things like that. It was really very much like that, so to go into a very structured format like training and racing, something that my family wasn’t familiar with, it’s been a learning process for everybody.

“Every year, it feels like we’re all going on this journey and learning together. For example, this year, in January, my mum was saying: ‘When is the racing going to start? I need to get the dates in my calendar so we can start organising child care.’ And it was like: ‘Oh. This is new language.’ It’s been a learning process for us all. 

“I remember in the hill climb season last year. I’d been travelling every weekend. It was quite draining for us all. My mum was doing some extra care for Arthur, because things were going well for me. And I remember this moment where I could just sense that she was getting tired, and I was tired, and I remember wanting just to say: ‘It’s ok, mum. I’ll take the

weekend off.’ And I remember thinking: ‘No! We’re almost there. We’re almost there. We’re going to get there!’

LAUGHTER

“And then, three weeks down the line, it was all over, and I made sure that from that point until now, I’ve really backed off any real child care support. You periodise your help!”

LAUGHTER

Phil Jones

“Did your mum realise how well you were doing? Did she ask: ‘How was it?’ Did you come and say: ‘I won! I got a course record!’ Was she sharing in the joy of that moment with you?”

Rebecca Richardson

“Yeah, exactly. About two years ago, I started hiding my training and hiding my biking. This was a funny thing to do, but I’d suffered from so pretty negative people in my life, the wrong people, through some relationships that I’d got on involved with, and you start listening to the wrong voices. They’re saying ‘You’re selfish. You’re obsessed with biking. You shouldn’t be training all this time.’ And you start listening to these voices. You go through bad times when you’re not biking and it’s not good for you."

“I got to this point where I thought: “I’m going to do no social media.’  I remember one day, about a year later, I went to the bike club and heard about a 12-hour time-trial. I was going to do it. I had a coach, who set out everything I needed to do.

“I went to the local bike shop and said: ‘Can I buy 15 water bottles, please,’ because I was going to hide them along the bypass so I could stop and refuel myself. He was like: ‘I didn’t even know you were biking still.’ I was like: ‘Yeah, I’m still biking, still training.’ He was like: ‘You’re not telling anyone about it. Just ask for some support for your 12-hour. Put it on your

Facebook, and I bet someone will come forward and help you.’

“He said: ‘I just thought you were being a bit elusive by not saying what you’re doing,’ and in my mind it was the opposite. I was trying not to have an impact on everybody’s lives by shouting about myself and also I didn’t want to the have negativity.

“As soon as I put that message out, I got support from the chairman of the club, and we drove down and did the 12-hour, and that was the catalyst for me starting to welcome support and put stuff on social media. That was two years ago, and it’s been a journey until now, when I’m quite out there on social media, and I have some really good management strategies for any negativity, so that doesn’t come into play. I only listen to positive voices.”

Timothy John

“Tapping into that support on the day of the 12-hour, gaining the support of the chairman, did that by itself lift your performance?”

Rebecca Richardson

“Absolutely. I realised I could not have done that 12-hour by myself. It was the Welsh Championship 12-hour. I had no idea what I was embarking on.”

LAUGHTER

Timothy John

“Simon’s chuckling here!”

Rebecca Richardson

“I had worked out my food and water strategy, which went to plan. If he’d not been there, I don’t know how I would have done it because it was done in 30 degree heat as well, during that heat wave we had two years ago.”

Phil Jones

“Come on, Rebecca. What did you do it in? What did you do it in? What did you that 12-hour in?”

Rebecca Richardson

“I didn’t do massively well. I won it, so I got the Welsh championship. I did 212 miles. I think the heat was against me. Once we got six hours in, the heat got to 30 degrees on the bypass. I was getting heat off the bypass. 

“I was getting socks filled with ice and stuffing them down my back, so I really started to lag. The last six hours were like the most boring day at work. I wanted to get off the bike, but I thought: ‘Keep ticking! Keep ticking!’”

INTERLUDE

“Hi. I’m Dean Downing, and you’re listening to the Brother UK Cycling Podcast.”

MUSIC

Timothy John

“We’re having this conversation at what I hope is the end of the wettest winter on record! That feels like a long time ago. Interesting to hear Phil ask about your family’s ability to share in that success, and Michelle I guess that’s a reward for you too: the hard work that you put in behind the scenes for Team OnForm and for CAMS-Tifosi, that nobody outside of that world really is aware of, and somebody like Rebecca Durrell is stood at the top of the podium being crowned British Circuit Race Champion or the Anna and Leah are off to the WorldTour, that must be hugely rewarding.”

Michelle Jenner

“Oh, it is, especially knowing how much work Simon has put into it and to look at his face as they cross the line or when they’re on the podium, it’s all worth it.”

Timothy John

“You’re deflecting the complement already! This isn’t about the hard work that Simon puts in. Nobody questions that, and he’s a very visible and vocal presence in the paddock area. Few people, I think, would come and pat you on the back and say: ‘Well done, Michelle, for getting the casserole done,’ and yet without that, none of it works.”

Michelle Jenner

“Yeah. I don’t go to all the races, so on the days where he has been away at the race, I make sure that the he comes home there’s a dinner and there’s no stress or pressure when he walks in the door. He doesn’t have to mow the grass or put the bins out or anything like that. Yeah, I just try to support him the best I can really.”

Timothy John

“Are there periods when it doesn’t seem worthwhile. Do you wish life could be normal for a change? Rebecca, that’s a question for you, too.”

Michelle Jenner

“I suppose occasionally, but they are very occasional. I knew what I was signing up for. I have friends who don’t understand or who have no knowledge, They just go: ‘Why?’ But I knew what I was signing up for.”

Timothy John

“Is there a support network within the support network, and let me explain what I mean by that. You are helping Simon; doubtless, there will be partners, relatives, helping other team managers and other teams throughout the sport. You began by telling us it’s still a very close knit community; that the names and the faces you recognise from 30, 40 years ago are still there now.  Do you as helpers all get together at the side of the road and share stories?”

Michelle Jenner

“Yeah, I think so. On the team last year, Anna Henderson’s mum, Janet, we had a lot of contact.. When you got to a race, or away from races, we have a nice, long chat with them, so that’s really nice. She’s a great baker as well.”

Phil Jones

“I’m just thinking now, what does the Tinder profile for Simon look like? 

LAUGHTER

“‘Here it is! Weekends in vans! Meals at service stations! Sleeping overnight in Travelodges all over the country! Sorting out kit!’

“You’d be looking at it going: ‘ That is definitely a swipe!”

Michelle Jenner

“It’s not always the most glamorous!”

Phil Jones

“Exactly! I guess with your brother, that’s prepared you for life with Simon, but it takes heck of a lot of commitment n my view, and my experience and my knowledge so far. I’ve been to races and seen you in the pits, and wherever you can help, you’re there. You’re around as a capable pair of hands. You seem very calm, having got to know you a little bit.

“One thing I’ve learned, whenever I go to the pits as a sponsor on race day, I try to keep it very low i.e. don’t try to talk to the DS too much. Don’t try to engage with the riders too much when they’re trying to think about the warm up and all that. Do it after the race. Have a chat then - “How are you? How have things gone?’ - because before, you’re in the way, because

they’re doing so much. 

“They’ve got so much going on inside their heads, and everyone’s asking Simon stuff. Something’s   gone missing, and someone’s forgotten their gloves, and you’re running around trying to sort it all out, so I’ve realised over the years that having that extra pair of hands is really important.”

Michelle Jenner

“I very much step back when we get to a race. I get out of the van and then perhaps go for a wander, get a coffee, and then be in the background, really, in case I’m needed for anything. But I certainly don’t think about asking what we might do next weekend.”

Timothy John

“You’re work is done by that point, I guess, Michelle?”

Michelle Jenner

“Yeah, usually. There are times when I’ve been to races, perhaps on a really hot day, and we haven’t got enough water. I’ll go and find a supermarket and get some more water or some food.”

Simon Howes

“On race day, for me, there’s always one thing that I’ll require and that’s a can of Coke.”

LAUGHTER

“We talk about this enthusiasm and adrenaline and all these things, but if I don’t have the can of Coke my life isn’t balanced. And, actually, interestingly, we mentioned Michelle’s work and what she does during the race, and we’ve mentioned the crit champs, when Anna Henderson won. I think we went for two, didn’t we? We had two cans of Coke that day!

“I was in the pits. I said, ‘Michelle, I need a can of Coke.’ It was an important thing, actually. My tension levels and adrenaline was getting so high that. It needed controlling. The sugar balance was needed to bring my back into control of that 45 minutes of racing.”

Timothy John

“Wow! Well, we’re talking about Anna Henderson, in passing, even including her mother, and I mentioned Becks Durrell earlier. It would be a good opportunity, I think, within the context of this podcast, to discuss the inside story of that handover from Brother UK - Tifosi p/b OnForm to CAMS-Tifosi. ’m lucky enough to know this story. It’s uncommon within cycling that one major sponsor  makes room for another and allows the project to continue. Simon, let’s start with you. Give us an insight into how that transition occurred.”

Simon Howes

“As you say, it’s unheard of where one sponsor will ‘drop back’, I guess is the right phrase to use. We’d met Brother UK and Phil at the end of last season. We’d had a very, very successful season with Brother UK-Tifosi, and it was going to continue into year three, because Brother UK also support Team OnForm, my development team, or the ‘original’ team, as I like to call it. 

“Everything was put in place. Everything was signed. The handshake was done for 2020. But then, as you say, circumstances changed and a sponsor came forwards that was willing to invest an amount in the team. It was a very open conversation, like Phil and I have had since day one, really. Even at the meeting where the handshake took place for Brother UK to support the team in 2020, Phil’s words then were: ‘If an opportunity arises, let’s talk about it, let’s discuss it, and if it’s beneficial to the riders and the team and the support team, we’ll

look at it and go with it.’

“So Phil and I had the open conversation, and Phil decided and agreed that the best thing to do for British cycle sport and for the team, if you look at the bigger picture, and also for us, was to step back form the UCI team. Fantastically for us, and I’m delighted that this the case, he decided that Brother UK would continue to sponsor Team OnForm. The partnership, the friendship, remains in place, and who knows what future years will bring?

“It’s great. Keeping sponsors within the sport is massively important to me. Through my years of experience in cycling, I’ve seen so many sponsors come into the sport and be lost because they haven’t been looked after, promises haven’t been met, etc. etc. 

“That’s one of my proudest achievements - you’ve mentioned Anna, you’ve mentioned Rebecca; amazing, that we’ve won the national crit championships two years on the trot and

many other races - but to keep the sponsors that we’ve had since day one and still wanting to support the team is my biggest achievement.

“Writtle University College: they’ve been involved since day one. Brother now is moving to year three. Tifosi, our bike supplier, are moving into year two. There is no sponsor, really, that has been lost. As a team owner, that’s huge. I’m obviously very grateful that Brother has chosen to continue because that’s a sponsorship that I want to continue.” 

Timothy John

“Phil, give us an insight into your goals as a sponsor in making that relationship happen.”

Phil Jones

“Yeah, I think you also have to plug it into the road map of what was going on in the scene at the time, actually. We also had, at the end of that season, Brother UK-FusionRT coming to an end. That was a bit of a surprise to us all. That was run by a fabulous individual called Terry Williamson. Really, Terry decided to hang up his spurs. He’d got to a time of life where he just couldn’t maintain this constant travelling all over the country, and, as a result, despite all our efforts…

“I remember having a phone call and saying, ‘Come on, Terry. Is there anything we can do? Is this about money?’ Because, actually, what I was looking at was the race scene as a

whole and thinking: ‘We need women’s teams. The sport needs women’s team and the platform.’ 

“So, suddenly, Fusion had come to an end. Some of their riders were moving on. Claire was wanting to go and spend more time on her business in Mallorca, if I recall, and so on. So we were in this funny place, where suddenly we were one team light in our portfolio.

“And then we met in London, didn’t we, Simon, where we were talking about 2020, and I remember, we actually shook hands at that point about going UCI. We were like: ‘Let’s do it.’

That was already happening.”

Simon Howes

“Exactly right, yeah. As I say, plans for 2020 were already in place. That was great for us because we had the security and we were moving forwards, which was very important.”

Phil Jones

“I have learned that in the sport: the one thing that you can do as a sponsor for your team is give them a handshake as soon as you can. Commit. Then the team can commit to riders and race programmes. 

“We shook hands and said, let’s do this, which meant that you could have conversations with everybody and tell them that you were definitely going to become a UCI team with a better

race programme etc. We were all like: ‘Brilliant!’

“But then, of course, that other phone call came, didn’t it? I bet you felt a bit awkward about that phone call to me, which was: ‘Someone’s turned up with a bigger cheque book than you.’ I guess that was the reality of the situation when you see it for what it is.

“And I remember that conversation thinking: ‘That is just the best thing.’ I’d rather be kicked off by someone with a massive cheque book because think of what that money is going to

do for domestic cycling, for the women’s team, how you’re going to be able to equip them, the race programme. This is gong to be very good for the sport. 

“You’ve got to put your ego aside.This was not about, ‘Hang on. It’s Brother UK-Tifosi, and we want it to stay like that.’ It was actually: ‘No, no. That’s going to be great. Now what should we do?’ And that’s when that sub-conversation came: ‘Why don’t we go back to where we started, back with OnForm?’ And I was like: ‘Yeah, you’re right. Let’s do that.’  And here we are.”

Simon Howes

“Yeah, you’re absolutely right. When we talk about the UCI team, the elite team, interestingly our programme has changed. It’s become a European-based programme as much as a UK-based programme. Team OnForm might be the development team, but that doesn’t mean that we’re not wanting them to be the number one team in the UK and continue to win races that we’ve won in the past.”

Timothy John

“Somebody who will share that ambition is sat to your right. Rebecca, Phil and Simon have given us the structural reality behind that shift in sponsorship. For you, it will have a deeply personal impact. It’s literally kept you in the sport. Tell us the story from your perspective.”

Rebecca Richardson

“It was a bit of a surprise for me as well when Fusion and Terry Williamson decided to retire, because we had all agreed the 2020 season, and we had new riders signed up. So when Terry said he was going to retire, I said: ‘Well done, and I hope it all goes well for you.’ At the end of the day, you could see that he’d put so much into the sport and was running up and down the country. He’s getting to an age where he looks after his grandchildren quite a lot. I could see he was a really busy person, but also wanted a bit of rest, as well. 

“It was a bit worrying. I say worrying because Phil picked up on the fact that as a team, but also as a rider, having some security for the next season was really important as you start to

plan your training and not having to think about what’s going to happen [with the team].

“I had a few options in my mind. First of all that I went to a team, and secondly, worst case scenario, just ride for yourself; so try and stay in the scene, essentially. 

“It is really hard. You mentioned some riders like Claire, leaving to carry on her business in Mallorca. It is really hard, actually, in the amateur scene, because, as Simon said, we train and conduct ourselves in a professional manner, yet we’re having to work as well. Keeping that ball rolling is really difficult when you’re wanting to do everything well, and sometimes

that’s not always possible. When you have extra support from a sponsor, it can just tip you over. 

“Phil reached out to individual riders, myself included, and said: ‘How can we keep you in the sport?’ He recognised that the health of the sport and the diversity of British racing is reliant on, in terms of women’s cycling, needing to work and have a career alongside professional conduct in their cycling. He recognised that I was on the cusp of thinking the sport can’t work for me and offered that support and also put me in touch with Simon. It all came together from there, really.”

Timothy John

“That’s the human impact, isn’t it? We recorded a podcast recently with Dean Downing, who rode with Madison Genesis for part of his career. Madison did a fantastic job in supporting that team for a number of years. It now has different commercial goals and that team has come to an end. But there’s a number of young riders [from that team] who have left the sport completely; a number of really talented young riders, all under 25, who won’t be racing in 2020. That’s the reality when sponsorship goals change or when sponsors leave the sport. 

“I guess, Rebecca, you would have been staring down the barrel [of that scenario]. After all your hard work, balancing being a mother, running your own business, training and racing

week in, week out, suddenly you’re looking at a situation where you might not have been doing any racing at all next season.”

Rebecca Richardson

“Absolutely. You need platforms on which to perform, regardless of whether you’re in cycling or in business. Luckily, I had the hill climb platform which evolved. As the season evolved, it was like August to  October that I was having to drive up and down the country, and that was costing money. I took that moment. I thought: ‘I’m going to ride this wave, I’m going to ride this crest. However, it’s having an impact on my work and on my financial situation, because you can’t work so much. Friday to Monday, you’re pretty much out of the picture. You’re recovering or you’re driving, and then the extra travel the accommodation [costs money], especially being a single income household. It does bring pressures. 

“The platform that Brother UK has given me, being an individual rider in the hill climb season, but also having a team to ride for in the [road racing] season. Simon has been really kind

in allowing that two-sided aspect of my cycling.

“The benefits it’s has given me is a platform for cycling, as in the financial sponsorship from Brother to help me get to those races in the hill climb season, but also, bizarrely, it has had a different impact, which is a business platform. It’s resulted in my getting more work. It’s providing a bigger picture that I hadn’t anticipated. Now that I see the relationship between cycling and my business [flourish] I just start to realise that there are more reasons to bike than just my athletic performance. It’s benefiting my business as well.”

Timothy John

“Give us an insight into that business. I’ve used the word ‘architect’. I know that only describes a small part of what you do.”

Rebecca Richardson

“I work for myself. I do architecture. I come from a construction background, but I did all the traditional architectural training. I have a project management cap on too for my dad’s building business. I get clients who are now coming to me because of my cycling endeavours, and some of the pieces that you have written about me are on my website. People read them. It’s fantastic.”

Timothy John

“That’s wonderful to hear. Let’s bring it back to a sporting sense. Do you have any definite goals for 2020? I’m talking specifically about the road. Is this a continuing part of your education or are you now at a stage where yo have specific targets? Perhaps I should be asking Simon!”

Rebecca Richardson

“I have specific targets. Last year, my overall goals was just to learn about team work and  tactics. You get to the end of the season, you’re a bit tired, you don’t see yourself wanting to progress. But then you refresh.

“I’ve got a couple of big targets. One Premier Calendar race that I’m targeting: The Tour of the Reservoir. All of my training is specific to that. There are other Premier Calendar races around it that I’m targeting, but that’s a kind of B-goal strategy.”

Simon Howes

“Targets are an interesting question, really. As a bike riders, you race week in, week out, sometimes two or three times a week. It’s very important that targets are focussed on your abilities, but you’ll also be in positions throughout the season where you hope a rider will be in a position to achieve something that they weren’t expecting to achieve, or had targeted as an achievement, which might be their greatest result of the season. 

“It goes back to my position on rider’s pigeon-holing themselves. The trouble with targets is that riders can often target a race that they believe suits them best, which is true because that comes from previous results, but my view is that you also need to make sure that while you set targets, many other opportunities will come and rise above and which you need to take at that moment in time so it’s an interesting question.”

Timothy John

“Maybe the wrong phrase. What, in the broadest sense, are your goals for 2020, Simon?”

Simon Howes

“It’s going to sound crazy, because sport is all about results and achievement, but I’m more focussed on the achievement side and letting results follow. We’ve already talked about a happy rider is a successful rider. If we finish the season and every rider has a smile on their face, it means we’ve achieved a huge amount and the riders have probably met the personal goals that they wanted to achieve, For a rider to finish with a smile on their face and a few wins along the way. 

“It’s about riders enjoying riding their bikes. One of the reasons this team exists…You’ve mentioned Madison, for example, and riders not being able to find new teams. One of the reasons this team exists is that from my time as a rider and as a manager, I’ve seen so many riders come into the sport and be lost, similar to what Rebecca was saying about being

unsure of the next path to take. 

“That breaks my heart a little bit: seeing riders with huge potential and ability to do well then be lost to the sport because there’s not an opportunity for them. That’s really what our goal is, to provide the opportunities that you have mentioned and that Rebecca has mentioned for riders to achieve what they want to achieve and get from the sport, which is, as I’ve mentioned previously, one that I’ve been involved with for many, many years and feel passionately about.”

Phil Jones

“Simon. you’re obviously uniquely positioned to comment on life in the scene from a manager’s perspective. We’ve just had the race programme recently launched for 2020, so what’s your view about what’s going on in the scene, the race programme. What are your thoughts?”

Simon Howes

“Firstly, from a rider’s perspective and from a team manager’s perspective, you have to be positive. It’s very easy to be negative and focus on what’s not there. Let’s focus on what is there. 

“The Lincoln Grand Prix is our first National Road Series event. It’s an amazing race. I’ve been going to that race since…Well, for 30 years, I guess. It was the junior national championships many years ago, when I was 17. I’ve probably gone to that race every year since. It’s a huge race and a fantastic race to focus on, so let’s focus on the positives and the races that are there. 

“The Tour of the Reservoir has been mentioned. It’s a two-day stage race; very hilly, very tough. A comment made by last year’s winner, who was on our team, was that it was harder than the Tour de Yorkshire It’s a tough, tough race. There are races on our calendar which are exciting, tough and challenging, and ultimately rewarding if you do well or achieve your

goal, whatever that might be in that race. So let’s focus on the positives.”

Phil Jones

“And the other thing that we were chatting about over breakfast this morning is that today an announcement has been made cancelling the Spring Classics, and you’ve got races booked, travel booked. How do you keep riders motivated and fit when, effectively, it looks like, at the minute, a lot of the race programme is disappearing before our eyes?”

Simon Howes

“Yeah, it’s challenging, it’s going to be challenging, there’s no question about that. The benefit, I guess, to the riders and the team is that it’s happened at the start of the season. Really, what you’re doing is delaying the start to the season. Winters are long, unfortunately, in the sense of every rider is always itching to get back into the race scene. 

“Coaches play a big part. It’s their job to ensure that a rider stays fit and well, and we’re looking to put in place other opportunities. I’ve just come back from a training camp in southern Spain. We were due to go to Belgium next weekend for a UCI 1.1. race, but now that’s been cancelled as have all races in Europe. At the moment, it looks like we’ll be doing a Tour de

Yorkshire recce. We’ll be doing a camp for those two days. We’ve put things in place to bring the team together on a fairly regular basis to ensure the team stays motivated.”

Phil Jones

“On a practical level, what happens about things like hotel bookings and all that kind of stuff? Teams need money. Money gets committed to things like that. Then you’re not doing the race. I guess the upside is that you’re not paying the petrol now, as you don’t have to drive there and back. But things like the hotel bookings. You’ve had to put down deposits. Are you going to lose that? Race entry fees. What happens? Because many people might not know.”

Simon Howes

“I wish I knew the answer! Yesterday was the first instance in which we were made aware that races were cancelled, and naturally there has been a percentage if not all races cancelled in Europe. Our hotel bookings have been made, our tunnel crossings have been booked, so at this stage, I don’t know what  the cancellation policies are or if an insurance is in place. It’s something I’ll be looking into when this podcast has finished!”

LAUGHTER

Timothy John

“Gosh! What a way to end. We couldn’t have begun this year thinking about something called the coronavirus, and now it’s decimating the calendar. 

“Simon, thank-you very much indeed for joining us today. Michelle, thank you. Rebecca, hopefully you’ll be staying with us to discuss hill climbing in-depth in a later episode. 

“One thing, we like to do is a ‘social shoutout’ so we can make sure everybody’s social media handles are out there in public. Simon, you’re looking worried!”

Simon Howes

“I’m remembering what they are!”

Timothy John

“I have a note.

“So, starting with CAMS-Tifosi. If you want to follow them on Instagram, then it’s CAMS, in capitals, underscore, Tifosi. On Twitter, it’s all one word, @CAMSTifosi, and that’s the same on Facebook: all one word. 

“For TeamOnForm, on Instagram it is just that: @TeamOnForm. On Twitter, it’s @cycleteamonform, and on Facebook its just @teamonform. 

“Rebecca, you’re variously Rebecca, Bocs, all kinds of things. Give us your social handles.”

Rebecca Richardson

“So on Instagram it’s @bocs_richardson, and then on Facebook, you can find me @rebeccarichardson. I’m not so sure about Twitter, actually.” 

Timothy John

“You’re @rra_design.” 

LAUGHTER

Rebecca Richardson

"That's probably the most important one - my business!"

LAUGHTER

Timothy John

“And, of course, the man to my right is…”

Phil Jones

“Oh yes, you can find me @roadphil.”

Timothy John

“And if you’d like to follow the Brother Cycling channels [Facebook, Twitter and Instagram], and I implore you to do so, we're @brothercycling.”

Phil Jones

“So, Tim, that was a really interesting episode, wasn’t it, having Simon and Michelle and Rebecca here, because what we were trying to bring out in that episode was how important it is, not just the riders and managers, they all have support structures behind them. It’s so essential in order for the race scene to be what it is, that those people exist.”

Timothy John

“It’s so easy to fall into the trap of going to a major bike race, seeing the gleaming cars, the beautiful bikes, the honed athletes and thinking that this is a world completely divorced from anything that goes on in real life.

"The reality is that real life supports that world, and if there wasn’t people like Michelle, or if riders like Rebecca couldn’t call upon their families for essential support like child care, nothing else would happen.”

Phil Jones

“Yeah, and I thought what also was really interesting, and one thing I’ll say about Simon, and I’ve dealt with him now commercially for nearly three years, is I’ve always enjoyed the fact that he’ll have an honest conversation with you. If you’re in business, the one thing you want is: ‘Just be straight with me. Tell me the facts. What is it we need to deal with?’

“And I remember thinking, when we did have that difficult phone call, I put myself in Simon’s shoes and thinking he must be uncomfortable about making that call to me as lead sponsor

at the time to say: ‘Somebody has come and I’ve got to have a difficult conversation with you.’   

“I was like: “Simon, it’s completely ok. Let’s have this chat, because I know that the outcome of this chat is going to be very, very good and benefit a lot more people than the things that we want out of an individual sponsorship.’ I think he’s very good at that and a lot of managers could learn from the way he operates with his sponsors.”

Timothy John

“Yeah, he’s straight down the line, isn’t he? What you see with Simon is what you get. To put that in another context, when asked him the almost inevitable question - ‘You’ve managed a UCI men’s team. You’re now managing a UCI women’s team. What’s the difference?’ - his answer was. “There is no difference. I’m Simon. I manage men and women in exactly the same way.’”

MUSIC

Phil Jones

“So coming up in our next episode: we’ve got two fantastic studio guests in Adam Kenway and Rebecca Richardson, both incredible hill climbers in the UK scene, and we’re going to call that one, ‘Flat Caps and Frying Pans,’ where you’re going to learn about what it is that they do that can take them to this really dark place while climbing a hill and produce some of the best performances while at the same time growing themselves in their individual physical and mental capacity.”

MUSIC

Phil Jones

“If you’ve enjoyed today’s episode, please hit subscribe.”

News