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Brother UK Cycling Podcast – Episode 13

Episode description

The Tour Series is Britain’s best-loved series of city centre circuit races. Since 2009, it’s granted an early opportunity to blossoming British talent. Brother UK has sponsored The Tour Series since 2014 and served as Official Print and Results Partner since 2016. We proudly sponsor the Brother Fastest Lap competition, too. 

This episode is the second instalment of a two-part preview of the 2021 Tour Series. Co-hosts Timothy John and Phil Jones, the Managing Director of Brother UK, are joined by Larry Hickmott, the editor of VeloUK.net. The trio discuss key points from part one: a documentary-style examination of crit racing, also available from this platform. 

Reigning British Circuit Race Champions Joey Walker and Rebecca Durrell shared insights in our investigative episode. Here, Tim reflects on Joey’s revelation that elite riders must

always race on the very limit of crashing, such is the speed and intensity of top-level crit races like those featured in The Tour Series.

Phil offers his first impressions of all-action crit racing (“flat out from the gun and hold on till the line”) and a more detailed analysis based on the huge “situational awareness” that a rider must have to process the position of rivals, team-mates and instructions received while passing the pits.

Larry considers the star performers of the season-to-date and reflects that The Tour Series will represent a first coming together. He identifies Lucy Lee and Danni Shrosbree of Team Brother UK-LDN, Team Breeze and the Brother UK-sponsored Crimson Performance men’s squad among those to watch when The Tour Series begins. 

A condensed, week-long campaign represents The Tour Series’ return from its Covid-enforced absence last year. Councils have traditionally invested in hosting rounds. Many now face

budget shortfalls, following austerity and a public health crisis. Phil argues that the need to reinvigorate town centres offers race organisers a new selling point. 

Larry reports on the huge crowds who attended the recent National Circuit Series events in Otley and Ilkley. He reflects on public desire for enjoyment and events after a series of lockdowns. Covid, he concedes, continues to present elite cycle sport with an uncertain future, in the short-term at least. 

Tim argues that this September’s Tour of Britain will represent a valuable barometer of public opinion. Britain’s national tour has its “grand départ” on the Cornish riviera in September. The willingness or otherwise of crowds to gather in towns like Penzance to greet the race will be revealing, Tim maintains.

The trio considers the roster of top performers who have established reputations at The Tour Series. Alice and Hannah Barnes, Graham Briggs, Ed Clancy, Dean Downing, Grace and

Lucy Garner, Anna Henderson and Tom Pidcock are just some who used its town centre circuit races as a springboard to stardom. 

Listen now to enjoy insights from Tim, Larry and Phil and whet your appetite for the return of The Tour Series. Don’t forget to check out part one of this episode for insights from Joey Walker (Crimson Performance-Orientation Marketing), Rebecca Durrell (CAMS-Basso), Peter Hodges (SweetSpot) and Mark Botteley (Team Brother UK-OnForm). 

 
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Episode 13: “Tour Series Preview – Part Two”

Episode contents

  • 00.03 – Introduction
  • 00.36 – Coming Up
  • 01.52 – Part One: Hello And Welcome
  • 03.15 – Part Two Meet The Guests
  • 04.26 – Part Three: Crit Appeal
  • 10.57 – Part Four: A Platform To Perform
  • 13.44 – Part Five: Hot Tips For 2021
  • 17.03 – Part Six: Crit Skills
  • 20.28 – Part Seven: Recovery
  • 24.35 – Part Eight: Teamwork
  • 26.29 – Part Nine: Tactics And Communication
  • 31.10 – Part Ten: Brother UK's Teams In 2021
  • 36.35 – Part Eleven: Good Luck, Stay Safe

Transcript

Introduction

Timothy John

“If your passion lies in elite British road racing and you want an inside line on the teams, riders, organisers and sponsors that make this sport such a compelling spectacle, you’re in the right place.

“I’m Timothy John and joining me for every episode is my co-host, the Managing Director of Brother UK, Phil Jones.”

Phil Jones

“Thanks, Tim. It’s great to be here. We’re going to use this platform to talk about all the key issues surrounding the sport. With special guests, deep dives into hot topics and plenty of chat, we’ll keep you informed about all things UK racing. Stay tuned!”

Coming Up

Timothy John 

“Coming up in this analysis of our investigation into the enduring appeal of town centre crit racing and the Brother UK-sponsored The Tour Series. 

“We learn why The Tour Series’ return from its Covid-enforced hiatus offers new names a chance to make their mark.” 

Larry Hickmott

“There are so many names. It’s very difficult to know just who is going to be at the sharp end of The Tour Series because there’s a lot of young talent coming through, looking to make a name for themselves.”

Timothy John

“We hear how even triple Olympic champions have targeted the Brother Fastest Lap competition.”

Phil Jones

“I can remember Ed Clancy telling me once that they had decided to do exactly that. You just saw the team arrive like a train with Ed on the back of it, and Ed just catapulted off the back of this lead-out and, yes, of course, nailed the Fastest Lap award on the night.”

Timothy John

“And we celebrate the role that bike racing might play in bringing life back to towns and city centres struggling with a post-Covid economy.”

Timothy John

“I think it will be very interesting to monitor the public’s response to the Tour of Britain in September. It’s a big assumption, but assuming life has returned to something like normality by the time of the Grand Départ on the Cornish Riviera then I think other councils will be inspired by the sight of thousands of people flocking to towns like Penzance.”

Part One: Hello and Welcome

Timothy John

“Hello and welcome to this special preview of the Brother UK-sponsored Tour Series with me, Timothy John, my co-host Phil Jones, the Managing Director of Brother UK, and Larry Hickmott, the founder and editor of Brother UK-sponsored VeloUK.net.

“This episode is the second part of our detailed, two-part celebration of the nation’s best-loved crit series. Check out part one to hear insights from British Circuit Race Champions Joey Walker and Rebecca Durrell, from Mark Botteley, the manager of Team Brother UK-OnForm, and from Peter Hodges, the Communications Director at SweetSpot Group, the Tour Series organiser. 

“After the seismic events of the last year-and-a-half, the return of the Tour Series, even if it has been moved from its traditional May slot to August and compressed from two weeks to

one, represents a very welcome return to normality. 

“The action kicks off in Guisborough on Sunday August 8, moves onto Sunderland on Tuesday August 10, ands wraps up north of the border in Castle Douglas on Thursday August 12.

“Brother UK will again proudly serve the series as Official Print and Results Partner and as sponsor of the Brother Fastest Lap competition. Brother UK-sponsored teams - Team OnForm, Team LDN and Crimson Performance-Orientation Marketing - will compete in all three rounds.”

 
 
 

Part Two: Meet The Guests

Timothy John

"Phil, you’ll be heading along to Guisborough and Sunderland, I think."

Phil Jones

“I definitely am, Tim. I’m really excited to get over to Guisborough. I’ve not been over that way before. That will be something new for me. My intention is to present the Brother Fastest Lap trophies at the Guisborough round and the Sunderland round, and hopefully with a bike ride in between.”

Timothy John 

“Great stuff. Larry, it almost goes without saying, but I guess you’ll be heading along as well.”

Larry Hickmott

“I’m hoping to be. I’m not sure how the Covid thing is going to affect anything, but the plan is to be at all three because I’ve been going to these since 2009, when they first started. It will be interesting to see how this one pans out because it’s been an extremely different year.” 

Timothy John 

“Well, we heard in part one of this episode from Peter Hodges that he’s attended 102 of the 107 rounds held since 2009! Larry, I think you’re the only man who could run him close. How many have you attended?”

Larry Hickmott

“I’m not sure. There were a few when I was working for British Cycling that I didn’t get to go to, so there's probably five or six that I haven't been to. I probably will run Pete quite close. Pete should have been to more, I think. I don’t know.”

Part Three: Crit Appeal

Timothy John 

“So what is it about crit racing? It’s fast. It’s furious. It’s adrenaline-fuelled. In fact, there’s so much adrenaline that Becks Durrell told us in part one that her heart rate is over 120bpm just stood on the start line!

“Crit racing is a worldwide phenomenon. In Europe, we have the historic, post-Tour de France criteriums: very lucrative for the riders, of course, and a chance for the fans to get up close with their heroes of the previous three weeks. 

“In America, crit racing is the dominant form of road racing, and we heard in part one that SweetSpot has a partnership with USA Crits that will allow the overall winners of this year’s Tour Series, both men’s and women’s, to compete in the finals of the American series in North Carolina this September. 

“Then there are slightly different formats like the Red Hook Crits, which have taken fixed-gear ‘alley cat’ racing from the mean streets of Brooklyn to major European cities like

Barcelona and Milan. 

“And finally, there are the Bay Crit Series in Australia - your neck of the woods, Laz - held in the run-up to the Tour Down Under and so arguably the starting point for the entire international calendar. 

“Laz, have you been to the Bay Crits?”

Larry Hickmott

“I have been to the Bay Crits. I was there when Ian Bibby won the overall. Caleb Ewan won the round when I was there, so that was quite special.

“The thing about crits is that they’re in front of people. People can see them. Road racing, they’re out in the country. You see them four or five times unless you’re in the car or it’s televised, of course. 

“Crit racing, you see them every 30 seconds or every minute, especially with these Tour Series rounds which are always on circuits a maximum of a round about 1.6km.”

Timothy John

“Yeah, that’s right. Conveniently, SweetSpot have just published course details for this year’s Tour Series, and Castle Douglas is the longest of the three at 1.4km. Both Guisborough and Sunderland are 1.3km. 

“Phil, what appeals to you about the crit? It’s very compressed, isn’t it? You’re absolutely guaranteed to see the action, and the race is always on. It’s super high-intensity, isn’t it?”

Phil Jones

“I’ve been going to Tour Series rounds for a number of years. I hadn’t really watched crit racing before I got into cycling. I think it really is just the fact that you are seeing the riders more regularly. They are lapping, and it’s a fast and furious hour plus five laps or so of racing. 

“It brings the destination where the things are held together. People come from all over to come to city centres or towns or villages where these races are staged. It’s vibrant. There are things going on. The bars are busy. The restaurants are busy. People of all ages are on the side of the streets, and there’s a great energy that sits around the race by having so many people watching it. It’s really good. Great fun to go and watch.”

Timothy John

“Absolutely. Not only does the Tour Series have that wonderful community atmosphere you describe, but there's a real professional quality to it as well. Year in, year out, with the exception of Covid, we know that the Tour Series is going to take place. As we said earlier, 107 rounds since 2009. They do a tremendous job.

“Since 2014, Brother UK has sponsored The Tour Series, and since 2016, we’ve been the Official Print and Results Partner, and, of course, we sponsor the Brother Fastest Lap trophy, too. Phil, I'm casting my mind back a couple of years to the Wembley Park round, I remember you presenting the Fastest Lap trophy to a certain Connor Swift.”

Phil Jones

“Yes. I’ve met all manner of top riders on that stage over the years. I think it goes to show Connor’s very wide range of ability. You’ve got to be a certain type of rider to win a crit race. You’ve got to have this ability to ride at threshold for a very long time. You’ve got to have tremendous bike handling skills. You’ve got to be able to read, dynamically, a race which is very, very intensive. Chapeau to him, because I think it just shows the rider that he is. 

“If you look back over The Tour Series, over all the years, the riders who have emerged and done well in it: Dean Downing, Rob Hayles, Ed Clancy, Graham Briggs, Jon Mould, Anna Henderson, Rebecca Durrell, Jess Roberts, Nicki Juniper - fabulous riders. Some of our best riders who then racing on the road have really honed their craft in some of the crit races and town centres of the UK.”

Timothy John 

“When you reel off those names, Phil, it’s hard to imagine a British season without The Tour Series. And yet there once was - and someone who would have sent that landscape is Larry. 

“Larry, you’ve been covering this sport for 21 years. What was the feeling about the Tour Series when it was founded back in 2009? Did it arrive with a bang or has it

slowly carved its own niche and got bigger year-on-year?”

Larry Hickmott

“It’s definitely got bigger year-on-year. Crit racing has been part of the history of this country going back to the Kelloggs' series and other ones over the years, so it’s always been looked forward to. 

“I think the big thing about The Tour Series was it was a format that, round-on-round, depending on where the venues were, was always very much the same: very slick, very

professional, and the most important thing was that it was televised. The teams rely on television exposure. 

“I think that’s one of the key draw cards and why there are so many teams wanting to be part of it this year. I think there are more teams in it this year than I’ve ever seen.”

Timothy John

“Yeah, 28 teams in total this year, according to SweetSpot: 13 teams in the men’s series, and 15 in the women’s. 

“Larry, you were at the recent crit races in Otley and Ilkley. I watched Ilkley on the live stream and it looked like there were thousands of people there. What was the atmosphere like on the ground?”

Larry Hickmott

“It was incredible. Both Otley and Ilkley had huge crowds. I think it was a celebration of coming out of lockdown because all this is happening around these different moments during the year when lockdown is unravelling. 

“There were just so many people just enjoying themselves, and I think that’s the great thing, and hopefully that will be the same at The Tour Series. People are just enjoying being able to come into a town centre, meet up, chat, have a beer or a drink or whatever. 

“Yeah. It was just an absolutely incredible atmosphere.”

Timothy John

“I think it will be very interesting to monitor the public’s response to the Tour of Britain in September. It’s a big assumption, but assuming life has returned to something like normality by the time of that Grand Départ on the Cornish Riviera then I think other councils will be inspired by the sight of thousands of people flocking to towns like Penzance.” 

Part Four: A Platform To Perform

Timothy John

“Let’s return to the sporting side now. One thing that The Tour Series does phenomenally well is develop young riders. 

“Now, in part one of this episode, Peter at SweetSpot very modestly refused to claim any credit. He says that SweetSpot merely provide a platform to perform, but if you look at the roster of riders who’ve performed on that platform, it’s very, very impressive: Tom Piddock, newly-crowned Olympic mountain bike champion, Anna Henderson, who yesterday recorded her first professional victory. I mean, these are just two riders among scores.

“Larry, are there any young riders who stick in your memory, where you might have thought, ‘Forty-five minutes to an hour ago, I’d never heard of this rider, and now I’m convinced they have a very bright future in the sport.’”

Larry Hickmott

“It’s difficult to pick out names because there are so many, but one that does stick in my mind, because he won at Otley only three weeks ago, and that was Matt Gibson. I think it was at Peterborough where, as a junior, he won a round of The Tour Series there, individually. 

“I think that’s the thing about The Tour Series. I don’t think it develops the riders, but I think it gives them an opportunity to test themselves against the very best and to make a name for themselves, so people like Matt Gibson and others are able to come forward and show themselves. 

“There are a lot of others like Tom Pidcock. Helen Wyman, who hasn’t been mentioned. Lucy Garner, Grace Garner. There are so many different individuals, and that’s what’s great

about The Tour Series is seeing this young talent come through that we’re going to see on a bigger stage in the coming years.”

Timothy John

“We’ve already mentioned Anna Henderson, who today, of course, plies her trade as a fully-fledged professional with Jumbo-Visma Women, arguably the biggest team in the sport, but who exploded onto the domestic scene with Brother UK-OnForm at The Tour Series. 

“If you want to learn more about Anna then head to the Brother Cycling blog, but the short version is that she was a very successful downhill skier - a British junior champion, no less -

until a horrific accident led her to the bike as a means of recovery. The rest, of course, is history.

“Phil, you were talking off-air about watching Anna race at Wembley Park, and it was immediately obvious to you, I think, just what a special talent she is.”

Phil Jones

“Some people just look good on a bike, don’t they? I can remember Anna racing in the early days when she appeared at The Tour Series and her bike handling skills, her balance, I guess her years as a downhill skier, her ability to take a line - all of these things just came together when she got onto a bike, and she really was a phenomenal package. 

“All she really needed to learn were the tactics of how to win a crit. All the other components were there to give her the ingredients to be a phenomenal crit rider, and she turned out to be that. A very, very impressive individual. It’s really brilliant to see what she’s achieving now as she develops her career.”

 

Part Five: Hot Tips For 2021

Timothy John 

“Anna kind of represents one of the interesting sub-plots of The Tour Series for people close to the sport and that’s seeing the handpicked talent of British Cycling’s Olympic Academy teams go wheel-to-wheel with young talent on a different pathway.” 

Larry Hickmott

“The GB Academy on the women’s side - people like Eluned King and Abi Smith and others - I think that’s going to be one of the most exciting aspects of this year’s Tour Series. I know that Eluned won Otley. Abi won the CiCLE Classic by many minutes. The GB Academy on the women’s side has a lot of exciting talent, and I think that’s going to be showcased by Team Breeze in this year’s Tour Series.” 

Timothy John

“Well, that will be fascinating to watch: the very best of Team Breeze up against CAMS-Basso, our own Team Brother UK-LDN who’ve had a tremendous season so far. Lucy Lee has turned out to be a winning machine. She won the Guildford Town Centre Races among many others, and that crit in Guildford is another, very prestigious crit race. 

“Team Brother UK-OnForm is a young squad, it’s an inexperienced squad, by manager Mark Botteley’s own admission in part one of this episode. But, my goodness, if you want to

bring young, developing talent to The Tour Series, well, Becky Storrie and Imani Pereira-James are two pretty sharp arrows to have in your quiver. 

“Larry, who from outside of that Team Breeze set-up impressed you at Otley, Ilkley and elsewhere this year? Who are the riders who have really grabbed your attention?”

Larry Hickmott

“We’ve had this break where, in 2020, the sport almost disappeared off the face of the earth. We’re seeing a lot of new names. There was a Barnsley road race where the might of Canyon were competing, but a guy from PB Performance, Josh Whitehead, won the sprint against another young and up-and-coming rider, Toby Barnes, who won at Loughborough. 

“There are a lot of names. Danni Shrosbree, from Team Brother UK-LDN, also won a road race. There are so many names, it’s very difficult to know who’s going to be at the sharp end of The Tour Series, because there’s a lot of young talent coming through, looking to make a name for themselves.

“You mentioned a lot of teams there, like the Team Brother UK-LDN team with Lucy Lee. There’s Storey Racing with Beth Morrow and others. There are so many. Crimson Performance

have definitely impressed me in being able to race with the UCI teams and being in the mix, so to speak, with the likes of Joey Walker, Toby Barnes and others.”

Timothy John

“Well, absolutely. Ilkley felt like a coming of age for the Crimson Performance men’s team. Brother UK has been at their side since day one, since 2018 when the team was founded. Team manager Matt Hallam is an ambitious guy, no question; a young manager in a hurry. 

“My goodness, at Ilkley they really looked like the real deal, didn't they? British Circuit Race Champion Joey Walker, well he might just be the signing that’s made the difference. Clearly, he’s a class act, but not only is he a quality rider,  he’s obviously one who can inspire his teammates as well."

 

Part Six: Crit Skills

Timothy John 

“Let’s talk about the skills that a crit rider needs. One of my favourite quotes from part one of this episode is Joey saying, ‘If you’re not always on the verge of crashing, you’re not going fast enough.’

“This is a discipline where no quarter is asked or given. It’s fast acceleration, in and out of corners. It demands tremendous bike handling skills. Braking often seems optional for the fastest riders.

"Phil, when you’ve been along to Tour Series crits, what’s been the chief aspect of the riding that you’ve taken away with you?"

Phil Jones

“Flat out, from the gun, and hang on till the line. I always enjoy walking around the pits before the gun goes and one thing you realise is that everybody goes to that start line fully warmed up because there's no easy roll out. It literally is eyes-out racing from the gun. 

“You’ve got to have incredible fitness: the ability to ride at the very top of your performance, flat out, for a whole hour. The ability to take some of these corners at really quite terrifying speeds at times, in a bunch, with everybody on their limit, it requires a great fortitude, a great skill, and great technical, bike handling skills. 

“It really is something to watch, and I’ve really got great admiration for anybody who’s able to race in one of those Tour Series rounds.”

Timothy John

“I mean, if anything the riders look stronger than ever.  Canyon dhb-Sungod looked like the proverbial train at Ilkley. Joey Walker was clearly equal to them, and Leon Mazzone chased down every attack on Joey’s behalf. Every time Canyon launched, Leon was on the case.

“Larry, you were at the heart of this recent golden era that we enjoyed: Dean Downing, Kristian House, Ian Bibby, the Barnes sisters, the Garner sisters. We've seen some great riders since 2009. Is it getting harder? Do you think the level rising? Is this current crop even stronger?”

Larry Hickmott

“I’m not sure if they’re stronger. As we go through generations, there’s always this cycle of champions coming through. In the early days, you had guys like Dean Downing and Rob Hayles, Graham Briggs, Ed Clancy, who were the fast guys. Now you’ve got guys like Matt Bostock, Matt Gibson, Freddie Scheske. There’s a lot of fast guys out there. 

“Just going back to the skill factor, the one thing, having tried to follow an elite rider around a bend, back in my racing days in the late 1990s, that it is the scariest and most important skill these guys need to have. When you look at these races, and you look at the back end of the race, that’s where a lot of these guys struggle: the guest riders etc. They just

can’t go round the bends as quick as the elite guys, who have no fear.

“So, a skill, if you can call it that, of having no fear, of being able to throw yourself around a bend, is very important. But also not to be put off when some guy dive-bombs you on the inside as well. I think fear, and being able to be calm on the bike, and to be able to sprint out of each of the bends. 

“I think that’s one thing about the courses this year. Sunderland's quite an easy course with only four bends. The other courses, like the ones at Castle Douglas and Guisborough, are a lot more twisty, so there’s a lot more stopping and a lot more sprinting, so the back end of the race will soon start to disappear and break up. It’s going to be interesting from that point of view.”

INTERLUDE

Part Seven: Rest And Recovery

Timothy John 

“It’s funny to think about recovery in a format where the race is an hour long for the guys and 45 minutes for the women. 

“But that ability to recover in-race: between corners; a hot lap and a recovery lap. And then with The Tour Series - because it is a series: they’re racing three times in a week - there’s

also that need to recover between rounds. 

“Joey told us in part one, didn't he, that, ‘It’s like a stage race, but not a stage race,’ which is a pretty good way of putting it. I can see where he’s coming from. Riders sometimes don’t leave the circuit until 10 o’clock at night. They’ve then got a day of travel before they’re at it again the following day. 

“This year, we have three rounds in fairly close geographical proximity. Phil, do you think that will make a difference: the fact that the transfers won’t be anything like as long this year?"

Phil Jones

“When you’ve got the Tour Series running an absolutely full series, it takes a big commitment from all the teams, and all the riders on the teams, some of whom have day jobs, as well as racing at the weekend, [so] it is a huge commitment to turn up and race a Tour Series. 

“But, as Larry said earlier, it is a series which is televised and this is a very, very important platform for all the teams that are riding to talk about to potential sponsors and to show return to their existing sponsors. Obviously, there are very few opportunities now, in the UK scene, outside of The Tour of Britain and the Women’s Tour, where racing is seen on the TV. This

makes it, of course, a very premium product which does attract sponsors.

“I think everyone is really keen to get engaged with this. The fact that this year we’re only having three rounds on the eighth, the tenth, and the twelfth of August, and the travelling between Guisborough, Sunderland and Castle Douglas is certainly much more compressed, I think will certainly be advantageous for the teams: that there’s not so much time away and perhaps that’s one of the reasons why we’re seeing so many teams taking part this year.”

Timothy John

“I think that's a very good point, and it will be interesting to see the format in which The Tour Series returns next year. 

“In part one, Peter told us that SweetSpot’s ambition is to return to a two-week series in May, but let’s just see how that works out. Mark Botteley made the point in part one that if British

cycle sport doesn’t learn a few lesson from 2021, it will be an opportunity missed. He believes that the road season ends too soon nowadays and the cyclo-cross season begins too early.

"Mark told us he was very pleased that that the series has landed where it has this year: two weeks before Ryedale and in a quiet period where riders might otherwise have lost focus. Larry, what are your thoughts on that?"

Larry Hickmott

“I think the Tour Series this year, as a one-off event based around what we’ve had to put up with - with Covid - is actually ideally placed and has many advantages in that you’ve got a lot of guys preparing for the Tour of Britain and a lot of the teams preparing for The Tour of Britain. The Tour Series gives them the opportunity to get that top end, to get that intensity work that they might not ordinarily get in a road race so that they can deal with that later on in the Tour of Britain. I think from that point of view, it’s fine.

“Back in the old days, when The Tour Series used to be spread out over six weeks, I could understand the problems in that it did get in the way of road racing, because you had road

racing mixed in with The Tour Series over a long period of time. But now being three events in six days I think is quite ideal.

“From talking to riders, their views, to me, is that it is something that they can go and attack and go for, full on, without having to hold anything back.”

Timothy John

“Yeah, that’s a very interesting point. I guess this two-week block in May is something that’s been arrived at over many years and, inevitably, through a period of trial and error. 

“I think Mark has a very fair point, too. The sport should always seek to evolve, and, if this year we’ve chanced upon a formula that works, well, why not give that some air time, gather some opinions, and see how the teams and riders want to move forwards." 
 

 

Part Eight: Teamwork

Timothy John 

“An aspect of the Tour Series that we haven’t discussed yet, and that is absolutely critical, is that it is a team competition. Joey made the point in part one that in the National Circuit Series, the riders only have to think about being the first across the line. 

“The Tour Series is very different. The team classification is based on an aggregate of the finishing times recorded by every member of the team. Becks Durrell told us in part one that the strongest riders on the team have to be very careful not to put their team-mates into the red and sacrifice the team competition. 

“Phil, in our last episode, we talked about ‘cognitive load’ in the context of the race convoy and the neutral service crews at the Women’s CiCLE Classic. There’s a fair cognitive load here too, isn’t there?”

Phil Jones

“The sheer intensity of the racing means there’s very, very little time to think. You can quickly lose track of what’s going on. That’s something that, when I’ve talked to some of the riders in the past, they’ve said that you’re in the red, you’re going flat out, or it’s a technical circuit, it’s very, very difficult.

"There are no radios, you ride past your DS at speed every 1.3 or so kilometres, and they shout something at you, and you don’t always hear it. It’s so intense. There’s an awful lot going on. I think that’s what can sometimes can lead to the unpredictability of the racing, because people are just so flat out, and you can then lose where those other team members are.

“It takes a great degree of concentration to not only stay upright - to be delivering the power through the cranks to be out the front - but also to understand and to have that situational

awareness of where’s the rest of my team? What is the team game that we’re playing here?

“Sometimes, just going over the line first isn’t a win for the team. Once you get your head around that, it’s great to have your hands up in the air and say, ‘Yes, I was the strongest person on the night,’ but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the team is going to win that night, if the other riders are way down the field and not picking up points.”

 

Part Nine: Tactics And Communication

Timothy John

“Larry, Phil mentioned instructions coming from the DS as the riders pass. You’re in and around the pits where you cover these races and at other areas of the circuit, too. Just how effective is this communication, and how quickly can things go wrong?” 

Larry Hickmott

“The communication side of things comes down to each team having its own system: using an iPad, for example, or particular types of calls. They do try to keep it very simple, so it’s very, very quick, and people can understand it. 

“The other key point in all this is that people go into this competition, which is a team competition, but people go into it with a different approach. Some will go in simply to win the bike race because they know that is going to get them the maximum publicity on the night. Other teams will go in there to win the team award overall. 

“The Fastest Lap award, which I’m sure Phil will have followed quite closely, there have been times when teams have actually set themselves up to get a rider across that finish

line in the fastest time over a lap, in terms of using all the team members to do it. I don’t think it’s been done very often, but it was certainly done once or twice and talked about. 

“There are lots of different approaches that the teams are going to take, so what comes out of the pits will depend upon that.”

Timothy John

“It’s interesting even to talk about tactics in such a short, sharp format. And yet, as you say, there is clearly a very strong tactical component. It’s another of the many aspects that the teams and riders have to balance: whether they pursue individual victories, team success or other competitions that will guarantee publicity. 

“Phil, earlier you mentioned the logistical commitments - the travel, the hotels, the equipment - and the other side of that coin, of course, is budget. As a sponsor, how do you read the cost-benefit analysis for a team in taking part in the Tour Series? It demands investment from the teams, but the obvious benefit is television exposure. It’s a series that you’ve simply

got to be in, isn’t it?”

Phil Jones

“Yes, certainly over the years that we’ve sponsored teams, and we’ve sponsored the series as well, Tim, you talk to lots of different teams as you wander around the pits and engage with riders, and, in reality, there are years when, of course, where the races are being held i.e. up and down the country, it means that there is a lot of travelling.

“And, yes, sometimes riders may moan a bit, managers may moan a bit, but the overarching conclusion is: ‘We’ve got to be in it.’ And the reason they’ve got to be in it is simply because of the media profile that the race attracts. It is one of the most high-profile race series in the country, alongside some of the really big, multi-stage events. 

“As a result of that, on a business model for the domestic teams, which absolutely depends upon acquiring new sponsors and retaining sponsors, then the one thing that you’ve got to be able to do is present to them that you have generated publicity for the brand, the sponsor. 

“There’s nothing better than getting onto a podium. As Larry says, I’ve heard those discussions where, ‘It’s an easy podium. Let’s get the Fastest Lap award. Even if we can’t win the

team trophy on the night, that still gets us on the podium, which means we have a rider on the telly with their hands in the air.’

“It makes the fabric of the race very, very interesting, because you have mini races-within-races. I remember Ed Clancy telling me once that they’d decided to exactly that. When I gave the award to Ed one night and he said, ‘Yeah. Decided to go for that.’ You saw the team arrive like a train with Ed on the back of it, and Ed just catapulted off the back of this lead out and, yes, of course, nailed the fastest lap award of the night. 

“But I think if you look back on that then Ed and some of these people like Dean Downing, Graham Briggs, they all emerged from one of the country’s best crit racing teams which was led by John Herety: Rapha-Condor, JLT-Condor. John had become a master tactician in building a team who, effectively, used to dominate many of the rounds of this particular series back in the day.”

Timothy John

“Yeah, very much so. To bring it right up to date, John, of course, was the architect of the return to race winning form of Ribble-Weldtite’s Matt Gibson after he suffered a virus. John took a risk in recruiting him for JLT-Condor, back in 2017, I think, and built him back into a formidable rider.”

Larry Hickmott

“Yeah, he certainly has. One thing about John was that he was a rider as well. He had a huge amount of experience to put into these crits, because John had ridden the crits, which were a different format, not a team format, but he was able to understand exactly what needed to be done by the riders and that’s why his team was so dominant. John really is missed because of that.”

INTERLUDE

 

Part Ten: Brother UK's Teams In 2021

Timothy John 

“Let’s take a more detailed look now at the squads being fielded this year by Brother UK’s sponsored teams. 

“The Crimson Performance-Orientation Marketing men’s team is led by Joey Walker, who we heard from in part one, and that’s an obvious selection, given that Joey is the reigning British Circuit Race Champion. 

“Leon Mazzone really proved his status as a rising star at Ilkley where he was a highly-effective team-mate to Joey. Toby Barnes, as Larry mentioned, won the pilot event at Loughborough back in May, and came within millimetres of adding a second National B win to his palmares at Barnsley a couple of weeks ago. 

“Crimson are also fielding Adam Mitchell, who was second recently at the Capernwray Road Race. Also on the squad list for the Crimson men’s team are Ed Beecher, Oliver Huzzah,

Chris Sheriffs and Alistair Thomas. 

“The Crimson Performance women’s squad isn’t short of quality either. Sammie Stuart won the opening National B race of the year at Hade Edge. She’s won crits at Salt Ayre, she’s won time-trials by breaking course records, and even won hill climbs. Mary Wilkinson is the other very strong rider in that squad and was recently crowned National Masters champion.

“Brother UK - Team LDN, well that’s Lucy Lee, who talked about earlier as a winner of the Guildford Town Centre race, her team-mate Danni Shrosbree, who we’ve also mentioned, who won the Barnsley “Not in the Town Centre” Race, where she really showed her strength. Harriet Dodd always gives everything in support her team-mates, and the team will also field Ione Johnson and Fran Cutts. 

“And then, finally, there's Team Brother UK-OnForm, and we heard from Mark, of course, in part one of this episode. That team will be led by Mark’s daughter Sian, who, believe it or

not, will be the only rider on that squad to have ridden a round of The Tour Series. 

“They’ll also field Ellen Inglis, Daisy May Barnes, and the two, huge prospects we've already discussed: Becky Storrie, the newly-crowned Scottish Road Race Champion, and Imani Pereira-James, who is a rising star even among British Cycling’s junior Olympic Academy. 

“What exactly can our teams achieve this year? Phil, what are you hoping to see from Brother UK’s sponsored squads?"

Phil Jones

“Well, of course, from my point of view as a sponsor, Tim, I want them to win everything: be out the front all the time. I want them at the front on the television, on the podiums, occupying as much television and media time as they possibly can. That’s the selfish sponsor side of me. 

“But the reality is that I just love the racing. I really do. To see a full line-up of teams there…That’s always been part of our philosophy about why we do this stuff. We’re sponsoring

events, we’re sponsoring teams, and we’ve got the neutral service side, which doesn’t relate to the Tour Series, obviously. 

“But when you can sponsor an event and you’re sponsoring teams, what it does is provide a platform for these riders to develop, and, like any conveyor system, everyone needs to build race experience to understand how to ride and the different styles of riding. 

“Whether you’re an experienced rider or a new rider, everyone’s got to start somewhere and certainly The Tour Series is a great leveller. You all start on the same line. It emerges very

quickly whether you can or you can’t keep up as the race plays out.

“For me, if everyone gets there and all the riders finish and they’re safe and they’ve enjoyed themselves and they’ve learned something, I think that’s a good outcome for anyone that we sponsor or who rides for one of those teams.”

Timothy John

“Absolutely. We were talking earlier about Anna Henderson, and yesterday Anna won her first professional race. I mean what a reward for a sponsor who was at her side when she first came to prominence by winning a round of the Tour Series. 

“Larry, from a  purely sporting perspective, are there any riders you’re especially looking forward to watching? You mentioned earlier Eluned King and Abi Smith from Team Breeze. Are

there others that you’re hoping will shine in the 2021 Tour Series?”

Larry Hickmott

“We haven’t actually seen a lot of riders come together, and that’s the thing about The Tour Series: it’s like the Tour de France, if you like. It brings all the best together and creates a completely new mix to what you’ve seen in the lead up to those races. 

“It’s very difficult to know who is going to be the dominant team. As Phil was saying, for a lot of the riders who haven’t ridden a Tour Series and haven’t ridden at that level before, it is a

great learning place to go to, and I think that will be an exciting thing for them to learn.

“When I see the results of girls like Becky Storrie, week in, week out, and she’s not only winning women’s races but, in time-trials, is in the top five, top ten in the men’s, it just shows you what a great talent she is and how interesting it will be to see her take on the best, like Abi Smith etc. in these events. 

“And the same goes for the men’s race. The Crimson team, and you mentioned a few names there…One of the things that impressed me about the Crimson team is they have guys like Toby Barnes, they have guys like Joey Walker, who you’re looking out for, but when you look at the result, the strength-in-depth in these teams is that other riders on the team are in the

top five or top ten of a race. That is quite an exciting team, I think, for people to watch during The Tour Series.”

Timothy John

“Yep, I couldn’t agree more. Manager Matt Hallam has done a tremendous job in a number of areas, but notably this year with his team selections. He’s signed some very promising riders and put together a really strong squad."

 

Part Eleven: Good Luck And Stay Safe

Timothy John

“So, just to summarise then, the Tour Series begins on Sunday August 8 in Guisborough. It then moves to Sunderland on Tuesday August 10, and concludes in Castle Douglas on Thursday August 12. 

“We wish everybody taking part huge amounts of luck. It’s wonderful to see racing return to our town centres after this hugely demanding 18-month period. 

“Phil, Larry, thank-you very much indeed for joining me, and many thanks too to everybody out there listening. Do, please, stay safe.” 

INTERLUDE

Phil Jones

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