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Brother UK Cycling Podcast – Episode 11

Episode description

The eleventh edition of the Brother UK Cycling Podcast celebrates the return to national road racing after an absence of more than a year with the 2021 Women’s CiCLE Classic. Brother UK will have an unmissable presence at this superb race with three sponsored teams in the peloton and the Neutral Service p/b Brother UK in-race support crews in the race

convoy. 

Co-hosts Timothy John and Phil Jones, the Managing Director of Brother UK, share their experiences, insights and excitement as a journalist and sponsor respectively. Both have had the privilege of riding shotgun in a Neutral Service p/b Brother UK support vehicle, and both pay handsome tribute to the volunteer crews facing their busiest weekend of the year. 

Colin Clews, the founder and race director of the CiCLE Classic in all its forms (men’s, women’s and juniors), offers a fascinating view from inside the race: its foundation, its budget, its benefactor, and a route that beguiles as many as it exhausts. He reveals a unique feature of this year’s parcours: a route through Owston that no previous edition of the race has

followed. 

Sian Botteley of Team Brother UK-OnForm offers a view from behind the handlebars. Despite finishing in the top 10 of the 2017 edition of the Women’s CiCLE Classic, her unique perspective comes from local knowledge rather than experience of the race: its celebrated country lanes are her home training roads. Sian talks adrenaline, concentration, endurance and excitement in her illuminating contribution to this episode.

Tony Barry is the manager of the Neutral Service p/b Brother UK in-race support crews. Formerly a rider, Team GB road manager and board member at British Cycling, there’s little

about elite bike racing that Tony doesn’t know. He offers facts, figures, insights, memories and more from his service at previous editions of the CiCLE Classic. 

Larry Hickmott is officially the founder and editor of VeloUK.net and, unofficially, the hardest working man in cycling. Despite covering countless editions of the men’s CiCLE Classic, 2021 will see his first visit to the women’s race. He talks course recces and the advantage of local knowledge, while revealing the best viewpoints from which to capture memorable images of Britain’s most photogenic bike race. 

Enjoy this latest episode of the Brother UK Cycling Podcast, and catch up with our earlier editions on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Spotify. Just search “Brother UK Cycling Podcast”, subscribe, and leave your feedback.
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Episode 11: Women's CiCLE Classic Preview

Episode contents

  • 00:02 – Episode introduction
  • 00.35 – Coming Up
  • 03:14 – Part One: Hello And Welcome
  • 04:37 – Part Two: A Unique Event
  • 06.20 – Part Three: Neutral Service and the CiCLE Classic
  • 19.11 – Part Four: Competition
  • 19.50 – Part Five: Community Support
  • 33.38 – Part Six: Mitigation Strategies
  • 38.24 – Part Seven: Home Advantage
  • 46.25 – Part Eight: Following The Action

Transcript

Timothy John – 0.03

“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 - 0.23

“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 special edition of the Brother UK Cycling Podcast to celebrate the return to national road racing with the Women’s CiCLE Classic. 

“Sian Botteley of Team Brother UK - OnForm tells us why racing on home roads offers more than a slight advantage. 

Sian Botteley

“It really, really does help: knowing the course. I consider myself quite lucky that a lot of it is my home training roads. Luck does play a part in it, but I’m quite a firm believer that you make your own luck in races like this, and if you've got the extra technical ability to pick your way through the tricky sections then you are less likely to run into trouble.”

Timothy John

“Colin Clews, the CiCLE Classic’s founder and race director, thinks that the biggest ever field for a British women’s road race might not stay together for long.”

Colin Clews

“We may start with a bunch of 140 but within, perhaps, the first 20km, we won’t have a bunch of 140 any longer. It will be several smaller bunches. The more spread out it is, the greater the racing looks. It demonstrates the real challenge of the event. Everyone wants to be in there. They’re there at the start. Let’s see how many we’ve got at the finish”

Timothy John

“Manager Tony Barry explains why the CiCLE Classic is the busiest day of the year for Neutral Service p/b Brother UK.”

Tony Barry

“We’ll have four bikes on the car of various sizes, and then inside, four pairs of wheels, and then on the roof rack, another six pair of wheels. The CICLE Classic is the only race where

we’ve gone through 40 wheels in one event.”

Timothy John 

“Larry Hickmott, the founder and editor of VeloUK.net, describes his preparations for on-the-spot coverage of the return to national road racing this weekend.”

Larry Hickmott

‘It’s the biggest race that we’ve had for well over a year. There’s a lot of pressure  and a lot of different things to cover. I have already looked at the course, and I do have a strategy for the number of times that I can see the race, which I think is roughly seven to eight times and then get back to the finish.”

Timothy John 

“And Phil Jones, the Managing Director of Brother UK and this podcast’s co-host, shares his excitement at the long-awaited return to national road racing on a course more than equal to the occasion.”

Phil Jones 

“Can you imagine what the riders must be thinking right now? You’ve not had a race for so long. All of a sudden, you’re coming back to one of the most epic courses that the domestic scene has to offer as your first race back. 

“They’re going to be really excited, I’m excited, and I hope that everyone listening to the podcast will be excited to see who will emerge as the winners on Sunday.”

INTERLUDE

 

Hello and Welcome

Timothy John 

“Hello and welcome to this eleventh edition of the Brother UK Cycling Podcast. Today, I’m joined by my co-host, Phil Jones, the Managing Director of Brother UK, to look ahead to this weekend's  return to national road racing the form of the Women’s CiCLE Classic. 

“We’ll hear throughout this episode from the people at the heart of this brilliant race: from Team Brother UK-OnForm rider Sian Botteley, who’ll be racing on home roads, from race director Colin Clews, from Tony Barry, the manager of the Neutral Service p/b Brother UK in-race support crews, and from Larry Hickmott, the founder and editor of Brother UK-sponsored VeloUK.net, who’ll be covering the race live on Sunday.

“Pihl, thank-you very much indeed for joining me. I know that you’re as excited as I am by this race.”

Phil Jones

“Indeed, I am, Tim, and can you imagine what the riders must be thinking right now? You’ve not had a race for so long. All of a sudden, you’re coming back to one of the most epic courses that the domestic scene has to offer as your first race back.

“They’re going to be really excited, I’m excited, and I hope that everyone listening to the podcast will be excited to see who will emerge as the winners on Sunday.”

 
 

Part Two: A Unique Event

Timothy John 

“I mean, this is no gentle reintroduction, as you say. This is an epic race. For people who haven’t seen it, the women’s and junior edition of the Rutland Melton CiCLE Classic is a race that starts and finishes in Melton Mowbray, but, which, like the men’s race, takes in some of the most demanding lanes in the surrounding countryside and passes through the village of Owston multiple times. 

“It’s an essential part of the domestic calendar but with a heavy continental influence. If you can imagine the Strade Bianche, or the Tour of Flanders, or even Paris-Roubaix, set in rural Leicestershire, well, you won’t go far wrong.

“The road constantly rises, up and down, it twists left and right. Colin Clews, the race director and founder, who we’ll hear from later in this episode, well, he jokes that only he and a handful of volunteers know the full route and says that the teams complain every year that they don’t know exactly what route they’re following until they’re riding the race. I mean, it could not be any more challenging. 

“Brother UK, well, we’ll be absolutely at the heart of this race and for four very good reasons. The first three of those are our sponsored teams: Brother UK - OnForm, Brother UK - LDN,

and Brother UK-sponsored Crimson Performance - Orientation Marketing. 

“Perhaps most importantly of all, we’ll be represented by the Neutral Service p/b Brother UK in-race support crews, and the CiCLE Classic is by some distance their busiest race of the year. Tony Barry, as we’ve mentioned, well, he manages the whole neutral service set-up. As a former rider, a former Team GB road manager, and even formerly a board member at British Cycling, well, there isn’t much that Tony hasn’t seen in elite bike racing, and he gives the CiCLE Classic a ready thumbs up.”

 

Part Three: Neutral Service and the CiCLE Classic

Tony Barry

“It is a unique event, the CiCLE Classic, in that Colin Clews, the organiser, modelled it on the Paris-Roubaix. I would say, in some sections of the race, it’s worse than Paris-Roubaix. 

“Depending on the weather, one of the bad places where people need service is on what we call the Somerberg. One particular year, it was so bad, we couldn’t go across there because of the mud. We lost a couple of motorbikes in that they weren’t able to get up a climb.

“One of our mechanics was on the back of the motorbike, and, in the end, when we came back to the changing rooms, he went in where the riders are, in full leathers, and just went straight into the shower and showered himself off, there was that much mud. 

“I think it’s a good event. It’s hard work, but it’s good fun, and, looking at the entries, the riders love it, which is the important part. I think if the riders didn’t like it, you wouldn’t get your entries. 

“We’ll have four bikes on the car of various sizes, and then inside, we'll run with four pairs of wheels, and then on the roof rack, we’ve got another six pair of wheels. The CICLE Classic is the only race where we’ve gone through 40 wheels at one event, and sometimes we’ve put a static service [from which] we’ll pick up wheels, get rid of our punctured ones and take on new ones.

"Luckily, there are three cars, so there are quite a lot of wheels there, but we have gone through all of them in the men’s race.”

Timothy John 

“Well, there’s the first of several voices that we’ll bring you in this episode from inside the CiCLE Classic, Tony Barry, the manager of Neutral Service p/b Brother UK, and Phil, I know that you bow to no one in your admiration for the skill and dedication of Tony’s volunteer drivers and mechanics. These are people who do full justice to our ‘At Your Side’ motto, aren’t they?”

Phil Jones

“Yes indeed, Tim. I’ve obviously been very lucky to experience that first hand by being in the passenger seat in a number of races in the neutral service vehicle. Every time I have that experience, I’m really in wonder at the sheer amount of preparation, planning, concentration and cognitive load, particularly that the drivers are under, when they’re supporting any race. 

“This particular race brings with it an additional set of variables, given the very narrow lanes, the parcours and, actually, historically, it is one of the races which has the most technical

incidences of any of the races on the calendar as a result. So they’re under a huge amount of pressure, and there are problems happening all the time. 

“There are race radios going - two race radios in a neutral car. You’ve got technical failures, you’re moving wheels about, you’re trying to figure out what kit is where. People are wanting bottles and nutrition. And you’re trying to drive the vehicle down very narrow lanes while all of that is going on. It’s a real skill.”

Timothy John

“That summary, Phil, is absolutely spot on. It’s beyond demanding, isn’t it? Firstly, you have the driving challenge. I often think that I you put ‘a civilian’ in the race convoy i.e. a motorist form outside of the world of professional cycling, disaster would pretty soon strike. The speed with which these drivers have to navigate the course and the convoy and then their proximity to the riders: it’s hugely impressive. 

“The majority of drivers in the convoy are former riders, of course, and they have a sixth sense for the position of the riders on the road. And then, additionally, in the case of Tony’s

drivers, they’re either certified by professional motoring organisations or by the sport’s world governing body.”

Tony Barry

“All of our drivers are [certified by] either the Institute of Advanced Motoring, and will have also done the UCI driver’s accreditation, or, as we call it, ‘grandfather’ rights, where you’ve been doing it for years. I am one of those particular guys in that I’ve been away with teams all over the world, and you  get used to being with the riders and you are aware of them. 

“I say to my drivers that the most important thing is rider safety: we don’t want a rider on the floor. That's the worst thing you can do. Even if it takes you 20 minutes to do a wheel

change: yeah, I’m sad that’s happened, but if we touch a rider, that’s the worst you can do. All of our drivers are thinking like that.

“We have our three cars: one out front, which is to service any breaks that develop, one at the very back, which will be for anybody who goes off the back of the main peloton and there’s a group that forms, they will look after them. And then the ‘number one service’, as we call it, which will be behind the main peloton; behind the Chief Commissaire. 

“We will do the riders that are requiring wheels that don’t have a team car in there. We normally keep a record of where team cars are, because there will be times when a team car will go up to the break and maybe feed the riders or give them bottles. While they’re away, we’ll look after riders, and when that team car comes back to the main peloton, our neutral

service out front will take care of all the rides in the break if they don’t have a team car. The same applies off the back.”

Timothy John

“Well, good to hear there, Phil, that Tony’s drivers are trained and certified to the highest standard. Driving a neutral service car or indeed any vehicle in the race convoy is no cake walk, is it? I mean, you’ve got to know what you’re doing or riders are going to get hurt pretty quickly.”

Phil Jones

“Without a doubt, Tim. If you’ve never been in a team car or a neutral service car in a race, it genuinely is a rollercoaster experience. You do not realise that the driving skill that these individuals have. 

“There are gaps that they sometimes go through, and at such speed, that me, as a normal driver, would not go through these gaps, but this of course is what happens in a race. There are certain race protocols about where riders sit, where drivers pass, where they don’t pass, where everybody sits on the road to ensure optimum safety. 

“You cannot believe the sheer speed at which you go firing through some of these villages, chasing riders, particularly on some descents as well. The speed at which you go down some descents. You’ve got to be aware not only of your position on the road, relevant to riders in front, but also riders behind. You’ve got to look ahead, you’ve got to look in the rear view

mirror, in the side view mirrors. You’ve got your mechanic looking out and being an extra set of eyes and ears for you. 

“It’s incredible: the situational awareness that you need to perform at the highest level in a race environment.”

Timothy John

“I like that phrase you use, Phil: cognitive load. The sheer amount of thinking that goes on. Tony’s got two radios in the car: one of them tuned to the race radio, that the entire convoy can hear, and then a separate channel tuned to the commissaire. 

“If you think of the race convoy as a game of chess, played at 60 or 70mph, it’s the commissaire who’s moving the pieces, and Tony and his crews have to be ready to be moved at

short notice. 

“I mean, it’s a huge intellectual weight, isn’t it, quite aside from the physical demands of manoeuvring a car at that speed?”

Phil Jones

“It is, Tim. Very interestingly, I recently read a book by a helicopter trauma consultant. He discussed how you prevent mistakes from happening when you’re under tremendous pressure. The learnings from the book are directly transferable to the interior of a team car. 

“The driver is under tremendous cognitive load at any one point. They’re trying to control a vehicle, deal with messages, dealing with people coming to the window, thinking about

their position on the road, so therefore, inside a vehicle, what you soon realise is that you’ve got to have what’s called a ‘quiet cockpit’ in the same, equivalent terms. 

“You’ve got to allow the driver to do the driving and allow them to have the mental capacity to deal with all this information and process that information. When you’re lucky enough to be a passenger, perhaps like I am, you realise that you don’t speak unless you’re spoken to, You don't create unnecessary chatter, other  than perhaps, ‘Do you want a Haribo?’ That’s about it! A hand will come over, grab a big handful of Haribos, everyone gets munching. 

“But when the race is perhaps a little quieter, then the conversation might start, and there’ll be a bit of a chatter. But you soon realise when the switch goes back on again. You just need to know when to be quiet in order that the individual can really focus on driving the vehicle and keeping the riders safe, most importantly.”

Timothy John

“Tony makes that point again and again in this episode. Rider safety is the number one priority for Neutral Service p/b Brother UK.”

Tony Barry

“The most important thing is the safety of the rider. That's what we all want. Nobody wants a rider down and certainly not one of us taking them down. The riders are not as daft as some people think. They know where they’re going, and they’ll let you know if you’re in their road. Often, you’ll hear a thump on the back of the car and there’s a rider there. 

“There are small blind spots on all cars. I’m sure you know, as a driver, that you can get a blind spot. You’ve just got to be aware: where the riders are and what is going on. Just keep your wits above normal, that’s what I would say. 

“It takes time to become one of those drivers, I think. It also helps if you’ve been a rider. You know where a rider will go through a bend. You don’t start overtaking one on a right hand

bend, because he’s going to come over to the right hand side of the road. And you learn that.”

Timothy John

“There’s Tony again, this time making an obvious, but valuable point: nothing matters as much as rider safety, even the speed of the wheel change. Of course, in that regard too, they’re operating at levels far superior to those of you or I: amateurs who might change a wheel at our leisure in the privacy of our garage at the weekend. The mechanic is out of the car and at the rider’s side before you can blink. But even then, the priority is safety. They don’t want to approach the rider at a speed or in a manner that might put anybody at risk. 

“It’s not just the neutral service drivers though is it, Phil? The drivers of the team cars: they're operating to similar standards. I remember you telling me about a particularly memorable

trip in the Vitus Pro Cycling car at a recent edition of the Tour de Yorkshire.” 

Phil Jones

“Yes, that was a real demonstration of what driving skills a DS needs to have. That was at a time when Cherie Pridham, obviously now at WorldTour level, I was in the team car with the Vitus Pro Cycling team that we sponsored when the car punctured. It was just one of those freak things: the car got a puncture while in the convoy.

“We pulled over. We had two cars. We had to wait for team car two to come. Team car two came up, and the bunch was about three miles up the road at this point. We’d gone outside of the bubble, so the bubble had moved on, which meant the roads were no longer closed, and Cherie had to drive to catch up.

“That was a very, very precarious drive, as you can imagine. What it demonstrated to me was: a) her driving skills, which were absolutely immense, but the concentration that she

needed in order to execute those driving skills and the understanding of the handling of the car: she was taking bends at speeds that I would never take in my own vehicle.

“We got back into the ‘bubble’ and into our convoy position. She just looked over at me and I was white! [LAUGHS]. I said: ‘Cherie, I’ve never seen anyone drive a car like that. That was incredible.’ It was like being on a race track, and I really, really that day was taught just how capable those individuals are when they’re behind the wheel.”

Part Four: Competition

Timothy John 

“It’s amazing, isn’t it, how much of that drama is completely missed by the television coverage. You absolutely have to be there, and that’s why we’re delighted to offer one lucky winner the chance to join Tony Barry’s crews inside a Neutral Service p/b Brother UK support vehicle at the Lancaster Grand Prix on August 15, 2021.

“Simply follow the Brother Cycling Twitter account and like and share any of our posts made this Sunday, during the Women’s CiCLE Classic, to be in with a chance of an unforgettable ride.”

INTERLUDE

Part Five: Community Support

Timothy John

“There’s one huge additional challenge at the CiCLE Classic, of course, which is the width of the roads. Much of this race is held on very narrow country lanes, so how ever high the standard of driving is in other races, it’s a level above at this one, isn’t it?”

Phil Jones

“The problems that narrow roads bring are that, effectively, the convoy can’t operate as normal because it gets strung out. On a single track lane, of course, you can’t have cars side-by-side. The speed is often much slower, dictated by the slowest rider in the bunch, which means the bunch can get strung out very, very quickly. 

“And then, of course, you’ve got convoy positioning, which is normally dictated by draw before the race. The sports directors will be very, very keen to get a position as close to the front of the convoy as they possibly can because that will mean that they can attend to their riders very quickly, because If you’re in convoy position 15 of 20 vehicles then, effectively, if one of your key riders has a problem, really you’re going to have to rely on neutral service to service that rider, because by the time you get to them, the bunch could well be away and the

race is basically over, so neutral service position, particularly on this race, is basically very, very key given the width of the lanes and also the parcours that they’re racing on.”

Timothy John

“Yeah, ‘mixed surface’ is the current euphemism. You and I, of course, would call them country lanes. You’ve got to be at your best as a driver, but also as a rider. This is a race that tests every aspect of a rider’s ability: it tests their fitness, their endurance, their strength, their power, their ability to think and read a race, and, of course, the bike handling too. 

“One rider who knows all about the particular demands of the Women’s CiCLE Classic is Sian Botteley from Team Brother UK - OnForm. Not only has Sian finished in the top 10 at this

gruelling race, but its challenging lanes are literally her home roads.”

Sian Botteley

“Form is obviously important, but you definitely cannot just turn up just being strong. You need to have the technical nous to be able to get through the off-road sectors, and it really, really does help, knowing the course as well. I consider myself quite lucky that a lot of the course is my home training roads. 

“Obviously, the off-road sectors are important and can be decisive. Pictures, crashes, anything can happen but it definitely shouldn’t be underestimated: the importance of all the roads around [the technical sectors]. A lot of it is so narrow. There just one or two roads with stretches wider than a dual carriageway, and, yeah, with 140 riders on roads that narrow, it’s

always going to be riders stringing out and coming back together. 

“It’s a very attritional race. The first off-road sector is pretty early on and it's really quite up and down before that, so it's always super hard to start with. It just splits up so easily, and if you’re not positioned well going into Owston Village for the first time, you’re going to struggle to come back to the front.

“It’s probably not like anything I’ve experienced in a race before. The adrenaline builds throughout the whole race. There is so much to concentrate on, so much to get your teeth stuck into. You definitely finish the race exhausted; probably more so than any other It’s definitely more the mental strain of it as well because of the off-road sections and it’s constantly up, down, left, right. You  can rarely see half-a-kilometre up the road, because it’s so twisty-turn, up and down. 

“You need to be on the ball all the time, and I guess over 100km is a long time to be constantly paying attention. The race is just really special .There is so much added excitement around it and the anticipation the overall event. It’s just something different, and I think a lot of riders really, really enjoy that. I certainly do. It’s probably my favourite race on the calendar.”

Timothy John

“A really nice summary there from Sian, Phil. Strength isn’t enough by itself. Intelligence, the ability to read a race, and the advantage of a little local knowledge it seems are all part of the package.”

Phil Jones

“Yes, if you win this race, I think you get that special nod from all of the other riders who are in the scene. It’s really such a difficult race. It’s technically difficult, the road conditions are difficult. You’ve got to have endurance, the ability to put huge power down and quickly recover. Road positioning is ever so key in among all of this, local knowledge: all of these things come into play. You’ve got to be the full package, in my view, to win this particular race." 

Timothy John 

“It’s a wonderful race for so many reasons and not least because of the community support it enjoys. You know, much of the delay in the return to racing in this country can be accounted for by, well, let’s call it a certain reluctance on the part of British Cycling and other organisers, concerned that they might alienate communities. 

“But the CiCLE Classic has become such a part of the fabric of life in the villages that it passes through, that really wasn’t a concern, as we’ll hear now from Colin.”

Colin Clews

“I was only discussing yesterday with someone. They were saying, ‘How are you managing to stage a race this year when there are so many other difficulties around?’ And one thing that has been absolutely amazing to us is that all the communities that we pass the race through - Melton town, or villages like Ouston and Somerby; places like that - there is such a strong feeling of support and movement of support for the race going ahead that it’s incredible to experience it. 

“Those communities want to see this race back on. They see it as creating some normality back into their lives. They see it as something that has been part of their lives for so many

years now and they want it to get back where it should be, and we’re only to pleased and proud that we’re able to do that.

“British Cycling have been supportive to us in ensuring that the races go ahead on the basis that we want them to: as real races and not just trial events and this sort of thing. Really, it’s paying off in  terms of the community support that we have.”

Timothy John

“I mean, it’s really heartening to hear that Colin has that support from his communities. And this is not some low key return to racing or even a pilot event that we’re discussing. Sunday’s Women’s CiCLE Classic will start with what is generally agreed will be the largest peloton ever assembled for a domestic women’s road race. Will each of the 140 starters make it back into Melton to contest the finish? Colin’s not so sure.”

Colin Clews

“One of the things that British Cycling has said all along: they have been quite prepared for us to have the maximum field of 140 riders because they consider that the course is so challenging that we may start with a bunch of 140, but within perhaps the first 20km, we won’t have a bunch of 140 any longer. It will be several smaller bunches. 

“Whether or not that comes to fruition, we’ll have to wait and see, but it’s a realistic way of looking at it. The more spread out we have the riders, the greater the racing looks

because it demonstrates the real challenge of the event. Everyone wants to be there at the start, let’s see how many we’ve got at the finish.

“I firmly believe that the course is very straight forward, but everyone else seems to tell me that they can’t understand where it goes and they still don’t know where it goes. This year, we’ve tweaked it a little bit in sending them in the reverse direction on the first lap, from Owston to Borough-on-the-Hill. Over the whole period that we’ve run the CiCLE Classic, this will be the first time the we’ve done that circuit in reverse, so it’s a unique feature of this year’s race, and the women will be doing it first. It’s good that we're able to do that.”

Phil Jones

“Absolute kudos to Colin Clews and everyone that assists in the organisation of this particular race because they, I think, are really showing how you get a community engaged in a race like this. It runs through all the villages and everyone comes out and it becomes a sort of mass participation [event]. It’s not only great for the riders, riding such a challenging and technically difficult course, but the encouragement it also brings out is what the sport really needs right now. 

“It needs people to be actively out there and supporting it, because, of course, that’s great for the sponsors, it’s great for everybody. The riders have that extra few watts of energy when they’re cheered along by crowds at the side of the road, which is absolutely wonderful. For me, this is a really great example of how British domestic racing needs to build further with

more races of this style and type.”

Timothy John

“Well, hear hear. I couldn’t agree with you more, Phil. We mentioned to Colin in our interview that, given that Britain already has the most respected stage race on the women’s calendar in the shape of the Women’s Tour, does he see potential in the Women’s CiCLE Classic to achieve the same status with a one-day race?”

Colin Clews

“The potential is there, yes. There is the limitation there in terms of finance and also in the ability to move it to another level. It would be lovely to have a women’s one-day international race in this country, and I think of all the races that are out there, the CiCLE Classic, as it does with the men’s event, could fulfil that role. But the amount of work involved in putting that all together is possibly beyond me at the present time. It would need others to come in and assist with that happening. 

Timothy John 

“Well, it’s interesting to hear there, Phil, isn’t it, that budget would be only half the issue in making the Women's CiCLE Classic an international event. The other half would be the additional drain on Colin’s time. People forget, I think, just how much the British scene depends on volunteers. I mean, Colin Clews is a volunteer. Let that sink in! 

“He’s built this race from scratch over 15 years. He’s made it the envy of many races in world cycling. Now, I know that Brother UK's investment in cycling is very much at the grass roots of the sport, and it’s about supporting volunteers at the end of the day. They do a wonderful job don’t they? You can only take your hat off to them.”

Phil Jones

“Well, the sport wouldn’t function without people like Colin and all of the volunteers who help on the day and do all of the work ahead of the race. If you talk to Colin, a lot of the work he has to do involves having conversations with the local authorities and the police and the road closures. Thankfully, he’s built up a library of assets now which means he can take a lot of it off the shelf and repeat it year after year, but the hard work is really getting a race established for the first time. The second time, perhaps it comes a little bit easier. 

“Colin was also very lucky in securing someone who financially backed getting the race set up. Somebody put some money down and committed for three years, which allowed Colin to go away, get it all sorted out. Now, he’s got a really timeless classic there in the domestic scene. Long may that continue, but I think we’ve heard and read in a number of articles that what the scene needs is more race organisers, more volunteers, more committed people in order that it can continue in the years ahead.”

Timothy John

“Oh yeah, absolutely, I mean, people with Colin’s vision and determination, with incredible benefactors like Pete Stanton, who, as Colin mentions in our interview, meets the £30,000 cost of the women’s race, that is extraordinary dedication and a real testament, I think, to the passion that  exists in this country for bike racing.”

Colin Clews

“A year or two before 2016, it had been in my mind and my wish to stage a women’s version. At about that time, around 2015, we decided that we would do some crowd funding for our men’s race to enable us to have it televised as British Cycling were no longer covering its live for us.

“One gentleman who came forwards at that time was a gentleman by the name of  Pete Stanton from Northampton. Pete offered us a couple of hundred pounds for the crowd funding, which we were very grateful for, but he then let slip to me in an email that he was very interested in women’s racing, to the extent that if, in fact, we could offer him something significant in terms of a race, he might be prepared to sponsor it for us.

“Never one to be slow with jumping at an opportunity, I went back to Pete and said: ‘Do you mean this? It could be costly.’ His response was, ‘Well, put together a budget and let's see what it might be and give me the chance to say yay or nay.’ So I put together a budget of about £30,000, wrote back to Pete and, believe it or not, he immediately said, ‘Oh, that’s fine.

I’m willing to sponsor the race for three years.'

“Pete is an absolutely tremendous character. He is a strong supporter of women’s racing and has been for many, many years. But a situation in which a person puts their hand in their own pocket and comes up with £30,000 to run a race each year, I totally agree with you, Tim, is absolutely unique; perhaps not just in this country either. He’s well deserving of some public accolade for his generosity towards women’s cycling in this country because he is a one-off, and that’s why we’re all so passionate to make a race for him that is worthy of what he is doing.”

INTERLUDE

 

Part Six: Mitigation Strategies

Timothy John

“Looping back now to the planning aspect, and, of course, there’s a huge amount of planning in putting on the race, but increasingly in the neutral service provision too. I mean, now more than ever, they are required to cope with a huge number of technical permutations, whether that be disc brakes or thru-axles, 12-speed cassettes, tubeless tyres, you name it. It’s a constantly shifting picture, isn’t it?”

Phil Jones

“It is, Tim. There are so many permutations now that we can’t meet every single requirement on the road now. It’s almost impossible. We haven’t got the space inside the car to fit all the wheel and cassette combinations that are needed and the various hub types and rotor sizes etc. Generally, you’ve got to go with the main, really. 

“What Tony does really well is that he has very good relationships with the people who run the teams. Tony, you will often find walking the pits before a race, having a chat and checking what people’s set-ups are. And if there’s a set-up where someone says: ‘I’m running a 140mm front, 160mm rear, thru-axle, 12-speed,’ and we don’t have that particular wheel on the vehicle, Tony will ask for a spare set of wheels, and he might put those in lead car one. 

“Effectively, if that rider has a good chance of being in a breakaway or even winning the race, we’ll make sure those vehicles are in the right vehicle, in order that if there’s a rapid wheel

change needed, we at least have the ability to service that rider. 

“Now, of course, you can’t suddenly store 140 different sets of wheels for 140 different riders. Tony needs to use his judgement, really. He knows the riders, he knows the scene, he knows who the strongest people are, and so generally speaking, he would use his judgement when asked about whether to hold a set of wheels for a rider. 

“Sometimes, an independent rider will walk up, a third cat, and say: ‘I need these wheels in your car,’ and it will be like: ‘Sorry, we don’t have the room.’ These, unfortunately, are some of the realities of what happens at some of these races. 

“The same goes with pedals. If we don’t have a wheel, it might be: ‘Well, I’ll take a bike then.’ The bikes are equipped with Shimano pedals, and you look down and somebody’s running

Speedplays and then, of course, their cleats don’t fit the pedals. 

“By that particular time, it’s a question of, well, by the time we change the pedals - and we have done it; I have been in the car when we’ve changed pedals - but unfortunately that means that rider is so far away from the bunch or break then that it’s probably unlikely that they’re going to get back on. 

“It’s very, very fluid, Tim. It’s very, very fluid, and neutral service is not the answer to every single technical query that arises on the road in a race, but it can answer most.”

Timothy John

“They do a tremendous job, but, of course, that’s a shared responsibility, you know? It’s shared with every team in the race. The chief mitigation strategy that Tony deploys, well, that’s taking three cars. He’s got one stationed behind the chief commissaire, he has one stationed in the middle of the pack, and he has one stationed at the back of the pack for riders who fall out of it, and we can expect to see that on Sunday, it’s such an attritional race. 

“Just while we’re discussing the cars, Phil, it’s probably worth mentioning that these are brand new vehicles that will make their race debut on Sunday. You negotiated a new deal with

Ford, I think?”

Phil Jones

“Yes, we’ve actually had the cars in the fleet for about nine months, Tim, but because of Covid, they haven’t seen any racing action. But, yes, we’ve struck a new sponsorship deal with Ford. We got the cars sent away, we got them fully wrapped, we got the racks readjusted, and, as usual, we had a reassessment of all the technical equipment that needs to be in the cars, which we do at the end of every season. 

“We double check what new wheel sets might need to be put on. We’ve put more disc wheels on the roof these days as rim breaks are being transitioned out. As Tony discussed, we’ve

put drills into the car now to try and make sure that if it is a thru-axle disc set-up that we can try and get those wheels changed as soon as possible. 

“So we’re always trying to mitigate, wherever we can, but, I guess as I said before, you can’t answer every single technical malfunction on the road, and particularly if the race is on, and it’s in its final third, and someone has a technical query, right at the back, in perhaps a grupetto, and says: ‘I’ve got a technical problem, and I want you to resolve it.’

“If they’ve got no chance of being in the top 10 or top 20, it might well be that the service is not given at that particular time because they’ve got no chance of finishing the race in any sort of point-earning ranking.”

 

Part Seven: Home Advantage

Timothy John 

“And that is another compelling aspect of the CiCLE Classic, isn’t it? It’s a race, on the one hand, that is heavily dependent on luck, and, on the other, it’s a race that never produces a lucky winner! Nobody wins a race as demanding as the CiCLE Classic out of sheer good fortune. Let’s hear again now from Team Brother UK-OnForm’s Sian Botteley.”

Sian Botteley

“The luck element does play a part in it, but I’m quite a firm believer that you make your own luck in races like this, and if you have got the extra technical ability to be able to pick your way through the tricky sections, then, yeah, you are less likely to run into trouble.

“My dad grew up in Oakham, which is really close to the race. He knows the roads like the back of his hand. He will always razz around in the car with spare wheels. It’s definitely the best strategy, I think, should you puncture in the middle of the sector, there’s no point in waiting for the cars behind, because there’s going to be such a massive string of riders that are spread out all over the place, and then a number of cars. If you can get yourself to the end of the sector to pick up a wheel, it’s definitely the best thing to do.

"We’ve got a recce ride planned in. I’m not sure if dad is going to ride with us or follow in the car behind, but I like to think that between me and him, especially him, we can impart plenty

of local knowledge to my team-mates.”

Timothy John

“It was interesting earlier, Phil, when you described the list of qualities that a rider might need to be successful in a race like this, you mentioned local knowledge, and that’s something that Sian, and, indeed, Team Brother UK-OnForm, can definitely call upon. 

“In those clips, she mentioned her father, which is, of course, Mark Botteley, the team manager, and he will be calling the shots for Team Brother UK-OnForm on Sunday. Perhaps that will give them an advantage. 

“Larry Hickmott, the founder and editor of Brother UK-sponsored VeloUK, well, he certainly believes so, and although, surprisingly, this will be the first edition of the Women’s CiCLE Classic that he'll cover, he’s covered countless editions of the men’s race, and he is more then familiar with the decisive sections of the course. I asked him if local knowledge could deliver an advantage.”

Larry Hickmott

“I think it would have to deliver a big advantage. You take the section over Marefield, which is where the QOM or the King of the Hills or Queen of the Hills sprint is, they take that in a different direction this time for the first time ever. Knowing how those roads are going to affect the race is very important. 

“If riders aren’t out looking at the course and are going to take it as it comes, I think that would be the wrong strategy to take. I think you need to know what’s coming and when to be in position, because it only takes one person or two people to let a wheel go and for gaps to open up, and it’s such a hard course, I think it’s going to be quite difficult for riders to close

those gaps.”

Timothy John

“Both Sian and Larry are very clear there, Phil: home roads definitely deliver an advantage.”

Phil Jones

“Oh, without a doubt. I think any rider will tell you that when they’re riding on their home roads, it gives them an extra advantage. Road positioning, knowing what’s coming ahead, where you need to be, moving up the bunch where you can, knowing that parcours, knowing everything about the twists and turns, should enable Sian, I hope, to ride a smart and efficient race, minimising energy output, making sure the tyre pressures are right and that her bunch positioning is really on-point. I think in a race like this, local knowledge is a great advantage.”

Timothy John

“Absolutely. I mean, Sian will certainly hope to be at the sharp end of the women's race on Sunday, but she’ll be far from the only rider from a Brother UK-sponsored team looking to shape the race. Lucy Lee of Team Brother UK - LDN and Sammie Stuart of Brother UK-sponsored Crimson Performance - Orientation Marketing are both in outstanding form and both will be making their debuts. I think it’s fair to say that neither of them are the only card that their respective teams will have to play this weekend. I don’t think any of Brother’s teams will be travelling to Leicestershire with the idea of making up the numbers this weekend , Phil.”

Phil Jones

“Without a doubt, There’s a very, very strong squad of riders in each of the teams. When you look at the size of the group. I mean, there’s going to be 140 riders participating in the race on Sunday, which makes it the largest race, perhaps, that’s ever been run as the CiCLE Classic, in terms of riders, which again creates a new complication. 

“It’s a much longer bunch. On the narrow roads, it will be even more strung out. It’s the first race back. There will be different people with competing aims. It’s going to be very, very strategic and very much a race of attrition as it carries on. I know that each of our sponsored teams, and any of the teams, honestly speaking, that are there, they want to put on a good

show. 

“There will only be a couple of National A races in 2021. Kudos to be had. Everyone wants to show their form. Everyone wants to show the sponsors and their managers that they’re here, that they’re well trained, they're well prepared and that they want to perform. I think we’re going to see a lot fireworks on Sunday.”

Part Eight: Following The Action

Timothy John

“Now, if you’re unable to get to Leicestershire this weekend, here’s some good news: Larry Hickmott of VeloUK.net will be covering the race, diving from lane to lane on his Brother UK-branded motorbike and posting images and video to his Twitter account, @velouk

“Phil, will you be heading along this weekend?”

Phil Jones

“Tim, I’ve had this race in my diary for months, until last week, my son called and said he needed to be moved home from university in Hull. On what day? Next Sunday! Literally, I was like: ‘Can it be no other day, son? I want to try and get down for this race?’ ‘Dad, it’s got to be next Sunday.’ So, unfortunately, I can’t make it. I’m absolutely gutted.”

Timothy John 

“Ahh, well, all the more reason to follow @velouk on Twitter. I mean, we say again and again, but it’s no more than the truth: Larry is the hardest working man in cycling. Where would this scene be without him, Phil? He covers literally every race it seems.”

Phil Jones

“I know that Larry has already done his pre-race work. I know he will have figured out where he’s going to be to take the best photos. Thank goodness we’re going to have Larry there reporting on the action. He’ll be on his Brother-sponsored motor bike, so look out for him as he’s creating dust around the lanes and pointing his lens in all the right places. Without a doubt, Larry makes a massive contribution, and I know that he will be excited to be covering this race on Sunday.”

Larry Hickmott

“It’s the biggest race we’ve had for well over a year. There’s a lot of pressure and a lot of different things to cover. On the Saturday, I will cover the course in the manner that I will cover it on Sunday, just to check everything on the motorbike. 

“On the Sunday, I’ll have two races. Normally, when we do the CiCLE Classic, we only have one race, so to have two races, it makes it an extremely busy and extremely long day. This race, for the women and the juniors, unlike the men’s, everything is packed into a very short distance of 100km, so therefore timing and running around will be the order of the day.

“As you say, it’s a very photogenic race. Somerberg is an obvious one, whether you photograph it from in front or behind, it’s always a great looking shot to have, and Sawgate, which is the last sector that the riders in this race do before the finish, it’s just a straight gravel road with a lot of pot holes that the riders do at speeds which I think would surprise a lot of people.

That is always an epic photograph. 

“But there are other photographs, There’s one near Somerberg, where the races dips down into the bottom of the hills and then back up again. A snaking peloton of 140 riders is always a nice shot.

“I have already looked at the course, thanks to help from Colin Clews, and I do have a strategy for the number of times that I can see the race, which I think is roughly seven to eight times, and then get back for the finish.”

Timothy John

“Well, I hope we’ve managed to whet your appetite for this Sunday’s return to national road racing. The CiCLE Classic is just one of those races that everybody looks forward to every year. On the WorldTour calendar, it’s Strade Bianche and Paris-Roubaix, and on the domestic calendar, it’s the Lincoln Grand Prix and, of course, the CiCLE Classic. To relaunch national racing in this country with such a charismatic race, well, we couldn’t really ask for more. 

“If you’re unable to attend, then do make sure you’re following @velouk and @brothercycling on Twitter this weekend, where we’ll bring you as much information as we possibly can.

Phil, thank-you very much indeed for joining me today, thank-you to all of our guests, and most of all, thank-you very much to everybody listening out there. Do, please, stay safe.”

INTERLUDE

Phil Jones

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

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