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  5. Episode 24: “2022 Tour of Britain Preview”

Brother UK Cycling Podcast – Episode 24

Episode Description

Episode 24 of the Brother UK Cycling Podcast sets the scene for the 18th edition of the modern Tour of Britain.

Co-hosts Timothy John and Phil Jones, the Managing Director of Brother UK, are joined by Brother UK-sponsored athlete Adam Kenway, the former national hill climb champion, and Tony Barry, the manager of Neutral Service p/b Brother UK. 

The group discusses topics beyond the traditional preview of course and contenders, including inter-stage transfers, recovery protocols, the unique challenge of British roads and the demands on neutral service provision made by increasing technical diversity in the peloton.

Listen now to whet your appetite for the latest edition of the Brother UK-sponsored Tour of Britain, which we’ll serve proudly as Official Print and Results Partner and presenting partner of the Green Zones.

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Episode 24: 2022 Tour of Britain Preview

Episode contents

  • 00.02 – Introduction
  • 00.37 – Hello And Welcome
  • 01.38 – Part One: Inter-stage transfers and recovery
  • 11.11 – Part Two: Inside the race convoy
  • 15.36 – Part Three: Neutral service at the Tour of Britain
  • 23.08 – Part Four: An International Status
  • 30.04 – Part Five: An Organisational Masterpiece 
  • 34.30 – Part Six: The Qualification Game
  • 37.07 – Part Seven: Technical Matters
  • 45.14 – Part Eight: A Question of Style
  • 48.51 - Part Nine: Outro



Timothy John

"If your passion lies in elite British road racing, and you want the 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!"


Hello and welcome

Timothy John

"Hello and welcome to this new edition of the Brother UK Cycling Podcast, where, I'm delighted to say, we are back in the studio in Manchester.

"It's been a brilliant day. We've already had a packed studio with guests, including Daisy May Barnes of Brother UK-Orientation Marketing and Ian Watson, the manager of Brother UK-LDN.

"We're into the afternoon session now, and the soldiers hanging with us throughout the afternoon are Adam Kenway, the former British hill climb champion and multiple podium finisher at the national hill climb championships. Adam, thank you very much indeed for joining us."

Adam Kenway

"Thank you for letting me stay and having me here today."

Timothy John

"'Also joining us, staying with us, I should say, is Tony Barry, the manager of Neutral Service p/b Brother UK. Tony, thank you very much for sticking around."

Tony Barry

"You're welcome."

Timothy John

"And, of course, my co-host is here, the Managing Director of Brother UK, Phil Jones. Phil, thanks for staying with us."

Phil Jones

"Good to be here, Tim. Let's get into this Tour of Britain chat, 'eh?"


Part One: Inter-stage transfers and recovery

Timothy John

“Absolutely. I mean, the Tour of Britain: just the pinnacle men’s race in Great Britain, as the name suggests. 

“It’s going to be on us sooner than we think. It starts on Sunday September 4 and finishes a week later on Sunday September 11.

“This is the 18th edition of the modern Tour of Britain, a race, of course, which began life as the Milk Race. 

“There are eight stages this year, and it truly is a tour of Britain. It starts in Aberdeen. It ends on the Isle of Wight. 

“I can tell you for a fact that Andy Hawes, the Route Director, is out driving every inch as we speak. I’m meeting up with Andy on Saturday afternoon down in Dorset. It will be great to hear how he’s getting on. 

“Here’s what we know so far:

"Stage one: Sunday September 4 - Aberdeen to the Glenshee Ski Centre

"Stage two Monday September 5 -  Hawick to Duns

"Stage three: Tuesday September 6 - Durham to Sunderland

"Stage four: Wednesday September 7 - Redcar to Duncombe Park 

"Stage five: Thursday September 8 - Westbridge to Mansfield

"Stage Six: Friday September 9 - Tewkesbury to Gloucester

"Stage Seven: Saturday September 10 - West Bay to Ferndown 

"Stage Eight: Sunday September 11: Ryde to The Needles

“This is truly an ambitious race, Phil. This is a really comprehensive route from one end of the country to the next.”

Phil Jones

"It is indeed, and I wouldn't like to be doing the transfers for this year's Tour of Britain, I must tell you. Having participated in 2018 and done it one day ahead, the transfers are really part of the entire set-up, which can be part of the real fatigue build-up.

"It's difficult racing, and it looks like it's a pretty hilly edition of the Tour of Britain yet again; a difficult parcours. But, of course, the sheer distance: going from the top of the country, right the way down to the Isle of Wight: they're going to be covering some miles in those team buses."

Timothy John

"And how does a neutral service crew manage those long transfers?

"We know that it's very difficult for the riders, particularly the leaders who have media duties: everything is delayed, and it can be up until 10 or 11 o'clock at night before they get to their hotels.

"It is an onerous part of the race for you guys: these long transfers?"

Tony Barry

"I know it's not comfortable in a team bus, but at least you can sleep or try and get some rest and get your feet up. If you're not driving, you can sleep, and I'm sure that's what the majority of riders will be doing."

Timothy John

"Adam, you haven't ridden the Tour of Britain, but you've ridden the Tour de Yorkshire; you've ridden some very big stage races.

"What are the physical demands of a long transfer? Is it the last thing you need at the end of a day of racing?"

Adam Kenway

"Sort of. It's amazing how quickly they go, especially because you're just talking about the race: what's happened, and what you're going to do the next day on the next stage; what's gone wrong and right.

"The main thing from my side of things is getting nutrition into me. Let's say, if you don't get to the hotel until 11 o'clock at night: you have to make sure that you eat properly.

"I can remember once, I was doing ok, so I got called in for anti-doping. By the time anti-doping finished, I think we left the race at 7.30pm, and I knew that we wouldn't get to the hotel

until about 10.30pm.

"They have set meals for you. They had all been cleared away. We had to call in for some fish and chips on the way back: probably not the most nutritious food you can get, but it's all part of it.

"I think the WorldTour teams where you've got the really big motorhomes and on-site kitchens, almost, that really does help them a lot, compared to some of the small Conti teams, where the riders are sitting in the back of a car.

"Anybody who's had a four or five-hour commute, or a drive to a holiday: you're tired at the end of it, and you can imagine, that's on the back of a five-hour race, plus a two-hour transfer to the start of the race. It can really build up.

"I'm very lucky, as well: once my head hits the pillow, I'm off to sleep instantly, where I know riders who need to be in bed for a good two hours almost before they fall asleep. For them, it's even more of an issue."

Phil Jones

"I've been lucky enough, Tim, to have a couple of tours around WorldTour team buses. I've been in a few of those in my time, and, yeah, the tour buses of those big-budget teams are something else inside. They're total luxury.

"But, as we say, if we think about the other end of the spectrum, maybe the Conti teams, the UCI teams from the UK that are going to be competing, they don't have that same luxury. You're right, it's either in the back of the car or the van with the mechanics doing the transfer.

"That's a very, very different Tour of Britain experience that they'll have, albeit, I know that they'll all really, really enjoy it. All the riders just want to be in the race, but that additional layer of organisation which means that, literally, you're beginning to recover from the moment that you get onto the coach.

"These coaches have showers, kitchens. All the riders have their own areas where they can have their food prepared for recovery. As soon as they're on, they're eating. The chefs have the optimum amount of nutrition prepared, ready for the next day. They're arriving at the hotels in a far more prepared condition, ready for the racing the next day, where perhaps some of the smaller teams, maybe some of the domestic teams are, unfortunately, in the lap of the gods when it comes to organising things like that. "

Timothy John

"Absolutely. When you see these huge, gleaming team buses, you can think, 'Well, this is all for show. This is just a larger background for the sponsor's logo,' but there is an intensely practical purpose to these very expensive, very luxurious vehicles, and, as you say, Phil, that's to aid and to speed that process of recovery.

"I remember at the 2018 Tour de Yorkshire: Harry Tanfield, of course, won the opening stage, which meant [that] the following day, he was in the leader's jersey, and I interviewed Harry in the back of a Ford Transit van; not even a Ford Transit van with windows in the side panels, but a Ford Transit van.

"He was sat there with the blue leader's jersey of the Tour de Yorkshire on his lap, his race numbers pinned to it, and when I'd finished the interview. I slid back the door, jumped out and walked around the corner to a car park filled with the most luxurious team business imaginable, and I thought: 'Well, that is the difference. That's what a difference in budget means.'"

Adam Kenway

"It can be something as simple as a shower. Obviously, you get out of your kit and put on fresh clothes and try to wash as well as possible, but over a stage race, you don't think it, but saddle sores are a big, big issue, and if you can get in a good shower, and get properly clean, you can relax a lot more easily for that transfer, where most riders won't get a good shower until they get back to the hotel. It's just one of those little things that you wouldn't think about."

Phil Jones

"Yeah, these are all the small details, aren't they? I was just thinking that if our riders get time to go back and listen to episode 20, which I recorded with Sophie Smith in London. It was about her new book, 'Pain and Privilege: Inside Le Tour.' What Sophie tries to do is unpack some of the realities of what it means to race the Tour de France.

"She talks about the app that the Jumbo-Visma riders have, which pinpoints their nutrition down to the individual, down to the time of day, down to the gram of food that they should be eating to optimise their individual performance the day after. Now that really is quite something.

"It also flashed into my mind when James and I did the Tour of Britain One Day Ahead in 2018, one of the things I used to love at the end of the day is I knew that Cherie would be there with a cold flannel. She'd just say: 'Right, sit there.' We'd sit on the back of the car, and she'd just wipe our faces, rub our legs down. I began to look forward to that moment in the day because you don't realise the grime that you picked up off of the road, fundamentally.

"She'd just shove in some food and say: 'Get eating. You're eating for tomorrow.' All the time, she'd be shouting out of the window, 'You're eating for tomorrow. You're eating for tomorrow.'

"Nutrition, particularly, when you're talking about riders of your capability, Adam, and these WorldTour riders, when you get an upset in that rhythm, it can really change a rider's performance on the road, and the Jumbo-Visma guy who was organising all this nutrition was saying, 'If a guy riders poorly, we know immediately what they've eaten and what they've not eaten, and we can pinpoint their performance down to nutrition above all else.

"I thought, 'Well, that's fascinating.' All these dynamics going on behind the scenes, aren't they, as we're watching this eight-day spectacle rolling around the UK, it's all wonderful, but all this stuff goes on behind the scenes: race organisation and team organisation."

Timothy John

"Absolutely, and that, Tony, must be night and day from when you entered in the sport in the 1960s: to think that you could get dietary advice from an app on your phone, and yet that's what Jumbo-Visma's riders can rely upon.

"And yet you had a front-row seat to arguably the biggest change, which was when Dave Brailsford became Performance Director at British Cycling and you were on the board of directors: that whole culture that's entered the sport now: 'the aggregation of marginal gains.' You saw that first-hand, didn't you?"

Tony Barry

"Yeah. It was good. It worked out well. It's like, as he says, marginal gains: just the little bits that make it. That guy at the finish, with the cologne, makes it for that rider so that he knows, ok, he's not clean, but his legs have not got the muck, and his face feels that much better."

Timothy John

"And how different are things now from when you were managing the GB road team, for example?"

Tony Barry

"I should imagine that there are still things like that which go on. You only have to look at the finish of any race where there is a big team and there are guys waiting to look after them, and if luckily enough they've won, you can see the soigneur sorting them out before they go on the podium, which is all part of making that rider ride his bike."


Part Two: Inside the race convoy

Timothy John

"All of these highly sophisticated processes, whether it be diet, whether it be rest and recovery, whether it be hi-tech bicycles, it's all about making the riders perform.

"Let's go back to the course because that's absolutely fascinating. Hilltop finishes this year on the opening and the final stages. Only one of the stages has less than 2000m of climbing: that's stage five, from West Bridgford to Mansfield.

"The race ends, interestingly, only one week - exactly one week - before the start of the 2022 UCI World Championships in Australia. The Tour of Britain, I think it's fair to say, has really benefitted from its position on the calendar. It's almost the final preparation for the World Championships.

"Will that be so this year, do you think? Would you need more than a week, Adam, if you were an athlete preparing to perform in Australia?"

Adam Kenway

"I think the top athletes will be ok. The only issue they'll get is the temperature difference. It could be cold [in Europe] at that time of year: you could be riding in the rain and in temperatures of two or three degrees. In Australia, at that time of year, I think it could be 32 or 33 degrees, so I think some riders might struggle to acclimatise in time.

"But it's going to be a heck of a hard race, the Tour of Britain, especially with a really big hill on the first day; anywhere that finishes on a ski resort. I'd love it. It's going to be great to watch. It's going to be hard; even the Mansfield stage, which you were talking about.

"I live very close. The roads are hard; up and down all day; twisty. It's going to be really hard racing."

Timothy John

"Just in terms of those British roads, which are heavy, which are grippy. As a British rider, and, as we say, you are a veteran of the Tour de Yorkshire, does that give the domestic riders, not an edge, but something to hold onto as they race against the WorldTour pros?"

Adam Kenway

"It certainly does. You know how the roads feel. There are some riders, some European riders, who dread coming over to race because it feels so hard.

"They call it slow motion racing because you're going just as hard, but, on the Continent, you just fly. You're watching it on telly, the Tour de France, and they're motoring along, and they're putting in exactly the same effort, but in the UK they're probably going 3kph or 4kph slower, and you're losing all your momentum going over the bumps. It's just harder racing throughout.

"But it does mean that they're really worthwhile victories. If you look at the top contenders last year, they were the very, very best in the world: the world champion. Because they're hard roads, it just brings the cream to top."

Timothy John

"Phil, do you think we're going to get a world-class field this year, or do you think the likes of Van Aert, Alaphilippe, if they've got an eye on retaining the rainbow jersey, in Alaphilippe's case, will he head to Australia as soon as he feasibly can?"

Phil Jones

"My feeling would be yes. We're looking at a nine-hour time zone difference between the UK and Sydney. That's quite big. You want to try and acclimatise to that, in my view, and get adjusted to that as quickly as possible.

"It might be that the really big stars end up heading out to Australia a little bit earlier. The Tour of Britain may suffer a little bit as a result, with some of the really big names choosing to head Australia way beforehand, but I don't think it will detract from the race, fundamentally.

"The Tour of Britain is a fantastic spectacle. It will still have a star-studded field, let's be honest about it. Even some of the riders that aren't the really big superstars, like the Alaphiippes. There are still plenty of riders who could put on some fantastic racing.

"I remember that we rode the West Bridgford to Mansfield stage in 2018, I think. I think it will be the longest stage. When we rode it, it was about 228km, from memory."

Adam Kenway

"Ian Standard won it that year. It was a brutal day."

Phil Jones

"Yeah, it was a long day out, without a doubt. I think for many of us it was the furthest we'd ever been on a bike in a single day. I think, on that day, I had Emily Meakin with me as well. That was the furthest Emily had been on a bike in one day, and, obviously, Emily was active in the women's nationals at the weekend.

"It's a long old day, and especially if you have a few heavy days of climbing in the legs as well. It's not an easy day by any feat of the imagination. It's a long day. It's relatively flat,

relative to the rest of the course, but that doesn't mean that you're not going to get a build-up of fatigue after such a long stage."

Timothy John

"You were saying Phil that regardless of whether the very biggest stars come, we're still going to get a decent race. I think you're absolutely right. I think the Tour of Britain must have a lot of credit in the bank now. This is the 18th edition of the modern Tour. We've had great winners, year in, year out, for pretty much all of that period."

Part Three: Neutral Service at the Tour of Britain

Timothy John

"Tony, how different is the modern Tour of Britain from the Milk Race, its predecessor?"

Tony Barry

"I think it's the riders that make it. The riders who come now are professional, that's the word to say: and the backup that they've got. It must be one of the top stage races in the world. I know that we've got the Tour and the Giro, but the Tour of Britain is one to win, definitely. If you can get that on your list of wins, it's a good race."

Timothy John

"You were inside the race last year. When Neutral Service p/b Brother UK got the call up from race director Mick Bennett to support the Tour of Britain and the Women's Tour, you led the neutral service crews in both races. What was it like being in the professional convoy?"

Tony Barry

"It was good. It was good. Luckily, for the people that I've got with me, they have done it in other stage races. I've got guys who did the Milk Race; mechanics in the Milk Race and also on the Continent with British Cycling. The guys who I had with me knew what was coming and knew what would happen."

Timothy John

"You certainly weren't overawed, you weren't phased by the occasion?"

Tony Barry

"No, definitely not. It is a cracking race."

Timothy John

"Tell me about…I mean, you must know every DS on the domestic scene, you must know every commissaire, every marshal almost. Is it the same cast of characters at the Tour of Britain?"

Tony Barry

"It is. I mean, the guys come over from the Continent to be Commissaire President and others come as well. The majority of people who are doing cycling in England are there, and British Cycling is part of that."

Timothy John

"And what about sharing the road with drivers from WorldTour teams who clearly wouldn't know the British roads as well as you do? Is there a hierarchy? Did you find that you were able to integrate quite easily into that world?"

Tony Barry

"I don't think that there is a problem. The majority, with us being neutral service, they will let us get through because one day they might need us. That would be my thought, as a team manager: let them get through. Don't put any obstacles in their way."

Phil Jones

"I can probably bring a bit of insight to this, Tim, from when I jumped in the team car for the Tour de Yorkshire with Chez. It was very evident at the time that there was a perceived pecking order. Regardless of what your convoy position is, the drivers of the WorldTour team cars seem to want you to defer to them.

"But, of course, when you've got someone like Cherie behind the wheel, who's a very, very skilled driver. Literally, she could drive a rally car on the best rally stages in the world and be

competitive, I'm sure.

"You've got to have a certain confidence behind the wheel when you're driving the vehicles, too. In my experience, everyone who drives in the peloton, in most cases, is a very capable driver.

"Everyone understands that, ultimately, it's about [putting] rider safety first. Don't be an idiot on the road. You've always got to be thinking of the riders. But, occasionally, team cars do some shenanigans…"

Tony Barry

"They do."

Phil Jones

"They've got their position in the convoy. They might be late dropping back if they've gone up to service a rider. They'll stay up a bit, and, of course, you get beeping of horns and flashing of lights:' Move back!'; "Oh, sorry.'

"These are the things, again, that are the nuances that happen behind the racing, but, then, as Tony says, with neutral service, because you are under the direction of the race commissaries, no one wants to get on the wrong side of the commissaries and for Tony, at the end of the race, to be saying, 'Oh, Team A, Team Br or Team C were holding us up on the day and [impeding] our ability to deliver service to riders."

Timothy John

"Phil makes a very good point there about the skill of the drivers; something else that is completely missed by television coverage.

"How do you pick a driver, Tony? How do you know if someone has the right temperament, the right skill even before you put them through the IAM or UCI training?"

Tony Barry

"I think the ideal guy is a rider. He'll know how to do it, and then it goes from there, then. They'll have to do the UCI and British Cycling accreditations.

"It's time. It's just time spent… It's like team managers are there because they've got the sponsorship. You can see some of them that are not good, and they need that experience to

come through - and time."

Phil Jones

"But, Tim, isn't it funny…You were talking about the Milk Race. Cast your mind back to 1987, when Malcolm Elliott won the Milk Race. What must that convoy have looked like with a collection of Morris Marinas and Allegros; all manner of vehicles without ABS, without power steering, without crash protection radar; all of these things that go on. Those cars, by any measure, versus today's cars are very, very different. We've got much more advanced braking now, and cars today are very, very different.

"But, still, there's an individual behind the wheel, regardless of what vehicle that is. Providing that individual has the awareness, As Tony says, when there's an ex-rider behind the

wheel, they have that sixth sense. I think we've mentioned this before: that sixth sense of how a bunch is moving and keeping an eye on things.

"In fact, I spoke to Dean Downing about this. Dean was driving the Commissaire President at the Women's Tour. Dean's one of our national superstars when it comes to racing, and he said he's in constant dialogue with the chief commissaire about the car, where it should be positioned. He's listening to Dean about what might be happening in the bunch ahead. Tony's point there is well made: a former rider makes a great driver."

Timothy John

"Yeah, 100 per cent. Is that universally true, Adam? Would you fancy yourself behind the wheel of a team car or a neutral service car?" 

Adam Kenway

"I've been in the passenger side of a team car before, and it is a different experience. It was one I enjoyed.

"From the rider side of things, I've always felt safe in the cars. Ninety-nine per cent of the drivers know what they're doing. Really, you touch the back bumper most of the time because

that's the way you're taught. You're taught to stay as close to the car as possible and then back off before the bends so you can overtake.

"I think it's a skill that riders probably would be better at because you know braking distances and what you would do in that scenario. You'd know what line they're going to take around the bend, so you'd know where to place the car.

"I've had probably one incident where I've thought, 'Whoops. This is not where I want to be.' That was at the CiCLE Classic. That was just because the lanes are really, really narrow. I'd had a wheel change and was just getting back on, coming past Chez, and the road disappeared. I can remember being dragged by the side of the car for a second, which was a bit scary.

"It's a tough job, especially if you think that you're going to be in there for five hours. You've got to be really on your guard for five hours, because there are always bikes going up and

down, getting food, getting bottles, getting dropped. There's etiquette, as well. If you've got a mechanical, they'll help you get on. If you're getting dropped, that doesn't happen.

"I'd only get bottles and things like that if I saw a team like INEOS or another team getting bottles because I'd think, 'Ok, they're probably going to be the teams making the splits. I'll go back with them.' You also know that they'll be a couple of strong riders to help you get back onto the bunch.

"We've all been in the scenario where we've come back for bottles at the wrong time. You just learn it as a rider. Your race is over. Before you know it, someone has gone up the road. The pace gets put on. The chief comm upon up a gap between the car and the bunch and that 100 meters can be extremely hard to get across if you haven't got the best legs on the best day."

Part Four: An International Status

Timothy John

"I think we're getting a sense here of how absolutely integral the convoy is to the race. We said, didn't we, in part one of this episode that it's the race within the race, and everything we're hearing now just reinforces that opinion.

"Let's stay on track with the Tour of Britain and discuss this particular route in a bit more detail. We said earlier that it's again a very, very hard route. Last year was extremely difficult. Is that the right direction? I'm just playing devil's advocate here for a bit. We know that harder courses don't always produce the best racing, and, as much as a hard parcours will attract a

certain type of rider, it will dissuade another type of rider from coming.

"Caleb Ewan and Dylan Groenewegen won stages of the 2019 Tour of Britain. There'd have been nothing for them last year, nothing for them probably this year. Rohan Dennis won the time-trial last year; there's no time-trial this year. Is it a double-edged sword, Tony, do you think, planning these increasingly harder routes?"

Tony Barry

"It is. Some people used to say that the Tour of Britain will only be won by a few seconds, but even if it's won by a few seconds, they're flat out every day. There's no messing around. You've got to be up there to win it, and the riders will do that.

"The general public want to see things happen. If there are climbs, you'll see riders suffer. It's a terrible thing to say: that's what the general public want to see: somebody with their nose

on the top-tube trying to get up a climb."

Timothy John

"What's the feeling inside the peloton, Adam, for hard, challenging races? That 2018 Tour de Yorkshire that we were talking about earlier, my goodness, particularly stage two, I seem to remember, that finished on the Cow and Calf climb in Ilkley. That was absolutely savage and raced from the gun, What do the sprinters feel when they're sat on the start line for a stage like that?"

Adam Kenway

"It's definitely a divide in the bunch and even a divide in the hotel. It's quite funny. The night before and at the breakfast in the morning…You go down to breakfast, and, if you imagine, it's a big hall, and each team has a different table. You walk in, and you can see the different expressions on the riders' faces, like: 'Today, I'm going to be suffering.'

"I'd go in cheery. I always go in cheery. I prefer to have a positive mental attitude. Some people think: 'I just need to get through this day, I just need to get through this day,' and you can

see them in the morning, piling on the rice and things like that.

"But then again, even the easiest stage can be made hard by the riders. If anything, this year's Tour of Britain will be even harder because more people think they can win it, which could make it even more open and could split the race apart even more, which I think is going to be really exciting. Instead of three or four riders thinking they can win it, it could be ten or 15, especially with some of these climbs.

"If a break gets away: I feel that some of these stages could be a good breakaway stage. In 2016, Steve Cummings won. He attacked over the Cat and Fiddle and stayed away, got a gap, and held that gap for the rest of the race. I think it could be very similar to that.

"I love hard racing, I must admit. That's why I bike race, really. Obviously, the sprinter stages have got them, but there's not many sprinter stages that are easy. You've still got to get to the finish with good legs. It's another view. Some people love those races, but I prefer hard, gritty racing, which the Tour of Britain this year is definitely going to be for me."

Phil Jones

"And I think, going back to your point there, Adam, regardless of what's going on with the World Championships, the Tour of Britain is still race to have on your palmares. If we think about the last three winners of the Tour of Britain, we had Van Der Poel, Julian Alaphilippe, Wout Van Aert. Three huge names in global cycling have all won this race. If you look back: Edvald Boasson Hagen. Bradley Wiggins. The top racers in the world want this race on their palmares among all those other races, whether they be stages of the Giro or the Tour de France, or the Vuelta or the one-day Classics.

"This is still a highly-desirable race. That's the point. Regardless of what's going on with the Worlds, there will be as many riders looking at that one thinking, as Adam says: 'If a load of people are going to go that way, this could be my best chance ever to win the Tour of Britain.' That should make a more active race, I hope, and if it does, that might be good for us all: the fans watching it."

Adam Kenway

"Yeah, I totally agree with that. Nowadays, more than ever, to win any race, from a third cat to a fourth cat crit to last night, where I raced, at Otley, to win it, you've got to be good. You can't just coast, and you can't fluke it.

"Everybody knows who they can do. Team managers are there, giving you good instructions. Everybody has the 'eye of the tiger' and wants to win. There are no gimmees nowadays. There's nothing at all."

Timothy John

"Where do we think, then, with all that in mind, the Tour of Britain stands in the pecking order of world events. SweetSpot, the race organisers, they've never made any secret of the fact that they want it to be the fourth most prestigious race in the world.

"They acknowledge that they can't compete with the Grand Tours. Britain, by its very nature, but its geography, you're never going t have a three-week bike race here, but of all the

others, they've said, right from the get-go, that they want this to be the best.

"When you think about the other top, week-long stage races: Paris-Nice, Tirreno-Adriatico, the Dauphiné, the Tour de Suisse…Phil, where would you place the Tour of Britain in this hierarchy of week-long stage races these days?"

Phil Jones

"Oh, thanks for giving me that one, Tim. Can I have an easy one? Here's my opportunity to upset cycling fans across the planet with my answer, and, of course, as a UK-based individual, of course I'm going to say the Tour of Britain is the place to be, but I think for a lot of the British riders who've grown up here, they all want to come back and have that one on their palmares.

"Look at Bradley Wiggins. He had a number of races he wanted to win: Paris-Roubaix, which he ultimately never did, the Tour of Britain, the Tour de France. He wanted all of these iconic races on his palmares. I do understand that.    

"I think it's right up there, and I think that's the point. Is it the best? Well, I think you could argue the nuances of that, but the reality is: is it as good as…? Yes, it is. Without a doubt, it's

as good as, but, as Adam says, it's a very different kind of racing.

"Our roads are super grippy. We know that. People who are listening who are riding them every weekend: full of potholes. The surfaces aren't great. We've all got one place on our ride routes that might have been re-tarmaced sometime in the last 20 years, which you suddenly reach and go: 'Oh, that's wonderful. My handlebars are suddenly not vibrating. I'm not trying to dodge a pothole now.'

"Riders who enjoy hard racing love the Tour of Britain. That's one thing I've heard. A lot of riders from the Continent who are used to riding on smoother parcours, yeah, they'll be complaining that it's a bit of rough and ready race, and the weather, of course, can be unpredictable.

"But that's all part of the narrative of the race. There are easier editions, there are harder editions; there are different riders, different weather conditions, but, ultimately, ask any rider, 'Would you like that on your palmares at the end of your cycling career?' I think they'd all answer, 'Yes.'"

Part Five: An Organisational Masterpiece

Timothy John 

"I think you've hit the nail on the head. Is the Tour of Britain a better race than Tirenno-Adriatico?' Who knows? Is it as good? 100 per cent. That's an easy answer, isn't it?

"I keep coming back to this, Tony, but you've been in the sport a lifetime. How does it compare to the Milk Race? Would the Milk Race ever have had that international reputation?"

Tony Barry

"I think it did. If you go back, we used to have a race called the Peace Race, which was in Czechoslovakia. Luckily, I was one who went to the Peace Race as a manager, and it was unbelievable. I know people say that it is not as good as the Tour de France or the Giro, but it was a different race. When it was behind the Iron Curtain, they made a different race altogether, and If you were able to finish the Peace Race, I think you are a rider.

"It's a different world we live in now. The Tour of Britain has the problem of traffic. The way the police control all the traffic to get the Tour of Britain through. I don't think any other country

has that problem. We are such a densely populated country. To get the Tour of Britain through it, takes some doing."

Timothy John

"It is an absolute masterpiece of organisation. Phil, as someone who runs a large organisation, what's your handle on the Tour of Britain putting on this race, year in, year out?"

Phil Jones

"Yeah, it's a logistics masterpiece, thinking of everything that they have to put together. There's the basics of the hotels and the route, and Andy's doing all the route planning and all that sort of stuff, but I think my greatest admiration goes to people like the guys from the National Escort Group and the police outriders.

"Keeping that rolling bubble moving in a dynamic environment, and it is a dynamic environment, where the whole thing just moves with a closure either side of it. It has all sorts of potential for things to go wrong, of course it does, so it's really all down to the mastery and organisation of everybody, including the people on the ground, to make sure that that thing goes through smoothly and that the convoy can continue to roll.

"It's absolutely a huge, huge piece of organisation which people don't quite realise. They probably stand at the side of the road and wave. There's a 'whoosh' as all the riders go by and then all the cars go by, but for that, by itself, to happen, requires months and months and months of planning: a lot of detailed work being done with local councils, because there are by-laws about which roads can be used, can't be used. There are conditions which have to be signed off by councils. Then the route has to be published.

"Andy is doing his second drive of the week, because, of course, if roadworks pop up from nowhere, or a pothole appears on a major part of the route, and the negation with the council is that we may not get it fixed on time, so they have to do a re-route…All of this stuff is going on in the background before the riders finally get to the line. It really is a huge job."

Timothy John

"And does any of that even cross your mind, Adam? I guess the highest compliment is that it doesn't. You just turn up and race."

Adam Kenway

"Yeah, you just turn up and race. It is amazing, just as you drive into the start area, from four miles out there are signs, guiding you into where you need to park. Every team has its own spot. The area is barricaded, so no cars can come in.

"But then, on the other side of things, it's one of the best sporting events in the world where people can just walk up and have a word with you. There is no other event in the world, I think, where you can go and have a chat with Alaphilppe warming up on the bike beforehand. I think it's great that you can get so hands-on with the riders. You can see the event. You know the route before. You can probably see the race four or five times on the same day. I think it's amazing.

"I can remember when I was seven or eight, and I only knew two bike races: the Tour de France and the Milk Race. It came near me up a climb called Thorncliffe. I rode a bike, but my dad didn't let me on the road at that point. It was so steep. My dad used to go up in his old Vauxhall Cavalier. It was a steep hill. I didn't think anybody could get up that climb on a bike. I remember my mum and dad taking me to the Milk Race there, and we followed the race for a bit. I remember nabbing the yellow signs that they used to have for directions. I wish I still had that sign. I had it in my bedroom for years: a yellow Milk Race sign.

"From a UK perspective, there were really only two races at the time: there was the Tour de France and the Milk Race. From my point go view, the Tour of Britain is up there with any race in the world, really."

Phil Jones

"And it's worth noting that there was a five-year hiatus between what was the Milk Race, which became the Kelloggs Tour, which became the PruTour: sponsorship, all that sort to stuff, names changing. But 1999 was the last time was what the Milk Race as raced, as the PruTour, and then SweetSpot brought that back in 2004 as the Tour of Britain, and nobody has looked back from there, really. All credit to SweetSpot because they've run it every year. Other than, of course, Pandemic year, 2020, they've put the race on."

Timothy John

"Somebody, I think it was Ian, mentioned in part one that the 2008 Beijing Olympics changed the landscape of cycling in this country. The job was almost done before 2012, wasn't it? I know that in 2012, it went supernova, but it was 2008 that changed everything. When you say, Phil, that the first edition of the modern Tour of Britain took place in 2004, and nobody was clamouring for cycling in those days. The editors of Sunday supplements weren't desperate to put cyclists on the front cover in the way that they were post-Beijing. Credit to SweetSpot, they've lived through the hard times in the past, and that will stand them in good stead now we find ourselves in a very challenging economic climate."


Part Six: The Qualification Game

Timothy John 

"Let's bring the story right up to date with the announcement today of the British teams who are going to be riding in this year's Tour of Britain: that's the Great Britain cycling team, of course, a development team from British Cycling, the national federation; Ribble-Weldtite, a UCI Continental team (of course, they all are, the remainder); Saint Piran from Cornwall; Trinity Racing, and WiV-Sungod.

"Adam, you'll have an interesting perspective on this because, as we mentioned at the top, you haven't ridden the Tour of Britain. It seems inconceivable, given what else you've achieved in domestic racing, but your run at it came in a very strange year. You were riding for Vitus Pro Cycling Team, p/b Brother UK, back in 2018. That was the season in which points scored in the National Road Series acted as a qualification for the Tour of Britain. It was deeply unpopular. Do you feel in a sense that you were cheated out of your Tour of Britain participation?"

Adam Kenway

"Yeah. I think the pointe criteria happened for three years; yeah; four years. Unfortunately, they were the years that I was riding for Continental teams. I was with Team Raleigh, and that merged to become Vitus Pro Cycling Team, p/b Brother UK. It's my biggest regret in cycling: I never managed to ride the biggest race in the UK. It's sad. I'm really happy now that all the British Conti riders have got the opportunity to ride it because I think it's such a big thing for a British rider, even if they don't have the aspiration to win a stage. Just getting around these races is hard. Being able to ride past hometowns is unbelievable.

"Everybody in the UK, everybody on the British scene, they're all quality bike riders. I think nowadays, more than ever, they're able to compete with any WordToiur team, as you can see at the national road race champs last weekend. Alexander Richardson, who is riding for Saint Piran: he's up there with the best. I'm really happy that all the teams are riding, and I think it will be really, really good racing."

Part Seven: Technical Matters

Timothy John

"Tony, just looping back now to the neutral service component: you won't be there this year, of course - the Tour of Britain has gone back to its original supplier, but in terms of supporting a professional bike race and that vast array of technical requirements - different sponsors, different brand partners, different component manufacturers; the endless diversity - how do you cope with that?"

Tony Barry

"It's difficult, and especially with what's come in with disc wheels. Normal calliper brakes have gone, and we've got disc wheels that have 160mm rotors on the front, 140mm rotors on the back end. And you'll have 11-speed, Campag and Shimano, and now 12-speed Campag and Shimano. Luckily, we're able to have that on-board with Brother, otherwise I think we would struggle like heck."

Timothy John

"Interesting disconnect, isn't it, between the industry and the sport. The industry wants the sport as its technical showcase, and yet, in a way, by creating all of these new products, it's overloading the sport rather than supporting it. Would that be a fair analysis, Phil?"

Phil Jones

"Yeah, of course, it does make life more difficult for Tony. I can remember when SweetSpot approached us to support the Tour of Britain. I rang up Tony and said: 'Blimey, Tony, we're going to have to really think about this. Firstly, we're going to have to do a lot of planning about who's riding what and which teams are coming so we can put all the equipment in the right place, basically. And, of course, not forgetting SRAM, as well. We've got SRAM to deal with as well when it comes to 12-speed as well as Shimano and Campag.

"So that's a heck of a variety of wheels, and you've also got to know where those wheels are on your rack and important things like, if a break goes on the day, you've just got to make sure that you know which riders are out in front of you and what groupsets they're running. The mechanic has got all of that information on a piece of paper, taped onto the headrest of the passenger seat in order that they can minimise the amount of time thinking about that if there's a mechanical, well, they know that it's a Shimano, it's a 12-speed, that's top left, I can

reach out, grab that and effect the change.

"But, of course, you're also dealing with the fact that it could be different rotor sizes. Again, how the mechanic sets up the rack in the morning before they go…We did some of this as content, didn't we, Tim, at the Tour of Britain last year. We did a few walkarounds and talked to the mechanics, and explained what's going through their minds and what's in their pocket at any time to jump out with: 'It was an Allen key like this…'

"There's so much to think about, and, again, in a dynamic racing environment. Neutral service would be a lot easier if everyone just had the same groupset and the same gear ratios. That would make the life of Tony and his crews, or whether it be Mavic or Vittoria, a lot, lot simpler. But, unfortunately, we just seem to be salami-slicing this technology further and further and further. What next? Is it 13-speed groupsets? Is that what we're doing as our next one?

"There's a real fascination in the printer industry with what we used to call 'speeds and feeds'. All you ever talk about: it's going plus one on the print speeds or document feeder speed. It's the same with bikes. It's suddenly plus one gear. Twelve-speed is the best thing ever versus 11-speed. For a lot of people, probably that 12-speed isn't going to make a huge amount of difference to the riding that they do at the weekend, for example. It's just that we're being sold the technology because someone is needing to move their product category on, right?

"For us, at the back end of all that, with a more diverse range of teams internationally coming to the Tour of Britain or UCI races, it's a real headache for the crews that need to support


Timothy John

"As Phil says, it might not benefit the consumer, ultimately. Could it even be detrimental, Tony? These ever-increasing groupsets, or drivetrains, I should say, require ever-narrower chains."

Tony Barry

"I'm told that one company has the patent on a 15-speed block or cassette. Now, whether that will ever come in. Hopefully, I won't see that because I'm sure the chain will be so thin.

"But, I don't know. I don't know. I never thought that disc brakes would come in, but everyone is on disc brakes. I don't think there are any top teams now not on disc brakes. Whether

they make that much difference is questionable."

Timothy John

"I lived through that as a journalist. I was lucky enough to be invited out by Shimano to Mount Etna; to ride down Mount Etna as fast as we could on their new disc brakes, and I thought at the time, and remember writing a rather sanctimonious piece at the time - 'Well, are they really any better than rim brakes?' - and yet rim brakes now seem positively archaic. Would you consider a bike with rim brakes, Adam?"

Adam Kenway

"I've still got a bike with rim brakes, and my hill climb bike has still got rim brakes."

Phil Jones

"Good for you, Adam. Good for you."

Adam Kenway

"It's still the lighter option, and the low tolerances are easier to work with. Road racing nowadays, I'd have to go with disc brakes just because everybody brakes later into the bends, and, if you don't, you're struggling.

"But, on the negative side, I'm on SRAM 12-speed, and I'm probably getting through a chain every four weeks, and I've got through a set of chainrings in seven months, where you're talking about - chain, chainrings, cassette - over £1000. That's every seven months. Unless, you're sponsored by the company, it's out of price for most people.

"I love the sport, and I'm thinking: 'Ok, I need a new set of tyres and a new chain. What shall I work with? I'll put some superglue on my tyres and get a new chain.'

"Obviously, it's my little violin, and it's first-world problems as such, but if you're going to be racing at the high end, it's going to be more of an issue in the future, especially with supply

chains struggling at the moment."

Phil Jones

"The manufacturers, ultimately, are pushing the agenda the whole time. If you recall, we went through a period when ProTeams were moving to discs. Team INEOS were the last to go, weren't they? And Chris Froome was talking them down, until Factor stepped in and became the sponsor of Israel Start-Up Nation and then he was, to some degree, forced to go onto disc brakes.

"I just built another bike at home, and I went with rim, and that's not because I'm 'old-school;, particularly. I've got a couple of bikes which are disc bikes, and I enjoy riding them, but I am not the type of rider - I don't race bikes, I don't go fast enough - to need that extra two or three per cent of braking performance. I'm quite happy to be pottering around on my rim brake bike, and the bike, in my view, still looks fantastic and performs really, really well.

"Sometimes, we are sold, fundamentally, what the technology vendors want you to buy. This is just how the industry works, isn't it? It's their job to sell you your next bike, and it all starts with WorldTour teams like it does in F1 and all of these other elite sporting areas where technology is being used.

"I can remember when we were with Vitus, when you were trialling the SRAM 12-speed for the first time and tubeless tyres. There was quite a lot of new technology going on the bikes,

of which you guys were pushing the boundaries."

Adam Kenway

"We were the first team that SRAM sponsored, including those in the World Tour, with disc brakes, and I think we were one of the first teams to go 12-speed.

"To be fair, I love it, and that's one of the reasons why it pains me to buy chains and cassettes and stuff, because I wouldn't want to go back, to be honest.

"I like mechanical [shifting] on my hill climb back, but that's for the specific purpose of going up a hill, fast. But for everyday riding, I like electric gears and things like that.

"I've never run out of battery in four years. My rear mech has decided to pack up once or twice. That can happen. You can break a cable. It's the same kind of thing.

"But with neutral service: I was in a race, earlier this year. It was a small stage race, and I punctured out of the break. It was still an amazing neutral service car, but it wasn't from

Neutral Service p/b Brother UK, and they didn't have a front wheel for me, because I was on disc brakes, and so I was out of the race."

Tony Barry

"It's said when that happens, ins't it? I don't know the answer. I'm sure Shimano have the same problem, but they are Shimano, so they have whatever they want. Mavic neutral service have gone. It was the one that everybody used to say, 'They're the guys. Those yellow cars.'"

Adam Kenway

"Then you have trouble with cleat platforms; shoes and stuff like that."


Part Eight: A Question of Style

Timothy John

"Oh, don't get started on cleat platforms. That's another minefield. But one thing I want to ask you, Adam - Tim, you picked up this point earlier - is around the fact that Tour of Britain qualification used to be about earning points during the National Road Series. A lot of people said that it highly influenced the style of racing that was then enacted in the domestic racing scene.

"Now that's gone, do you think - because you're actively racing all the time, Adam - that it's had the desired effect? They used to say that the racing was a bit more controlled because teams were racing the whole season just for Tour of Britain qualification, so with that away now, do you think that the racing is more free-flowing?"

Adam Kenway

"I love racing, and the more races I do, the better I get, whereas some of the youngsters have got their training programmes, they love their power meters, they can train amazingly well and just turn up to one race and be on form. I can't really do that. Because we didn't have that many races last year - I think we had three National Road Series races last year or was it two?"

Tony Barry

"No, I think it was more than that. I think there were about four or five, towards the end."

Adam Kenway

"Ah yes, because of the hill climb season, I missed out a few at the end. It was very much different racing. I'm not sure if it was worse or better. I was just different."

Phil Jones

"So the jury is out?"

Adam Kenway

"The jury is out, for me."

Phil Jones

"The jury is out."

Tony Barry

"I think the big teams that used to control [the race] aren't there now. If you've only got six or seven riders, you can't control like you used to be able to. And there are all these teams that have maybe three or four riders. They're getting into the front."

Phil Jones

"I think it's also worth noting that we've seen the collapse of some teams. As a result, we've seen that the teams who have currently qualified for the Tour of Britain - Ribble-Weldtite, Saint Piran, Wiv-SunGod - a lot of the riders have just tried to cram onto those teams. There are less competitive teams and fewer teams with the same actors on that used to be competing against each other. That in itself, which is a structural outcome of what's happening in the sport, could also be influencing the racing style, so perhaps there's a number fo things going on.here, Adam."

Adam Kenway

"I do think, back in the day, most of the top riders were on salaries. The top six teams, every rider was salaried. I would go to the team meeting before, and my job would be to get in the break or let the break go and police it. I didn't mind that. I loved it, but it was my job. If I had to pull off with 120km to go because I'd done my job, that was completely fine.

"But because the salaries are not there, it's more that everybody is racing for themselves. It's a bit more selfish racing nowadays, I think. The big teams can police it more easily. If you

got two, three or four riders willing just to sit on the front, it's going to change the way a race is raced."

Phil Jones

"Yeah, I'm sure if we asked ourselves the question, looking at those teams that have qualified for the Tour of Britain and said, 'I wonder how many of these riders are salaried out of these squads that they have,' I bet we couldn't count them in their entirely on two hands; perhaps, even one hand.

"It's another interesting point there, Adam, where it just influences things. Maybe domestic racing is evolving at the moment as a result of where it finds itself, whereas if we looped back ten years to when we had the big teams with the big budgets - the Madisons, JLTs, NFTOs, all knocking around, who had really big budgets and people earning a living from the sport. 'What's your job?"; 'I'm a professional bike rider.'; 'When you say professional, you're salaried?'; 'Yeah. I have a salary that I take home, and it's a good enough salary to buy a home and to live my life.'

"Whereas today I think to be a salaried rider in the domestic scene is a very, very rare thing, and would it be enough to buy a house, get a mortgage if you were that person? I think we could mark that down as a definite no."


Timothy John

"It's an extremely hard calling and unlikely to get any easier any time soon, but, as Adam says, the honour, the buzz of riding in the national tour is still something that everybody wants.

"Well, thanks very much, guys, for a really interesting exploration of sides of the Tour of Britain that I don't think most people will explore: the race within the race inside the convoy, the technical challenge of supporting such a technically diverse peloton, the hard and fast roles that the riders are allotted - some really interesting angles that we've explored.

"As we mentioned, it starts on Sunday September 4, and it finishes on September 11. Brother UK will be there again, of course, as Official Print and Results Partner and, following our success at the Women's Tour, we will be there as presenting partner of the Green Zones as well.

"Phil, you must be looking forward to this Tour of Britain."

Phil Jones

"Yeah, without a doubt. I just had a thought then, which I thought was quite funny: I wonder how many of these WorldTour riders had to Google the Isle of Wight? 'Where is this place called the Isle of Wight?'

Timothy John

"And could then pronounce it!"

Phil Jones

"That's going to be some transfer, isn't it, to roll them all on the ferry. And for the people on the Isle of Wight, it's going to be fantastic, isn't it? What a spectacle to turn up there for the very final stage of the Tour of Britain.

"That's fantastic. Sometimes, when the route comes out every year, the guys who run the social media for SweetSpot always hear from someone who's disappointed. 'It's the Tour of Britain, but you're not coming where I live! How can you call yourself the Tour when you're not coming past my front door?' It's really difficult. It's really difficult.

"But if you really look at the route this year: starting at the top and finishing on the Isle of Wight. It's not quite a straight line down, but…"

Timothy John

"It's not far off!"

Phil Jones

"It's not far off it! It's kind of there. It will make a spectacular ending, so I'm really looking forward to that."

Timothy John

"I'm going to wave a flag for the island. My mother grew up on the Isle of Wight. As a kid, I used to complain bitterly about being taken there to visit my grandparents, but it's a beautiful place.

"Irony of ironies, when I started writing about cycling back in 2012, literally my first job was to go and sample a sportive on the Isle of Wight, and the riding ain't easy: everything that we've discussed about heavy roads, and there are some pretty serious climbs. It's going to end on Tennyson Down, overlooking The Needles, and the helicopter shots are going to look spectacular.

"Well, look, thanks very much indeed again, guys, for that wonderful exploration of Britain's biggest race. Adam Kenway, Tony Barry, Phil Jones, thank you very much indeed for joining me."

Phil Jones

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