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Brother UK Cycling Podcast – Episode 29

Episode Description

The Rayner Foundation must be among the most successful charities in all of sport. Established in 1995, it has issued £1m in support via 521 grants and helped 84 young British riders to become professional cyclists. Its most successful graduates have won some of the biggest prizes in professional cycling. 

The Rayner Foundation occupies a special place in the affections of the Brother UK Cycling Podcast. Phil Jones MBE, the Managing Director of Brother UK, raised around £20,000 for the charity in 2018 by riding the entire route of the 2018 Tour of Britain, one day ahead of the race. 

Phil and co-host Timothy John recently attended the Foundation’s annual dinner and charity auction in Leeds. They were joined by two-time British circuit race champion Dean Downing, the guest for our first two episodes, and by Ian Watson, the manager of Team Brother UK-LDN and its Team Watto feeder squad. 

While Phil kept a close eye on the auction and mingled with the Foundation’s trustees, including Keith Lambert, recipient of Cycling Weekly’s Lifetime Achievement Award, Tim collected interviews with Dean, Sam Watson, the Foundation’s Rider of the Year, and Tim Harris, a friend and team-mate of the late Dave Rayner.

Tim caught up too with Hannah Walker and Calvert Churchill, the event’s host and auctioneer, respectively, and both former Rayner-funded riders. Their post-cycling success – Hannah is a commentator for Eurosport and GCN, while Calvert has become a cycling industry insider – offers a window on the Foundation’s broad vision of success.

Enjoy this reflection on The Rayner Foundation dinner with Tim and Phil, in which they consider the Foundation’s impact on British cycle sport, the extraordinary achievements of its class of 2022 – five riders from a cohort of 30 signed professional contracts - and its ambition to recruit more female riders.

The pair also consider the challenges faced by the Foundation in such an uncertain economic climate, reflect on its increasing importance as British Cycling reduces the race days of its Olympic Academy road programme, and pay tribute to the Foundation’s late president, Brian Robinson, a giant of British cycle sport.

Anyone interested in the rich history of elite British road racing will wish to learn more about the late Dave Rayner, an exceptionally talented rider, and the charity that has become his lasting legacy. Listen now on brother.co.uk or visit any leading podcast platform and search Brother UK Cycling Podcast. 

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Episode 29: Celebrating The Rayner Foundation

Episode contents

  • 00.02 – Introduction
  • 00.37 – Hello And Welcome
  • 02.41 – Part One: Investing In Young People
  • 08.37 – Part Two: Making Better People
  • 15.51 – Part Three: Everybody's Friend
  • 24.21 – Part Four: A Broad Remit
  • 34.17 – Part Five: A Unique Event 
  • 42.02 – Part Six: A Challenging Climate
  • 45.34 – Part Seven: Remembering Brian
  • 47.33 – Outro


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!”

Hello and welcome

Timothy John

“Hello and welcome to this special edition of the Brother UK Cycling Podcast where today we will celebrate the success of The Rayner Foundation.

“Now, for those who don’t know, The Rayner Foundation is a rider charity launched 27 years ago as the Dave Rayner Fund  to honour the memory of one of Britain’s most gifted riders. 

“The fund has since helped 84 British riders to become professionals by issuing a million pounds in rider support via 521 grants.

“Its class of 2022 is exceptional: four and perhaps even five young British riders will graduate to the WorldTour next season. 

“Now, despite the challenges faced by domestic racing and the limited places available on British Cycling’s Olympic Academy, the Foundation offers a route to the top for Britain’s best young riders. 

“The Rayner Foundation is very close to our hearts at the Brother UK Cycling Podcast and especially close to the heart of my co-host Phil Jones, the Managing Director of Brother UK.

“Phil, you once rode a very long way to raise money and awareness for the Dave Rayner Fund, as it was then.”

Phil Jones

“Yes, we did. That was back in 2018. James Golding and I did the Tour of Britain, one day ahead, with the view of raising a really big sum of money for the Rayner Foundation, which we ended up doing. I think we ended up passing over more than £20,000 to the Foundation at the dinner that year. 

“So, yeah, it’s a very, very important component. If you look at the entire framework of cycling in the UK, outside of the governing body, the Rayner Foundation is one of the most important pillars, in my opinion, for anyone with aspirations to become a professional cyclist who doesn’t go through the Olympic programme, so if you’re not doing that, this is one way that you can achieve your life ambition.”

Part One: Investing In Young People

Timothy John 

“Yeah. It’s very interesting, Phil, the way that the Foundation has become an important piece in a larger jigsaw, so to speak. 

“That first generation of Academy superstars - Mark Cavendish, Geraint Thomas, and that crowd - they went in at one end and came out at the other, if you know what I mean. They finished the British Cycling Olympic Academy programme and began professional contracts. 

“This latest generation, which I think people are accurately calling a golden generation - Jake Stewart, Sam Watson, riders of that calibre - are starting off on the Academy and then completing the early phase of their careers with other organisations; typically, development teams attached to WorldTour squads, and they’re using Rayner funding to embark on that pathway. 

“It’s interesting how quickly that’s changed.”

Phil Jones

“Yes, it has, and I think probably, as in the world, even the way the business world works, it’s that classic disruption, isn’t it? We think of all these riders who have exploded into the WorldTour: the Tadej Pogacars of this world and riders like that, they’ve bypassed the traditional system of how you might achieve success. 

"There was this stepped system that you’ve got to do this and do that and be a stagiare and do this and, ultimately, one day, you might get into a team. That has all been totally disrupted and, effectively, if you’ve got the raw talent, you’re almost being fast-tracked. 

“So, the issue for me now is, if you are one of those riders who has real talent for riding a bike, how do you quickly get into the shop window of the talent spotters who might be the

people who say, ‘Well, actually, this individual is definitely a tip for the future, and we want to fast-track them through our processes’?

“Clearly, for that to happen, you need to be riding on the Continent, and Belgium, specifically, is one of the hot spots where a lot of these talent spotters are hanging out. So, if you can make your name and reputation in winning some of the important and high-profile races in Belgium and in France and in other places then you’re definitely putting yourself in a shop window to be potentially talent-spotted and fast-tracked into European Conti teams, Pro Conti teams or a WorldTour team.”

Timothy John 

“Absolutely. Recently, Cycling Weekly’s Tom Thewlis broke the news that British Cycling is making a significant reduction to the race days of its Academy road programme and will attempt to form closer relationships with external development teams as part of its, quotes, “evolution”. It’s fair to say that The Rayner Foundation has been ahead of that curve by funding ex-Academy riders to pursue opportunities overseas. 

“The man of course who’s been closer than anyone to this mix-and-match approach is Keith Lambert: a founding trustee of The Rayner Foundation and coach of Team GB’s under-23 squad. Last year, Keith received Cycling Weekly’s lifetime achievement award, and what a nice touch at that recent Rayner Foundation dinner in Leeds when they presented that award for a second time, just to underline his achievement. 

“I was chatting away to Dean Downing, and he told me, basically, what Keith doesn’t know about cycling isn’t worth knowing, and I was lucky enough to get a word with Keith as the

dinner came to a close. He told me that a donation to The Rayner Foundation was an investment in the future.”

Keith Lambert

 “It’s investing in young people, isn’t it? Giving young people opportunities. Not everyone can get on the British Cycling Academy, and I work there! They can only support so many people. It’s fantastic that we’re in a position now that we can help other young, aspiring riders to achieve their dreams. 

“I know we’ve got a big following and a big interest, and it is difficult at the moment, difficult times, but if anybody can contribute anything towards this fund, everything goes towards [the riders]. We’re all volunteers.

"As you heard, David Millar, in those years, 1996, they were hard times then, as well, of course. He’s often said: if it hadn’t been for getting that opportunity with The Rayner Fund, he’d have had to balance and think: ‘Can I afford to go? Should I go?’ He may not have gone, and we may not have had a rider doing what he did.

“That’s gone on, over the years, ever since; over 27 years. It will have made a difference to some, whether they went or didn’t go. Not everyone’s made a massive success. That never happens in life anyway, doesn’t it? But the more you give opportunity to, the more success you’re likely to have.
"The more we can do to give them that opportunity, then long may it continue.”

Timothy John 

“So, wonderful to hear there from Keith Lambert, speaking at The Rayner Foundation’s annual dinner and charity auction at the Royal Armouries in Leeds, a couple of weeks ago now. 

“There was were several WorldTour riders at the dinner, including Fred Wright from Bahrain Victorious, our guest in episode 27, but the evening wasn’t even about established stars, was it? It was all about the future, and, my goodness, when you consider The Rayner Foundation’s class of 2022, the future looks bright, doesn't it?”

Phil Jones

“It does indeed, and I think we saw slightly lower numbers at the dinner this year from previous dinners that I’ve been to, and when you examine why that’s happened, well, there’s a few reason for that, of course. There are a number of other events surrounding it; of course, the Rouleur event in London. There’s the Action Medical Research fundraiser which I think is this week, so there are quite a lot in a quite a compressed timescale. 

“And we’re in a time when, of course, money and disposable income are in shorter supply everywhere we go, and, of course, we’ve still got that long-tail of Covid where people aren’t coming out in the same numbers that they used to, so, of course, almost every dinner is going to have slightly lower numbers than they did previously.

“But there were still over 300 people in that room at the Leeds Armouries. It was a very, very impressive event by any measure and by any scale. It was great to be there, for sure. When you looked around the room at the future stars, if you want to start talent spotting, you are going to say that you were in the room with these stars of the future. 

“So, it’s almost like being in the room and saying, ‘There’s a lad over there called Tom Pidcock, and he’s going to be the next big thing,’ and he is! You’re basically in the company of those individuals who I think are tomorrow’s superstars of UK-bred professional cyclists.”

Part Two: Making Better People

Timothy John 

“A hundred per cent. Let’s just name some of these future stars. We’ve been lucky enough to have one of them on the podcast already: that was Oscar Onley, who has only recently turned 20! 

He announced from the stage that although he’s been on Team DSM’s development squad this year and guested, with incredible effect, for their WorldTour team - you might remember him going wheel-to-wheel with Tour de France winner Jonas Vingergaard at the CRO Race, having lit up the Brother UK-sponsored Tour of Britain a week earlier - well, yeah, he dropped a heavy hint that he’s going to be on DSM’s WorldTour squad next year. 

“Leo Hayter, of course, who won the Baby Giro this year, he’ll go to INEOS-Grenadiers and join his brother Ethan, the British time-trial champion. Sean Flynn will join Team DSM.

Harrison Wood, who I’m very pleased to say will be a guest on a future edition of the Brother UK Cycling Podcast, he will ride for Cofidis.

“The standout figure among even such an exceptional cohort was Sam Watson, who’ll graduate next year to Groupama-FDJ’s WorldTour squad from its development team after an outstanding season in 2022 that saw him win the U23 Gent-Wevelgem in Team GB colours. 

“Sam was presented with The Rayner Foundation’s Rider of the Year award by Keith Lambert, and it was quite a touching moment. You could see Sam’s respect for Keith, and Keith’s pride in Sam’s achievement. Let’s hear now from Sam, who told us about the bond he’s formed with Keith.”

Sam Watson

“Yeah, we really bonded over those races in France, you know. He almost felt like a fatherly figure when we were out there; like he really cared. He really cares for everybody he works with, and really looked after me. It was pretty special. It was my first U23 win, out there. He was there.

“It feels amazing, you know. It’s great to be voted that rider. I don’t know who voted, but I’m very pleased. Yeah, it’s definitely nice, after a little break, after the season, to finish with getting rewarded; this reward. It’s a nice little summary of the season, I guess.”

Timothy John

“Wonderful to hear there from Sam, who is a dazzling talent but one of the most down-to-earth riders you could hope to meet. I’m delighted to say that Sam will be our guest on the next episode of the Brother UK Cycling Podcast. 

“I mean, we’re taking about an incredible strike rate here for The Rayner Foundation, aren’t we, Phil? From a cohort this year of around 30 funded riders, five are likely to be in the WorldTour next season. That’s pretty incredible.”

Phil Jones

“And that will probably account for the fact, Tim, that all of the jerseys that these people were signing were going very, very quickly in the charity auction that night, because I think everyone’s going to spot a bargain there, and someone in the future is going to say, ‘Oh, I bought a jersey for £50 that’s going to be worth £500 or a £1000 when framed a few years down the road.’ There was some very smart buying going on that night, which was great.

“But you’re right: if you look at the strike rate there among those riders, and if you look at the Foundation and who’s been funded over the years, they do have a very impressive strike rate. They tend to be able to spot the right riders, give them the environment and opportunity to go away, try it and see whether they can cope with the demands that are faced in trying to become one of these WorldTour riders. 

“It’s not easy. It really does take full, 100 per cent commitment where you’re probably going to have to leave behind your family, your friends, all the people you love; your normal environment where you might train or live, and go and live somewhere, often in an unfamiliar place, often in a language that you don’t speak, with people that you don’t know, and have to go through an incredible training regime and racing regime. You’ve got to really want it. 

“The trick of how The Rayner Foundation works is they are pretty good at spotting those individuals that may have the credentials or the attributes to become one of those people who can have some funding to go away and then put themselves into that arena to see whether they can sink or swim.”

Timothy John

“Absolutely. If you look at the history of Rayner funded riders it really is a who’s who, not only of British cycle sport, but of international cycle sport, too: David Millar, Charlie Wegelius, Dan Martin, Hannah Barnes, Ian Stannard, Adam Yates …I mean, the list is endless. 

“You’re absolutely right, Phil, you’ve put your finger on it: what distinguishes a Rayner rider from an athlete who, for example, goes through the Academy programme is this element of

self-sufficiency: that they go out on their own, overseas, in Belgium, France, Italy, Spain, you name it, and, as you say, there’s an element of sink-or-swim.

“Now somebody who was able to offer a real insight into the resilience required by such a demanding profession was Dean Downing. Now, ironically, Dean was never a Rayner Funded rider. He came to the sport when he was a little bit older. He went to university and then worked for a couple of years before he committed full-time to cycling. 

“But Dean did undertake the journey of racing overseas alone. He took himself to Belgium and tested himself and said: ‘I’m going to make it over here as a rider, or I’m not.’ 

“Let’s have a listen now to Dean, who’s become a highly successful coach. I mentioned Fred Wight’s observation from episode 27 that The Rayner Foundation does more than create professional riders. In Fred’s words, it ‘makes better people’, and that really struck a chord with Dean.”
Dean Downing

“I was never a funded rider. I was a little bit older before I went full-time, but I’ve always been supportive. I raced on the track with Dave Rayner in 1994 at the Manchester track when it opened. I’ve always had a nice relationship with the Dave Rayner Fund; Foundation, as it is now. 

“I’ve been a lot of times, as a rider, I’ve been with my wife, I’ve been with some guests that I’ve brought over the years. I always try and support it. I’ve been fortunate that I’ve had five riders here tonight: Mason Hollyman was a funded rider before. I’m pretty sure he will have been. I’ve come to see the guys. That’s my little part, really, as a coach, passing my

coaching skills on to riders who have been on the Fund before or who are still on the Fund now, so that’s exciting for me, as a coach. It’s nice to be here with Phil, enjoying the night.

“There’ll be a lot of riders who have been through the Rayner Fund, and maybe they’ll have done really well in France or Belgium or wherever for a couple of years but didn’t make it as a professional cyclist, so they may come back to the UK and still race. They may do well at that, or they may stop cycling, but it’s building better people. They become better people because they learn so much about themselves. 

“Again, it’s not about the results, sometimes. It’s about living in Belgium on your own, when the tough times hit, that you get through that, because that’s not physical, that’s mental. How do you, mentally, get through the tough times in Belgium, when it’s not going your way?

“If that builds better people, like Fred says: that’s a great saying from Fred, and it really does. They can then take those learnings onto their next career, if it’s something outside of cycling; their career in cycling, as a coach, or whatever the case might be. Building better people: that’s a great one, that.”

Part Three: Everybody's Friend

Timothy John 

“Well, great to hear there from Dean, Phil, about the psychological demands, if that’s the right phrase, placed on a young rider trying to make it abroad. 

“Dean, as we’ve said, wasn’t a Rayner Funded rider, but his brother, Russell, was. Tell us about that, Phil.”

Phil Jones

 “Yeah, it’s very interesting because, of course, you’ve got the Downing dynasty, haven’t we, of Dean and his brother Russ. Russ was also a very, very capable cyclist. The two brothers were, so the genes were fantastic in the Downing family. 

“It was at a time when Russ was riding for Linda McCartney. We’re going right back in the day there. When the Linda McCartney team collapsed, effectively, Russ was able to secure some funding through The Rayner Foundation. 

“That was introduced through a chap called Chris Walker who used to ride for Raleigh-Banana with Tim Harris and Dave Rayner. It was Russ’ relationship with Chris that introduced him to The Rayner Foundation, and you can see a link back. Many of the people who sit behind the Foundation now, were in and around and knew Dave at the time when he rode for

Raleigh-Banana, which Tim did too. 

“Ironically, when I was chatting with Tim - I mean he was British road race champion. He’s worked for WorldTour teams and is now at EF Education’s women’s team, and what he doesn’t know about cycling in the last 30 years, frankly isn’t worth knowing. He knows everybody. He knows everything. 

“I spent a bit of time with Tim on the night, and this link back to those days where the Raleigh-Banana team were together has formed a bond of friendship, and, as a result of that, and Dave Rayner’s tragic death, that glued a bunch of people together, including Keith Lambert, who said: ‘Well, what can we do to create this legacy in Dave’s name?’

“And this is where my fascination with Raleigh-Banana came from, because it was that story of that team at a time. They were a really fantastic bunch of riders, and that Raleigh-

Banana team was iconic in its bikes and the look and all these sorts for things. It was a golden time.

“I would genuinely recommend that if anybody is interested in the Dave Rayner story to read a book about his legacy. It’s called Everybody’s Friend. It was written by a chap called Peter Cossins. It tells the story of Dave’s start and how he ended up being a very capable rider and, ultimately, the tragedy of how he lost his life.

“I’d really recommend it if you’re into cycling and want to understand one bit of the history. It’s as an important part of our domestic cycling history, because Dave was in the Milk Race with Tim and Chris and all these things, as it was [about] how this cohort went on into cycling and to achieve greater things  in cycling from that moment. 

“It’s really wonderful. Please make sure you buy that and read that.”

Timothy John 

“Yeah, it’s a great book. Peter Cossins is a great writer: a former editor of the much-missed Pro Cycling magazine. And Tim Harris, well, where you want to start? You don’t meet too many guys like Tim in a lifetime, don’t you? A fantastic character: what a pleasure to spend an evening with Tim and with Jos Ryan, Tim’s partner, who, of course, does so much for The Rayner Foundation. 

“Phil, I thought I had the evening trumped when I got on a train to Leeds early that morning in Dorset. Later, I’m waiting in the reception of the Holiday Inn, around the corner from the Royal Armouries, and in walks a chap in an EF Education jacket. 

“Of course, it was Tim Harris. So I walked over, stuck out my hand, and said: ‘Tim, great to see you again. I’ve come all the way from Dorset.’ He looked at me and said: ‘Really? I’ve

just flown in from Colombia,’ and that set the tone for the evening, really!” 

Phil Jones

 “He had flown in from Colombia, because he’s out there at the moment, experimenting with the women on the EF team at high altitude to see what a difference that’s going to make.

“He knows Colombia ever so well. He speaks about six languages fluently. He’s so experienced, so worldly wise. He’s one of the nicest people you’re ever going to meet. Time with him

is really, really easy. 

“I said to him, ‘Tim, have you really flown all the way back from Colombia for tonight?’ He said: ‘Yeah. I’m probably going to need to go back there at some time next week to resume everything, but that’s the importance of this night to me: I’ve got to be here supporting it.’

“And I was like: ‘Wow. That’s absolutely incredible.’”

Timothy John

 “Well, that sounds typical of Tim, an absolutely exceptional character. A great rider back in the day - a British road race champion, no less.- and now an influential person inside professional cycling. His day job, of course, is DS of Team EF-Tibco-SVB, the Women’s WorldTour team.

“Let’s hear now from Tim because, as you rightly say, Phil, he was a very close friend of Dave Rayner.”

Tim Harris

“I was team-mate with Dave for two years at Raleigh-Banana. I was also, apart from that, a very good friends of his. We went on holiday, etc, etc. The Rayner Foundation is very dear to my heart. I haven’t got an official role, but I help by looking at riders, going to races in Belgium, if I’m not on my own job, I liaise with my partner Jos. I talk to Keith, a lot, about riders.

“I think Dave will be looking down somewhere and be so honoured that we’ve made something, that the committee has made something that is enduring. We just try and get some funds in that we can just keep supporting riders to do this because I think it’s worthy. Dave went to Italy when he was 17. It would be what he wanted.

“For these young riders, it’s really, really hard. The majority aren’t going to be pro bike riders, but I don’t think any one of them, 20 years down the road, will forget the time that they went to Belgium, Holland, Italy, France, Spain, and had the greatest time of of their lives, and they’ll always remember it. 
“From my point of view, also having known Dave so well, it’s a fitting honour for him. Now, we’re so far away, not so many people know him personally. For me, it’s very important that we keep his name alive and give him the honour that he deserves because he was a really fantastic guy.”

Timothy John

“Well, who better to ask about Dave Rayner’s legacy than Tim Harris, his close friend and a team-mate at Raleigh-Banana.

“Interesting, Phil, that you mention Peter Cossins’ book, Everybody’s Friend, which I think is such essential reading for people who may have come to cycling after Dave’s generation. We’ve grown accustomed, as fans in this country, over the last 15 years or so, to watching young British riders graduate smoothly to the professional ranks, but before the Lottery-funded revolution at British Cycling, that simply didn’t happen. 

“It’s hard to put into context just how good Dave Rayner was. He was exceptional, in the real sense of the word, in that he raced in Europe as a full-fledged professional with what today

would be called a WorldTour team in an era when that simply didn’t happen to British riders. 

“Changing tack, it was very interesting that Tim spent so much of our time together talking about women’s cycling, and I know that funding more female riders is a target for Foundation. They’ve had some excellent female riders in the past, notably Hannah Barnes, but there is a still a huge discrepancy between the number of male and female riders on the Foundation, and Tim and Jos are determined to address that situation.”

Phil Jones

“Yeah, for sure, and on the night too, we had the brilliant Hannah Walker, who has sort of reinvented herself now as a commentator on racing of all types. Hannah was funded too; Hannah Barnes and Hannah Walker, of course. 

“You couldn’t help but notice on the night that the cohort was mostly young males. When I was chatting both to Jos and to Tim, it’s a problem that they know about: there aren’t enough young females still coming through the UK domestic channel to push through into the WorldTour, and that’s a known fact. 

“I know that The Rayner Foundation are doing a lot more now to see what additional things they can do, such as helping to fund some of the UK elite development teams to race abroad if they have riders who are under-21 females, for example, to help give them that experience. They will consider applications like that now within the Foundation to just help with that process. 

“They understand the issue very, very well. I know that all the board members and trustees there are working hard to address that issue. When I spoke to Tim, because, of course, Tim

is now sitting as a DS at EF Education-TIBCO-SVB. Tim has a very unique view on it.

“He’s saying: ‘Yeah, absolutely. When we’re looking for talent now, we’re looking in places like Colombia.’ Cycling is such a big thing there. They’re at high altitude, so everyone is high-altitude trained, to some degree. They have amazing V02 as a result, which is incredible.

“I think for females particularly, in the UK scene, something like The Rayner Foundation is going to be very, very important with a view to getting them to the WorldTour.”

Part Four: A Broad Remit

Timothy John 

“Well, you mentioned Hannah Walker there, Phil, and Hannah was another guest that I managed to grab a word with after the presentations. 

“Hannah, as you rightly say, was a Rayner rider, back in the day, but she’ll be better known to our listeners, I think, as a commentator on Eurosport and GCN. 

“Hannah told me that the Trustees had approached her early about hosting this year’s dinner in Leeds and said she’d been delighted to accept.”

Hannah Walker

“When I was asked during the Tour de France, a few months ago, it was a no-brainer. I was immediately wanting to host the evening or be a part of it and give back to the Foundation. Ten years ago, I was a funded rider on a three-month basis ,when I was racing in Belgium. 

“I’ve seen, over the years, the work that the Fund has done and the help that it’s given to many, many riders. Lots of those have gone on to professional careers. Others have come away with an incredible life lesson and an experience like no other, having raced and lived abroad, whether that be in Belgium, France, Spain, Italy: wherever it might have been that they’ve based themselves. 

“I think it’s such a unique thing that the Fund is doing, in any sport, really. The opportunities that they’re giving to very, very talented riders, who might not have the opportunity to prove themselves elsewhere, whether that be in the Great Britain set-up or otherwise. I just think it’s giving riders another pathway to the top, and it’s incredible to support. 

“I’ve been to the dinners, just because I want to come to the dinners, for many years, and to host tonight was a real pleasure and a true honour.”

Timothy John

“So, good to hear there from Hannah, whose career offers another window on the work of The Rayner Foundation. Now Hannah, by her own admission, didn’t quite have what it takes to become a professional cyclist, but she doesn’t regret a second that she spent as a funded rider, and she’s used her inside knowledge of the sport to build a successful career as a commentator. 

“Hannah could stand as Exhibit A for the Foundation’s broader remit to support, inspire and develop. Their website describes a funded racing programme as an “internship”, which I thought was interesting:  one that they say provides a raft of opportunities to help riders progress further in life. 
“That’s very interesting, isn’t it, Phil? Despite this incredible track record of turning young British cyclists into WorldTour professionals, they are not expecting every funded rider to become a pro cyclist. What they aim to do is to provide life-changing experiences for young people that will build resilience, that will build self-confidence, that will build language skills, networking skills, organisational skills… all of the skills, I guess, Phil that you look for as an employer at Brother UK.”

Phil Jones

“Do you know, I was just thinking that as you were saying it. When we have people come to us for interviews, we’re not just looking at, ‘What is your skill in this area?’ I’m looking more broadly: ‘How have they got here? Did you travel abroad? Did you have a gap year from uni? What sports, clubs and interests do you have outside of work?’ 

“It gives indicators of wider life experiences which can then indicate levels of individual resilience that the person might have. The more life experience that we expose ourselves to, the

more worldly-wise we become, and, even in business environments, we’ve seen these things before. We’e suffered setbacks, for example, and know how to overcome them. 

“So, if somebody, in their life, even if the didn’t become a professional, and they decided to go away and do it - ‘Yeah, I spent three years abroad trying to make it’ - I would say, ‘Good on you. That looks like a great characteristic as an individual. Tell me more,’ because I’m looking for somebody who might have that grit or determination to want to make it. 

“But, equally, if they didn’t [make it] that resilience to bounce back: ‘Ok, I’m going to come back, regroup and do something else.’ So, in that context, then I don’t think you can fail, really. The experience that the Foundation is going to give you is going to make you a better human and, hopefully, give you more human factors which will which will allow you to, hopefully, live a better life.”

Timothy John 

“Absolutely. We spoke to two great examples at the Foundation dinner. Hannah Walker, we’ve already heard from, but also prominent was Calvert Churchill, another former Rayner rider who, frankly, could make it as a compere, as an auctioneer; a chap not lacking in confidence, but who turned out to be a very insightful guy when we got to speak to him afterwards. 

“He now works for a cycle shoe company. He’s used his talents as a networker to stay within the sport but in a different role to professional rider, and, again, that’s testament, isn’t it, to

the broad terms of success that are generated by The Rayner Foundation.”

Calvert Churchill

“It was a nice chance to give a little back and practice me auction skills, learned at Kings Lynn car auction and Fakenham auction in Norfolk. A bit of a banter, a bit of chit-chat, but it seems to have worked. We raised a lot of money today. People have been very generous, which is good because it helped me immensely, the Fund. 

“I might not have made it as a pro rider but it certainly helped me in my latter career. I’m now working for a cycling shoe company. Really, without the Rayner Fund, I wouldn’t have been

in that position at all. 

“It’s not only about supporting riders who are going onto racing, but it’s about supporting riders in their developmental years, much as you might go to university and receive a bursary or a grant, it’s really just as effective in the same way: providing those riders with an opportunity to go and do it. 

“It’s a pleasure and a privilege to be at the Rayner Fund dinner and to give back in that way with a bit of chit-chat. 

“You never stop, never stop. I’m still in touch with the lads who are ex-Rayner funded. Still in touch with a lot of the lads who have gone pro or amateur or have just stopped riding a bike

completely. It’s very much a fraternity. Those who have been Rayner funded, it lasts a lifetime. It goes on a while. It’s good. It’s nice. It’s a bit of a brotherhood.

“It’s something to be proud of as well. I’m not shy of saying I was a Rayner funded rider, this is who I was on the Rayner Fund with. You’re talking about Giro d’Italia winners, Olympians etc, etc, and I’m glad that I can call them friends. Glad to be and very proud to be a Rayner funded rider.”

Timothy John

“Some great insights there from Calvert, who, as well as being a former Rayner-funded rider and now a cycle industry insider could easily begin a third career as an auctioneer. The lessons learned in Kings Lynn car auction paid off handsomely at The Rayner Foundation dinner. 

“Just before we leave Tim Harris, and we leave women’s cycling, as you mentioned, Phil, it’s acknowledged by The Rayner Foundation that young, female riders from Britain are facing an increasing competition from their counterparts in mainland Europe and even South America for places in the UCI Women’s WorldTour. 

“You’ll be able to give us a steer here, Phil, but I think I learned from a conversation between Tim Harris and Ian Watson, the manager of Team Brother UK-LDN, who joined us at the dinner, that the Foundation is now considering other mechanisms to encourage British female riders under the age of 21.”

Phil Jones

“Yes, indeed. We had two guests that night. Dean Downing came as our guest, and Dean is coaching some of these young female riders, too, which is great. He’s got a very unique view.

“Ian is running a series of teams now where somebody can turn up at Regents Park, having only just got a bike, and see a series of steps that they can take from starting to going onto his Team Watto and then going to the Team LDN elite development team, as a stepping stone pathway. Ian is one of these who sees the problem, and, all credit to him, is trying to do

something about it. We plugged Ian and Tim together at the end of the night. 

“We ended up back at the hotel, and it was absolutely brilliant. We got back. As usual, the bar had closed early. It was like: ‘Oh, you’ve got to be joking,’ I think it was Marc who turned up with a bottle of Dead Man’s Fingers rum that he’d won in the raffle, so we quickly arranged some espresso cups and just sat round the table chewing the cud on this issue over a bottle of Dead Man’s Fingers being drunk out of espresso cups. You couldn’t write it.

“But I think it was very useful for Ian to talk to Tim. Ian can give a perspective: ‘This is what I’m trying to do to tackle this problem, and what can WorldTour teams do to create a relationship with people like me and Dean and others, who can put their hand up to say: there’s something really special right here, right now, and you need to put eyes on.’

“I think this is really about creating those stronger ties now between some of the WorldTour teams and the UK Elite Development Teams, as well as the coached riders of people like

Dean, as well as The Rayner Foundation, who are seeing riders coming through. 

“This, I think, is just about being better organised, in my opinion. Getting better organised.”

Timothy John 

“I got the sense, Phil, just from being sat there while the espresso cups with Dead Man’s Fingers were being passed around, that this was going to be a significant conversation: that Ian was having a really good chat with Tim and Jos Ryan.

“And isn’t it fantastic that, in this very professional sport that we’re all involved in now, it’s still human connections that make it run. Tim and Jos were obviously very impressed by Ian’s achievements with Team Brother UK-LDN and his feeder team, so let’s just watch that space, because that might become very interesting indeed.”

Phil Jones

“May I just quickly say again massive thanks to Marc Etches for pulling up at exactly the right time with that bottle of Dead Man’s Fingers to allow that conversation to properly take place. It would have been easy to go to bed but driven on by this wonderful act of generosity we carried on the conversation and the whole sport benefitted, so big thanks to Marc Etches, who everybody will know. He’s the man behind Monsal, and he’s a very accomplished commissaire and a race organiser. Marc, big thanks from all of us on the Brother UK Cycling Podcast for that donation.”

Part Five: A Unique Event

Timothy John 

“Indeed! Well, actually Phil, you’ve given me a really nice link there into another point that I wanted to get your thoughts on. A guy like Marc Etches, who is, as you say, an accomplished

commissaire, a race organiser, a former rider, of course, is exactly the kind of guy that you would expect to meet at The Rayner Foundation dinner. 

“It’s interesting, isn’t it, just how unique that dinner is. You said at the top of the episode that there are a lot of events at this time of year. There’s Rouleur Live, of course, in London. Action Medical Research, of course, who do amazing work in their field, but that’s another ‘London’ event. 

“The Rayner Foundation Dinner really is an entity all of its own, ins’t it? It’s a very authentic event, for want of a better word: very genuine, with some very genuine people there. Our table, I seem to remember, included Tom Pidcock’s grandparents!”

Phil Jones

“No, it was brilliant. I was sat next to Tom Pidcock’s nana, and it was great! She was so funny. They were great company, and I think that’s the unique thing about that dinner. It’s not just the people that you’re able to meet: the people who we’ve described already who are very significant in the domestic sport, as well as the international sport, but actually as a result of the people who were formerly funded, some of the prizes that come into the auctions and the raffles are really, really unique. 

“One example of that: they auctioned off - and I was in the bidding for this, by the way; I lost it, which I was a bit gutted about, but we all have our ceilings, haven’t we? - a trip to go out to the INEOS training camp in Mallorca to spend a day with the team, to go on a ride out with the team, dinner with the team, the whole VIP experience inside the INEOS bubble, in


“That is a very, very unique prize, and it’s only people, because of their connections to The Rayner Foundation that are bringing prizes like this to the table.”

Timothy John 

“Yeah, you’ve united the two key elements of the Rayner dinner there, Phil: the people and the auction. The reason why the auction lots are so special is because the people in the room are at the very heart of the sport. And that was kind of embodied by a prize donated by Luke Rowe: a complete set of race numbers from INEOS-Grenadiers, collected by Luke just before the final stage of this year’s Tour de France. 

“Keith Lambert, of course, had the inside story.”

Keith Lambert

“Luke Rowe had organised those numbers for us; an unbelievable gesture from him, wasn’t it, to do that. He actually rang me on the morning of the last stage of the Tour this year. He phoned me. I thought: ‘That’s Luke. He should be starting the last stage of the Tour.’ He was on the bus. He’d got the numbers from those eight riders and he’d got them to sign them to put into the fund, which was a fantastic gesture, wasn’t it?

“Now, he was never on the Fund, as such, like we have riders representing us all year, but for a couple of years, we got a junior team together and took them to the junior Tour of Ireland, riding for the Dave Rayner Fund. They allowed it to happen. We got a dispensation, and he got dispensation because he was still a youth. He didn’t turn 16 until later in the year, but he got dispensation to ride it, and he won it! That was great from him then, and he’s been here, once or twice, as a guest. He’s always kept that interest, as many of them have through the years. 

“For them to come up with something like that, off their own bat, without having to be prompted, it really makes you feel fantastic. We’ve done something right, you know?”

Timothy John 

“Well, what a wonderful story there from, Keith. Luke Rowe, of course, not the only rider in the UCI WorldTour eager to show his gratitude to Keith and to The Rayner Foundation. Fred Wright and Jake Stewart attended the dinner to present Keith’s lifetime achievement award from Cycling Weekly. 

“But don’t think you have to be a WorldTour rider to get some quality time with Keith Lambert. Phil, I saw you engaged in conversation with Keith towards the end of the evening. What

were you guys talking about?”

Phil Jones

“Yeah, Keith is an absolutely fantastic individual and a leviathan of the sport, honestly speaking. On the night, there were two auction items centre stage. I put a picture on Twitter. One was this Ellis Briggs built bike and one was this beautiful Colnago which had us all drooling. It was lovely.

“But the Ellis Briggs bike, the story behind it was that Dave Rayner was actually building it for a friend of his and, cf course, he never got to finish thatch project. But Bob Howden, who is currently the president of British Cycling, decided to finish that project, and he had the bike resprayed, rebuilt. I think when we came in on the night time, both our eyes went towards it and thought, ‘That looks rather nice.’

“Surprise, surprise, a great coincidence, it happened to be my size, and I thought, ‘Do you know what? I quite fancy that,’ because of the story behind Ellis Briggs, as a bike manufacturer. 

“Brian Robinson rode Ellis Briggs. The Rayner family has a link into Ellis Briggs because, if I remember, it was Dave’s dad, John: his uncle was Jack Briggs, and he was one of the founders of Ellis Briggs. Dave’s dad worked in Ellis Briggs bike shop. There was all this history behind this bike, effectively. 
“Anyway, long story short, I managed to win it in the auction, and wheeled it over, and what was really wonderful and touching on the night, was that Keith Lambert came over to thank

me for the bid, which I thought was wonderful, but he then started reeling off all of this information about this bike, and I thought: ‘Wow! Thank-you very much.’

“Then he went away and got all of these other bits: there was an amazing picture that was auctioned on the night that he had donated, and I genuinely thought, ‘What a fantastic ambassador for the sport,’ rightly recognised for all that he’s achieved and continues to achieve, but another great reason, I think, for anybody who’s a cycling fan to go to that dinner.”

Timothy John

 “Well, a fitting tribute there, Phil, to Keith: twice a British road race champion, the manager for a decade of Great Britain’s under-23 team, and a man who knew Dave Rayner well.

“We said earlier that The Rayner Foundation dinner was the most “authentic” of these end-of-season events and Keith Lambert embodies that.

“There were lots and lots of people in that room who’ve given their lives to British cycle sport: people who, quite frankly, you wouldn’t meet at any of these other end-of-season events.”

Phil Jones

 “Now, I’m pleased to confirm that Tom Pidcock’s nan and granddad did not bid on the jersey that Tom donated on the night. She confirmed to me that she can get one of those whenever she wants. But they go all over Europe following Tom, which is absolutely brilliant. I thought that was fantastic.

“If you ever fancy going, I really recommend it. What I like about that dinner is that they keep the ticker prices really reasonable. It’s about sixty quid a head. Now, normally, for a dinner like that, you’d be paying three times that; you would. But for sixty quid, you get a nice three course dinner, a couple of bottles of booze on the table, and you get to be in the room with

all of these people. 

“But if you like to buy good auction prizes, and I always keep my eye out for a good auction prize. I bought a couple of signed Ethan Hayter tops, which I’m going to bring back here, frame and I’ll probably chuck them into another auction. I didn’t pay a huge amount for them, and I know they’ll make even more money. I’ll make the money from that next sale and donate that back to the charity, so you can kind of build up these things.”

Timothy John 

“So a bit of a tip for anyone thinking of holding an auction to raise money for a cycling charity, invite an entrepreneur along, and they will help you with the work of raising funds! What a brilliant idea: win an item in one auction, put it in another, and then donate the higher price to The Rayner Foundation. Chapeau, Phil."

Part Six: A Challenging Climate

Timothy John 

“On a  more serious note, it’s been a tough couple of years for The Rayner Foundation with Covid. They haven’t been able to host the dinner. The dinner, of course, is a real fundraiser, and yet they’ve still sent significant numbers of riders overseas. It’s an organisation, and particularly in the economic climate that we live in at the moment, that is facing a challenging future, despite all of its success. 

“Speaking after the dinner, Keith Lambert gave us a frank assessment of the Foundation’s financial position.”

Keith Lambert

“I think there’s been a good response tonight, but, having said that, the ticket sales were down. We’re going through a bad time, aren’t we, generally. Every day you turn the news on, it’s one thing or another. If people only have so much disposable income, unfortunately, this is one of the things where people might say, ‘Do you know what? We’ll perhaps give it a miss this year and go next year.’

“It’s been a really hard job getting it over the line: the ticket sales. To be honest, we’ll be lucky to break even tonight, depending on how the auction’s gone, but we certainly won’t have

made any money on the dinner. 

“We need to get back in that vein of pulling the money in. Thankfully, we had some reserves, which we’ve more or less used now because we’ve continued, and you’ve seen how many of them were there, and that’s for the last two years now: we’ve continued to send and support them. 

“That can’t go on forever, It will be reflected in how many we can fund and how much we can pay them, in the end, because we can’t pay out what isn’t there. Hopefully, we’re at the end of this bad period now, and reached the start of things picking up again.”

Timothy John

“Well, Keith Lambert there, characteristically telling it like it is. The Rayner Foundation, like so many organisations, is feeling the pinch at the moment, but no one there is panicking and they hope for better times ahead. 

“Phil, as the leader of a major business, you’ll keep a closer eye on prevailing economic conditions than most. What’s your prognosis for the Foundation and how economic conditions might affect their ability to continue sending young riders abroad?”

Phil Jones

 “They need all the help that we can give them, I think, in reality. They’re in a good place - they’ve got reserves and all that kind of stuff - but like all  of these foundations, it costs money to send these riders abroad, and it’s their best possible chance of success, in reality, so nights like the annual dinner, and the auction items from the annual dinner, are really meaningful. 

“But they do other things. They do a large, organised sportive, and if you want to do anything yourself that might raise funds for the Foundation, the one thing I can guarantee you is that, unlike many charities, where your donations are lost in overheads, so it could be that fifty pence in the pound goes to hidden overheads, if you give to The Rayner Foundation then

the money actually goes to the riders. 

“I remember when James and I handed over our fundraising cheque, if you’re looking that on average, a grant of £500, that was a good cohort of riders that we knew were going to get funding as a result of the things that we did, and one of the people who we saw at the dinner this year could already be one of those superstars that that money helped in the past.

“So, if you are passionate about trying to help to solve this issue of how do we give opportunity to talented cyclists, road cyclists who want to try and make it in the WorldTour, then, for

me, The Rayner Foundation is one way where you can directly help by fundraising directly for them, and they will be so appreciative of everything that you do.

“For me, get to the dinner in 2023, folks, without a doubt, and then, also, if you can help them by fundraising then do it.”

Part Seven: Remembering Brian

Timothy John 

“Yeah. 100 per cent. Their success rate is ridiculous. It’s hard to imagine another charity, another sporting organisation even…I made the point to Keith, that if The Rayner Foundation was a team, never mind a charity, there wouldn’t be many squads that could live with them. 

“One thing we must mention, a sad, but in some ways celebratory point, and that, of course, was the passing of Brian Robinson, their lifetime president. Brian, of course, a giant of British cycle sport. I mean, what a loss, but, at the same time, what a legacy.”

Phil Jones

“It was genuinely very moving on the night. You could tell, certainly with the board of trustees, just how impacted they’d been by Brian’s passing. And when you looked at the video that ran on the night of what he did and when, what makes it so incredible is that he achieved some things at the time when he achieved them that nobody had achieved before.

“And he did it through just the determination to do it. He wasn’t well-funded. He didn’t have all the glitz of trucks and motorcades and mattresses being taken from room to room and massages. He did it in a time when it was just him and his bike, fairly poor resources, when it was mano a mano, ride your bike, and to win a stage of the Tour de France when he did, to be the first British rider ever to finish the Tour de France, to win the Criterium du Dauphine, I think he set up, ultimately, what British Cycling, ultimately, could become. 

“A fantastic individual. I think well into his late eighties, he was still riding a bike, still passionate about the Foundation, still passionate about the sport. He’d been an ambassador for things like the Tour de Yorkshire. He was really the darling of Yorkshire when it came to road cycling, but I think for anyone who knows anything about UK cycling, you can’t talk about history without mentioning his name. 

“All credit to the Foundation for pulling together the most magnificent tribute on the night, and you could hear a pin drop in the room when that was played. It was wonderful.”


Timothy John 

“Yeah, they did a brilliant job, and also in celebrating Keith Lambert. I mean, there are very credible people involved in this Foundation and, as a result, perhaps it’s not so surprising that they enjoy so much success.

“Listen out everybody because we’ve got some great follow-up episodes coming. We interviewed Sam Watson, who was The Rayner Foundation’s Rider of the Year in 2022. He represented Great Britain at the World Championships and at the Commonwealth Games. He’s a local lad for The Rayner Foundation, he’s from Leeds, and, to top it off, what a nice guy. He has an incredibly bright future with Groupama-FDJ. 

“We also interviewed Harrison Wood who is off to Cofidis; perhaps the most resilient rider of the Foundation, even among his incredible class of 2022. He did a full four years overseas as an U23. He was involved in some horrific crashes, even this year, and yet has recovered, come back, and won a contract with with a WorldTour team. I can’t wait to bring you Harrison’s story.

“We also have an interview with Oliver Knight, who this year raced as a stagiare for Tadej Pogacar’s UAE Emirates team. The future really is bright. 

“Phil, thanks very much indeed again for joining me and thanks very much indeed to everybody out there listening.”