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Brother UK Cycling Podcast – Episode 38

Episode Description

One for the ages? The 2023 National Road Championships delivered attritional road races, exhilarating circuit races and blisteringly fast time-trials. The new champions were crowned over a five-day festival in Redcar and Cleveland that ended in spectacular style. Large crowds, demanding courses and changeable weather combined in an unforgettable championships.

Co-hosts Timothy John and Phil Jones, Brother UK’s Managing Director, reflect on events in Redcar and Cleveland in this new episode, which contains insights from three riders on

Brother UK-sponsored teams: Rachel Brown and Harriet Graham of Brother UK - Orientation Marketing and Sam Fawcett of Hutchinson - Brother UK. 

Phil shares his pleasure in the coronation of men’s road race champion Fred Wright and offers the highest praise for the three riders who occupied the women’s road race podium: winner Pfeiffer Georgi, runner-up Claire Steels and third-placed Anna Henderson. Clare and Anna began their careers with Brother UK-sponsored teams. 

The co-hosts reflect on a dramatic women’s circuit race, won by Megan Barker, and celebrate a masterpiece of solo riding by Ollie Wood, the new men’s champion. Tim calls for greater

respect for a discipline often lightly regarded, highlighting the aero efficiency, courage and tactical acumen deployed in both races. 

Tim and Phil marvel at Josh Tarling’s coronation as elite men’s time-trial champion at 19-years-old and discuss how far he can ascend, given his vertiginous career trajectory to date. They celebrate Lizzie Holden’s victory in the elite women’s time-trial championship, too: a testament to her tenacity, as well as talent. 

Enjoy this detailed reflection on one of the most memorable championships in recent years.
The Brother UK Cycling Podcast

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Episode 38: 2023 National Road Championships Review

Episode contents

  • 00:02 – Intro
  • 00.37 – Hello and Welcome
  • 03:47 – Part One: Circuit Makers
  • 19:28 – Part Two: Scottish Rainbows
  • 40.15 – Part Three: Sparky and the Convertors
  • 46.10 – Part Four: Ryedale Calling
  • 47.15 – Part Five: Local Hero
  • 57.48 – Part Six: Made In Britain
  • 1.05.17 – Outro

Episode 38: 2023 National Road Championships Review


Timothy John

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

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

Phil Jones 

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

Hello and welcome

Timothy John

“Hello and welcome to this new edition of the Brother UK Cycling Podcast where today we’ll look back on a thrilling national road championships in Redcar and Cleveland.

“Ten champions were crowned last week in North Yorkshire in a championships that offered attritional road races, exhilarating circuit races and blisteringly fast time-trials. 

“An emotional Fred Wright won a hugely popular victory in the men’s road race, Ollie Wood delivered a masterclass in solo riding to win the men’s circuit race, and the young prince of

British time-trialing was crowned king when Josh Tarling, the reigning junior world time-trial champion, added the British elite title to his palmares. 

“Pfeiffer Georgi was anointed queen of British roads for a second time, following her 2021 title-winning victory on Lincoln’s cobbled Michaelgate climb. She delivered an eerily similar triumph on the switchbacks of Saltburn Bank. 

“Lizzie Holden ‘completed’ the British women’s time-trial podium by winning the 2023 title, having finished third last year and second in the U23 race in 2019, while Megan Barker proved elder sister Elinor is far from the family’s only cycling talent with a brilliantly taken sprint victory in the women’s circuit race. 

“Joining me to discuss all of these topics and many more is my co-host, Phil Jones, the Managing Director of Brother UK. Phil, thank-you very much indeed for joining me.”

Phil Jones

“Hi Tim. I am just about getting over the road championships. What a phenomenal few days that was.” 

Timothy John 

“Well, we gave it a good billing, Phil, in our previous episode, and it certainly lived up to our advanced notices. Enthralling racing, testing courses, television coverage: I mean, it had the whole nine yards, didn’t it? We’ll discuss all of these points in some detail today.”


Part One: The Race of Truth

Timothy John 

“Let’s review the event in chronological order, shall we? The championships opened on June 21 with the time-trial, and, I guess the big story here, Phil, is the coronation of Josh Tarling from INEOS Grenadiers. He won the elite men’s time-trial ahead of Fred Wright of Bahrain-Victorious, and Connor Swift, his INEOS-Grenadiers team-mate. 

“I mean, let’s just put this into perspective. Tarling won the title by completing the 41.1km course in a time of 48.50.430, or an average speed of 50.498kmh. That’s 31.37mph to you and

me, Phil. The mind boggles!"

Phil Jones

“When I saw those speeds, Tim, I was thinking about some of the rides I do on my bike and when I come back with my own average speed, and just thinking; ‘Have I ever achieved an average speed of 31.37mph, unless I’m descending a 20 per cent gradient?' Probably not. Quite phenomenal.

“Tarling, clearly, is a rocket on a TT bike. Incredible performance, and when you look at the difference between where Tarling was and where, effectively, Fred Wright ended up, the

maths will tell you there was a 2.1 per cent difference in their average speed across that distance.

“When we talk about the time-trial in particular, we’re always talking about these tiny, tiny differences, aren’t we, that kit and technology make, whether it be a skin suit technology or a helmet or wheels.

"Your CDA is everything; that’s your ability to be aerodynamic. Clearly, Tarling is really benefiting from having Dan Bigham in that team, advising on all of the aero TT set-ups. That was quite something. 

“When you look at the difference between Connor Swift and Fred Wright, that was only 0.2 per cent different between the two individuals. Connor is riding very, very well, but also benefiting from all this knowledge and all of this background expertise that now exists within the INEOS team. 

“So, I think within all of that, the big story here is that Tarling is clearly an incredible TT talent.”

Timothy John 

“I know the whole word is making the same observation, Phil, but Tarling is Ganna-esque, isn’t he? He is visibly more powerful on the bike than his rivals, in the way that Filippo Ganna is. 

“It’s more than just his stature. It’s more than just a resemblance to Ganna in silhouette. It’s just that Tarling looks more powerful on a TT bike than anybody else on the course, and the

results back that up. 

“Here’s a question for you: how good can Tarling become? We have a World Championships coming up in Glasgow in just under two months time. He’s competed at elite level at the British championships. He would qualify, of course, as an U23 for the worlds. 

“Do you think British Cycling will allow him to compete for the elite world title? Is he that good already? Or is it important not to rush Tarling? Quite an old-fashioned notion, I know, given that we’re in the Remco era!”

Phil Jones

“My view with all of these things is that if you’ve got the talent then you’ve got to go in. Clearly, Tarling is able to compete for the U23 title, but look what he’s done here in the seniors at the nationals. You’ve got to look at him and say, I think he’s ready. 

“Would he be a candidate potentially to take the world title? I’m not sure at this stage. Would he be capable in the future?  Definitely, so I think it’s watch this space.”

Timothy John

“A hundred per cent. I mean, to win the elite world title, he’d have to beat Remco Evenepoel, he’d have to beat Primoz Roglic, he’d have to beat Wout Van Aert. He’d have to beat Filippo Ganna. It’s another magnitude, isn’t it, but in light of his achievement last week in North Yorkshire, nothing in the sphere of time-trialing seems to be beyond Tarling. 

“It’s going to be a wonderful career to follow and what a privilege, as British fans, to be in on the ground floor, so to speak. Larry Hickmott, the Founder and Editor of Brother UK-sponsored VeloUK.net, well, Larry's championed Tarling from several years, and I think it’s becoming increasingly clear to the rest of us that he could just be the best British time-trialist

since Brad Wiggins.

“Another huge story from the national time-trial championships, Phil, was the coronation of Lizzie Holden as elite women’s champion. I saw some brilliant pictures posted on Larry’s social channels last week, and Lizzie seems to have grown up on the podium of the national time-trial championships, both as an U23 with Drops, and, more recently, as a fully-fledged professional with UAE Team ADQ. 

“Lizzie was second in the U23 time-trial championships in 2019, she was third in the elite category last year, and now, finally, she’s an elite British time-trial champion.”

Phil Jones

“Yes, a really incredible performance by Lizzie, and I think we’re all rather delighted for her, given that she clearly is somebody who has just been improving and has kept chipping away at it, year after year after year. 

“I don’t think there are many people in the domestic scene who are going to be too unhappy to see Lizzie Holden jump on the podium there. Again, a fantastic average speed: 27.58mph that she completed the time-trial course in. 

“It clearly suited her. She put in a fantastic effort, and good luck to her. Personally, I’m going to be very delighted to see her riding in the stripes.”

Timothy John 

“The two other champions crowned British champion in the ‘race of truth’ were Josh Charlton of Saint Piran, who won the men’s U23 title, and Maddie Leech of Lifeplus Wahoo, who was crowned women’s U23 champion. 

“Now, the time-trial is a ruthlessly unsentimental discipline - it isn’t called the ‘race of truth’ for nothing - but one rider who fulfilled an ambition when she rolled out of the start house, if

not quite living a dream, was Brother UK - Orientation Marketing’s Rachel Brown. 

“Rachel is an elite duathlete, a significance that will resonate with anyone who’s followed Claire Steels’ career, and she’s determined to develop her cycling skills. When she initially applied to compete in the national time-trial championships, she was the sixth reserve. As the time-trial drew nearer, however, things changed. 

“Here’s Rachel.”

Rachel Brown

“I set off as sixth reserve on the start list. I genuinely didn’t think I’d get an opportunity to race, and then, as the weeks went by, I gradually ended up as first reserve. That was the day 

before the championships. At 4pm, I made a call to British Cycling, and they said: ‘Yeah, your first reserve, and you can turn up on the day so you can get a ride.

“That night, I decided to take a gamble, got the bike sorted out and drove across to Croft on the Wednesday. I hung around the start house until the close at 12.05pm. One person hadn’t turned up, so at 12.05pm I was given my number and a start time of 1.07pm, so I didn’t have long to get myself prepared or even to check out the technical section of the course. It was very rushed. I did a bit of a warm up and got myself to the start. At that point, I’d forgotten to put on overshoes, but I was just really happy to be there, so it didn’t matter.

“I was set off behind Katie Archibald, which was quite cool, and I knew I wouldn’t see her again at any point! As I finished, we were parked opposite the live timing board, so I was able to see what my time was. At that point, the faster riders hadn’t set off. I think I was eighth fastest at that point, but, of course, the faster riders were behind me, so I knew that would

definitely change. 

“To finish 25th, I was really happy with that. For me, being a reserve rider, it confirmed that I deserved to have a place on the start list.” 


Part Two: Lights, Action, Drama

Timothy John 

“Well, it didn’t seem like five minutes had elapsed from the time-trial podium ceremonies before the circuit races began. In fact, it was two days before the championships reconvened in

Redcar town centre and esplanade for some thrilling Friday night entertainment. 

“Two races, one each for men and women - no U23 category here - reminded us of just how much we’d missed crit racing in the enforced absence of the Tour Series. Both the men’s and women’s pelotons raced for 55 minutes + five laps on a 1.1km course with just six corners. It wasn’t only the time-trials that were fast and flat!

“The women’s race offered high-speed and high-drama, plot twists, shifts in momentum and an exhilarating climax. It might be easier, Phil, to list what the women’s race didn’t have!”

Phil Jones

“Yeah, it had everything, didn’t it? I think we’ve got to say that the real race was the last 10 laps, wasn’t it, Tim? That was where the race regrouped, restarted and was raced from: it was a 10-lap race following a major, major crash. 

“I’ve watched that time and time again, and, from what I can see, it was a touch of shoulders in the bunch. Somebody got slightly biffed and that brought down a huge group of people

and we saw some severely hurt riders. The race was suspended and then restarted. 

“But in among that drama, of course, what we’d also seen, prior to that happening, was Katie Archibald, almost ride away from everybody. I thought: ‘That’s it. Katie Archibald, she’s going to win this hands down.’ She looked in incredible form, and then she overcooks it into a corner, goes down. The bunch go past her again, and then the question was: ‘Was she lapped?’

“She goes back to the pits, then the race is stopped, Katie gets back on the circuit, un-laps herself, and puts herself back on the line. At that point, I wasn’t sure whether she could

restart or not. I wasn’t sure of the rules, and, of course, the commissaire had quickly clocked what had happened, and Katie was pulled from the race. 

“So I guess the issue here is, if the crash hadn’t occurred, do we believe that Katie would have ridden away from the field. My own feeling? She might have. I thought she looked incredibly strong and the bunch wasn’t very organised in chasing her once she’d gone off. Maybe, that would have been Katie Archibald riding around in the stripes. 

“And then, of course, we get to this dramatic reset with a race suddenly with 10 laps to go, and, of course, everyone’s just going to go for it, aren’t they? Anybody who was dropped

previously: you’re now all reset. You’ve had a chance to have a drink, a gel, to get reset, and then, of course, all the guns went off, and it was absolutely flat out racing. 

“What we did then see emerge from there is Meg Barker finally take the circuit champs with that sprint in the final hundred or so metres against Cat Ferguson, and, of course, Maddie Leech launched that sort of final push in the final three or four hundred metres, and you thought, ‘She’s going to go away now.’ 

“It all came together, and it was a very, very exciting end, but clearly, Meg Barker of Team Inspired, we saw her at the Tour Series, didn’t we? A very, very strong track rider. A very strong

seated sprinter. Her class came through and she took the championships.

“But there was just so much going on in the women’s race. Literally, it was all over the place, wasn’t it? It was exciting to watch. The circuit looked ever so fast, and congratulations to Meg Barker: a worthy winner.”

Timothy John

“A hundred per cent, yeah. I mean, not only have we seen Meg Barker win in the Tour Series, we’ve seen her win in that fashion. I remember a couple of years ago, watching her let Sammie Stuart lead the peloton round almost all of the final lap in Sunderland, before effortlessly moving from her slipstream with about 300m to go and won the sprint comfortably. She’s mastered the art of hiding in plain sight. 

“After the women’s crit race finished, Phil, I thought, ‘Well, this is going to be the race of the championships,’ and, if it hadn’t been for two magnificent road races, it probably would have

been. It had absolutely everything, including, as you say, this added drama of Katie Archibald attempting to rejoin the race after she’d crashed out. 

“I agree with you. If she had been allowed to continue, or, more pertinently, if she hadn’t crashed, for me, that was already race over, even at that early stage. She looked absolutely formidable; different, even, on the bike to everybody else: flat-backed, incredibly aero, incredibly powerful. 

“I was doing a Twitter commentary on the Brother Cycling channel, and I posted, ‘Champion on a mission.’ And that was exactly what it looked like. 

“Boy, have we missed crit racing in this country, Phil; I mean, with the absence of the Tour Series. It’s like the Joni Mitchell song, isn't it? ‘You don’t know what you have til it’s gone’”

Phil Jones

“Absolutely, Tim. It was exciting, wasn’t it? There was so much drama; not just in the women’s race, but in the men’s race, too, which I know we’re going to come on to. 

“Like you, I looked at the position of Katie Archibald on the bike. She was aero. The watts that must have been going through that chain must have been unbelievable. Her speed was

just incredible. She was in the zone. She was in the flow.

"When she hit that corner, I just thought, ‘No!’ as she went down, and she went down hard, as well; right into the barriers. I thought, ‘Oh! It’s such a shame,’ because I genuinely think she would have emerged as the national champion. She looked great. It was great to have her back and really showing us what her true potential is.

"She is still one of our best crit racers and one of our best track riders, without a doubt.”

Timothy John

“Another star of the women’s nationals crit race was Sam Fawcett of Hutchinson - Brother UK. My goodness, what a ride. Sam is 39. By her own admission, she’s not among the younger competitors, but she was equal to any of them and absolutely ice cool through the entire race. Crashes, restarts: none of that affected her composure. 

“She rode in the first five wheels for almost the entire race and then, unfortunately, got bumped out of position on the final straight and finished tenth, but still a very impressive


“She’s a really classy rider who finished on the podium at last year’s Guildford Town Centre races, which is a high-quality crit that has been elevated from National B to National A and will be included in this year’s National Circuit Series.

“Let’s hear now from Sam on her top-10 performance in domestic cycling’s most prestigious crit.”

Sam Fawcett

“The course wasn’t that fast or technical, to be honest. I was hoping it would be slightly more technical. I would definitely have preferred a more technical [circuit}; sharper corners; maybe some cobbles in there. I definitely find that much better: a more challenging circuit. 

“It was quite a flowing circuit so if you were on the front you can literally take every corner without touching the brakes, and there was only one slightly sharper corner at the top end

before you went down onto the finishing straight, but, other than that, it was a really nice, sweeping circuit. 

“The first part of the race was tough. I wasn’t necessarily where I wanted to be, and it took a little bit of time to move up and get into the flow, but once I found myself at the front of the race, it was quite comfortable and quite easy to maintain that position. Once you were at the front, you were really not having to do as much work and you could swoop through those corners and hold your position a lot better. 

“So once I was up, my main strategy was just to stay up there, and then, coming into the last lap, things really got going! I just knew I had to move up as quickly as I could. I spent that last lap really just trying to move up, as best as I could. 

“We managed to get ourselves into quite a nice group, before that main crash. I think there was quite a small group of us that got away, which managed to get around; maybe about ten of us got away on that lap. Unfortunately, there were a couple of riders who were injured, so they had to stop the race, but that gave some of the lapped riders and some of the girls who

came down who weren’t quite so badly hurt a chance to get new bikes and get back on. 

“That could be seen in two ways: for me, it didn’t present too much of a problem because I knew that the stronger riders could maybe carry on, but it did give the others an opportunity. The group then became bigger so you’re racing in a bigger group again. It’s swings and roundabouts, in that sense. It definitely made for an interesting race, and I knew that once they started that race again, I had to make sure that I was back up the front, holding for those ten laps. I knew it was going to be a short restart and that those ten laps were going to be fast.

“You always hope that maybe there will be an opportunity to win the race. I’ve always very much been a rider who rides for others. In the first nationals I rode, that was my role, and then

in my previous team, I took on that role for myself. It was never really given to me, but I enjoy that role. 

“I rode out in Belgium at the weekend before the nationals for the very first time, believe it or not. It gave me a really good confidence boost. In that race, I think there were a 170 starters and only 50 finished, and I was able to finish within that 50. That gave me a real confidence boost to know that I had the strength to be up there, so I definitely went into this race [the national championships] with a very different mindset. 

“We only had two riders in the race, so that gave me a real opportunity to focus on myself a bit more and ride for myself and really get myself into a good position. 

“I went into the last corner maybe third or fourth wheel, and I was in a really good place, but, unfortunately, there was a lock of wheels and a small come down, which pushed some of the riders back, so as we went into the finishing straight, we were slightly off the wheels, which was a real shame. 

“But I have been working on my sprint. That’s something I’ve been working on, so I’m hoping to have an opportunity to maybe see how I get on. 

“I definitely felt the absence of the Tour Series. Last year, it took me a good few rounds of the Tour Series to really get my racing legs. It was a combination of breaking my collar bone in March and not having the Tour Series to find my racing legs and get race sharp that definitely was a concern. But, like I said, I’d been racing quite a few men’s races, and I made myself

go out to Belgium that weekend before last, really to throw myself in at the deep end and see where I’m at. 

“You go into it apprehensively because you haven’t had that chance to line up with these strong girls and see where you’re at, so to go into it a little bit blind….I’m not sure if ignorance is bliss sometimes, to be honest. You kind of just go in and race your best and hope for the best, so it was a really good result.”

Timothy John 

“Wonderful to hear there from Sam, Phil. Ice cool under pressure and now with a richly deserved top-10 finish at a national championships on her palmares.” 

Phil Jones

“Well done, Sam. A truly fantastic performance, and I could see Watto in the pits, cheering on all the riders. One other insight that I thought was very interesting is that we saw DAS-Handsling with big numbers, and I was probably expecting bigger things from the size of that squad; all very, very capable riders. 

“We saw, post-crash, one of their strongest riders, Sammie Stuart, taken out in that crash, so she obviously didn’t finish. As a result, in that ten-lap final race, we saw a fourth, a fifth and a sixth place from DAS-Handsling. I would imagine they would have had their eyes on at least a podium place for one of their riders. 

“And, equally, looking where Jo Tindley was in all of this. Of course, Jo is one of our most capable crit riders: a former national champion, a former holder of the jersey. I’m sure Jo, after the restart, may have felt disappointed not to have made the podium, and I was too because I think she’s a very popular rider; she’s very popular in the bunch. I would like to have

seen Jo on that podium.” 

Timothy John 

“Yeah, the final insight, leading on from that, is to applaud the tactical element to this race. I’m thinking of starting a one-man campaign to celebrate crit racing at the top level! 

“It's often referred to pejoratively, isn’t it? Often seen as little more than thrashing around a town centre and compared unfavourably with Grand Tour racing, which is hardly a fair

comparison, but we saw everything at the national championships, including, as I say, a really high-quality tactical approach. 

“DAS-Handsling, you’re right when you say that they will be disappointed not to have come away from the national circuit race championships with at least a podium. They lost three riders in that massive crash that stopped the race. Ironically, that whole incident began with one of theirs. It was Emma Jeffers, who through no fault of her own, triggered that chain reaction, but they lost Sammie Stuart, they lost Grace Lister and they lost Lucy Lee.

“More positively, Sophie Lewis played a policing role for DAS-Handsling to perfection. She never once hit the front, never once took the wind, but was always in the first five wheels,

usually second or third, and ready to shut down any dangerous moves.

“Monica Greenwood played a similar role, and they looked really well placed to come away with at least a podium until their numbers were severely depleted by that crash, but their tactical sense - and we’re seeing that now, aren’t we, at the highest level of crit racing, in addition to everything else - in addition the speed, the bike handling and incredible cornering, all the rest of it - we’re seeing a real tactical awareness. 

“We saw it from Jo Tindley, from Sam Fawcett, who was always near the front but never on the front. Compare and contrast with Frankie Hall of Loughborough Lightning who went off

like a firework. Wonderful to watch, a real treat for the fans, but you couldn’t help but wonder what was her aim in doing so much of the work.”


Part Three: Solo Endeavour

Timothy John

“Somebody who got it absolutely right, from start to finish, was Ollie Wood, who rode to a convincing solo victory in the men’s circuit race. He has no team, believe it or not. He was a

member last year of Tim Elverson’s WiV-Sungod team and effectively lost his team when AT85 folded in March. 

“He delivered a masterclass to win this race, ahead of defending champion Matt Bostock of the Black Spoke Cycling Academy, who unfortunately found himself caught up with Groupama-FDJ’s Sam Watson and the aforementioned Josh Tarling of INEOS Grenadiers. They watched each other and effectively took each other out of the race. Those three, of course, were the podium finishers last year. Matt still managed to sprint to second ahead of Tim Shoreman of Wheelbase - Cabtech - Castelli. 

“Now, did Ollie Wood win this race, Phil, or did his rivals lose it?”

Phil Jones

“My view is that Ollie Wood won it, without a doubt. He was strong enough. If you only watch the post-race interviews he did, going off was not his plan. He read the race, and he went off. The next thing you know is that he began to get time and we saw that time was fluctuating, wasn’t it? It was going up, and it was going down, and then it was going back up again. 

“As a pure racer, Ollie picked his moment to go off and then held it until the end, and, absolutely, he won that race without a doubt. Behind him, everyone started looking at each other,

and when I saw him start go off, I thought: ‘Unless the bunch starts to get organised quickly, he is going to stay away. He’s a good enough rider to stay away,’ and he did. 

“Very interestingly, you could see that he had quite a lot of support around the circuit from fellow riders and people who know him. Clearly, he’s a popular lad. He kept waving his hand to his throat, going, ‘I’m not sure whether I’m going to keep this up,’ but he did, and he won that race in a very, very classy way. 

“For me, again, this is back to crit racing. It’s a technical sport in its own right. It’s fast, it’s furious, and you have to be able to read a race in the race. You’ve got to be in the bubble and read it and make decisions on the fly and he did. He could see that bunch was becoming a little bit disorganised, and off he went. A small gap: eight seconds, nine seconds, and then he

stayed away because everyone just started looking at each other.

“So, Ollie Wood, a hundred per cent won that race.”

Timothy John 

“Yeah, I’d concur with that. It was disappointing that there was so little cohesion among the chasing group, but Ollie can hardly be blamed for that. He certainly fulfilled his side of the bargain. 

“When you talk about reading the race, Phil, a brilliant example of that was when the rain came down and all Ollie had to do was stay upright, and I say ‘all’, because, my goodness, the

pressure must have been intense. 

"To be faced with downpour after 50 minutes of a 55-minute plus five laps race. My goodness! He was tip-toeing through some of the corners, and, again, it’s all relative, isn’t it? Tip-toeing by Ollie’s standard would have been railing it by mine. 

“He was still travelling very, very quickly, but with proper respect for the changing conditions. That wasn’t true for everyone. Sam Watson, runner-up last year, was one of several who

slid out in the treacherous conditions. 

“It would be very easy to run out of superlatives when discussing Ollie’s performance. It was amazing.”

“Here’s a topic, Phil, that we might we return to when discussing the men’s road race, but this was another race where a lot of the top riders just failed to show up, and I don’t mean that

in a physical sense, but in a sporting sense. 

“There were a lot of very high-quality, very accomplished crit riders who didn’t make any impression whatsoever on that race. Any thoughts on that?  Were they missing the Tour Series? This would have been the first crit race of the season for many of them, but, really, a lot of riders you’d expect perhaps even to have built a season around the national circuit race championships who were completely anonymous.”

Phil Jones

“We definitely missed the Tour Series in 2023; the hiatus. We all understand the reason for the hiatus. We’ve discussed it extensively on the podcast, Tim, but clearly that has made a difference to some of the form the riders need to really sharpen up their skills in crit racing, they haven’t had the opportunity in 2023 as they normally would. 

“Also, a couple of big squads there, which equally I would have imagined those squads could have ridden a bit more tactically. We also, I think, throughout this whole championships, I was expecting to see Geraint Thomas really show himself. I thought he was coming here, post-Giro, to definitely take the road jersey and carry the stripes of being British road race champion into 2023. I know that we’re talking about circuit racing now, but I thought, equally, the absence of Luke Rowe from the crit race. He is just a massive engine, isn’t he, and we

saw that in the road race, just how much work he was doing, which we’ll come to in a moment. 

“But that crit race really didn’t play out how I imagined it was going to. I thought a couple of the domestic squads who had huge numbers there would get up the road, would control it, would do lots of one-twos, would really impose themselves on that race, but, I don’t know, perhaps they were thinking of the bigger picture of the road race and not wanting to go too deep; all that sort of stuff. 

“But, anyhow, I don’t want to take anything away from Ollie. A deserved winner. Amazing that he is currently riding as a privateer. I think if you saw his post-race interviews, you see an absolutely lovely lad who deserves to have a contract.”

Timothy John 

“Yeah, I’m sure he’s beating off suitors with a stick at the moment, Phil, after that performance, I mean,  what a ride, and, more generally, what a circuit race championship.

“It’s been part of the main event, hasn’t it, since Lincoln in 2021. The circuit race used to be a standalone championships and they put it alongside the time-trial and the road race a

couple of years ago, and I think it really deserves that status.”


Part Four: Queen Pfeiffer II

Timothy John

“Now, the circuit races would have provided the most exciting racing of the entire championships if it wasn’t for two absolutely enthralling road races. Let’s start with the women’s race. Let’s do it in chronological order: the order in which it happened. 

“The women raced for 132km of an absolutely gruelling circuit. Seven laps, each of 18.8km: total ascent 2826m. This was a brutal engagement, even for the most

accomplished riders in the race. 

“The race was won by Pfeiffer Georgi of Team DSM who took her second elite British road race title after first being crowned champion in Lincoln two years earlier

“Second was Claire Steels of Israel - Premier Tech – Roland, who continued her dream season. She came to the nationals having finished sixth overall at the women’s Tour de Suisse.

This is a former domestic rider now competing at the very highest level of the sport. 

“And third was Anna Henderson, and, of course, we know all about Anna: an absolutely world-class rider in every sense of the term. 

“So, what did you make, Phil, of the women’s road race?” 

Phil Jones

“It was a very exciting race. In fact, we saw on lap one, it was already getting blown to bits, wasn’t it? You could just see that the parcours and the ascent of the course was really affecting people very early in the race, and the stronger riders were clearly going straight off on some of the climbs, and you could see straightaway how the race was going to play out. 

“Pfieffer Georgi: wow, what a talent. She is just an incredible rider. An incredible rider. But I will say within that, I was delighted for Claire Steels. Through the whole race, I was thinking: ’This could suit her.’ She’s familiar with the circuit. She’s familiar with Saltburn. She was a domestic rider for many years, and, of course, two of the riders out of the top three had ridden on Brother-sponsored teams, Tim, let’s not forget that. Anna Henderson and Claire Steels had ridden on Brother-sponsored teams, so, clearly, a lucky omen. But taking nothing away

there. I thought Anna Henderson was also really up for it.

“But it all came back to Satlburn, didn’t it? That epic finish at Saltburn. The showdown to decide who had the legs on that final climb. You could just see that Pfeiffer Georgi really, really had that extra something in her legs; that ability to lay down a big effort. 

“We talked about that in our last episode that Saltburn is about a 40-second effort. Basically, you’ve got to be able to put in that final dig for those 40 seconds with, I guess for the women, somewhere between a 600w and 700w effort for 40 seconds. Clearly, Pfeiffer Georgi had the legs to deliver that.

“What I loved about that course was that for both the women’s race and the men’s race, the racing was so exciting. It was, literally, don’t leave your seat. It was so exciting. I was literally on the sofa all day long on that Sunday. I hardly moved because it was  just so exciting to watch. This is what we want from our racing: attacks and counterattacks. People having to use

their heads without a DS screaming in their ear. 

“If we think about how Continental races are raced, where you’ve got the big teams: the breakaway is allowed to go off, someone jumps on the front, controls the race, brings back the break, and then it’s all raced in the last 15 to 20km until the shootout between the big names. 

“The nationals is raced nothing like that, is it? The women’s race and the men’s race, blown to bits really quickly. The usual team cohesion completely goes out the window, and it just became about who was the smartest and strongest rider on the road, on the day.”

Timothy John 

“It really was, and I guess the overarching conclusion is that the British style of racing is in many ways far more entertaining than that very controlled, very formulaic, often predictable style deployed in the WorldTour. And it was interesting to see, I thought, how quickly British riders from the WorldTour reverted to the domestic style. 

“The style practised in this country, and writ large in both of these championship road races, is raw, aggressive, attritional. It’s blood and guts, it’s attacking from the gun, and the rider

who attacked from the gun in the women’s race was none other than a rider from Brother UK - Orientation Marketing: Harriet Graham. Let’s hear now from Harriet.”

Harriet Graham

“I did plan to attack as early as I could get to the front. I’m not naturally a particularly good climber - I’m working on it a lot with my coach - so I didn’t plan on even finishing the race because it was so tough. I think a lot of people felt the same way, but I wanted to go out in a blaze of glory so I thought I’d try something early on. 

“It was quite a surreal feeling, just being away from everyone. It almost felt like I was out on a ride on my own for some of the time. I kept checking back and seeing them all catching

me up. It was quite scary. I had to kick on a few times. It was an amazing experience as well, all at the same time.

“I was really hoping a few people would come across and give me a bit of a break, but nobody did, so I kept on going as strongly as I could for as long as I could. I was a bit disappointed. I had hoped I would be able to stay away until the first descent, because I’m a pretty confident descender, and I was hoping that I could get a reasonable, 20-second gap and get a good chunk of the climb up Saltburn Bank done before I was caught but I maybe went a bit early and that meant I didn’t have the legs to go quite that far. If I’d had some help, I might have made it.”

Timothy John 

“Great to hear there from Harriet Graham, who attacked on lap one of the women’s road race and gained some valuable exposure for her Brother UK - Orientation Marketing team. 

“It didn’t take long though did it, Phil, for the heavyweights to join the fight. That group that decided the race - Pfeiffer Georgi, Anna Henderson, Elinor Barker, Claire Steels, Anna

Shackley, Alex Morrice and Natalie Grinczer - they revealed themselves as the strongest pretty early. 

“Just how good is Pfeiffer Georgi, Phil? Is it too soon to start comparing her to multiple British road race champions like Nicole Cooke and Lizzie Deignan? She doesn’t have a world title. She hasn’t won an Olympic gold medal, but she is still only 22 and already has two British titles on her palmares. 

“She’s won a WorldTour race this season, she’s won a UCI 1.1 race. It’s easy to say with hindsight, isn’t it, but shouldn’t we have been talking her up even more than we did?”

Phil Jones

“What a talent! She is just an incredible rider. Again, what I think I'm most impressed by is that she’s 22-years-old, and you can just see that she is getting better and better and batter with every season that she races. 

“And, of course, now with Team DSM: I think she’s in a really, really good place there; the right place to really bring her on as a rider. I don’t think we’ve seen anywhere near the true potential of where Pfeiffer Georgi might go.”

Timothy John 

“I mean as we sit here and talk now, Phil, a third title, a fourth title doesn’t seem like fantasy, does it? It seems completely within her grasp. 

“Pfeiffer, of course, will have left East Cleveland the most satisfied rider of the day, but who else do you think will come away thinking, ‘I did a really good day’s work there’?

“Alex Morrice, for example: talk about a career on fast-forward. This time last year, she hadn’t even announced her presence at the highest level of domestic road racing. It would have been another month before she finished second at the Lancaster Grand Prix in her National Road Series debut for Brother UK - LDN. 

“Now she’s in the Women’s WorldTour with Canyon-SRAM, proving that winning a Zwift contest is just one small part of her repertoire. She more than held her own last Sunday. 

“Anna Shackley, another who’s just 22-years-old. Fourth overall at the UAE Tour in February. Each time the road went up in the nationals road race, Phil, I thought she looked like the

strongest rider on the road. 

“Natalię Grinczer, for my money, was the most intelligent rider in the bunch. I Tweeted “never shirking, rarely working.” She was always towards the back of that group. 

“Who else, Phil, do you think will come away super satisfied with their day’s work in East Cleveland?”

Phil Jones

“Well, everyone that you’ve mentioned, but I’ve also just got to come back to Claire Steels. She was there on her own: didn’t have a team around her. She’s always suited the hillier courses when she’s ridden in the UK. She was very much known as a climber; somebody who prefers hillier routes. 

“I think for her to come in second: only five seconds of Pfeiffer Georgi, and after such a long race as well: an attritional 132km race. It was not a short race, but it was a hard race. It was

hard. I think it was a very good performance from her. Really great to see how she’s doing. 

“Eleanor Backstedt. Top 10. Well done to her. She’s still U23 and riding with Trek-Segafredo. I thought she rode exceptionally well. 

“Monica Greenwood from DAS-Handsling. I think she came in 13th, so well done Monica. I think that’s a really fantastic performance on a very, very difficult day. 

“There’s a lot of people who will probably be walking away from that race on that day: I think there were 33 finishers in the women’s field overall. That just shows that it was something even to finish that race. 

“I know that there was a little bit of contention perhaps with some finishers on the men’s race. I think we saw only 20 finishers, officially, on the men’s, but I saw on social media that there was quite a few unhappy riders who were pulled who felt that they could have completed the race and would have liked to have completed the race. 

“With such big fields, to see them whittled down to only 33 finishers on the women’s field, then, fundamentally, I think anybody who finished that race on that day ought to give

themselves a pat on the back.”



Part Five: Wright On

Timothy John 

“Let’s move on now to talk about the men’s race. My goodness, have you ever seen a race like it?”

“Victory, as we’ve said, went to Fred Wright of Bahrain Victorious, and it’s hard to think of a more popular winner. 

“James Knox of Soudal-QuickStep was second. We’re used to seeing James as a climbing domestique deluxe, but here he had, well, not quite a day in the sun, because there was very

little of it but, boy, did he show that he’s a very capable rider in his own right. 

“And then, of course, Stevie Williams of Israel – Premier Tech rounded off the podium with another hugely courageous performance.

“It was an amazing race, Phil. Fred, understandably, very emotional, following the recent tragic loss of his teammate Gino Mader at the recent Tour de Suisse. 

“How do you read the race? Have you ever seen a more attritional men’s race than the one we witnessed last Sunday?”

Phil Jones

“I’d be hard [pressed] to pick a race out that had so much within it. Let me firstly say how delighted I am for Fred Wright. He is a very, very popular rider. He really needed this win, He’d been the guy, hasn’t he, who needed that big win, and he got it. 

“You could just see that James Knox, Steve Williams, even Owain Doull, Connor Swift: this was becoming a shootout between the WorldTour riders, wasn’t it? ‘Right. Who’s got the legs today?’ And we saw things like the weather begin to factor. It started out nice, but then we had heavy rain. The conditions began to deteriorate, and we really then began to see who

really, really wanted this. 

“Probably on that final lap, when we saw Connor Swift dropped, you could just see what Fred Wright needed to do. He needed to get rid of James Knox and Stevie Williams. He needed to get rid of them before the final Saltburn climb. He needed that eight or 10 seconds, and when he put in that attack to get himself there, and when he was going up that climb, I was literally off the sofa: ‘Come on, Fred! Come on!’ I wanted him to hang on so badly, and he did. 

“As you saw, the emotion as he crossed the line, not just for that big win, but, of course, he’d had a very emotional couple of weeks with the loss of his team-mate. We saw him point to the sky. We saw just what it meant to him. I think anybody who watches road racing will look at that race on that day and say, ‘Wow! He deserved that!’ He was the best rider on the day. 

“If you look at that top-10. Incredible. If you look at the riders from the WorldTour teams in the top 10, for you to walk away on that day having taken that win you have absolutely earned

the right to wear those stripes over the coming year.”

Timothy John 

“Yeah. I mean, if the purpose of a course is to decide the strongest rider in the race, well, it certainly did that. And while we’ve talked already about the podium finishers, we should also

give massive credit to Connor Swift, who was a protagonist almost until the very end.

“It was our podium finishers, of course, who went almost together up Saltburn Bank for the final time, but Swift had been the agent provocateur for the previous lap, and he dragged himself back into contention after being dropped on the final lap, too. 

“This was Connor Swift in the raw, wasn’t it? His entire career, in a sense, captured in one race: the rider who grew up on the domestic scene, the rider who was crowned British champion in the colours of Madison-Genesis - the last rider from a domestic team to win the elite British road race title – but, with all that polish, all that endurance that comes with five

years in the UCI WorldTour.”

Phil Jones

“Yeah, another rider, who, when I saw him dropped, I was off the sofa: ‘Come on, Connor! You can do it! Get yourself back!’ I saw him as he got dropped on one of the climbs, and I thought, ‘Oh, he’s going to get back there,’ but then I thought if he gets to Saltburn, he’s going to get dropped anyway because the three riders who ultimately finished on the podium were looking the strongest on the day. But all credit to him: I thought he put in a fantastic shift.

“But even earlier in the race, people like Owain Doull also looked very, very up for it on the day. He came in fourth in the end, but you could see he was very active at the beginning of

the race, wasn’t he? Very, very active.

“Also, people like Luke Rowe, you could see doing his traditional team road captain stuff. He was on the front a bit. There were a couple of bits in the race I saw where Luke was surfing. You could see the ease with which he goes from the front to the back and through the peloton. That’s all those years of WorldTour riding that he’s done. 

“But there were a couple of lovely moments where I just saw him drift to the back, and he helped a couple of the domestic riders get back into the bunch, and things like that. I just thought: ‘Do you know what? That is absolutely brilliant to see.’ He’s clearly not come to win it today. He’s come to work for people, but he’s also made sure that the race was raced

really, really well, so all credit to Luke Rowe. I thought that was absolutely brilliant.” 

Timothy John 

“Yeah, Luke Rowe is a class act, isn’t he, and if you were a young rider, what couldn’t you learn from racing against him? 

“What an advert, Phil, for British cycle sport, Pihl. For me, this is the biggest takeaway of the entire championships. I’m sure we’ve all watched the Tour de France Unchained recently on


“That’sa very high-gloss presentation of the biggest race in professional cycling, but if you wanted to take a single race as a microcosm of domestic racing - that no-prisoners-taken style that characterises the domestic scene – well, you couldn’t have a better advert than what we witnessed on Sunday.

“It was absolutely brutal, utterly unpredictable and, yet, still somehow managed to crown the strongest rider in the race.

“I think the year ahead is going to seem very long. The 2024 National Road Championships can’t come quickly enough, because those we’ve just witnessed were absolutely brilliant.” 



Timothy John 

“We’re certainly not going to be starved of action. The National Circuit Series is the next act onto the domestic stage. That starts tonight, Wednesday June 28, the day we’re recording. It will already have passed into history by the time this episode is published, such is the pace of peak season cycling, and we’ll be covering the National Circuit Series in our next episode. 

“Phil, thank-you very much indeed for joining me today. It’s  been great to talk again about this wonderful sport that Brother UK supports as a dedicated sponsor, both of teams and

races. If people want to follow you on social media, Phil, how can they go about that?”

Phil Jones

“Yes, you can find me on Twitter. That’s probably the best place. My handle there is @roadphil, all one word. I’m always posting bits and bobs. And if you want to follow me there, I will be heading out to the Tour de France to watch the finish, as a guest of INEOS, courtesy of an auction prize I bought at the Rayner dinner some while ago. That should be exciting. I’ll try to see what I can get and post from being inside the bubble on the final day of the Tour de France, 2023.”

Timothy John

“Well that sounds like an episode by itself, Phil. Do fire up the phone at every opportunity and capture whatever you can! 

“Also worth following the Brother UK-sponsored VeloUK website in the weeks ahead. That, as we mentioned earlier, is Larry Hickmott, who’s covered the domestic scene for 20 years. You can find him on Twitter @velouk and @aussielarry, on Facebook @velouk and on Instagram @veloukwebsite. 

“You can also follow Brother Cycling. We’re @brothercycling on all three channels. 

“Phil thank-you very much again for joining me, and thank-you to everybody out there for listening.”

Phil Jones

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