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Brother UK Cycling Podcast – Episode 45

Episode Description

Co-hosts Timothy John and Phil Jones, the Managing Director of Brother UK, attended the 2023 Rayner Foundation dinner and charity auction. The pair shared a table with former world champion Lizzie Deignan (Lidl-Trek) and her husband Phil, a Grand Tour stage winner, and key members of the Foundation’s organising committee. 

Despite enjoying the awards ceremony, charity auction and key note speeches, Phil and Tim found time to gather insights from this unique event: one that unites many of the decision makers in domestic and professional cycling with the stars of tomorrow. The Rayner dinner is at once professional and authentic.

Committee members Serena Meakin, Tim Harris and Josh Cutler describe their practical and emotional investment in the Foundation and the importance of the dinner to its excellent work. This year’s event attracted 301 guests: a higher turnout than last year, but still below pre-Covid levels. It must continue to grow.

Listen out for insights and observations from Giles Pidcock, Lewis Askey (Groupama-FDJ), and Oliver Knight (Team Cofidis), the Foundation’s Rider of the Year. Charlie Paige (TDT-

Unibet) and Tom Portsmouth (Bingoal WB), other graduates to the professional ranks from the class of 2023, describe their experiences of living and racing abroad.  

Hear too from the talented juniors joining prestigious development teams and the young female riders excelling in a new landscape for women’s cycling shaped to a large degree by Lizzie Deignan. And enjoy Tim and Phil’s extended discussion on the Foundation’s work and its intersection with the domestic road scene.

The pair consider the seemingly insatiable appetite of WorldTour development teams for young British riders. They discuss the explosion in British women’s racing too, with as many as seven UCI Continental women’s teams mooted for next season. And they reflect on the purpose of the elite men’s National Road Series. 

Hear from those at the heart of the most respected charity in British cycle sport: its tireless volunteers, influential supporters and shooting stars. The Foundation has helped more than 90 British riders turn professional. Phil and Tim, experienced guides in the labyrinthine world of domestic racing, provide an informed commentary. 
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Episode 45: 2023 Rayner Foundation Dinner



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 special edition of the Brother UK Cycling Podcast, recorded at The Rayner Foundation’s annual dinner and charity auction at the New Dock Hall in Leeds. 

“Unless you’ve recently landed on Planet Cycling, you’ll know that the Foundation, a charity set up to honour the memory of the late Dave Rayner, a hugely gifted rider whose life ended in tragic circumstances 29 years ago, has helped scores of young British riders to turn professional by funding them to live and race overseas. 

“I was lucky enough to join my co-host Phil Jones, Brother UK’s Managing Director, at the Rayner dinner last Saturday, where we shared a table with cycling royalty in the form of LIDL-Trek’s Lizzie Deignan, a former world champion, Olympic silver medalist and winner of three Monument Classics, and her husband Phil, a Grand Tour stage winner.

“In the next 30 minutes or so, you’ll hear from key members of the class of 2023, including Rider of the Year, Oliver Knight, key committee members, without whom the dinner simply wouldn’t take place, the British juniors joining the sport’s most prestigious development teams, thanks to Rayner support, the young female riders forging a career in a sport Lizzie

Deignan has helped to shape, and many, many more.

“And in the final part of the episode, you’ll hear from Phil, with whom I caught up at the end of a busy evening in which Phil had held detailed conversations with the likes of Giles Pidcock, Tom’s father, of course, but, more importantly in this context, the manager of the Fensham Howes-MAS Design junior team who have placed six young British riders with leading development teams. 

“Let’s dive in and immerse ourselves in the sounds of another memorable edition of The Rayner Foundation’s annual dinner and charity auction.”


Part One: A Personal Calling

Timothy John 

“Now, putting on an event on the scale of The Rayner Foundation’s annual dinner and charity auction is no small task. The Foundation’s committee of volunteers plan several years ahead to ensure guests and riders enjoy an evening to remember. 

“For each committee member, the Foundation is personal. It's had incredible success, of course - around 90 British riders have turned professional with the charity’s support - is a way of keeping Dave’s memory alive. 

“Let’s hear now from Dave’s cousin, Josh Cutler, from Tim Harris, Dave’s team-mate at the revered Raleigh-Banana squad, and from Dave’s wife, Serena Meakin.”

Josh Cutler

“I’m a committee member, involved in everything, year-on-year, decision-making and everything, but the main role that I give is organising the dinner every year. I front that up: liaise with the organisers, the hotel, making sure everything is running, what the timings are, sorting the auctions items out, all the tech, all. the screens that you see running, all the video montages. Everything that you can see, I’ve got a finger in it somewhere, just to make sure that everything is as we need it, as we want it, and make sure that the there hundred people who are sat in the room are happy and try and raise as much money as we can.”

Tim Harris

“If Dave was still about, he’d be absolutely thrilled to see this because cycling was his passion and he went to Italy and then made his career abroad. The fact that we can help give these riders a bit of help along the way is really what it’s all about.

“Evenings like this are really good fun. We meet everybody. If we can keep them, like your podcast, the fact that you’re doing it, just gives more publicity to what we’re trying to do. It’s

important from the fact that it’s not just a nice evening, but it's good that it gets a lot of publicity.  

“To be honest, the Covid years were really difficult because we couldn’t have it for two years. Last year was really touch and go because everything has to be be paid for before and the figures were low and only at the last minute we managed to get a few more people to come. Now, Covid’s hopefully out of the way, it’s sort of move up again, we hope to increase the numbers every year. 

“When I first started racing or cycling, a long time ago, every single cycling club would have a club dinner. I’m originally from Norfolk. We’d bike to club dinners and then bike home, literally at midnight, after a club dinner. That was the tradition of cycling. I can’t see many people here biking here and biking home, but if we could make it like a traditional club dinner, that would be great.

“What I like about this, you’ve got the young riders, but you’ve also got faces from the time when I was racing. It’s a big, big broad spectrum of people who visit this, and, normally,

everyone seems to have a good time.”

Serena Meakin

“It’ll be 29 years on November 16 since Dave passed. It gives me something to move forwards and his death not to be so much in vain because of the way in which he passed. 

“You see all the other riders who have benefitted and gone on to race on the Continent and have put the hard work in and got to the WorldTour. That helps when a tragedy happens. You

see something good come out of something.

“The beginning was, when we set up, was to make sense of what I feel was a needless death. You look back and think, ‘Gosh. Thirty years next year. Where has time gone?'

“You still get a buzz when commentators mention that they were Rayner funded riders. You do get a little bit of a…Your heart skips after all these years. 

“I’m a cyclist. I’ve not done it and any great level. I’m very much a Sunday café cyclist, but even so I do watch it  You get pulled into certain events and certain races and when the Rayner Fund is mentioned, it does give you a warm, fuzzy feeling. 

“I think he would have been slightly embarrassed, because he was a very humble person, but he would have been a little bit humble, but a little bit, like, puffing out his chest: ‘This is in my name.’

“Luck’s been on our side. I’m quite a practical person but sometimes you think, ‘Is he looking down on us?”



Part Two: An Established Professional

Timothy John 

“Lewis Askey, who next year will begin his third season in the UCI WorldTour, is one of the Rayner Foundation’s many success stories. 

“Lewis closed his campaign by finishing second at Paris-Tours: one of the most respected one-day Classics on the professional calendar. Not bad for a 22-year-old competing in only his second season as a professional. 

“Lewis, who won the junior Paris-Roubaix and the junior Gent-Wevelgem, turned down a place on British Cycling’s senior academy to  join Groupama-FDJ’s Continental squad before being promoted to its WorldTour team. 

“Who better to ask then about the popularity of young British riders among WorldTour teams hungry for fresh talent?”

Lewis Askey

“I’ve enjoyed the season. I’ve missed that win, but at the same time, if I’d said to myself at the start of the year, you’re going to come second at Paris-Tours, and I was top-30 at

both Flanders and Roubaix, I would have been happy with that. 

“I don’t get loads of opportunities because I’m not the fastest guy. I’m not the best climber. I kind of have to take the opportunities when they come. 

“The times when I have been given an opportunity, like at Nokere, I was fifth there, and when I've been given a free role, I had a couple of second places - too many second places, honestly - but I’ve enjoyed my season. 

“One thing I’ve always said is that I’ve been super lucky with the support I’ve had, whether that’s been Dave Rayner, whether that’s been British Cycling, whether that’s been FDJ, I’ve

been super lucky. 

“I’ve grown up with all my mates cycling as well, and all of them are on different pathways as well. Some of them are going through British Cycling, some of them are through Dave Rayner.

“You see how many British pros are coming through, and that’s one thing. There are so many of my mates now in the WorldTour peloton, and that’s super cool. For sure, I think it’s a good time.

“What’s happened is that they have had the first few guys come onto the team, and they’ve really enjoyed working with the British guys. I think a lot of the British guys are really professional with how they work, and I think they enjoy working with that kind of person. 

“They’ve seen that with a few different people coming through, and I think that’s why they want to keep them coming through rather than just the pure talent on a bike, which, obviously, has to be there, but that’s not the only thing about getting on in teams. 

“A lot of my favourite races are the French Cups: ‘lower level’ races. I love racing them. There are a lot of guys who make a living from doing those races, and it’s a shame that we don’t have that structure in the UK. I’d love to race in the UK a lot more. You see what that would bring. You’ve seen in France what the fans are like. When we do have big races in the UK, the fans come out in force, often. 

“I don’t have the knowledge to back up my statements of why that is. I know lot of the time they struggle with getting road closures, but it’s a shame that it’s not the same as elsewhere.”


Part Three: Gateway To The Future

Timothy John

“One of the many impressive aspects of The Rayner Foundation is its ability to remain relevant to the needs of young British riders in an era where development pathways are evolving at an incredible rate. 

“With the average age of new recruits to the WorldTour falling every season, the focus of the biggest teams in the sport is already turning from U23 to junior riders.

“The Foundation’s Gateway Project funded 84 British juniors last year, and teams including Giles Pidock’s Fensham Howes-MAS Design squad. 

“Let’s hear now from Giles and from two of his riders: Alex Beldon, who next year will join Trinity Racing, a British-registered UCI Continental team, and Jacob Bush, who will move to

The Netherlands to join Team DSM-Firmenich’s development squad.

“I began by asking Giles to describe the importance of the funding his team receives from The Rayner Foundation’s Gateway Project.”

Giles Pidcock

“I think it’s of a profound importance. It’s made the difference to a whole layer of riders who you could probably categorise as the late developers.

"The young superstars get picked up by the big teams, but there are always riders who might have been injured or focussing on their exams or they might have just matured later, who come through a different route, like your Hugh Cathys and your Adam Yates. 

"The Rayner Foundation steps in and gives a little bit of funding to help those riders get it over the line. And now, because the whole thing happens much sooner, they’re providing

funding through their gateway scheme to junior teams like us, and we’re going to talk about it a bit later on stage if there’s time. 

“The difference it’s made to our team is it probably enables us to do three more trips, and when you’re trying to get riders through that process, you can’t just take them once because it’s so different to the UK. What gets them to where they need to be is doing it consistently, every few weeks, over two seasons.

“So if you took, over two season, six races off our programme, which is the difference the Rayner funding makes, I think it might be the difference between riders making it and not, so I just can’t say how important it is.”

Alex Beldon

“There’s been quite a lot of debate over the past few months over which team to go to. I had a few options, and Trinity turned out to be the best one for me, because I’m still doing A-levels next year, this year. Trinity offers a lot of flexibility around that. 

“I get to chase my career in cycling, which I’ve always wanted to do, but, also, school’s a big part, and I want to finish my A-levels pretty well. They offer the flexibility to do that. 

“I’ve spoken to Andrew McQuaid, who runs the team. He said that I’m more than welcome to dip in and out of racing as I see fit, so it offers a lot for me, personally. 

“Trinity isn't paid, but The Rayner Foundation provides a lot of financial support, which is amazing, to be honest. What they do is really helpful for loads of people.”

Jacob Bush

“I’m going to DSM’s development team for the next two seasons, and I think the way the scene is going in the UK, it’s the way out for British juniors. 

“I think there are eight boys. All of us are going to devo teams abroad. I think that’s maybe a bit of a statement as to what the UK needs to do if they want to keep riders in the UK and

they want to have us coming from UK teams and winning. 

“It’s the pathway that’s the best option at the minute, so it’s where everyone’s going. How cool would it be be if the eight riders going up this year were on the same team and it was a UK team?

I’m planning on moving to Sittard, to their Keep Challenging Centre in February time, after all the training camps in Spain etc. I’m looking forward to getting stuck into the races; the Baby Giro, especially. 

“It’s going to be a good crack.”



Part Four: Women's Cycling

Timothy John

“Another success for the Foundation’s Gateway Project has been the increase in the number of young female riders the charity is able to support. 

“With almost every WorldTour team now competing with men’s and women’s squads, and as many as seven British-registered, UCI Continental Women’s teams mooted for next season, it seems that women’s cycling, and particularly in the UK, is operating with unprecedented strength-in-depth. 

“I caught up with five young female riders supported by the fund, either as riders or through their teams, and that included Matilda McKibben, Niamh Murphy, Ella Jamieson and Mille Jenkins of Liv-Halo Films, and Caitlin Harvey of Cycle Division. 

“Let’s hear from them now, beginning with Ella, who described the importance of Rayner Foundation funding to her and her team.” 

Ella Jamieson

“Oh, it’s been a massive help, just in general. The sport is not cheap. Whether that’s contributed towards equipment, races, accommodation for the races, it’s just been extremely helpful. I genuinely don’t think our team would have survived this year without it. It’s been crazy. 

“Individually, it’s really helped me and my family. Particularly in Europe, it’s been really difficult. It’s not cheap to drive over there. For me, I’m from North Yorkshire. It’s a good 15-hour

drive to get there at least, so to have the financial help is just insane. It’s really helpful.

Matilda McKibben

“I think at the minute the strength of women’s cycling within Britain is just growing and growing. The fact that there are potentially going to be seven big British teams next year just shows how the sport is progressing within the UK. It’s great, especially for young riders like us, because it means that there is a pathway for us to progress and to not only race in Britain but also throughout Europe, so I think it’s great, yeah.”

Niamh Murphy

“The fields are definitely growing, as well. In national women’s races, the number of women competing is definitely better, and I think the level at which we’re competing is very strong. A lot of [British] women go abroad, and they’re placing top ten. I think the top British riders show that we’re a really strong country when it comes to cycling.”

Millie Jenkins

‘It’s quite inspiring that people who we have grown up with and whom we’ve raced against are getting these contracts. It makes you want to get it more and get out there and show that you’re also capable of this.”

Caitlin Harvey

“To follow in the footsteps of riders like Lizzie really helps riders as youths to progress in a way that they might not have before. 

“To win the first ever women’s Paris-Roubaix and have her name on the plaque: it’s just such a stepping stone for women’s cycling.”



Part Five: The New Professionals

Timothy John 

 “The headline acts at each year’s Rayner Foundation dinner are the young graduates to the professional ranks.

“This year, the riders in the spotlight were Oliver Knight, who signed with Team Cofidis from Aix en Provence, Charlie Paige, who signed with TDT-Unibet from Bourg-en-Bresse Ain

Cyclisme, and Tom Portsmouth, who moved up from Bingoal’s development squad to its ProTeam.

“Significantly, in an era, where, as we’ve already heard, professional teams are beginning to scour the junior ranks for fresh talent, each of these riders completed their full four years overseas before landing a professional contract. 

“Let’s hear now from Charlie, from Tom, and from Oliver Knight, the Rayner Foundation’s Rider of the Year.”

Charlie Paige

“It’s a big step up to Pro Continental from four years of racing amateur in France. You take it in your stride, and I think that’s the best thing to do. The harsh reality is that it’s sink or swim when you move out to France. You do four years there, you really settle there, and France has sort of become my home now, and even though I’ve signed with a Dutch team, I still plan to live in France next year. 

“The real special thing about the Rayner Fund is that it’s not just about going professional. It’s also about the experience: moving to France, or moving to a foreign country gives, and there’s just so many who’ve been on the Fund who haven’t passed professional, but I think that it’s important that they’ve gone out to France or any other foreign country, and they’ve experienced it and embraced the culture. 

“It think it’s made me more resilient. A lot of the things that I’ve experienced out in France, and a lot of the things that I’ve had to deal with, from the past four years, moving out there at 18, now when you take the step up to professional - and I think Harrison [Wood] and Ollie would say the same - it’s like, ‘Oh. Everything’s done for me know. I don’t have to worry about

this, this, this. At the end of the day, I just have to ride my bike.’

“It relieves a lot, but also I think that it’s a real challenge moving out to a foreign country. You experience so many great things and so many memories that you’re going to hold for the rest of your life.”

Tom Portsmouth

“I was with Bingoal’s development team this year. They showed a lot of trust in me this year and offered me the ProTeam contract for the next two years as a neo-pro, so I’m looking forward to it. 

“I was first on a Belgian team as a second year junior in 2019, but that followed three years of also racing primarily at kermesse level. I started in Belgium at 14-years-old.

“Belgian racing is a completely different level. It’s twice as long as most British races, which drew me out there. The British races, especially at younger level, are shorter in duration and

intensity than they were in Belgium. 

“I think there’s something to say for biding your team and learning your trade. Like I said,  I’ve got a lot of friends from 2017, who, like myself, are turning pro now at the end of their fourth year. 

“You’ve got Ollie Knight from Rayner, you’ve got Charlie Paige: we’re all fourth years. We’ve bided our time, and we’ve got there through learning and testing and making the networking choices and all of that. 

“You see the same with Zeb Kyffin and Rory Townsend, as well. They’re 25, 26 and now making the jump to pro, so there is something to be said for having a bit of experience, but I’ve

got a lot of friends along the way: Lars Craps, you’ve got Jasper Dejaegher, you’ve got Dylan Vandenstorme, all in Belgium. 

“Again, they are third, fourth years. They’ve waited. They’ve been patient. They know where they want to go, and it’s paying off for a lot of people now.”

Oliver Knight

“The last couple of seasons, I had in the back of my mind that it was becoming a bit more of a reality, and I knew that things were possible. Less of a dream and more of a goal, and it’s just a pleasure to actually pull it off. 

“I’m over the moon to sign with a French team. I feel like I’ve done my four years in France, and it just seems right to go to a French professional team. It seems familiar, but, also, it’s

another world. 

“It’s been a really smooth transition. I was lucky enough to still get some races in as a stagiare this year, but, yeah, no, it’s just brilliant 

"Four years: I feel like I’ve made a traditional step up. I just can’t thank the Foundation enough, but also anyone who’s managed to donate over the years.”


Part Six: Struggle, Success and Purpose

Timothy John

“Now, as I mentioned earlier, while I was gathering flash interviews, my co-host Phil Jones, Brother UK’s Managing Director, was having detailed conversations with some of the scene’s primary movers and shakers. 

“Phil, of course, is a member of British Cycling’s elite road racing Task Force, as well as the leader of a business that has stood at the side of the domestic sport for more than a decade. 

“At the end of the evening, Phil and I found a quiet corner of the hotel bar to discuss another superb edition of The Rayner Foundation’s annual dinner and to reflect on how the Foundation’s excellent work contributes to the wider ecosphere of elite and professional cycling, in the UK and internationally.”

Timothy John

“Phil, one of our continuing themes on the Brother UK Cycling Podcast is the challenge being faced by the senior national competition, the National Road Series, but what we’ve heard tonight, again and again, from people like Giles Pidcock and his riders is that the scene works for juniors very effectively. There were nine rounds this year of the junior National Road Series, and Giles has placed six of his riders with WorldTour development teams next season. Clearly, that part of the puzzle works.”

Phil Jones

“Yeah, it was fascinating talking to Giles. I think what he’s done is opened up and revealed what work is getting done, almost aside from all the systems and academies and various other things that are often done by British Cycling, Giles seems to have developed a little super system himself. 

“If we think back to the way things are going in the way that WorldTour teams are developing at the moment, they are literally just diving in and grabbing juniors now with a view to them

being future WorldTour riders.

"I think there’s something in that, and clearly Giles has an amazing strike rate. If he has that many riders ascending to WorldTour, then clearly he is doing something really, really right."

Timothy John 

"Yeah, and these are not small teams. These are riders going to Jumbo-Visma, they’re going to DSM-Firmenich. They’re going to Axeon-Hagens-Berman, which has been the leading WorldTour development team - excuse me, independent development team - for many, many years. Giles’ success is real. 

“Another very positive line we heard this evening, and one that we’re keenly aware of as the sponsor of two women’s teams, is that the British women’s scene is firing on all cylinders: a

level that it’s never fired at before. Somebody who gave us testimony to support that was Lizzie Deignan.”

Phil Jones

“Yeah, that was amazing. We were very lucky tonight, Tim, because we’ve had Lizzie Deignan on our tale and her husband Phil, so that was a real treat to have dinner in her company: one of our most successful ever women’s cyclists. Quite an incredible palmares. 

“If you contrast what’s going on in the women’s racing scene in the UK at the moment versus the men’s, it’s very, very different. Very, very different. In fact, we have talk that there could

be four women’s Continental teams in 2024, and, of course, that contrasts massively with the men’s scene where there won’t be that number.

“So something is going on around women’s cycling, whether it might be over-investment, I guess, by some large brands to bring the sport up to the parity level that it needed to be. Let’s be clear about that. There’s an over-investment happening to deal with the underinvestment of the past. Let’s make that clear.

“But, as a result, it’s an exciting thing in my opinion, to have, suddenly, four UCI Continental [women’s] teams in the UK, going abroad, having a racing programme in Belgium, in France, in Portugal, in Ireland to develop these riders. I think there’s nothing but good times ahead for the women’s scene. It looks really, really positive.”

Timothy John 

“Absolutely. We can justifiably claim to have played our part there as the sponsor of two women’s teams for at least the last three years and mixed teams before that, so that is a success story.

“The one piece of the jigsaw that is still not working is the senior men’s scene, and it was interesting: we talked to a number of riders this evening - Sean Flynn, Lewis Askey - WorldTour

professionals who were sad almost on behalf of their colleagues: that young British male riders are finding it hard to graduate from the domestic scene.”

Phil Jones

“Yeah, it’s funny, you know, because we’ve had conversations tonight, and I won’t name every single person, but there were some significant people in the room tonight who have influence at WorldTour level and domestic level, and what’s evident is that the British racing scene is not looked at externally as a place, where, if you have a race win…Let’s say you won Lincoln, that doesn’t carry much weight with, let’s say, a  director sportif or a scout from a WorldTour team.

“What carries weight is if you are a British riders who’s gone abroad, competed with similar level riders, duked it out and then got yourself a race win against other really competitive

riders from a broad range of teams and backgrounds. That seems to be the hunting ground that they are looking for. 

“What can we learn from that? One thing we can learn is that we can still have a conveyor belt working here, from juniors upwards, to send people to the WorldTour. That’s evident. We’ve only got to see tonight, at the Rayner dinner, there are 21 riders who have the potential to go to WorldTour. Not all of them are going to make it, but some will. We have a background and a history and a winning pattern of how to do that successfully, which is great. 

“The question then comes: in the past, maybe the job of the domestic racing scene was to bring people through, step by step by step by step, but that is clearly changing. That is really changing, and now the domestic racing scene has to look at that and say, ‘Is it the job of the domestic racing scene to try and propel people to the WorldTour?’ It may not be. It may well be about providing a competitive racing environment for people who either just want to race at the weekends or someone who didn’t make it to the WorldTour, who still wants to race. 

“They might stay in the sport. They might become a physio, they might become a bike fitter, they might become a mechanic. Just because you didn’t make it to WorldTour, doesn’t mean

there’s not a career in cycling for you. There could well be.

“These are some of the questions that we’ve been grappling with in the Task Force work that we’re doing. We have to work backwards really to say even though the sport has been brilliant and has served a lot of people well, what we’ve got to look at is the model for the sport moving forwards, taking into account all things, including that the route to the WorldTour seems to be changing a lot.”

Timothy John 

“Yeah, we are living in extraordinary times, aren’t we? It’s almost difficult to keep up with the amount of WorldTour development teams that have been formed, even within the last three years. INEOS, strangely, is an exception in that it doesn’t have a development team, and yet teams like DSM, and squads like FDJ, they can’t get enough British riders. They are impressed by the work ethic, they’re impressed by the strength, by the standard of competition.

“Isn’t that a strange dichotomy? You’ve got the professional ranks, who are desperate to recruit young British riders, and, yet, races like the Lincoln Grand Prix, which, as you rightly say,

is a fantastic race, cut absolutely no ice with WorldTour teams.”

Phil Jones 

“Yeah, and, clearly, that’s not great, because if you’d won Lincoln, you would come away and say, That was a very hard race to win. Of course it is. Look at who’s won Lincoln in the past. The difficulty is that it’s not held in the same esteem when it’s coming to the cut about who WorldTour teams now want. 

“It sort of strikes me that now, if you’re a developing U23, let’s say, actually it might already be too late, even at that age. It seems that the clock is being wound further back, and what we’re looking at now is who are the juniors, somewhere between 10 plus, who are showing an aptitude, a skill, a capability, an interest, a motivation, an ability to race a bike? 

“It seems that learning from other sports, cycling now seems to be really looking at this and saying, Could this all be about having better academies, better feeder systems, rather than

waiting for someone to make it in a domestic scene and then trying to place them later on to perhaps plug a gap or do something else with them later on. 

“It strikes me that they are going to change the way they do things, and we’re going to have far more junior development pathways from whatever is going on in the junior scenes in each of these countries into the WorldTour.”

Timothy John 

“Yeah. It’s funny, isn’t it, that The Rayner Foundation, despite this incredible proliferation of pathways to the WorldTour that is now occurring, the Rayner Foundation remains a constant: it will always be there to help young British riders make it to the WorldTour. 

“They’re not blind to these changes, and we heard tonight, didn’t we, Giles Pidcock speaking from the stage talking about the Gateway programme, and the Rayner Foundation funded

84 junior riders this year. Clearly, they’re hip to these changes as well."

Phil Jones

“Yeah, and I think Giles is clearly a driving force behind all that. It was great to chat to him tonight and to hear about Tom’s success, and Giles, as Tom’s dad, observing all that. 

“I asked Giles directly: ‘What is driving you to do this? What is making you so passionate about bringing these young people through?’ 

“He was very much, 'I’ve seen what it can do for Tom.’ He said: 'There’s not a big enough story being told about cycling being a potentially lucrative career for you as a young person.’

“If somebody says to you in school, ‘You have the possibility to make it as a Premier League footballer,’ then what’s your immediate response to that? 

“Your immediate response is they’re going to have a massive pay day, they’re going to earn a fortune, and they’re going to earn in week what I earn in a year.’ That’s what we think about Premier League footballers, don’t we? And what Giles was saying is that we’re not really telling the story that at WorldTour, that’s also possible. You can become a star at WorldTour and have that same seven-figure salary success. 

“Look at Mark Cavendish, look at Chris Froome, look at Geraint Thomas, look at Bradley Wiggins. Look at these people who become superstars, globally renowned and known, and

who earned great sponsorship deals and income riding for these WorldTour teams. 

“He suggested that we’re not telling that story: we’re not telling the story that cycling can be your profession, whether you’re a mechanic, a physio, a soigneur, statistician, driver: it doesn’t really matter.

"Cycling is an industry that you can enter, and you can enter it as an athlete, and you might make it to the big time and earn a lot of money, or you might make it as part of the background team, running a team, being a team manager, being a director sportive, or whatever it might be, and I thought that was a very interesting point.”

Timothy John 

“Absolutely, It’s wonderful also that despite this professionalism, despite these opportunities to earn significant amounts of money, a charitable organisation like The Rayner Foundation remains at the heart of helping young British riders to enter that world.

“You really get a sense of their credibility, their authenticity at an event like the dinner. I know that Jos aims for an atmosphere similar to your old school cycling club dinner. It’s that with

bells on, isn’t it, but there is a really nice atmosphere in the room. 

“It’s not a cut-throat environment. It’s a very friendly, very welcoming environment where you can sit down next to one of the best cyclists this country has ever produced and have a nice, one-to-one conversation.”

Phil Jones

“Yeah, without a doubt. When I first got into cycling, which I guess was about 2008 when I bought my first bike etc. Within about three to four years, I’d heard about what was at the time called the Dave Rayner Fund dinner. Everybody went to it at the end of the season. Everybody, It was the place everybody came to see out the end of the season, have a bit of a late drink, see everybody in the industry and the sport. 

“Here we are now, I guess, 15 years on from that. I’ve been to three now, I think. We did the Tour of Britain One Day Ahead in 2018. That was the one year, when were handing over the

money, I couldn’t come to the dinner, so James Golding came and did that work. 

“Then, of course, we came into 2019, when I came. Then we went into Covid, of course, and post-pandemic. 

“The times when I’ve been, I’ve really, really enjoyed it, and I’ve been very impressed by the professional organisation of the place. Some of the auction items are just unreal. You’re

going to find it very difficult to find some of those auction items, they’re just so rare, and very, very reasonably priced, actually, for some of the things that are selling. 

“It’s a fantastic evening. It really is. I think the most important thing is that you’re seeing riders on stage who you may not have heard of today, but you definitely will be hearing of them in two or three years time because they are going to be riders in the WorldTour.”

Timothy John

“Absolutely no question about that. They all look horribly young!”

Phil Jones

“Compared to us, Tim, yeah!”

Timothy John

“It’s terrifying on the one hand but hugely inspiring on the other. The future of British road racing full stop is in a very, very healthy place, and that is thanks in very large part to The Rayner Foundation. 

“Phil, thanks very much. It’s been great to catch up.”

Phil Jones

“Thanks, Tim. Let’s go to the bar!”



Timothy John 

“So great to get Phil’s observations on The Rayner Foundation and the pathways connecting the domestic scene to the UCI WorldTour.

“Despite the economic challenges affecting us all, The Rayner Foundation continues to support young British riders in their quest to turn professional. This year’s dinner attracted 301

guests: a healthy turnout, but still less than the peak years before Covid. 

“If you want to support The Rayner Foundation and play your part in ensuring the next generation of young British riders receives the opportunity to excel, simply visit theraynerfoundation.org and click the Donate button.  

“Thanks very much indeed to all our guests, and thanks very much indeed to everybody out there for listening.”

Phil Jones

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