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Brother UK Cycling Podcast – Episode 43

Episode Description

From wise heads to rising stars, this episode of the Brother UK Cycling Podcast includes updates from inside British Cycling’s Task Force, insights from Lukas Nerurkar, the Brighton teenager who next year will race in the UCI WorldTour, and much more. 

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Episode 43: Task Force update

Episode contents

  • 00:02 – Intro
  • 00.38 - Hello and Welcome
  • 01:07 – Part One: Task Force update
  • 10:04 – Part Two: The Graduates
  • 16.36 – Part Three: Solid Foundation
  • 22.32 – Part Four: Showdown In Caerphilly
  • 28.00 – Part Five: Series Business
  • 36.32 – Part Six: Ras Wrap
  • 40.04 – Part Seven: Outro



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. 

“Now, despite reaching the end of the road season, there is still plenty going on in domestic cycling, not least with the continued progress of British Cycling’s Task Force.

“This a panel of eight experts, handpicked by British Cycling CEO Jon Dutton to consider the future of British road racing.

“Phil, you, of course, are one of the panellists. Can bring us up to speed with the progress made so far?”

Part One: Task Force update

Phil Jones

“It’s good, Tim. I know at the moment people haven’t heard very much and the reason for that is because we’re having to spend an awful lot of time in what I call ‘phase one’ of what is, at least, a five-stage problem: diagnosis, discovery and direction you would use to try and address something as significant as this challenge. 

“We have met four times, and I want to put that in context for people. That is over Microsoft Teams. We’re giving up our evenings on Monday, between 6pm and 7.30pm and between 6pm and 8pm; so, to put that in some context, that’s about six to seven hours worth of talking time at the moment, so just to make that clear. 

“So, when you’re dealing with a problem of that size, that’s absolutely common that you would spend that amount of time, or more, in this diagnosis phase, where you’ve got to start to hear the opinions that people already have on the Task Force, and, of course, we’ve got the different disciples of the community on the Task Force, from riders to organisers to commercial people.

“But all of those people also have a huge amount of first-level contacts in the sport, so the riders know other riders, the organisers know other organisers, the team managers know

other team mangers, commercial people know other commercial people. The network we can draw upon to bring opinion together is very, very vast. 

“In these initial meetings what we are trying to get to is to get at least as many of the contributory factors on the table, whether they be minor or major. So if there’s a contributory factor that we felt has somehow got us to where we are then we’re capturing that and we’re recording that, and this is what we call the diagnosis phase. We are getting to the point, from the initial Task Force members, trying to at least get all of the issues highlighted, however big or small they are, and I think we’re doing quite a good job of that at the moment

“Let me also say: it’s totally unfiltered feedback. There’s a lot of uncomfortable truths being raised across all the different discussion points and nothing is off the table, as far as raising it. I think that's really, really important that people hear that, who are wondering what the Task Force is up to. Our understanding is that, at the moment, yes, there’e a lot of talking, but it’s not a talking shop. There’s a very structured process that we’re going through, and we’re only in phase one of five phases. However, the discussion that has been had is of a very good quality, lots has already been captured.” 

Timothy John

“Well, it sounds like this structure is already paying dividends. As you say, on the one hand you have unfiltered feedback, and on the other, I know you’ve done a deep dive into the underlying data.”

Phil Jones

“Yeah, without a doubt. Again, in the corporate world, Tim, you wouldn’t just bring all these people together and go, ‘What do you think?’ You have to start from analytics and data, and so the Task Force have got full access to the data and analytics team at British Cycling. There have been really, really good insights delivered back to us, where we’ve asked:

“’We want to understand where we are now, but we also want to understand from, let's say, the 2015 season, when things were perhaps very, very different, where we had six Conti teams and a thriving scene and all those sorts of things. What was the data that sat behind that? How many race entries were there? How much was it to race? How many racing days a year were there, for the men’s scene and  the women’s scene? 

“So we’ve got all of those analytics sitting behind that now, including what the races were, where the races were, how many entries were there in each individual race etc. That is allowing us to understand a landscape, so you can properly understand between that point in time, a point in time in 2019 just before Covid and now, and you can compare them, and go, ‘Ok., we’ve gone from this to this.’

“You can then begin to understand why. Was it certain races dropping out? Have the racing days come out? What’s happened to costs? How many participants were there?' So is the scene thriving or is it not, in terms of the analytics? 

“We’ve got all of that, so everyone listening who’s interested in the outputs here needs to understand that we’re doing a lot of due diligence here, so that when we get to this perhaps end state, which is how can we try and give some pointers to British Cycling, to say, ‘Maybe think about this, think about that, or think about this,’ that they’re well reasoned, everyone will understand that they have been listened to and then once the plan comes out perhaps of what can be done and when, there’s some good rational thinking behind that. 

“Some time in the next couple of weeks what you will hear is some initial communication coming from the Task Force, from the chair, Ed Clancy, where he’ll begin to reveal some of those key things. We can’t list everything. There’s so much. There’s literally hundreds of points coming at the moment of potential discussion, but we will highlight what I think will be the key things and then Ed will then communicate what those key initial things are so that everybody can understand what it is we’ve been talking about.”

Timothy John

“Well that’s good to know. A statement from Ed, I think, can only be welcomed. Transparency is key, I think, to the continued credibility of the exercise in the eyes of the wider public.”

Phil Jones

“Yes. When you’re dealing with big problems the reason why sometimes task forces become talking shops is because there isn’t a structure or a framework around them. That’s when you create talking shops and having been in business now for 30 years, one thing I do know is how to structure these things in order that they don’t become talking shops.

“Once you get phases clear and clarity about what we’re going to do in each of those phases, what that means is that when you are in that discussion phase you can park and pause conversations if they’re not massively relevant to the point that you’re currently trying to talk about.

“You can park them and go, ‘Ok, you want to discuss this issue. It’s not a today discussion. It’s a phase three discussion so we’ll park that and come back to it.’ What that means is you get a much more efficient conversation. So rather than, let’s try and talk about everything: if we just sat in a room and tried to talk about everything and tried to solve everything and come up with lots of ideas all at the same time, you are designing a talking shop, without a doubt, I’ve been there many times in my corporate past. So by just applying a simple framework to this discussion, what we’re able to do, I think, is be much more productive in these conversations.

"Where we’ve got to now in terms of the capture of information is really, really good and the next phase we’ll move into now is an even greater amount of, in inverted commas - sorry for the bingo here folks –“stakeholder engagement”, where we’ve identified much wider groups of people where the Task Force want to go away now and have deeper conversations with them to make sure we’ve captured as much as we possibly can in terms of feedback and detail from the major stakeholders in this thing called ‘elite road racing’, National A series particularly, so once we’ve got all this together, then we can begin to get to grips with generating ideas, solutions and a pathway forward." 

Timothy John 

“Well, that’s entirely realistic. I mean, Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will a thriving elite British road scene. It is going to take time, but, again, the goodwill that surrounds this project will hopefully carry it through.”

Phil Jones

“And one, I think, really important thing here which I think is worth raising is that if somebody came tomorrow and wrote a cheque for £20m and said, ‘Design the race series in the UK,’ I don’t think we’d have any difficulty putting it all together. 

“The commercial realities are that the commercial environment is very, very difficult, and, as a result, we, I think, have to set expectations that there is going to be no easy answer in this. There will be a set of recommendations perhaps that may be output, but all of those recommendations are not going to be immediately implementable. 

“Some of them will be about setting a direction of travel where you need to build the commercial sustainability perhaps over several years, but the main thing is perhaps as long as that is clear to people and as long as people understand that there is a direction of travel to address things, that might be the output that we can deliver. It’s not going to be: 'Everything is going to be solved in 2024 and haven’t we done a good job.' My view is that the road map to this may take some years to fully resolve.”

Part Two: The Graduates

Timothy John 

 “Well, despite the challenges faced by the domestic road scene, young British riders continue to ‘graduate’, if that’s the right phrase, to the professional ranks in impressive numbers. Cat Ferguson has been signed from Shibden-Hope Tech-Apex by Movistar Team and Jack Rootkin-Gray has been signed from Saint Piran by EF Education-EasyPost.

“Now, another young British rider preparing to join Jonathan Vaughters’ WorldTour squad next season is Lukas Nerurkar, a 19-year-old from Brighton, who has spent the last two seasons with Trinity Racing. 

"Lukas has already led a fascinating life. His father is Richard Nerurkar, the former British Olympic 10,000m and marathon runner, and Lukas spent the first seven years of his life in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital.

“Let’s hear now from Lukas on how he is anticipating the next phase of his career with EF Education-EasyPost.”

Lukas Nerurkar

“Yeah, yeah, really excited. It’s come about quite quickly since the start of the year, but now I’m looking forward to joining them. It’s an English-speaking team, and I’m currently living with Ben Healey. I’ve been living with him for about a year now, so that helps, and living in Girona as well: you meet lots of different riders. A few of them are also joining EF, like Archie Ryan and [Darren] Rafferty so, yeah, there’s a good group of us out here now. 

“I think I’ve always been exposed to sport. It’s always been something that my whole family has done. It’s never been something that has been forced upon us. My sister and I have always done lots of sport, whether that be running, swimming, cycling, gymnastics, all of that. It’s always been part of my life. It’s only since I moved back to the UK that I started getting

more serious about cycling. I joined a local club and did some racing. It was around that time that I decided to focus more on cycling than running and other sports. 

“I was cycling in Ethiopia. We had some friends bring out a bike to me when I was three. I started then. My dad used to take me to Mount Entoto which is where a lot of the runners do their training. It’s a lot quieter up there. In the city, it’s pretty dangerous to ride a bike. I mean I did it occasionally but Mount Entoto was definitely my favourite spot to ride. It’s pretty quiet up in the hills, so that’s where it all started. 

“Both me and my sister weren’t quite ready for British winters. In Ethiopia, they don’t really have the same four seasons as you do in the UK. It’s more just a very long summer and then two or three months of heavy rainfall. We were used to that, but it never really got that cold, whereas in the UK, especially in the first winter here we had snow, so that was something. 

“It all started to come together a bit more as a junior. It’s hard to say how much my dad’s background has helped me. I think it’s helped me a bit more just in terms of his way of

approaching things. I can even see that now: even though he’s not competing, he still carries the same mindset in what he does now. That’s helped me.

“I’ve always enjoyed the process of training, which I think helps a lot. It’s different in cycling: you have a lot more race days, whereas my dad was competing in marathons. You do two marathons a year and then a handful of small road races leading up to it, whereas in cycling you’re racing quite a bit from February to October, so it’s a different outlook on it, but I think just enjoying the process and enjoying the training behind it is a really important part of both sports.

"When I joined Trinity Racing I was, well, I didn't really know anything about bike racing, I would say. I'd been strong as a junior, but I didn't know anything involved in being a bike racer; being full-time and things like this, so that was probably the biggest learning experience, not just on the bike but off the bike. That's where having guys around me who sort of knew more what they were doing helped a lot. 

"Of course, we had great DS-es last year. We had [Ian] Stannard]. This year, we've got Pete [Kennaugh] and John [Mould], so having those guys who have done it and know what it's about has been huge."

Timothy John

“So, great to hear there from Lukas. 

“It’s been another very successful season, Phil, in terms of young British talent riding the escalator to the WorldTour. Despite all the headwinds, the Brit pack hasn’t shown any signs of

slowing down.”

Phil Jones

“Absolutely not, and I think that’s just brilliant, I think we’ve got to give all credit to people like Trinity and Saint Piran for doing what it takes to be a Conti racing team and providing the platform because clearly they are the feeders into the WorldTour. 

“We talked in the last episode, didn’t we, about how the conventions of the conveyor belt are changing and now the WorldTour are dipping straight into domestic riders and perhaps even less experienced domestic riders and just bunging them straight into the premier league of cycling. It’s quite incredible. 

“I think we also have to understand that when we think about some of these challenges we have to try to solve within the Task Force about what the National Road Series looks like because clearly the WorldTour teams want to see riders who’ve had competitive racing experiences, and it may not be that they need to have raced in Belgium for two years or three

years. They just go, ‘No, we can bring you over as a development rider and we’ll back you from a younger age.’ That’s quite a change in the dynamic of how the sport works. 

“But all credit to these riders because they wouldn't be going up there if they're not capable. There’s a huge pool of talent across the globe, and I think it’s fantastic that GB is still outputting people who are going in and representing the country in these international, WorldTour teams. It’s brilliant.”

Timothy John

“And conversely, some of the riders from that international pool are coming here. Luke Lamperti, America’s youngest ever national crit race champion, is a teammate of Lukas at Trinity Racing and next year will join Soudal-Quick-Step, having won the Lincoln Grand Prix last year and the CiCLE Classic this year.”

Phil Jones

“Without a doubt, and if you look at, perhaps, who’s behind Trinity. You’ve obviously got Andrew McQuaid there who’s a rider agent in his own right. He’s got a huge amount of contacts in the WorldTour. And if you look over at The Rayner Foundation and the people who sit behind in the shadows of The Rayner Foundation, people like Tim Harris: a huge amount of connections in the WorldTour. 

“So there’s an informal network going on behind the scenes here where contacts that the Foundation has or certain Conti teams have into the WorldTour is allowing these routes to open up, effectively; perhaps more efficiently and effectively than they have in the past.”


Part Three: Solid Foundation

Timothy John 

“Well, while we’re on the topic of young British riders graduating to the UCI WorldTour, let’s turn our attention to an organisation that does more than anyone to help turn dreams into reality.

“I caught up with Jos Ryan, mover and shaker in chief at The Rayner Foundation, a charity helping young British riders to realise their dream of turning professional by racing abroad, to hear about their latest successes, the exceptional class of 2022 and next month’s vitally important annual dinner and auction at the Leeds Armouries.”

Jos Ryan

“The dinner has been perhaps a little bit problematic because we’ve had two years missed because of the pandemic, of course. I must admit it was difficult last year to get the enthusiasm to start again, but last year’s dinner was a huge success; everybody had a great time. We’re hoping to carry on and do that again, but it is very difficult, so we need people to come along, enjoy themselves, understand perhaps a little more about what we do, support us if they can; donations are always welcome. 

“We want to create a community of people who support us. We try to do that on social media. We’re quite big on that. It’s just to make sure that everybody knows who we are, what we

do. You’re part of the family. You’re part of our community, and we want you to come along and enjoy yourselves.

“There’s not many club dinners these days. I’m talking about club dinners of the old school that we all used to know a few years ago. There’s not many of those now, but we’re trying to replicate that atmosphere: everybody welcome, everybody mucking in. You’re always going to know someone, or if you don’t know them, you will by the end of the evening, 

“I’m sure that everybody would love to come to the dinner but of course it’s not possible for a lot of riders. They are waiting to find out what their obligations are to their teams. It’s bit of tricky moment, November. They might have their own personal holidays, they might live abroad full-time, or they might be needed on a team training camp or a get-to-know-you type of camp, which often takes place in November. We are waiting, we are hoping, and we are sure that we will have some big names there, but we can’t reveal anything at the moment.

“It was amazing. Last year, we had more riders turn professional than we’ve ever had before. Some years, we’ve had no riders turn professional; not to say that that year was a particularly bad one because those riders may have gone on and in subsequent years turned professional but it has been known that we’ve had nobody, so last year was incredible.

We had five male riders and two female riders sign professional contracts, so that really is a record.

“We’ve got two confirmed professional contracts [this year]. Oliver Knight has now been confirmed with a contract with Cofidis. He’d already been riding for them as a stagiare this year. He’s revealed that he’s been under their wing since the beginning of the season, actually. They’ve been helping him out etc. So now he’s confirmed. 

“And we’ve now got Tom Portsmouth who’s signed a contract with the Bingoal team. He’s been riding for their development team for the last two years, this year and last year. Before that, he was in another team with a club in Belgium, so he’s come a long way as well. 

“And you never know, we might have some more. That’s what we’re hoping, anyway, but that news to follow.”

Timothy John

“So great to hear there from Jos. Although she wasn’t able to to confirm the guest list yet, after last year, when Fred Wright, Jake Stewart, Alice Towers, Matt Walls and Ethan Vernon were in attendance, it seems fair to say that there’ll be a strong presence from the WorldTour this year, too. 

“And you’ll be heading along as well, Phil, I think.”

Phil Jones

“Yeah, it’s sort of one of those de facto events now that I go to every year. I mean, for many years, I wasn’t able to get there, but what I realised was that, actually, for a number of reasons, really: it’s great networking, you can definitely meet lots of really good people who are in the sport, a lot of these future riders, who are going to be the stars of tomorrow are in the room, but, more importantly, by attending, by buying a ticket, you are helping The Rayner Foundation to give money directly to these up-and-coming riders to go away and go abroad and experience racing abroad. Those are the fundamentals. 

“If you really are passionate about the road scene, for example, then in my view, if you can afford it, and I’m not saying everybody can, but I will say this one thing: that they price the tickets very, very competitively in order that it’s not elitist. It’s not £3000 a table. The tickets are about 60 quid and for that you get your dinner and, of course, you get to be in the room,

you see the awards, and you get to network with all these people. In my view, it’s a very, very well-priced evening awards dinner. 

“I messaged Jos this morning just to say, because I’ve bought some fantastic prizes from the Rayner Fund dinner over the years; you know, signed jerseys and stuff. I said, ‘What have you got coming up this year, Jos?’ She dropped me a quick WhatsApp message saying she’s already got a world champion’s jersey signed by Tom Pidcock that will go up for auction. She’s got a jersey from the Tour de France, via Fred Wright, signed by the entire Bahrain-Victorious team who raced the Tour de France this year, plus an endless list of other things. 

“So if you fancy, for example, a decent jersey signed by a WorldTour pro then that auction that goes on that night is a good one to participate in. And then they have all of these additional experiences like the INEOS Grenadiers raining camp in Mallorca. That was in last yaar’s auction which I tried desperately to win, but I got outbid in the end. 

“Please come along. You’ll really help out the foundation by being in that room. You’ll not only have a great night, in my opinion, but you’re actually going to be helping the future

generation to build their careers in professional cycling."



Part Four: Showdown In Caerphilly 

Timothy John

“Well, having looked ahead to next month’s Rayner Foundation dinner and auction, let’s reflect now on the Brother UK-sponsored Tour of Britain, which we previewed in our previous episode. 

“The race went off without a hitch, despite the absence of a title sponsor, and after five straight victories from the opening five stages for Jumbo-Visma, leading man Wout Van Aert was

made to work hard for overall victory on a thrilling final stage from Margam Park to Caerphilly. 

“Phil, how will you remember this nineteenth edition of the modern Tour of Britain?”

Phil Jones

“Well, I hope it will be remembered for perhaps the last two days of racing, which were very exciting. However, I know there was divided opinion about the race format for 2023, and I think, for me, I’m just stepping back on this and going, I’m just grateful there was a Tour of Britain, and it didn’t have to go under hiatus.

“I spent a lot of time with the chairman of SweetSpot, Hugh Roberts, at the Manchester and Wrexham stages and was able to have a lot of discussion with him about where things are

at, what you feel about next year, do you think you can solve the issue; all that sort of stuff. 

“They’re very positive about the work they’re now doing to try and find this high-level sponsors for next year’s Women’s Tour and Tour of Britain. We note that they’ve submitted applications to run both races. So all very, very confident.

“As a fan watching it, maybe by day three, we were saying, ‘Ok, this is becoming a bit predictable in terms of how this might work: the breakaway goes away, Harry Tanfield gets in the break again, off they go up the road, it all gets reeled in, and Jumbo-Visma win with a Wout van Aert lead out.’ 

“That was sort of how things worked, wasn’t it, probably up to really day seven and eight. I was chatting with someone about this the other day, just to say, well, it really did tee up those last two days, because I think the other thing that came out strongly was because there were no bonus seconds on the line, this meant that even if you look at the final GC, the

difference between the winner and the tenth rider was 28 seconds. The difference between the winner and positions two, three and four was three seconds.

“It did really make, I think, for a very exciting stage eight and that Caerphilly Mountain stage was excellent. I thought at one stage Van Aert was out of it. Literally, I thought he was out of it. But he came back, didn’t he? He came back and took the ultimate win. 

“I think stage eight was brilliant racing, and if I look at it and go, ‘Was it worth sitting through those six flat days?’ Well, do you know what? For some of the domestic Conti teams to be out there and doing their bit for their sponsors, that’s fine. I’m alright with that. Harry Tanfield: it was exciting to see him work to get in the breakaway every day. 

“Was it the most exciting racing for those first six days? No. Quite predictable, but I’m glad it was on. The last two days probably couldn’t have happened without the first six days. They

created the show down, didn’t they? And they were really exciting. 

“So, for me, I was totally cool with it, and I’m just glad it was on, and it was fantastic to see live racing, on the telly, on ITV4 every day.”

Timothy John 

“Yeah, chapeau to SweetSpot and to ITV4 and GCN+, who even featured our state-of-the-art Brother Industries recycling facility near Wrexham in their coverage of stage two. Live television coverage is a major part of the Tour of Britain’s commercial proposition. 

“You were on the ground too, Phil. You were at the Manchester stage; you were at the Wrexham stage. We’re very close to it, of course, but what was the reaction of the man and

woman on the street, so to speak?”

Phil Jones

“There were massive crowds out on stage one. I mean, they were massive on the Altrincham to Manchester stage. I nipped over to Altrincham in the morning and had a good look around. Initially, I was expecting to see more people out, but, literally, half-an-hour before the.race, it just want ‘bang’. 

“I went from Altrincham down to a place called Hale, which is about a kilometre away from kilometre zero and, literally, twenty minutes before the race, I was thinking: ’There’s hardly anybody out. This is a disaster.’ But the streets just went about 10 deep about 15 minutes before the race rolled through, so it was great. It was really, really great. And Manchester was

absolutely packed. It was a beautiful day. Hospitality was heaving. The city centre was heaving. It was exactly what we thought it was going to be. 

“So I nipped over to Wrexham the next day because our facility is there and again big crowds were out. I was really, really pleased to see that. Of course, it was a shorter stage that day. Some people were saying, ‘Why was the stage so short?’ And the reality is one of the key stakeholders pulled out at the last minute, so it would have been a longer stage [but] they had to reconfigure that stage at short notice. It ended up being 109.5km, but it was raced really quickly and [was] still a good stage.The helicopter was up. It showed off Wales to its full capability, and I really enjoyed it.

“I was watching and recorded almost the whole race live and was getting home from work each day and, yeah, sitting through it, much to Mrs Jones’ annoyance; sitting through the stages just to see how the racing was. It was good. I really enjoyed it.”



Part Five: Series Business

Timothy John 

“Well, the Tour of Britain typically represents the climax of the road season in Britain, but we shouldn’t overlook the concluding round of British Cycling’s flagship National Road Series in Stamfordham. 

“The National Road Series, of course, is the series in which both of our sponsored teams compete: Brother UK-Orientation Marketing and Hutchinson-Brother UK.

“The men’s Beaumont Trophy was won by Finn Crockett for Saint Piran, while the women’s Curlew Cup was won by Corinne Side for Pro-Noctis - Heidi Kjeldsen - 200 Degrees Coffee. 

“That meant that the individual series winners were Zeb Kyffin of Saint Piran and Monica Greenwood of DAS-Handsling, and their respective teams took overall victory in the teams' competition, too. 

“Before we dissect this year’s competition, Phil, let’s have a listen to Ian Watson, the manager of Hutchinson - Brother UK and his South African star, Tiffany Keep. 

Ian Watson

“The National Road Series has been great for us. We’ve had some good successes in pretty much every round. It’s been a great confidence boost for the riders; learning curves for the riders. We’ve been in pretty much every breakaway that’s going in the races, and we’ve just capitalised from round to round, and it just got better and better for us, so we’re just happy with how that went.

“Yeah, third overall in the series. We would have liked higher, I’m not going to lie; we were in second position going in to the last round, but that’s bike racing. Overall, we're really happy with the individual performances. As much as we want the team prize, and the team prize is great, I always instil that we’re looking for individual performances. As long as we get the riders to take chances during the race, be brave, go for opportunities and try to win the event themselves, then the team competitions will come. 

“So, overall, third is great. Hopefully, teams in the top three are good teams, but we’ve had some great individual performances in amongst that with winning one round and second in another and, like I say, being in pretty much every break that there was in the series. We’re coming away with our heads held high, and, yeah, I’m quite proud. 

“For a highlight moment, it’s hard to pinpoint at the moment. I’ve just finished the season now, and I’m trying to recap on what it all is. Sometimes, as a manager, as much success as

you’ve had, you’re looking at the next race, and the next race, and it’s difficult.

“I think I’m just really proud of the team: what they’ve done this year and what they’ve achieved. We’ve had.some great wins some good podiums and some big, big races both here and abroad, and I just couldn’t be happier with how they’ve done.

“The way I know I’ve got it right with the team is just how they are off the bike. I think it was in the Ras, I was sitting at the dinner table, and everyone’s just laughing their heads off, just messing about, having their tea, and that’s when you know you’ve got a good team and you’ve done something right. 

“Or when you go away and the go off on the recce ride and you see them all riding off in the team kit; just training, you know? They’re the nice moments for me to be honest. It sounds

weird, doesn’t it? As good as the racing is, those are the bits when I think, ‘This is something special. We’ve got something good here.’”

Tiffany Keep

“The National Road Series this year, I think, is a sign of how I’ve been able to progress this year as a cyclist this year, really. My consistent progression throughout the series is something I’m very proud of. It literally went from just one position in difference between Lancaster and Lincoln and then leapfrogging up to second place at Ryedale. 

“I was a bit disappointed that I couldn’t partake in the final round at Curlew; well, firstly disappointed that the final round was postponed. I then fell ill directly after the Ras, but I would

really have liked to have given Curlew a good go and see if I could go for the win, but I was really happy with my progression throughout the series this year, I think. 

“We were able to try a lot of new things as a team as well, and put together some good teamwork at the other races. I was really happy to give it my best shot in the penultimate round of Ryedale. I managed to get onto the podium, which I was really stoked with. 

“There’s a reason why I came halfway across the world to race here, and that’s I really believe in the potential of women’s racing scene in the UK has. This really speaks for itself in the way that you look every single year and there are more and more riders going WorldTour from the UK. 

“I actually get a bit frustrated when people draw comparisons between the men’s and women’s racing. I feel like the men’s racing situation is completely different to the women’s. I feel like women’s teams are growing and the racing is getting a lot more competitive and the fields are growing in depth. This is all really positive, and I wish people would talk about that

more rather than being degrading of it and speaking negatively about the state of the racing in the UK. 

“I came over here with the hope of getting in some good hard racing and learning a lot more about myself and how to race as a team, and I feel like I’ve been able to do exactly that in a really positive environment, and I’ve really loved my time over here. 

“The type of racing we get to do: we get to race all over the country in a whole variety of different courses. We have everything, ranging from the CiCLE Classic, where we race on some gravel roads, to Lincoln, where you get a taste of cobbles, to the grippy roads of Yorkshire or Lancaster and Ryedale and Curlew. There’s really a bit of everything, and I think people should embrace that more. As a foreigner, I’ve throughly enjoyed my time racing over here.” 

Timothy John 

“Well, great to hear there from Ian and from Tiffany. 

“Phil, how should we address this year’s National Road Series? It attracted a lot of controversy, primarily for the scarcity of the rounds, but the racing, particularly on the women’s side,

was competitive. 

“I mean, five rounds for women, and four rounds for men: is it a national series worthy of the name?”

Phil Jones

“Well, good question and that’s one that of course we’re wrestling with on the Task Force behind the scenes, working with British Cycling at the moment. If we look back, I guess, to the glory days of 2015 when we had a very different racing environment then clearly there was a lot more racing, more Continental teams, more money, more everything. 

“Given everything that is going on with the economy, local authorities, and the wider environment of race organisers not being around in the same sort of volume, nowhere near the same volume of races that we used to have - style, type, geography, all those things - then clearly what we currently have is what we currently have. We’re just here where we are. It is

what it is. 

“Is that what we want for the future? No. But were the rounds that we did have competitively raced? I would say the answer to that is yes; particularly the women’s racing was very, very exciting and very close this year.

“We’re very much in a reset year, I think, as far as the National Road Series is concerned, and everybody wants it to be better with more races, better geographical spread and, of course, with more teams competing so that the style of the racing is also the sort of racing that we went to watch.”

Timothy John 

“I think you make a very good point when you talk about the competitiveness of the women’s scene. We heard Tiffany say she’s getting fed up with the negativity surrounding the men’s scene reflecting on the women’s scene, which she says has never been so competitive. 

“I mean, given all that, just how impressive is Hutchinson-Brother UK’s achievement in finishing third this year?”

Phil Jones

“Yeah, all credit to Ian. I know how hard he works in the background and, of course, Ian is not just running this team. Ian is running a complete conveyor belt, right from riders who have never ridden before and are just starting out, right the way up to what you’re seeing here with this development team, and another team in between! His objective is to make sure that the conveyor belt is really moving.

“I think if we look at what has happened in the 2023 season, Tiffany has had a particularly good season in 2023. She really looks like she's found her form, she's fond her legs; is finding her way in British domestic racing. And, of course, we’ve spoken about Ruth Shier, as well, on Ian’s team: again, really come into the 2023 season really pushing on. Long breakaways. Race wins.

“So I think Ian will definitely be wrapping up 2023 feeling like he’s done pretty well, but I know he’s got big ambitions for 2024: about how he wants to push on and become even better and even more competitive.”


Part Six: Ras wrap

Timothy John 

“While we’re on the topic of competitive women’s racing, we shouldn’t overlook the Ras na mBan, Ireland’s leading stage race for women and an event we previewed in our last episode. 

“Now, Tiffany won stage two and finished third overall, but let’s reflect on the Ras through the prism of the Brother UK-Orientation Marketing, which is a youthful outfit, comprised mainly of junior riders. 

“Here’s Mark Botteley, who’s been taking teams to the Ras for years, including talents like Anna Henderson, who now of course races for Jumbo-Visma.” 

Mark Botteley

“The Ras na mBan is a fantastically brilliant race for the development of riders and, ultimately, the girls who are in the team, the most that they have ever done in a stage race is maybe a couple of days and there’ll probably be a two-mile prologue in there, so we’re talking about a completely different ball game. 

“My aim for doing the race is literally to help cement everything the girls have learned throughout the year, starting with the team training camp and basically being team-mates and pulling together and looking out for each other. You’re not going to get through that race without looking after each other, without looking out for yourself and with a good team behind the girls, and this is what we had. We basically covered all bases. 

“It’s a hard race. The first four days are near enough 100km. The first stage isn’t quite so bad because it’s not quite so hilly, but the other three days are pretty full on and the weather this year was just roasting, 27, 28 degrees, so very unlike the previous years when it’s chucked it down with rain every day. So that in itself was massively challenging because the girls were overheating. In the team car we were getting called up for feeding with ice bags down the back of the necks. It was completely different to anything we’d seen all year, and the girls

just got on with it. 

“I think there were only five teams out of the 20 who finished all five girls, so all the girls finished. That was a huge pat on the back for them. It certainly shows a certain amount of resilience, that’s for sure, because that’s a very wearing process. 

“The stage on the Saturday which was from Tramore and went on Sean Kelly’s training roads. That was a brutal stage; just up and down, constantly. We positioned ourselves in a place where there was enough time to chill and just enjoy the experience of being in a different country. I think every year, I would look forward to doing that race more than any other, and I think that says it all.  

“Kids were coming along. Obviously on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, all the school children are out, cheering the race on. That obviously gives the riders a buzz, as well as us in the cars, as well as us in the cars; having kids come over to mix with the girls,  because that was them a few years ago. 

“All the positivity we’ve had on Instagram from where the girls had been so welcoming to the locals to the point where one young girl had got in touch with her dad and was so grateful for everyone we’d done. Aoife, I think her name was. I’d sent out some kit and she’s now got a bike. She put a picture on Instagram wearing the team kit on her new bike. It was

absolutely fantastic and the race organisers absolutely love that because it’s all about the next generation. It’s brilliant. 

“The girls were unbelievable. They did such a good job. I can’t wait for next year. I just hope the weather stays the same because I’d rather have the sun than the rain.”


Part Seven: Outro

Timothy John 

“Well, we covered a fair bit of ground there, Phil, from the Task Force to the Ras na mBan. 

“Before we sign off, let’s wrap up with a quick look ahead to the coming months and indeed to the coming season. 

“The men’s CiCLE Classic is already confirmed for Sunday April 28, 2024.

“More immediately, the hill climb season is already well underway with events like Monsal and others, and will climax this year on October 29. The National Hill Climb Championships will be held on The Struggle, near Ambleside in the Lake District, in an event organised by Cold Dark North, among others. 

“The National Trophy Series, British Cycling’s flagship cyclocross competition, gets underway in Tyne and Wear on October 7 and 8 with the first of six rounds, before the national cyclocross championships will be held on January 13 and 14, 2024. 

“And a final reminder: get yourself a ticket for The Rayner Foundation's annual dinner and charity auction at the Leeds Armouries on Saturday November 11 and book yourself a great

evening in the company of WorldTour royalty. Visit theraynerfoundation.org/charitydinner. 

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