Tag Archives: pro racing

cycling isle of man national championships

Robert Millar National Championship 1995 highlights

The British national championships will be back on the Isle of Man this year. As Rouleur’s email newsletter highlighted, Robert Millar won the national title there back in 1995 at the age of 36.

The win was the last race of his career and the house of cards that his team, Le Groupement, was built on came tumbling down. He was due to race at the Tour de France that year, but never got the chance to wear the British stripes.

Other riders on the team included Luc Leblanc, Jean-Paul van Poppel, Robert Millar, Marcel Wüst and Graeme Obree – who walked away when he realised he was expected to contribute a proportion of his wages to doping.

Millar then retired from racing and withdrew from public life. The story of this, and of his life and career, is told in Richard Moore’s In Search of Robert Millar.

Highlights are available on YouTube (below) from Duke Video.

Manx International DVD available direct from Duke Video.
Manx International 1995 DVD also may be available on Amazon.

Measuring Netapp-Endura’s success at the Vuelta

Netapp-Endura targeted a Grand Tour ride this year and finally got a wildcard entry to the Vuelta. The Pro Continental team, part headline-sponsored by Scottish clothing manufacturer Endura have certainly grabbed the opportunity with both hands.

I’ll recap some of their exploits at the race briefly below but rather than simply regurgitate the press information, I thought I offer an alternative take on what success means.

Endura’s stated goal when they expanded their pro team was to build the brand in Europe and with a road audience, as they were already well known in the UK and for mountain bike apparel.

Without interviewing the director Jim McFarlane, it’s pretty hard to quantify how succesful sponsorship of a pro race team is. Even still, I’d guess they might be reluctant to publicly state what they felt they were getting for their money, as with any marketing. However there are a few you can look at.

Outside of a GC win or a jersey, which would be pretty tall order, a stage win would provide the best exposurefor the team to date, and they got that with 25-year-old team leader Leopold Koenig’s victory on stage 8. You get a prime spot on live TV and plenty of visibility in post-race coverage, not to mention a nice shot with hands in the air.

Team NetApp-Endura Vuelta Stage 8

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Nationality and the nationals

Today it is the National Road Race Championships in Glasgow. I looked at the course a little while back and the Spokedoke blog has done as good a preview as I could aspire to, so I thought I would post some alternative thoughts that have been rattling around my head.

As I began to establish my blog I looked for a niche angle to focus on – there were already numerous bloggers covering the international pro scene better than I ever could. Even in 2010 it was clear that Inner Ring was a cut above, and I thought that if I had no hope of writing pieces as good as that, I’d be better off staying local and focusing on Scotland.

Allez l'Écosse

A minority of people eschew their national allegiances when it comes to sport. For example, I have heard writer Daniel Friebe say he has no real interest or passion to see British winners in cycling. As he grew up, Italian riders and racing were what excited him and is where his support still lies.

One of Scotland’s greatest riders, Robert Millar, seemed to distance himself from Scotland and Glasgow as his early pro career took off, seemingly seeing himself as an outsider and apart from his own country. However after retirement he was quoted as saying he would vote SNP if he lived in Scotland. [Richard Moore, In Search of Robert Millar]

I am proud to be Scottish – it is a beautiful country, despite the weather and our achievements down the centuries in all manner of fields, from science to literature, as well as sport, are distinguished. I was born in Edinburgh, but my mother is Welsh and my Father English. In primary school I was slagged for my accent, as my R’s pretty soft, so I made a concerted effort to change the way I spoke to avoid the jibes. How Scottish does that make me?

Sport under a national banner is a powerful thing that can unite a country. Gino Bartali was asked in 1948 by politicians to win in France to boost a fragile post-war Italy, and his victory eased the tensions of internal feuding. But the nature of sport is that it is played out within the bounds of certain rules, and the place where national lines are drawn is different to other walks of life.

David Millar custom Scotland shoes

Contrast myself with David Millar, leaving aside the Grand Canyon-sized gulf in ability for a moment. Born to Scottish parents in Malta, he grew up in various places around the world;  ‘more Scottish’ than me by blood, but arguably with less of an affinity to the place.

I have heard the fairly cynical view that he only rode the Commonwealth Games as a route to the 2012 Olympics, but this doesn’t square with the pride and cameraderie that was obvious in his statements and those of his team-mates after his bronze medal in the road race Dehli 2010. In any case, there was no guarantee of London selection at that point, with the BOA’s lifetime ban for dopers still to be challenged. With the cynical hat back on, why would he bother with the national road race in Glasgow today? He has won it before and I’d expect him to avoid risking a crash ahead of the Tour de France. But his appearance today might show that he would be proud to win in Scotland. On balance his allegiance to Scotland still seems to be more of a sporting one rather than a cultural or social one, but maybe a return for Glasgow 2014 would tip the balance.

Kilmacolm Kermesse 5th May 2013

Ben Geenwood is a domestic rider who will be riding in Glasgow today for his Hope Factory Racing team. He was selected for the Ras recently and came under some harsh scrutiny for his English nationality. He has lived in Scotland for a while, has close family connections and is as much a part of the local scene as Scottish-born pros Evan Oliphant and James McCallum. Scottish Cycling, under pressure to justify their funding, will select the strongest national team from the riders available, with the best chance of posting a good result in a big race. Ben is popular in the Scottish cycling community and will have plenty of support if he is selected for Glasgow 2014. There will be some who feel that without Scottish blood or birthplace he is ‘not Scottish enough’, but we aren’t playing by those rules.

While the rules and moral interpretation of sport are not always clear-cut at the international level, politics also come into it on a personal and at a local level. It all depends how nationalistic you want to be.

Endura sponsors Kenta Gallagher, Grant Ferguson and the Superior Brentjens MTB Racing Team

Lately I have been putting press releases on the blog – I would prefer to write my own pieces or at least edit the most interesting information and provide commentary, but while struggling for time, a ready-made article is sometimes too handy not to run with.

Endura’s newest sponsorship venture is particularly interesting in that GB U23 / Academy riders Grant Ferguson and Kenta Gallagher are part of the team. Many people back home have an idea of how good these two are but in the bigger international racing picture, they are very much starting out in their careers and getting top level racing experience.

So we will watch their development with interest.

Endura is proud to announce that the Scottish bikewear and accessories provider is the official cycle clothing sponsor of Superior Brentjens MTB Racing Team for 2013 and 2014. The 10 rider strong team will be managed by Bart Brentjens, founder of the Brentjens MTB Racing team and the first Olympic gold medal winner in the history of XC mountain biking as an Olympic discipline at the Olympic Games in Atlanta 1996.

As the team’s exclusive clothing sponsor, Endura will provide the team with their custom-made team kit as well as with all other cycle clothing that the riders wear for racing as well as for training.

“We are delighted to be part of the Superior Brentjens MTB Racing Team for 2013 and 2014. We have had such a successful product development process for our road clothing over the past 4 years through Endura Racing [now Team NetApp-Endura for 2013 and 2014] that it made perfect sense to replicate this system for MTB with a team of equivalent standing and we think we have found that with Bart and the Superior Brentjens MTB Racing Team. We’ll be working closely with the riders on our XC clothing to compliment the inputs from Oli Beckingsale and Tracy Moseley. Having an additional 10 riders to work with, especially ones of such high calibre, is something that our product development team are really excited about, and it’s even more special for us to be supporting and working with Grant Ferguson and Kenta Gallagher as your Scottish talents on the team”, says Jim McFarlane, founder and Managing Director of Endura.

The team will be racing on an International level; the racing schedule for 2013 and 2014 including the UCI Worldcup series XCO & XCE, the National Championships, the European Championships, the World Championships, the National Series, and Cape Epic.

The team riders for 2013 are Marek Konwa (POL), Jeroen Boelen (NED), Hans Becking (NED), Grant Ferguson (UK), Kenta Gallagher (UK), Anne Terpstra (NED), Jiri Novak (CZE), Yana Belomoyna (UKR), and Paul Rodenbach (SA).

Bart Brentjens’ team was formerly known as Milka Superior MTB Racing Team. After a successful cooperation in 2012, Superior has reinforced the sponsoring agreement for 2013. With Milka falling away as main sponsor, the official name for the UCI Trade Team in 2013 will be “Superior Brentjens MTB Racing Team”. Also, the team logo has been re-styled accordingly.

Endura -> Netapp

Recently the news was confirmed that Team NetApp will extend and welcome Endura as a second name sponsor through to the end of 2014.

This is seen as a merger in many quarters but to me it looks a bit more more like the closure of the Endura Racing team with sponsorship, resources and some of the bigger name riders moving to the German squad.

Finance in pro cycling is tough as it is in many other areas of business right now, and I’m sure this decision wasn’t taken lightly- if Endura Racing had been able to secure a big sponsor to meet its ambition to gain Pro Continental status then I’m sure it would have continued.

However it does raise a few questions:

Who are the 8 riders? One presumes it will be the bigger names that have raced the European circuit this year but this is just speculation. Paul Voss is German so that is an obvious fit and we may see the likes of Camano, Mandri, Wetterhall and Dempster but hopefully there will be some UK riders moving up too. Bibby’s future is uncertain, and you’d expect riders who have focused more on the UK calendar like Wilkinson and McEvoy to be looking for new squads but there are some talented young riders like Rowsell and Thwaites.

Photo: Ian Bibby, Tour Series Kirkcaldy by Larry Hickmott | www.VeloUK.net

What about the riders who are left? Hopefully they can all find teams, and this announcement has come relatively early on. Brian Smith is good at moving riders from team to team and has hinted that Endura needs a presence in the UK so maybe a low level sponsorship or involvement in one of the domestic squads will remain. I’ve seen it mentioned that Endura still need a presence in the UK and they have been incredibly successful in the Tour Series and Premier Calendar this year.

John Tiernan Locke’s future is unconfirmed but everybody thinks he’ll be moving to Sky. I joked today that Netapp were working to help Endura pull back the break in the Tour of Britain, because maybe they would benefit from Locke’s points next year, but he has said he is expecting to join a World Tour team. It will be interesting to see where he goes and how he develops.

Most importantly: what colour will the kit be? I have enjoyed the black and lime green and it would be a shame if this disappears but I would expect it to be different.

It will be great to see a Scottish-backed outfit moving onwards and upwards to European level, but I can’t help but feel this is the end of an era for a team that has its genesis in a local shop team from Pedal Power in West Calder. There’s a sad tinge but also expectancy for the future.

Photo by Joolze Dymond | www.joolzedymond.com

Below is the news in full:
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David Millar’s Tour stage win

A collection of images from David Millar’s win on stage 12 of the 2012 Tour de France. This post comes very muchafter the event but I wanted to celebrate it on the blog as I am a Millar fan.

As a blogger I’m fighting to stay within the time cut at the moment, rather than driving the break- in a month’s time I might have some Chris Hoy pictures for you all.

I have been hoping for a stage win from Millar since his solo escape into Barcelona in 2009. He had come close in a few time trials, and got into a few breaks but only

Millar had the strength to mark most of the moves in the final few kilometres, and then the tactical nous to allow strong climber Pereaud a bit of a gap when he attacked in the final kilometre, before jumping the three remaining breakaway riders to latch onto the AG2R man’s wheel. Then he had the confidence to lead out the sprint, knowing he had the beating of the sometime mountain biker.

David Millar - Tour de France, stage 12
© Garmin Sharp

In addition to the way he drove the break, got the jump on his rivals and powered past Pereaud to the line, he made a point about cycling’s dark recent past in the post-race interview. Without prompting he referred to himself as “an ex-doper” and took on the issue of his ban and tainted past upfront. Contrast that to Alejandro Valverde’s avoidance of the issue, even when questioned by journalists, after his win in the Pyrenees on stage 17.

David Millar - Tour de France, stage 12
© Garmin Sharp

Naysayers may point out that the stage was a classic ‘day for the break’, with the Alps in the legs and a rolling stage unlikely to shake up the GC, the teams did not mount a chase and allowed the breakaway a lead of 10 minutes plus. Despite that, simply getting in a break at the Tour is hard enough, especially after 10 days of racing.


Cycling Weekly

Julien Simon, Saur-Sojasun

There are plenty of blogs that analyse the race better than I can, so something I have come to enjoy doing when writing about pro cycling is look around the edges at something different.

Montfort-sûr-Meu near the city of Rennes in Brittany is the hometown of 26 year old Tour debutant Julien Simon. It is just down the road from where I am staying for 3 weeks holiday. Simon was on my radar last year and it was nice to see he got selected for his first Tour de France. It gives me a good reason to follow one of the lesser known teams and riders in the race.

He is leading the French domestic race series, similar to the Premier Calendar, but with a scoring system that lasts the whole season. He also won two stages of the Tour of Catalonia and is breaking through to a new chapter in his career with new found confidence in his ability.

image: David Flores

Julien Simon
Image: Laurie Beylier
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Alex Coutts, Team RTS Racing

Scottish rider Alex Coutts is riding the 2012 season with RTS Racing in the far east and often with this blog, posting a piece is a case of finding out about a rider, past or present, and sharing it with the readers. Alex is one who I did not know much about before now.

Alex riding grass track alongside Evan Oliphant on a foray back home.
image: Martin Steele

The Veloveritas site, formerly Veloresults has been on the case with an interview in 2010, where I learnt he has been a pro with Continental teams since 2002.

He has spent time racing in Belgium, France and Italy, most recently for Giant Kenda Pro Cycling – you can read some of his diaries going back through the past few years on a blog section of his shop site. Last year he opened a cycle shop in Burntisland in Fife.

This year he is with RTS Racing– his new team is sponsored by RTS Carbon, a frameset and wheel manufacturer established in Spain in 2005, but which has a far-eastern focus and is owned by Giant Asia’s manager. The company sells its own frames and bikes, made in the same factory as Giant.

He rode the Tour de Langkawi, a 10-day, UCI 2.HC stage race in Malaysia. With RTS Racing being a Tiawanese team, this is clearly a big goal for them.

Although there is only one major climbing stage, the day to Genting Highlands, the Tour’s length at 10 stages, the tropical heat and the level of competition make this a tough race.

As of today, Alex was 44th on GC at 15 minutes, with his Australian teammate Jai Crawford 13th at 5 minutes. The top 2 spots are occupied by Jose Serpa and Jose Rujano, a Colombian and a Venezuaelan for the Androni Giocattoli team.

Yesterday teammate Chin Lung Huang got into a break of 5, who were only allowed a short lead by Farnese Vini, for whom Andrea Guardini leads the points classification, and it came down to a sprint finish which seems customary for this race.

The team’s other events are in the Middle East and Far East with the Tours of Qinghai Lake (UCI 2.HC) and Tour of China (UCI 2.1) stage races coming in July and September.

Alex also started the Tour of Oman, one of the tune-up races for the Spring Classics, which sees lots of World Tour riders sharpening up the legs for Belgium and Northern France. He completed the 6-stage race 59th on GC at 10 minutes. It was won by Slovakian Peter Velits of Omega Pharma-Quickstep, and the race saw sprint duels between Greipel, Kittel and Sagan, who won the points overall.

Veloveritas/Veloresults have the professionally produced pieces if you want to read up on Alex- writers Martin Williamson, Ed Hood and Al Hamilton have some good pieces here:
Riding with Flanders- 2007

In Asia- 2008

Tour of Thailand winner

David Bell Memorial seeks Premier Calendar Status

I recently covered the idea that Scotland could maybe host the UCI Road World Championships, and indulged in a bit of speculation as to where the course might be.

Part of this conjecture was the experience the south west of Scotland has in hosting high profile events- the Tour of Britain has passed through there on a few occasions and the Premier Calendar Tour Doon Hame 3-day race is now well established. This is all based upon a solid grass roots crit races, local road races and mountain biking trails.

Now, one of Scotland’s top amateur events, possibly the toughest one-day race we have outside the national championship, is hoping to step up a level and gain Premier Calendar status. Last year the Davie Bell Memorial made some radical changes to the course, bringing in sections of dirt road, which was a fitting way to honour the pioneering off-road cyclist that the race is named after.

Today it was announced that the promoting club, Ayr Roads – Harry Fairbairn BMW, have already secured ‘National A’ status for the 47th running of the 100mile event, which will be held on Sunday June 10th 2012:

Rapha-Condor-Sharp rider James McCallum has pledged his intention to defend his title at the South Carrick David Bell Memorial, a ‘monument’ of Scottish cycling aspiring to join the Premier Calendar series in 2013. National A status will guarantee the best possible line up of British professional and elite cyclists.

Thanks to backing from South Ayrshire Council and support from South Carrick Community Leisure, McCallum and his Rapha-Condor-Sharp team will be hoping to take home their share of the guaranteed minimum £2,000 prize fund. However, competition will be tough with teams such as Endura Racing, Herbalife-Leisure Lakes and Vanilla Racing already signed up to compete.

The race is rightly feared by the Scottish cycling community, with its tough ascents of the area popularly referred to as the ‘Ayrshire Alps’, and also for its whose-who list of former winners including Robert Millar, the late Jason MacIntyre and current Scottish Road Champion Evan Oliphant. With such a rich history, organisers are already building towards the 50th edition to ensure a spectacular celebration of Ayrshire cycling, and the life of the pioneering off-road cyclist that the event is named after. More commonly known under his penname ‘The Highwayman’, David Bell was a local journalist who brought his explorations by bike between the 1930s and mid 1960s alive through a hugely popular column in the Ayrshire Post.

The Carrick Forest Drive during the 2011 David Bell Memorial – A breakaway establishes a 40second lead on lap 1.
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Scotland to host road worlds? (maybe)

That British Cycling may table a bid to host the World Road Championships is not a surprise- British cycling (with a small ‘c’) is booming and with the Olympics in 2012 there will be the experience and enthusiasm of a major event to draw on.

British Cycling president Brian Cookson spoke about this to various media in October 2011, including the BBC and VeloUK- each piece was largley the same. But I heard a quote on the Velo Club Don Logan podcast that caught my attention and I found it in writing in a Cycling Weekly piece:

Cookson, who was recently made head of the UCI Road Commission, mentioned Wales, Scotland and London as potential places.

Road Cycling World Championships
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