All images ©CyclingShorts.cc / wwwchrismaher.co.uk
Edvald Boasson Hagen of MTN Qhubeka became the first rider to win the modern Aviva Tour of Britain twice when he successfully defended his 13 second lead on the final stage, an 86.8km circuit race around some of central London’s iconic landmarks.
The Norwegian sprinted to fifth on the stage, which was upgraded to fourth when Andre Greipel was relegated for impeding Elia Viviani in the final sprint up Regent Street St James, handing the Italian his third stage win of the week.
Viviani’s victories in Wrexham, Floors Castle and now London also mean he is only the fifth rider to win three stages in one edition of the race, and joins Mark Cavendish as one of only two riders to win Tour of Britain stages in England, Scotland and Wales.
Speaking afterwards he said “After yesterday I saw I had good speed in the legs after a really hard week, so we thought we could win today.
“(Ben) Swifty and Andy (Fenn) put me in a perfect position for the last corner. We saw the road go up and I knew we couldn’t start the sprint too early. When I saw Greipel go I went directly on his left-hand side. He came across a little bit, a little bit and that edged me towards the barriers. I’m disappointed because it is better to win without this. He is a big champion and I’ve never seen him do this before. But we won in London and that is the main thing.”
“This week has been really good with lots of stages over 200 kilometres,” he added. “It has given me a very good base for the worlds and I am really confident. I think the Tour of Britain is the perfect roads for the worlds this year.”
After the stage Greipel insisted the incident was accidental: “I didn’t see Viviani coming. I was just concentrating on my sprint and suddenly he was next to me. The final straight wasn’t that wide, I had to look for space to overtake. Everybody was on the limit on the final corner. I didn’t do anything for purpose that’s for sure. That’s sprinting.”
Boasson Hagen’s fourth place on the day was more than enough to see him win the Aviva Yellow Jersey outright thirteen seconds ahead of Team Sky’s Wout Poels with young British rider Owain Doull capping an outstanding week’s work by moving up to third place overall thanks to a time bonus, the best result of his road career to date.
Doull also claimed the Chain Reaction Cycles Points jersey, having finished in the top ten on all but one stage (the finish at Hartside where he came 11th) and the Premier Inn Best British Rider award.
Boasson Hagen, who won three stages in 2008 and four in 2009, didn’t take a stage victory in 2015, but arguably his overall victory was all the more impressive, having to fight off a determined effort from Team Sky, working for the in-form Poels.
“I am very happy with that win,” said Boasson Hagen who joined MTN Qhubeka at the start of this season from Team Sky. “The object today was simply to defend the jersey and my team did a great job all day. Team WIGGINS took it out very fast at the start looking for the intermediate Sprint and seconds for their rider and it was very hard but then the race settled down a little. I always like to race to win. I had my chances with Sky but perhaps I get more chances with MTN Qhubeka. I think perhaps this year it was harder to win the GC than back in 2009, the course was tougher and Sky were very strong.”
Boasson Hagen now goes onto the World Championships in Richmond, Virginia where he will be riding primarily for Alexander Kristoff although on this form he clearly represents a viable Plan B. Both Greipel and Viviani have also expressed their hopes of taking the title and it could yet be that the Aviva Tour of Britain again acts as ideal build up for the eventual champion, as it did last year with Michel Kwiatkowski.
With a new look circuit hosting 14-laps of racing, the early interest in the final stage centred mainly on Team WIGGINS trying to secure two vital seconds for Doull to move him from fourth place onto the podium in third ahead of Rasmus Guldhammer of Cult Energy Pro Cycling.
For a team consisting of Great Britain’s best team pursuiters that was a pleasing scenario and provided a fine spectacle for a large crowd as Team WIGGINS went to the front half way around the first lap and bossed the race for the first three laps right up to the first intermediate YodelDirect Sprint.
A huge turn on lap three from Sir Bradley Wiggins set Doull up nicely although Russ Downing, riding for Cult Energy did manage to infiltrate the Team WIGGINS train and take the line honours to deny Doull the full three seconds. Doull, however, comfortably collected two seconds for second place to move into third on the road, a position he was able to defend.
After the first sprint an eight man break went up the road which meant Cult had to chase in an attempt to get Guldhammer into the second YodelDirect Sprint. Ultimately it was in vain with the peloton unable to get on terms in time, last year’s overall winner Dylan van Baarle taking both the second and third YodelDirect Sprints, on his way to finishing eighth overall.
Elsewhere Peter Williams of ONE Pro Cycling completed an excellent week’s riding – both individually and in the team context – by taking both the SKODA King of the Mountains title and YodelDirect Sprint jersey, only the third time that feat has ever been achieved in Aviva Tour of Britain history
Williams, from Southport, had cinched the Skoda King of the Mountains title on Saturday when he took maximum points on the final climb of the day up Brantham Hill in Suffolk and started today’s stage seven points up from Conor Dunne in the YodelDirect Sprints classification. With neither rider contesting the first sprint of the day Williams’ lead became unassailable and the celebrations could start.
“It’s a massive achievement for ONE Pro Cycling. This time last year it was just a few conversations and the ball had just started to role so it was a really new team. To come away with two leaders’ jerseys on our Tour debut is a brilliant achievement.
“I feel like I’ve been in good form all year, the setup is like nothing I’ve ever experienced before and it helps get the best out of all the riders. It’s a really good environment. Coming into the Tour of Britain we had prepared well and felt ready to come here and do something.”
For full results and standings, please click here.
Andre Greipel sprinted to victory in Ipswich, Suffolk at the end of the Aviva Tour of Britain’s longest stage, a 227-kilometre leg from Fakenham in Norfolk.
The Lotto Soudal rider headed home Team Sky’s double stage winner Elia Viviani and IAM Cycling’s Sondre Holst Enger by the narrowest of margins
The win was Greipel’s fourth Aviva Tour of Britain stage win, adding to the three victories he took in the 2010 edition of the race.
MTN Qhubeka’s Edvald Boasson Hagen took fifth to maintain his thirteen second lead over Wout Poels and the Aviva Yellow Jersey heading to London and the final stage of the race.
Team WIGGINS’ Owain Doull finished safely sixth to keep his lead in the Chain Reaction Cycles Points Jersey, as well as remaining the Premier Inn Best British Rider thanks to his fourth overall. Only a Boasson Hagen stage win in London will deny the Welshman the Chain Reaction Cycles jersey, providing he finishes the stage.
Peter Williams clinched the SKODA King of the Mountains competition, with no climbs on the final stage London circuit, the ONE Pro Cycling rider took maximum points on the final SKODA King of the Mountains climb of the 2015 race at Brantham Hill in Suffolk to win by two points from Madison Genesis’ Tom Stewart.
Williams also maintains a seven point lead in the YodelDirect Sprints competition. Nine points are available on the London Stage presented by TfL, so only An Post Chain Reaction rider Conor Dunne can defeat him.
Starting in damp conditions from Fakenham’s racecourse, the original four man break consisted of Chris Opie, Alistair Slater, Johnny McEvoy and Tom Stewart, before that was reeled in and another all British group of Alex Dowsett, Gabriel Cullaigh and Graham Briggs went away, with the latter going on to win the Rouleur Combativity Award for Stage Seven.
With the battle for the final SKODA King of the Mountains points at Brantham Hill a priority, Madison Genesis worked hard to bring back the break, catching first Dowsett and then the other two escapees.
Williams took the points at the top of the ascent, with both Zdenek Stybar and then Rob Partridge attempting to go clear in the final kilometres.
Lotto Soudal and Team Sky worked hard on the front to set up the sprint for their men Greipel and Viviani, and it looked briefly like the Italian had claimed the victory on the near side, but television replays confirmed it was the German who crossed the line first.
On the Aviva General Classification there was no change at the top, with Boasson Hagen preserving his lead, but fifth placed rider Dylan Teuns, from BMC Racing, did crash out as the race passed through Wattisham Flying Station, which provided a unique home to the day’s final YodelDirect Sprint, flanked by Apache helicopters of the British Army.
For full results and standings from Stage Seven, please click here.
The 2015 Aviva Tour of Britain concludes in central London with Stage Eight from 3.30pm on Sunday 13 September, with a 14-lap circuit race starting and finishing on Regent Street St James, and taking in the sights of Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square and Regent Street.
Riders will contest three YodelDirect Sprints on the start/finish line on Laps Three, Six and Nine, with the final points and time bonuses of the available.
Highlights of Stage Seven will be on ITV4 at 8pm on Saturday 12 September with a repeat at 09.55am on Sunday 13 September. Highlights of all seven stages so far are also available on demand via the ITV Player.
Edvald Boasson Hagen extended his lead in the Aviva Tour of Britain, finishing second on Nottingham’s Forest Recreation Ground behind Etixx Quick-Step rider Matteo Trentin, who took his team’s third stage win of the week.
The Italian outsprinted Boasson Hagen in a two-up sprint at the end of the 192-kilometre stage after the Aviva Yellow Jersey had bridged across to him in the final kilometres through Nottingham, going on to describe the stage as the hardest he had ever ridden.
The two riders were just ahead of a chasing bunch of 28 riders, all that remained of the main field at the end of a hard day’s racing, which saw aggressive riding from the start in Stoke-on-Trent.
The sight of a 75 strong grupetto coming home 45-minutes and 47-seconds behind the stage winner – on a 192km stage of less than five hours and featuring no long climbs – would appear to back up Trentin’s claim.
That the Etixx Quick-Step rider had contributed massively to the main break of the day while still having enough energy to outsprint Boasson Hagen was testament to his good form.
“For me and probably 99% of the field that is the hardest race I have ever done,” said Trentin. “It was full gas right from the beginning we never really stopped. You just have to look at the numbers, I was averaging 365 watts for four hours and 45 minutes. That’s tough. In the break we were never more than one minute or so ahead, the race was always on and never slowed. Even when it was flat at the start we had cross winds and then think about riding the climbs in the cross winds
“When Edvald attacked off the front of the group and came up to join me I thought that would be it because somebody was sure to chase the yellow jersey. But when he joined me we looked back and everybody was on the limit. Edvald was riding for the bonifaction and GC so I took a rest in his wheel and went for the stage win. And then I just sprinted as hard as I could.
“That is the mentality of this Etixx team whether even when we have injuries or crashes. We have a winning mentality, we always race for the victory, we are never here to be just part of the race. Sometime it works sometime it doesn’t but we always try.”
The Etixx Quick-Step team have now won three stages of the race, although both previous stage victors – Petr Vakoc and Fernando Gaviria – have dropped out through injury, and were today joined by Mark Cavendish who crashed, causing his abandonment.
With two stages to go, Boasson Hagen now leads by 13-seconds from Wout Poels, with Rasmus Guldhammer third at 43-seconds and Britain’s Owain Doull fourth, one second back and keeping hold of both the Chain Reaction Cycles Points Jersey and Premier Inn Best British Rider Award.
In both the YodelDirect Sprints and SKODA King of the Mountains classifications there was no change with ONE Pro Cycling’s Peter Williams keeping hold of both jerseys, with neither Williams or his nearest challengers collecting any points towards either competition on Stage Six.
Boasson Hagen and Trentin had both been among a leading group of 30-riders that over the course of the stage from Stoke-on-Trent to Nottingham, through Derbyshire and the Peak District, that chased a lead group of varying different combinations.
Initially a strong eight man group of Trentin, Ian Stannard, Zdenek Stybar, Stefan Kueng, Steven Kruijswijk, Sebastian Langeveld, Tao Geoghegan Hart and last year’s winner Dylan Van Baarle forged ahead, but on heavy rolling roads the race was a constantly changing picture, until a six rider group built a small group.
Kueng and Trentin remained clear coming off the hills and into Nottingham, with the latter taking a slender lead into the final three-kilometres before being joined by Boasson Hagen. The MTN Qhubeka rider jumped across the gap that had been reduced by Sky duo Stannard and Ben Swift, but couldn’t defeat Trentin in the sprint.
“It was a really hard day but I am happy with that result,” said Boasson Hagen afterwards. “I would have happily settled for that before the start of the stage. Sky applied the pressure and eventually the break went and when Stannard came back I had to try and cover the moves and hope for the best.
“Stannard asked me to ride at one stage and that is natural of course but I didn’t want to do that before the final intermediate sprint because I could have lost time there or they could have attacked me there. I wanted to wait as long as possible before I stated to work but it was always my plan to try something about five kiloetres out. I looked over and Wouter seemed to be on his own so I went.
“I didn’t feel my form was that good at the start of the race but it feels like it is getting better every day now. We will see tomorrow for sure. A lot of people are very tired although perhaps the riders in the grupetto are not quite so tired. I need to stay focussed for two more days now and hope that the team have been saving a lot of energy for the long day tomorrow.”
Coming home in third place on Stage Six four seconds back was the in-form Owain Doull of Team WIGGINS who now moves into fourth place overall with power to add in the final two stage.
“I’ve been taking it day by day, it was very hard from the off but I made the selection and was very happy with third place. I’m a bit surprised at my form although I have always targeted this race and the Under-23 Worlds later this month.
“We will be trying to get onto the podium, there are three intermediate sprints tomorrow with a total of nine seconds available so if I could grab a few of those it would be pretty good but I need to keep contesting the finishes as well and try and get it that way as well. We will give it a good go in the next two days.”
For full results and standings please click here.
Stage Seven sees the race return to East Anglia for the first time since 2012, with Norfolk hosting its first stage start, at Fakenham, since 2010. At 227-kilometres riders will face the longest stage of the race to Ipswich, including a YodelDirect Sprint on the runway of Wattisham Airfield, home to the British Army’s Apache helicopters.
All images ©CyclingShorts.cc / www.chrismaher.co.uk
Wout Poels, who did so much sterling work for Chris Froome at the Tour de France this Summer, grabbed his own slice of glory with a superb win on the queen stage of this year’s Aviva Tour of Britain, finishing at the top of the Hartside climb in Cumbria.
The Dutchman, who put in several attacks on the ascent of Hartside, eventually overtook leader Edvald Boasson Hagen in the final 200-metres, to put himself just one-second behind the Norwegian, who took over ownership of the Aviva Yellow Jersey with three stages to go.
The eight-kilometre climb to the 1,902-feet summit of Hartside re-shaped the GC, with Boasson Hagen and Poels, who started the day second and third respectively, doing battle with Lotto NL Jumbo’s Steven Kruijswijk for much of the ascent up the Cumbrian Fell, one of the longest continuous climbs in England.
Cannondale Garmin’s Ruben Zepuntke had been the first to put in a serious effort to go clear, before Kruijswijk broke away, being joined by Poels, who had been led into the foot of the climb at high speed by Peter Kennaugh, flushing out the serious challengers.
But the powerful Boasson Hagen was not deterred and bridged across to Poels and Kruijswijk and then attacked strongly with 1.5km to go looked clear and set for a stage win.
Poels though is immensely strong and durable and had paced himself well, knowing that the finale was tough going as it turned into the strong Helm Wind which blows off these Cumbrian Fells no matter how benign the day – indeed it’s the only mountain wind in Britain that has a specific name! It was blowing gently by its own standards but it was still enough to have an influence on the race.
Gradually, and then quickly, Poels reeled the tiring Boasson Hagen in and with 150m to go passed the MTN Qhubeka rider and headed for the line and Team Sky’s third stage win of the Aviva Tour of Britain. Boasson Hagen however kept going bravely to limit his losses and was rewarded with the Aviva Yellow Jersey, with overnight leader Juan Jose Lobato being one of the first riders to be dropped after passing through the village of Melmberby at the base of the climb.
Behind Boasson Hagen and Poels, Denmark’s Rasmus Guldhammer of the Cult Energy team lies at 30-seconds, with Movistar’s Benat Intxausti a further three seconds back.
Team WIGGINS’ Owain Doull lies fifth overall, the Premier Inn Best British Rider and also the Chain Reaction Cycles Points Jersey thanks to his consistent top placings.
With a classic tough day around Derbyshire and the Peak District in prospect on Day Six the race between first and second couldn’t be closer and Boasson Hagen, the overall winner of the Tour of Britain in 2009, and his team are certain to come under severe pressure.
In his favour however will be the inside knowledge he has on the Team Sky riders and their tactics after five years spent racing with the team and the fact that if any of the remaining three stages end in a sprint he might be better equipped to challenge for bonus seconds. It’s going to be an intriguing battle all the way to London and time bonuses could yet prove vital.
CyclingShorts.cc writer Chris Maher caught up with Stage 5 winner Wout Poels after his hilltop victory. Wout Poels, who did so much sterling work for Chris Froome at the Tour de France this Summer, grabbed his own slice of glory with a superb win on the queen stage of this year’s Aviva Tour of Britain, finishing at the top of the Hartside climb in Cumbria.
“It was really close.” admitted Poels. “At 500-metres to go when Edvald attacked really strongly I thought I was going to be second but then he slowed down a little bit so I took my chance. I knew there was going to be strong cross winds in the last 500-metres, in fact it was quite rough for the last 3-kilometres.
“Riding in a wind like that can be real difficult so I went back at one stage to try to work together – there was a group of about four of us – but everybody was looking for the stage win and also I had the GC in my mind. Then Edvald attacked and he looked very strong but I still felt strong and I knew how hard it was out there in the front riding on your own.
“It’s always nice to go for your own win and GC occasionally. I don’t get to win a lot of races but I really enjoyed today. You know when you go to the Tour de France with Team Sky you are working for Chris Froome that is your job.
“It’s going to be difficult to get past Edvald now because he is a good sprinter. He is looking strong but I am going to do my best. Tomorrow though is going to be a very hard stage also so perhaps there are possibilities.”
Boasson Hagen meawhile acknowledges that perhaps he went a little early but it was a risk worth taking.
“I knew the wind was going to be really hard but my hope was to build enough of a gap when we had the tailwind but Walt was too strong. When he went past I tries to ride for seconds and I am happy to have the jersey.
“Sky rode very strongly today and every stage is going to be hard from now on. They have been taking a lot of responsibility in the race every day. They have already won three stages and want to win the GC so we will need to ride smart to defend the jersey. We will fight as hard as possible.
“This race is on another level from when I won in 2009, it has become very hard. It’s also a bigger race with the crowds and Team Sky have done a lot to make that happen, and encourage the interest in the British crowds.”
ONE Pro Cycling’s Peter Williams departed Prudhoe in Northumberland on Thursday morning wearing the YodelDirect Sprints Jersey, but after another day spent in the break through the packed crowds of Northumberland the Skipton based rider also had possession of the SKODA King of the Mountains climb.
Joining Williams in the break was Madison Genesis’ Mark McNally, who won the Rouleur Combativity Award, while thanks to the performances of Intxausti and Ruben Fernandez, the Movistar Team move into the lead of the Aviva Team Classification.
For full results and standings, please click here.
The Aviva Tour of Britain resumes in Stoke-on-Trent on Friday morning for Stage Six, getting underway in the city centre at 1030, before heading for Leek and the Staffordshire Moorlands.
The route heads into the Peak District National Park, including 3,500-metres of climbing during the 192-kilometre stage that finishes in Nottingham’s Forest Recreation Ground after passing through Buxton, Bakewell, Matlock, Belper and Ilkeston.
Highlights of Stage Five are on ITV4 at 8pm with a repeat on Friday 11 September on the same channel at 11.55am.
Alex winning Nocturne - Image ©Copyright Tom Simpson Photography
Alex - ©Copyright Kramon
A Conversation with
by Anna Magrath
Alex Dowsett chats to me about cycling, living with haemophilia, Team Sky… and the significance of martial arts bears in modern cinema.
Alex is one of British Cycling’s rising stars, and this year the Essex rider joined the ranks of Team Sky. Alex, who has spent his career perfecting his time trialling technique, has had a lot of success against the clock. Alex joined the Trek-Livestrong Development Team after spending three years with the British Cycling Olympic Academy. He spent a lot of time in Quaratta, Italy with British Cycling before he was snapped up by Trek-Livestrong in 2010, a team owned by Lance Armstrong. Under Director Sportif Axel Merckx Alex flourished. In 2011 Alex came back to the British Cycling fold by signing to Team Sky where he’s had an excellent start to his season.
Alex suffers from haemophilia and he’s the only rider in the Pro Tour peloton with the condition. I caught up with him to talk about his career and how his condition has impacted on his life.
How has your first season with Team Sky gone?
This years been pretty good so far, I mean I sort of set out with the aim not to disgrace myself in my first year in the pro ranks, so I’m pretty sure I’ve not done that. I got my first podium in the prologue of the Electro Tour [Ster ZLM Toer] a few weeks ago… and I finished sixth overall and I’ve just finished 5th overall in the Tour of Denmark [Post Danmark Rundt], 3rd in the Time Trial on Stage 5 which I am really, really pleased with. It’s just nice to prove to myself that I can be competitive at this level. So it’s still onwards and upwards. Unfortunately I’ve had a little bit of an ankle injury just the last couple if weeks so I had to take some time off but it’s all been fixed and I’m back on the bike and trying to crawl back to where I was before.
What was the ankle injury?
It’s basically a form of arthritis, I haven’t got a lot of cartilage in there which the doctors have fixed with cortisone injections along with a lubricant which they injected straight into the joint and that seems to have fixed it. The doctors are pretty confident that it shouldn’t give me any hassle. They say there’s research into other sports that are weight bearing and there are footballers in far worse condition than I am in, playing football is pretty hazardous for the joints.
Is it something they’ll have to keep an eye on?
Yeah I might have to have this injection they say maybe at worst every six months but I might never have to have it again. So it’s just a case of if it comes on again I know something can be done to ease it, so it’s not bad at all to be honest.
So will that injury be impacted upon by your haemophilia or is unrelated?
The haemophilia certainly wouldn’t have helped it, I’m not sure whether it’s directly related or not, it’s difficult to know to be honest. It might stem from me playing basketball a lot when I was at school, that could have aggravated it. It could be a culmination of a number of things, haemophilia included most likely, so it’s not something we see as being massively important, it’s just a case of managing it and dealing with it as best we can.
Alex and Team Sky - Images ©Copyright Chris Maher
Alex Tour of Utah, Stage 4 Crit - Image Copyright Brian Hodes @ VeloImages.com
So have you enjoyed your time off the bike or were you itching to get back out there?
Yeah it was good, well it was frustrating for a while, it was a bit of a worry. I only really had one day were I was pretty down about it all, I went out that night and lost all my worries though. I didn’t drink because I live in the middle of nowhere so it’s a bit of a logistical nightmare when I want to go out and have a drink. I had a nice time though and met a really nice girl that I’m still talking to so it’s all good in that respect, I was stone cold sober! It couldn’t have gone better really and I felt great in the morning not having a hangover.
What’s your next focus then?
Well for the next few races, with all this time off, I’ll be largely playing the domestique team roll, doing what I can for whoever’s really on form and going for it. I’ll be doing things like getting bottles, lead outs and just generally looking after the boys.
Who’s on the next team selection with you?
Errr… [Chuckles] I haven’t the foggiest, I mean I probably should know, it’s all on the website, we get the race brief through a couple of days before we travel. We do so many races with so many people it all just rolls on to the next one, there’s a large number of us. Usually directors ring around everyone a few days before a tour or race to see how everyone’s feeling and how the training’s going and how well they’ll be performing. It also depends on whether the race is going to suit you more than others.
So how are you settling in to Team Sky?
Oh it’s been brilliant, they really do look after their athletes, the support you get when things are up and when you’re down is equal which is something that you may not get with other teams. It’s easy to neglect the riders that have had problems during a season but that certainly isn’t the case here, they all really get looked after. It’s brilliant that all the riders are really prepared to help each other out too. There’s no competitiveness within the team. It’s a fantastic environment to be in.
You were with another great cycling team (Trek-Livestrong) before making the move to Team Sky, so what made you want to move?
I think ultimately I’ve been supported right from the start by the GB squad and British Cycling, from a very early age. Sky is a fantastic team that’s really moving forwards and pushing the boundaries. So the option I guess at the time was Team Radio Shack or Sky. The problem with the Radio Shack offer was that it was only definitely for 1 year, whereas Sky were offering a definite 2 years. Also Dave Brailsford [Team GB and Team Sky Performance Director] phoned me himself to talk about going moving there, but from Radio Shack it was my agent who phoned me to tell me about the contract offer on the table. I mean if the top guy can take the time out and ring me himself it says something about the team and the sort of respect they have for all the individual riders. There were a whole load of factors that contributed to the decision. The Olympics were part of it as well, that’s a big target for me, being part of the collaboration between Team Sky and the GB Team is massive, it means my race programme is completely tailored around being as perfectly prepared as I can be for the Olympics.
Alex riding Ster ZLM Toer - ©Copyright Kevin Kempf
So are you still aiming for the Time Trial in the Olympics?
The way it works is if I ride the time trial I also have to ride the road race, so I think with me being a young rider, whilst I’ll aim for it I think a medal might be out of reach… well in the time trial I’m more likely to be an outside chance of getting a medal. So I’m turning a lot of my focus on being a team player in the road race for Cav [Mark Cavendish], and then it would be a case of making sure he does as well as possible, and then I’ll turn my focus to the Time Trial.
You must be feeling pretty good with your results lately (injury aside), I mean your performance at the Smithfield Nocturne in London and your result in the Commonwealth Games show you’ve got a lot of strength?
Yeah and I think it’s something I can develop as well, I mean come Rio [2016 Olympic Games] I hope to be a gold medal contender. When you’ve got the likes of Tony Martin and Cancellara [Fabian Cancellara] I’m just not at that level yet. I think there’s an age and strength issue. David Millar is a prime example of that: in the Commonwealth Games I showed I have the potential, I was only 3 seconds behind him and then the headwind just completely pulled me apart. It’s just pure strength which comes from the experience these guys have of riding loads of grand tours.
So is the grand tour circuit one of your main goals and aims at the moment? Sky are reasonably new to it, as you are, but the performance they’ve put in has been amazing?
Yeah, well before the Tour, I err… Well there was a possibility of doing the Vuelta [Vuelta a Espana]. Now that I’ve had this injury and that Brad [Bradley Wiggins] said he was gonna hit the Vuelta hard it was no longer an option. My first grand tour may well be the Giro [Giro d’Italia] next year. I did the under-23 Tour de l’Avenir last year which is the under-23 Tour de France basically.
Chris Froome & Alex Dowsett - ©Copyright Kramon
Alex Dowsett - Tour of Utah
Do you think the pressure of the Olympics being so close to the Tour de France next year will mean Team Sky have to rethink who will ride the tour to give Team GB a chance?
Yeah I mean it won’t effect me at all because I don’t think I’ll be a contender. I guess with the likes of Geraint [Thomas] and Brad there’s a few issues there and also there’s a lot of guys in a situation like Edvald Boasson Hagen, I mean what’s he gonna do? We just don’t know to be honest, I think I’ll leave it in the team managements hands, I certainly wouldn’t want to have to make those decisions.
What do you feel is your proudest moment to date, not necessarily the biggest accolade?
I won the under-23 European Championships last year, but eight weeks earlier I was on the floor with a broken shoulder blade and the doctors told me I’d be lucky to get on my bike let alone train for it. I was back on my bike faster than a shoulder blade break, I was on the turbo within a week and back on the road in ten days, and these were the haemophilia doctors saying this, I mean usually a break for me would be two to four weeks just in hospital.
So you’re one of these people who gets a kick out of proving someone wrong?
Yeah, there’s nothing like proving someone wrong to add a little bit of incentive. I have a fair bit of grit. I’m not stupid about it, all within reason. One of the doctors at this hospital (I think she usually works with children), she treated me like a child the whole time, that was the incentive there and then I guess.
As someone with haemophilia did you find as a child that you were discouraged from taking part in sports because of the dangers?
Yeah definitely. Certain sports, particularly contact sports are a big no-go which is understandable, I think it’s something I’m trying to change and encourage as well. I mean it applies to kids in general, there’s so many mainstream sports whereby people judge if you’re not good at them you’re never going to be a sportsman or athlete. My dad was a racing driver so as a kid I did a lot of go-karting, and then swimming, followed by sailing and I moved on to cycling. But I did the sports that you wouldn’t usually stumble across, you just have to have to opportunity to try it out, kids need to be shown and given taster session to get them outdoors. I mean for all I know I might be living next door to a potential Michael Schumacher, but without that chance a child may not have that interest ignited. Obviously that’s just an example, there are plenty of other sports out there that don’t cost a fortune to try out or get involved with.
So you’re really trying to raise the awareness of sport across the board?
Yeah, certainly in the haemophilia community. It’s easy for parents to be scared, they find out about their child having the condition and it’s a deep shock to them. They then just want to wrap the child up in cotton wool, but the fitter you are as a youngster the less problems you’ll have. It’s a bit of a double edged sword. All parents are protective of their children and don’t want to see them get hurt, but a child can gain their independence, strength and confidence through sport, which can help them later in life.
Alex Tour Of Utah, Stage3, 2010 - Image ©Copyright Michael Crook Photography
Were your parents very supportive towards you taking part in sport or was it something they worried about?
Yes they were very supportive, I wouldn’t be were I am at all if it wasn’t for them. When the doctors said that swimming was a great way of keeping my haemophilia at bay, Mum had me swimming five different swimming lessons in five different towns six times a week, she was finding as many swimming lessons as possible. Dad would take me go-karting every Sunday morning, he got me a small dinghy for sailing. They were really supportive for sports that I showed any kind of interest in.
Do they still get nervous when your out on your bike?
Oh yeah, yeah, [chuckles] if I’ve been out for longer than I said I would be my Mum will give me a ring. It wasn’t a problem when I was living in America, she didn’t know where I was, now I’m back in England it’s “Where are you? Are you at home yet?”, “No mum I’m at a cafe”, “Well make sure you give me a ring when you get home… Don’t forget!”, “Yes Mum”.
Though if I forget to take my medication Mum will be on my case. It rarely happens, but I know the day I slip up will be the day that Mum and Dad will be on to me. It’s good, I’m very lucky to have the parents that I have.
How do you go about giving children with haemophilia advice and encouragement to take up sport especially, with the understandable worries parents have? You do think parents should allow kids more freedom?
Yes, I’ve worked with the UK Haemophilia Society now for some time, but now I’m starting to work quite closely with the World Federation of Haemophilia. I’ve done a few interviews for them and basically I’m just trying to share my story and experiences with others. Actually I’ve had a guy on Facebook contact me from the Ukraine recently whose son has been diagnosed and he found an interview and article and sent copies of it to me. It was in Russian which was pretty surreal. He said (and I’ve had a few emails like this and it’s really cool) that my story has helped them. I know how traumatic it was for my parents when they found out, I was 18 months old, it was pretty grim for them. The doctor at the time painted the worst picture possible. If they’d known then what they know now and what sort of life I could have and achieve, then life would have been a lot easier and a lot less stressful for them.
It also impacts on siblings, I have a little sister and there were some rough times, they’d worry that my little sister Lois would get left out, but I’ve got fantastic parents and Lois is a bit of a hard nut herself. We’re all fine, all reasonably normal [laughs].
Alex at Revolution 30 - Image ©Copyright Hope Tranter
What’s your favourite discipline and do you prefer road or track?
Time trial, definitely!… and I have to say road is my preference.
Will you be doing any of the Revolutions at Manchester Velodrome this season?
Yeah, I’ll be doing as many as I can, I’m sure there’ll be one or two that clash with Sky training camps but I’ll be there. I do enjoy them.
A lot of your team have come through the British Cycling Academy as you did, what do you feel are the main benefits you’ve had from the process?
They taught us to look after ourselves and behave like pro riders before we reached that level. I noticed when I went to Livestrong I could actually drop my levels of discipline, whereas a lot of the Livestrong riders that had just come in from junior squads, or just racing in other teams, they had to suddenly raise their game, whereas I could relax a little bit. They covered things like self discipline to organisation, food and obviously training. The academy really teaches you to look after yourself and to be disciplined as well. It also give you a lot of independence with the living arrangements. It’s pretty hard as well, we’d have days in the winter which were grim and you had to survive on just under sixty quid a week. That was just for food basically, but when you’re doing 25 hours a week training you tend to eat quite a bit. You’d have days where you wake up pretty early, ride into the velodrome any weather, have a two hour Italian lesson, then lunch which you had to make yourself and bring in, then a three hour track session, then dinner that you’d had to make yourself and bring with you, then your track league… And then you’d ride home at 11 o’clock at night. To go to bed and get up the next day and do it all over again.
On one occasion, in fact one of my first track sessions, my phone battery had run flat over night. I’d been making a number of calls in the evening and forgotten to charge the phone and I used it as my alarm clock each morning. I ended up missing the first track session. I rang up Rod Ellingworth and said, “Sorry about that, I’ll make it in for the second session though,” and he said, “No, you’ll come into the velodrome now!” and when I got there I had three cars to clean lined up in the car park. I went out and bought myself an alarm clock that night. I wasn’t going to have that happen again! At age 18 it was an eye opener for me, I soon learned. The average kid is starting their first job or heading to university or college and able to mess around a bit or have an off day, so it was a bit of a shock to the system. Our accommodation was in Fallowfield, Manchester which is student central and the flats were above a Wetherspoon’s, next to a nightclub and opposite another nightclub, temptation everywhere. That sorted out who were the ones that were going to make it, though some of the guys that went out did make it through. It was just knowing your limits and getting the balance, there was a time and a place for it.
Alex winning at Smithfield Nocturne 2011 - Image ©Copyright Phil Jones
Talking of going out, do you get much time for a social life? And if and when you do does it revolve around a cycling set?
Erm… The academy was pretty grim at times but it was what you needed to do. Training in Italy was good but it was tough, eight guys who all thought they were gods gift to cycling living under one roof, there were some fireworks but for the most part we all got on. We were stuck in a small town, nobody spoke English. We ate, slept and trained together, that was pretty tough, no escape from each other. Then I went to Livestrong and suddenly I was in America! Living in the States was great because everything they say about the English accent and the girls is absolutely true [laughs]. I also found I was racing better when I was happier. Now I’m back in England I’ve got a good group of mates that live around me, I don’t go nuts, a lot of my nights out are for dinner or down the pub, a cafe or trips to the cinema. I go to the cinema a lot because I’ve got a good friend who’s a bit of a film buff. It got to the point that the only film we hadn’t seen from the current listings was Kung-Fu Panda. He was still up for it but I said, “Nah, this is starting to reach new levels of sadness, we’re gonna have to do something different tonight! No films about martial art bears!”
I take it fairly steady in the season because I know that’s what I need to do. I’m reasonably disciplined about it, the team helps you as much as they can, but at the end of the day it’s up to you. You have a nutritionist that comes round and tells you you can afford to lose one or two kilos to burn off your fat levels but ultimately it’s down to you to make the effort, they can only do so much. The same applies to training and getting yourself ready for races. All the facilities are there, it’s up to you how much you make the most of the opportunity, they can’t make you get out on your bike and put the extra hours in. If you don’t perform you don’t get into races, you don’t get your contract renewed and then you’ll never win! You’ve got everything laid out for you, you just have to grab hold of it and make the most of it.
If you sustain an injury how do they control your medication during a race, are they able to treat your condition on the spot?
Well the beauty of racing with the team now is that there’s always a team doctor at the races, he’s aware of my condition and holds my medication, and when I come down he’s there to scrape me up off the floor, he makes sure I’m alright. It’s all handled really professionally, and the team have really taken it upon themselves to learn everything they can about my condition because it’s pretty unusual and I think I’m the only one in the pro peloton with it. The medication has to be taken every other day but when I fall or get an injury I take more. The medication gets me up to about sixty percent of the levels of a normal person, which is enough to keep any problems like a minor injury caused by crashing at bay. Then if I do find myself on the floor I just take extra. My drugs aren’t controlled substances, it’s not the same as say someone in the pro peloton with asthma, they would have to fill out forms to allow them to use their inhaler. If you’re going to require a drug that can be abused and used as a performance enhancer then you have to fill in a form. A lot of the asthmatic medication would make you test positive. If you have to take a drug that will cause you to test positive then the doctors will give you a form that’s called a therapeutic use exemption form, which they hand in with a sample that says,“This guy’s on this drug, but it’s fine because he’s got asthma.”
Where’s your favourite training ride and what are your favourite stop-off treats?
Oh… A massive cake! I guess I like it a little bit too much. A pre-breakfast ride: I get up, have coffee and then ride on empty for about and hour and luckily about an hour away from me is pretty much the best cafe in Essex so that’s where I spend a lot of my time. It’s called The Blue Egg, the cakes are excellent. I usually have the date and oat slice because I kind of convince myself that it sounds healthy, it’s probably got a lot of butter and sugar in it but they don’t tell you about that, so what you don’t know doesn’t hurt you I guess.
What advice would you give to kids interested in getting involved in cycling?
Get out and try all forms of racing and see which discipline suits you. I think kids should try lots of different sports too, I mean when I first started cycling I was swimming as well and I think it really helped me on the bike. I mean Time Trials were my thing, it was all I did until I was a junior. I first tried the track at about 15, I then started doing it with the junior GB squad at 17.
Alex at the National Road Championships 2011 - ©Copyright Ian Robinson
Click here for Alex’s Facebook Page.
Click here to view Alex’s Twitter feed.
Click here for more about Alex & Team Sky.
Click here to be taken to British Cycling.
For more information about the World Federation of Haemophilia.
To be taken to the UK Haemophilia Society website.
British National Time Trial Champion
5th Overall Tour of Denmark
3rd in Stage 5 (Time Trial)
3rd Overall – Prologue – Ster Zlm Toer (and best young rider prize)
1st Smithfield Nocturne
1st European Time Trial Championships U23
1st Stage 5 Cascade Cycling Classic (USA)
Tour of Utah
2nd Stage 2
Tour de l’Avenir
2nd in Prologue
2nd Commonwealth Games Time Trial
1st Chrono des Nations U23
1st Richmond Grand Prix
1st British Time Trial Championships U23
7th World Time Trial Championships U23
11th European Time Trial Championships U23
3rd Abergavenny International Criterium (UCI 1.2)
4th British U23 Road Race Championships
3rd British Senior 10 mile Time Trial Championships
1st Team Time Trial Tour d’Alsace (UCI 2.2)
1st British Time Trial Championships U23
1st Perfs Pedal Road Race
1st Overall British Premier Calendar U23 Champion
1st Rudy Project Time Trial Series
3rd British Senior 10 mile Time Trial Championships
4th British Senior 25 mile Time Trial Championships
1st British Junior Road Race Championships
1st British Junior 10 mile Time Trial Championships
1st British Junior 25 mile Time Trial Championships
1st Tour of Switzerland 7.7km Time Trial
1st European Junior Team Pursuit Championships
My thanks to Alex and all the photographers.
Click to read Sam’s interview with Alex
©Copyright 2011 Anna Magrath @ Cycling Shorts. Please do not reproduce any content without permission from myself or the photographers.
Mark Langlands - Image ©Copyright Pure Black Racing
Conversation with Mark Langlands of Pure Black Racing
National pride is a powerful motivator and now, as ‘Le Tour de France’ takes center stage, there are many-fans and athletes alike, who wonder what the future of cycling will look like. But there are also those who continue to believe in the beauty of cycling and the tremendous potential it can provide corporations and nations alike.
Enter Carl Williams and his new Pure Black Racing Team. With a personal background at the highest levels of professional sailing and embracing the legendary New Zealand competitive spirit of a country hungry to branch out and challenge the world, Williams is invoking the aura of the hugely popular ‘All Blacks’ rugby team to create a new road racing presence in cycling.
New Zealand is certainly not new to cycling with standout riders the likes of Greg Henderson, Julian Dean and Hayden Roulston who year after year garnering worldwide attention in the pro peloton. Up until recently though, the emphasis for most up and coming Kiwi cyclists has been on the track. Pure Black Racing is out to change that, with the support of the national cycling federation and a growing list of enthusiastic sponsors and young riders, hungry to compete with the best.
The team has created a lot of early season buzz with the successes of Roman Van Uden and Mike Nothey at San Dimas, and Tim Gudsell taking the overall at Sommerville. With the additional experience of NRC pro Glen Chadwick providing a strong backbone for the team, the young New Zealand Pure Black riders, racing abroad in the US many for the first time, have plenty of motivation from their mates and their management.
I was on hand at the recent Air Force Crystal Classic, where the young Pure Black Racing Team was putting up impressive performances in a very competitive field. We caught up with rider Mark Langlands and got a look inside this exciting new team, its reliance on culture and the hopes for the future…
How did you get started in cycling?
Mark Langlands: I started doing BMX when I was 5 years old, continued with that until I was 13. There was really no opportunities to represent NZ until I was 18, so started Road Cycling when I was 12, and stopped doing BMX a year later.
Do you remember your first bike and any adventures that made you love to jump on your bike and ride?
Mark: I can’t remember my first BMX bike, but I do remember building some jumps on the driveway and throwing myself over them. Living on a farm, my Dad built us a track in one of the paddocks and we’d spend hours just riding up and down, normally coming back inside when some skin was missing or something was broken. My first road bike was an Apollo, I’d just get on and ride, go exploring and finding new roads and places.
What led to you getting your first pro contract?
Mark: I was approached by fellow Pure Black rider Mike Northey at Tour of Wellington in 2010 and asked if I wanted to join the Bici Vida Team that he was a part of at the time. Carl Williams, who was the director, got in contact with me and it sort of snowballed from there. I rode the 2010 season in New Zealand for Bici Vida, which just before Tour of Southland in November became Pure Black Racing and gained a UCI Continental Licence.
Do you think the concept of “team” on and off the course helps keep the team together. Would it be the same professional group without it?
Mark: Of course. When Carl put the team together he wanted to bring a group of guys together that got along well with each other. I think if the team was made up of riders who believed that they were constantly better than the others, then we would not have the same atmosphere within the team.
How often during the season do you race? When does your season begin & end? Do you race here [USA] and then back in NZ or is Boulder your home away from home for now?
Mark: Its kind of hard to determine when the season begins and ends for us. With our National Champs in January, its pretty important to be going well for that. So prior to that we’ve got a block of domestic racing from October through to the end of January, which incorporates the Tours of Southland and Wellington. Then with Pure Black, we race here in the United States from March until August, doing the NRC races and a few UCI tours, which is the most important part of the year for us. So our year is split between living in Boulder, and back home in NZ.
Cycling is a team sport with riders dependent on a tight knit group for support, but there seems to be something special about teams from New Zealand and Australia. Do you feel this is the case? What do you think accounts for it?
Mark: I guess being from a bottom end of the world and geographically isolated from the main cycling nations, when we do come away as a team overseas we are willing to sacrifice ourselves for each other to show that we are genuine contenders against those nations. And the satisfaction of proving that we can achieve results as a small cycling nation, makes the determination to get those results all the more greater. Even off the bike, especially here in Boulder, the Kiwis and the Aussies get on well together. I mean NZ is pretty much part of Australia according to most people over here so we should get along.
Do you have certain races right now where you are designated to score a victory or be the lead rider? Or is your job right now to ride mainly in support of others? Does that role change during a race (stage or one-day) or is it generally planned out ahead of time?
Mark: Not at this stage. At the moment, I’m content with being a support rider for the leaders of the team. If the opportunity arises to get a result however, then I won’t turn it down. I guess it can change slightly depending on whether people have good or bad days during a stage race or one-day race, and how the race unfolds on the road. We’re always able to adjust to what happens to ensure the best result possible for the team.
How would you define the term cycling “domestique” and what do you think that cyclist’s role is?
Mark: Someone who is unselfish enough to sacrifice their result to ensure the team as a whole gets a result.
Tell me a little about the mental side of riding in support of someone in a race. How do you “suffer” for someone else?
Mark: For me, first of all, I believe its a matter of respect for the person you are riding for. If you don’t have respect for that person, then you can’t suffer and hurt yourself to support them. I think once you have respect, then the mental part comes easily. If you start to doubt the other riders ability then it makes it that much harder to ride for them, so you have to back yourself to do your job but being able to push yourself that much further as a support rider is having confidence in your team mates ability as well.
Do you have a mentor on the team or are most of you guys about the same age and time in cycling?
Mark: Most of the guys are around the same age within the team, but one person who I do admire as a rider is Tim Gudsell. We both belong to the same club back in New Zealand, and he’s helped me from when I was a young rider through to being a member of Pure Black, so I have the upmost respect for him as a rider and a person. And now riding together with him in the same team, makes it pretty incredible to be riding with a person you have so much respect for.
You’ve had some serious injuries in cycling and have come back to be a great cyclist. Do you think the time away in recovery changed you in any way?
Mark: I think more than anything, the time I had in recovery made me realise how much I loved the sport of Cycling. I was just more determined to make it back, prove to myself I could make it back, and I think that mentally strengthened me to push myself harder to achieve my goals, not only as a cyclist, but also in life as well.
At the Air Force Crystal Cup race, some of you guys had a fun day out and about on rental City Bikes and saw the sights of Washington DC. On Pure Black is there a good feeling of comaraderie between all the members of the team? Tell me a bit about the team dynamic on and off the race.
Mark: Definitely! We are all friends on and off the bike, which makes it easier to gel together when we are racing. Back here in Boulder, we’re always having a BBQ at team mates houses, which is good to have a bit of relaxing time away from the bike. When we’re away from the bike, we’re all relaxed, when its race time, we’re all there in support of one another. There’s no ego’s in the team which also produces a real good dynamic between the riders and staff, whether we’re at a race or back here in Boulder.
Team Pure Black Racing - Image ©Copyright Pure Black Racing
You’ve written some great race pieces for the Team website. Is that something you enjoy doing in the off time–writing? Do you have any off the bike hobbies?
Mark: Ha ha! I do quite enjoy writing, I’m pretty useless at having an artistic side so if I can paint a picture using words then that’s my art coming through. I was actually doing Journalism at University last year but I wasn’t able to bring through my own personal flair, I felt a bit too restricted, so now I just write for my own pleasure and let people enjoy the flair I try to get into my writing.
I also find that cooking is pretty therapeutic for me, I enjoy getting my creative streak on in the kitchen, trying new things and creating something from nothing.
I’ve also got a passion for wine, hopefully once I get back to New Zealand I’ll plant myself a couple of rows of vines out the back of my house, a combination of Malbec and Pinot Gris vines to create my own wine. I want to own my own vineyard at some point in the future.
I think its good to have interests outside of cycling, it gets one out of the monotony of just riding your bike each day.
Who is your favorite top Pro-Tour cyclist? Did you have any favorite riders as a kid, or did you have heros from other sports (or from life or history)?
Mark: I don’t so much have a favourite Pro Tour cyclist, though I do admire Edvald Boasson-Hagen. It’s kind of hard to have a favourite when you don’t know the person personally. I can only do what my own personal abilities and determination allow me to do.
Outside of road cycling, I admire my brother [Paul Langlands] as a freestyle BMX rider. To be honest, I used to think it was all a big joke, it wasn’t really a sport. But after watching the skill involved, and the risk he puts himself through, it is pretty impressive. My coach, Brendon Cameron is another person who I look up to as a person and mentor. He has been helping me since I was a skinny little baggy-shorted rider coming into the bike shop when I first started, and both him and his partner Sarah, have been there for me throughout my career.
Thanks to Avanti, Shimano, Pure Black Racing, Kenda and Peak Fuel.