Team IG-Sigma Sport Presentation 2012 - Image ©Copyright Team IG-Sigma Sport
Team Sigmasport-Specialized of 2011 has become Team IG-Sigmasport of 2012, to most this is a name change and not much else but in reality it’s a lot more than that, it’s a new direction and a great new opportunity but it’s also a great reflection on the direction cycling is taking in the UK at the moment.
The last two years has seen a lot of development within the Sigmasport-Specialized team and it’s been great to be part of it. Since I joined the team for the 2010 season we have gone onto become UCI registered, take in the Tour of Britain, Tour Series, Premier Calendars, stood on national podiums and enhanced our reputation across the water in Europe competing in France, Belgium and Holland. The team’s development has mirrored that of the flagship store of Sigmasport down in Kingston Upon Themes, which now operates out a grand new building and feeds the ever growing appetite of a new breed of cyclists.
It’s been exciting to be involved with the development, as a fan of the sport you see us riding around criterium’s or plugging through road races, but it’s not all about the racing. Spending time with sponsors and promoting events and products is just as much part of the job now. As interest in the sport has grown, so has the responsibility to be accessible and open to your own sponsors and the public who want to become involved at events throughout the year.
So now moving into 2012 the team has taken a new step, another stage in its development. IG Markets have come on board as title sponsor and our role as riders has grown even more diverse and important. The first month of the season has seen me standing on the rooftop of IG Markets in Central London for a photoshoot, heading fourteen hours across the world to Singapore for a Criterium, doing laps of Manchester Velodrome with a camera attached to the bike and having a shiny launch of new kit and products in the big smoke of London. Of course there’s been some bike racing too, that is after all the ‘day job’, in fact it’s been a strong start for the team in its new guise with five race wins already under the belt.
It’s race wins that make a successful team but with cycling’s new corporate popularity and with more and more of the wider public choosing to watch and become involved in the sport it’s key to be open and accessible to develop that ‘ownership’ vibe so people in the offices of IG Markets of whoever your sponsor may be can relate to you and truly feel part of the team and journey.
After stepping off the plane in Singapore and having some rest we were taken to meet some of the IG Markets employees of the Singapore office, while they enjoyed meeting the faces behind the jersey’s they see and support, it was great for us as riders to meet people that follow you from half way across the globe. They may follow us through social media or websites but now they have a face to put to the image and report too, it was great to develop that link with them.
It’s great that cycling while increasing in popularity and demand does keep this accessibility. So a team name for us this season is much more than just a shuffling of the title, it’s an opportunity to push the team in new places and develop the connection the public and sponsors have with the team both at events and away from them. It give’s everyone a slice of the action!
You can see Team IG-Sigmasport at all of Britain’s top races this season and follow them through both Twitter and Facebook. You can now also log into the riders training and race information through the Strava website and find out more details on the team’s own website. Now you can’t get anymore helpful than that!
This is my first blog for a while and I think it comes at an appropriate time of my season. My last blog took us up to the end of our second team training camp. This point marked the end of my winter training and the beginning of my 2012 racing season. I had already spent 3-4 weeks away with my new team mates and as the start of the season drew closer, the exciting talks of racing were growing evermore common. Personally I couldn’t wait to take off the legwarmers and get stuck in.
My season started relatively quietly with a local 25 mile TT. A very cold Sunday morning in Sussex marked my first race, where I was entitled to proudly pull on my Rapha Condor Sharp skinsuit for the first time. Although the TT itself was hugely uncomfortable and not particularly quick, it felt good to lay down a definitive marker and I can now monitor my improvement as the year progresses. More importantly it meant the season had now officially started.
My first big race for the team was the UCI 2.1 classified Tour de Taiwan. But before I jetted off to the other side of the globe, I was looking to fit in a few more races to help ease the always painful transition from training to racing. I was lucky enough to be given the offer to stay up North with my team mate Rich Handley – I got to know Rich quite well after sharing a room with for the duration of our first training camp in Lanzarote. It appears I didn’t annoy him too much first time round, so he was willing to accommodate me at his home for a weekend of training and racing. Along with a few of our other team mates, we raced in the Eddie Soens Memorial and CDNW Pimbo circuit races. I was pleasantly surprised with how I felt in the season openers and picked up 6th on the Saturday and 9th on the Sunday.
Tuesday afternoon I was dropped off at Manchester Airport to meet the members of the team I was travelling to Asia with; Luke (Mellor), Andy (Tennant) and Pete (Taylor). You can always sense the disappointment of the person behind the check-in desk at the airport who has to deal with us and this time was no exception as we had quite a large entourage of baggage to stow away on the plane; 7 bike bags, 8 suitcases and 1 very lanky rider. Our flight plan would add a few more pins into the chart on my wall with the journey taking us from Manchester to Amsterdam to Bangkok and finally to Taipei.
With no apparent signs of jet lag on arrival, the few days we had before the start of the race flew by. A few short rides, lots of Starbucks coffee, birthday cake purchasing, press conferences and probably too much twitter were what filled my time. After receiving our race programme it quickly became apparent that we weren’t going to be waking up any later than 6am at any point during the race. I generally don’t have a problem with early starts and here was no different but I did find myself struggling to stay awake past 9:30 most evenings.
Stage 1 was a short, very wet 55km crit around the centre of Taipei city. The short distance, bad weather and tight corners suited my style of riding quite a lot. I was pretty nervous before the start – as John picked up on when I couldn’t stop fidgeting – as I didn’t really have any idea how I was going to compare to the highest ranked field I’d ever raced against. I was fortunate enough to be given a nice initiation into this level of racing with a fast but comfortable first stage where I picked up 4th in the bunch sprint, which was good enough for 10th on the stage. However, the following few stages weren’t as kind.
The next 3 days involved me suffering, wheel sucking and trying my best not to get dropped from the main group too early. Even after a nice first stage, in my head I knew I was going to take a bit of a kicking. Last year whilst stage racing, although I experienced some good stages I also experienced a lot of bad days where I was struggling from the start to the very end of the stage. Naturally, taking a step up from the racing I did last year I expected it to be harder, so I think not underestimating how hard it was going to be was what helped me get through those first few days. I wasn’t panicking about my performances at night and wasn’t dreading getting up for the race in the morning – quite the contrary as although I wasn’t performing as well as the rest of the team, I was still loving the racing.
After a tough 5 days and my personal goal of reaching the finish of the race nearly complete, I was given the opportunity of trying to get in the days break away. Stage 6 was my best chance, when the break was let go within the first couple of km’s. This marked for me, personally my worst day of the tour. Sitting in the bunch steadily riding along knowing I could’ve been in the break wasn’t a nice feeling and to top off a very long drawn out day, I got burnt to a crisp by the sudden heat wave shortly after the start – 35 degree sun and pale Irish skin without any suncream is a terrible combination. After the disappointment of not capitalizing on my role of getting in the early break-away on stage 6, I was determined to rectify that on stage 7 and must’ve followed over 10 attacks within the first hour but to no avail. The not too shabby average speed of 49 km/h probably had something to do with that. The end of the race was tarred with an unfortunate event. A fast technical finish looked to be the perfect end to our tour, with Deano [Dean Downing] and Ben (Grenda) both up well within the top 10 with 500m to go but some bad dangerous riding from another rider saw Ben being taken down and bouncing down the tarmac on his ass. Not a nice end to Ben’s tour, especially after his solid performances taking a 5th and a 6th.
Looking back now I am pretty satisfied that I got through the race. I loved the experience and it felt great to finally get involved in some racing after months of excitedly anticipating lining up with my new team mates. International stage racing has definitely become one of my most favourite aspects of the sport in the last few years. I relish the way the team comes together throughout the race to help each other achieve the best results possible and to get each other through the lows as well as the highs is something that I haven’t yet experienced anywhere else. Although in the Tour de Taiwan I was at times disappointed that I wasn’t able to help my team mates more, I think the experience gained there will stand be in good stead for the rest of the season.
From this moment I have quite a busy 4 weeks ahead of me. This Saturday (24th March) I’m racing for the first time since Taiwan in a short hilly circuit race in East London. I then move to my next race with the team the following Sunday – the Dengie Marsh classic premier calendar. After that I fly to Belfast for the 4 day stage race: the Tour of the North. Finally, I fly out to Holland to compete in the ZLM U23 Nations Cup event, where I will be riding my first race of 2012 for the Irish National team. A busy, but very exciting few weeks ahead and I can’t wait to get racing again.
1st Snow Ride Of The Season By Will_Cyclist
Santa is coming with many gifts for all of those who have been good this year and I’m sure everyone is getting ready to have a nice dinner and spend time with their families this weekend. But how is Christmas in the life of a bike rider??
For road riders this is the off-season, they don’t have any races at this time of the year, its more about recovering and getting in shape for the next season. But for track riders and cyclocross riders this is where they need to be 100% and really focused on riding their bikes and pushing themselves further in races. Don’t ask me much about MTB, BMX and other cycling disciplines because to be honest I really don’t know much about those disciplines!
Lets start with road riders; I think the hardest thing for them is to stay in shape, at Christmas there’s a lot of good food and people tend to gain weight in the winter, that’s something that a bike rider and especially a road rider can’t allow themselves to do as weight does matter!
Drem Airfiled Snow Ride By Jason Liddell
There are usually training camps with their team to build up relationships with new and old teammates and to get a nice block of training for the next season under their belt, they need to stay focused to achieve their goals for the upcoming season and manage their time wisely to also be able to spend quality time with the family.
It’s harder when you live in one of those really cold countries in Europe where there is a lot of snow and rain during the winter and you need to go to other places to train, my boyfriend, Jetse Bol had to go to Fuerteaventura for training last year and couldn’t spend “Sinterklaas” (it’s what Dutchies celebrate over Christmas) with his family in Holland.
Things are a bit more complicated for the ‘cross and track riders, they are in the middle of the season right now and they do have to train and compete at the highest level in the World. The cross riders have a World Cup on December 26th and plenty of other races after that which means they probably won’t be out celebrating on New Year’s Eve!
The track riders don’t have big races close to Christmas but for example, the case of my sister Sofia; she is based in Mallorca during the winter because it’s better for training than Mexico and because it’s easier to travel to all the races but she was lucky that there was a World Cup in Colombia this month so she could come over to Mexico to spend Christmas at home but she is flying to Mallorca on the 26th in order to get ready for her next event in Beijing.
Sometimes you need to make some sacrifices and sometimes you are lucky enough to be able to do it all but in the end all that matters is achieving the goals set for the season, the Olympic year is coming!!!