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!
- Jody chats to Jiří Ježek – Para-Cycling Track World Championships – ©Copyright Christina Kelkel
Jody Cundy MBE
After qualifying third in a time of 4:55.958 in the morning, Jody was facing Roberto Garcia Alcaide (ESP, 4:57.622) in the final for Bronze tonight. Motivated by his unlucky qualification run, Jody was off for a quick start and well ahead of his opponent after lap 2 already. Quickly closing in on Alcaide, Jody did not waste any time and managed to catch the Spaniard in lap 5 to take the Bronze medal.
After the race, Jody said “We had not planned to go for the catch so it was quite a surprise to have him in sight after lap 2 already. I was a little disappointed with my performance this morning when I was off pace, so we decided to change a few things and ride the same schedule again. We changed the gearing after the qualifying and without any distractions on the track, I could fully concentrate on my racing so I felt much better tonight than I did this morning.”
Even though Jody did not manage to improve on his previous World Championships performance in Montichiari where he won a Silver, Jody feels confident that his result is a step in the right direction: “Ultimately, London is my main goal and I am still learning in the pursuit. It’s a very different event to the kilo but I am not a million miles off from where I want to be, so everything is pointing into the right direction. Of course, I would have liked to post a faster time in the qualifying as my time didn’t reflect my good shape at the moment, but it is all about the learning experience and we learned a lot today!
Mark catches Juan Jose Mendez Fernandez - Para-Cycling Track World Championships - ©Copyright Christina Kelkel
After Mark qualified second fastest in the C1’s 3km Individual Pursuit in a time of 4:06.895 he was facing Spaniard Juan Jose Mendez Fernandez (4:06.285) for Gold tonight.
Mark got off for a very good start and managed to close in lap after lap on his opponent, finally catching him to take his first ever Para-Cycling World Championship Gold in his first International track competition! Mark said “I have come a long way after breaking my back in a paragliding accident in 2009 and I feel like all the hard work I have put in over the last 2 years is paying off now. It’s a dream come true and I can’t wait to tell my family later tonight!”
Mark Gold Podium - ©Copyright Christina Kelkel
Today had held a mixed bag of emotions for Mark, after his classification was challenged and he had to present himself to the classifiers between his qualifying race and the final for Gold. “I kind of expected this and always had it in the back of my mind. After all, it’s not common for a Paralympic Champion (Michael Teuber) to get overlapped in qualifying” Mark commented. However, after 2 hours of examination the commissairs confirmed Mark’s classification as a C1 so he was able to ride to Gold in the 3km Pursuit. “I am really happy all doubts have been cleared and I can now fully concentrate on the kilo tomorrow. I feel quite confident having achieved my first goal for these World Championships, so I’ll just enjoy the race tomorrow.”
Jody shows off his Bronze Medal - ©Copyright Christina Kelkel
Tomorrow will see Mark racing in the 1km Time Trial, which will be his final competition at these year’s Para-Cycling Track World Championships and also the last chance to leave a lasting impression with the GB staff before the London Paralympic Games.
After today’s pursuit, Jody is now looking forward to his favorite discipline, the 1km Time Trial, in which he is defending champion and WR holder. “I am in good form and I feel much more in control riding the kilo, but the track in LA is not as fast as Manchester or Montichiari, so breaking my WR will be tough”.
Following a discussion with the UCI Management Committee, the UCI overruled their decision to enforce rule 1.3.022 (stating that no rider is allowed to wear overshoes during competition) after tonight’s racing. This means that all riders will now be allowed to wear overshoes for the reminder of the competition.
Follow @christinakelkel @jodycundy & @markcolbourne and @BCreports on twitter for updates from track centre.
Rob Hayles Retirement Presentation - Image ©Copyright Ben Dando @ Cycling Shorts.
Saturday night saw the arrival of the much anticipated second Revolution of the season and the return of Mark Cavendish to the track after more than 2 years. Mark’s last outing was at the World Championships in 2009 and as a former World Madison Champion it was great to see him back at the track reunited (if only for a manly hug) with his former partner Rob Hayles. Since then we’ve witnessed Cavendish conquer the road in his gutsy and punchy style. It would be great to see what he could achieve tonight.
We arrived to set up about 4pm and the press and team areas were already buzzing, everyone was talking about Cav and whether he’d arrived yet. After investigating we heard the news that he had already arrived before most of the press had even got parked, he was keeping a low profile until later… who could blame him. Every new arrival to the press area wanted to know if Cav was doing interviews and could they be added to the list. It was all very vague, he wasn’t really wanting to do interviews and it would be a case of catching him if and when you could, and IF his PR would let you get near him. It didn’t seem to dampen the enthusiasm of the collective.
The atmosphere seemed to be fuelled by events at a larger venue across the road, Man City were playing at home to Newcastle United and you could hear the cheers of the home crowd as the goals went in… 3 in total. The velodrome car park and SportsCity were overflowing with football fans cars, so I was quite surprised to see the steady flow of Revolution season ticket holders when their doors were opened at about the time Manchester City fans were merrily leaving, it must have been gridlock outside as the football crowds dispersed and cycling fans attempted to park.
Matt Crampton and Callum Skinner - Image ©Copyright Ben Dando @ Cycling Shorts.
Cyclists were already warming up in their team bays, there was a steady stream of people from the media area back and forth to the Howies team area to see if the Manx man was about to appear. Other riders were also grabbing a lot of attention, Team Sky were represented by Geraint Thomas and Alex Dowsett after their hugely successful long road seasons and the media were hungry for soundbites, Rapha had the imposing figure of Ed Clancy.
Finally the compact figure of Mark Cavendish appeared looking smartly groomed sporting his pristine World Champion Jersey, a huge smile and what looked like a Movember Moustache or it could have just been an out of season look, there were a couple of slightly fuzz covered faces about, possibly tache attempts, facial hair isn’t the usual sight at a track meet.
Team UK Youth were being headed by their charismatic co-owner, the always delightful Magnus Backstedt who was feverishly signing autographs throughout the evening for anyone who asked, taking time to have conversations with all the young boys and girls who approached him, most of whom barely came up to his knees, bent double he would reach down to take their notepads and comment on their cool sunglasses, telling them how smart they looked in their replica team shirts, this made their day and with little puffed out chests and beaming smiles they headed back autographs and pens in hand to their mums and dads. Magnus really is in his element at these sorts of events connecting so well with the public. Tonight he would have a bike frame up for grabs as a prize for a Team UK Youth Prize Draw and tickets were selling like hot cakes. We grabbed a few words with Magnus, “It’s great to see such a huge crowd, I really enjoy being back at the track and hopefully the team will perform well tonight.”
There were less international cyclists presents at this Revolution, there may not have been quantity but there certainly was quality in the shape of flamboyant Franco Marvulli and Iljo Keisse the European Madison Champion. ITV4 were setting up their pundit station by the finish line which is now part of the Revolution experience, Ned Boulting flitting around from the media area to his set chatting away with the recently retired Rob Hayes his presenting partner. When the doors finally opened you could feel the excitement in the crowd, the whole velodrome was packed to the rafters, no spare standing room around the curves, all seats taken, the VIP area was about to take it’s first dinner course of the evening.
The riders swarmed around the track doing a few warm up laps and with about 20 minutes to go Mark Cavendish decided to take to the boards and the crown went wild, his distinct hunched riding style, trademark thick framed sunglasses and diminutive torso highlighted by his banded white jersey really stood out in the peloton of rather rangy leggy riders. When the teams were introduced before racing commenced and Howies took their turn to ride the Cote d’Azur Mark received a standing ovation. I grabbed a word with Geraint, how do you feel being back at the track? “It’s great and it’s going to be a special night, the crowd’s really buzzing and we haven’t even started yet!”
Before proceedings got underway with the Elite Motor Paced Scratch Race we witnessed Hugh Porter, who had obviously lost track of time chatting in the centre of the velodrome doing some speedy manoeuvres up the banking followed by Starsky & Hutch style acrobatics over the track railings to get back up to his commentary position, surprisingly nimble, blink and you’d miss him.
Mark Cavendish - ©Copyright Ben Dando @ Cycling Shorts.
The motor paced scratch race was over 6km and featured a top line up of endurance riders. Mark Cavendish and the Sky riders (Alex Dowsett, Geraint Thomas and Pete Kennaugh) were at the front of the pack, it was almost like a practice lead out train for next season, I’m not sure anyone had told Cav he wasn’t yet on the Sky team, but he stayed in his usual position that alerts others capable of a sprint finish to pay attention. In the end Steven Burke of Team UK Youth rushed to the front with just enough time left to wind it up and prevent Cav from jumping off the pack, he took the race in style.
The DHL Future Stars Boys then hit the track for what turned out to be a thrills and spills packed Scratch Race, the current Championship leader Ryan Whatmough took a nasty fall along with a number of other riders in two separate crashes in the back straight. Chris Lawless put in a major effort to stay away from the pack for a large chunk of the race but in the end the win went to his Maxgear teammate Jake Ragen, 2nd was Jake Kelly and 3rd was Jack Hoyle. This would prove to be the start of a great evening for Ragen. There was another interesting tussle going on in the centre of the track for those who had been sent to report on the event, a mele of press surrounded Mark Cavendish which I imagine may have started to get under his skin as the evening progressed, he could hardly move.
Mark finally took up his position to be interviewed by ITV4 for their television highlights show while the sprinters took to the track. We were also treated to a bumper selection of British sprinters, just four of them but all quality riders, Matt Crampton, Dave Daniell, Pete Mitchell and Callum Skinner. The first event for them was the 200m Time Trial and they all put in great performances but Dave Daniell pushed Matt Crampton into second place.
In the Revolution Series there is really only one girl who you need to mention… Emily Kay (Cunga Bikes), Emily has won the Championship two years running and in the first Revolution of this series she cleaned up by taking all three races in style, her ability to time her moves to perfection is unmatched, she knows when to sit in the wheels and when to wind it up to take sprint points, she has amazing tactics and out powers the whole field Emily really is a tour de force. There’s no doubt in my mind Emily is a going to play a major role in the British Cycling team in years to come, she’s destined to be a household name. The only girl to make an impact on Emily all evening was Ellie Coster in the first of the Girls races The DHL Future Stars Points Race. Emily gained maximum points during the race but Ellie took the final 5 points on the finish line, it still left Emily with a comfortable win and I’m not even sure if Emily might have sat back at the finish to preserve energy for the following two races ahead. She went on to win the Elimination and Scratch races with ease, in the Elimination race Ellie pushed for second place again, she’s really trying to make a mark against the dominating run Kay is having. Emily took the whole thing in her stride, definitely the girl of the evening and the season so far! Hats off to you Emily.
Where it went wrong for Rouleur Sam Harrison & Joe Kelly - Image ©Copyright Ben Dando @ Cycling Shorts.
The madison time trial didn’t pass without incident, unfortunately Rouleurs team of Sam Harrison and Manx man Joe Kelly came unstuck with their hand sling, the approach didn’t look good from our vantage point they didn’t seem to be matching their speed, Sam seemed ahead of Joe by quite a way and Sam seemed to grab at Joe’s handlebars thinking it was a hand and Joe grabbed Sam nearer the elbow, I’m not sure which element of the switchover caused what happened next, it was probably a combination of things but both rider came clattering down in front of the press area and Joe didn’t appear to move for quite a while. They did eventually get to their feet but the evening ended there for Joe as it was announced he was still concussed later in the evening and Sam appeared to retire too. The rest of the Madison event was fast paced with Ed Clancy and Andy Tennant riding a 55.351 which was more than enough for them to take victory, Sky came in 2nd over 2 seconds down followed by Howies (Cavendish and Andy Fenn) over half a second down on Sky.
The rest of the DHL Boys races were taken by Oliver Wood which bumped him up the overall standings but unfortunately it wasn’t enough to take the lead in the championship, the position was up for grabs after Whatmough’s fall in the first race and he was carrying injuries all evening but Jake Ragen put in some good consistent results after his earlier win and that gave him the edge over Wood. He gained a 2nd place in the Elimination and a 3rd place in the Points Race.
In the Elite Team Elimination the first team to go out was Team Sky, Cav was living dangerously near the back for most of the race, when the fourth team (Maxgear) were caught out Cav just nudged ahead but Howies couldn’t hang on much longer and the next and final elimination was Cavendish and his Team, they managed 3rd. The victorious team was Rapha with Keisse putting in a great ride representing the whole Rouleur team on his own as Kelly and Harrison retired. The big surprise was Team Sky being caught out at the first elimination.
Over the 3 rounds of the Revolution Sprint Matt Crampton got the better of the field stacking up some omnium points and doing the same in the Keirin by pipping Callum Skinner to the post, but it wasn’t enough to take the overall Sprint Omnium title from Dave Daniell who had been consistent all evening after his initial win in the 200m TT and his emphatic win in the 500m TT at the end of the evening.
In the Australian Pursuit Sky redeemed themselves after their disappointing result in the Elimination Race when Peter Kennaugh won over David O’Loughlin (Cunga Bikes).
Rob Hayes & Mark Cavendish interview - Image ©Copyright Ben Dando @ Cycling Shorts.
After the Pursuit there was a special presentation to mark Rob Hayles retirement, Rob did a lap of honour to yet another standing ovation he then rode through a guard of honour of all the elite riders with their bikes, Rob then dismounted and was greet with a hug by his old madison partner Mark Cavendish. Rob and Mark where then interviewed together by the ever enthusiastic Hugh Porter, he reminded everyone that Mark’s next major competition would be the BBC Sports Personality of the Year and he urged all present to vote for him… and who can argue with that… I urge you to do the same, I can’t think of a sportsman or woman who deserves it more! So don’t forget to have his number on speed dial on the evening of 22nd December 2011, it will be broadcast live from MediaCity, Salford Quays, Manchester, UK.
The real highlight of the evening was the Scratch Race, Team Sky really showed their strength, first of all Alex Dowsett rode off the front whcih has become his trademark all season, seeing the danger the peloton pulled him back and a small peloton of riders went off the front for a few laps. Spotting a chance Geraint Thomas and Peter Kennaugh leapt off the front to break away, it was almost like Sky had scripted the race, but they only stayed away briefly and gave up and returned to the pack, it seemed like they were waiting for someone to come and join them. Then there was a second attack from Alex Dowsett, now it became clear they were just trying to tire the whole pack by hitting and hitting again. Ed Clancy had had enough of this and saw his chance to go but Sky were on to him and Geraint pulled him back. Through all of this the crowd were going wild and everyone was on their feet, everyone had their eye on Cav who was sat on Franco Marvulli’s wheel, he basically stayed up front and out of trouble in around 5th place most of the race, assessing the field the whole time, he looked so at home. With five laps to go he was still sitting pretty in 5th and as the tempo raised his Howies lead out man Jon Mould dropped off the front and the Manx Missile launched. It was an awesome sight to see such speed and acceleration at the Manchester Velodrome where it all began for Mark. He crossed the line in style and the whole velodrome erupted.
Magnus’s hopes came to fruition tonight when Team UK Youth stepped onto the podium to take the lead in the Team Championship.
It was one of the best evenings of cycling I’ve seen in a long while and you can see the highlights for yourself at 7pm on ITV4 (UK) tonight!
Jake Ragen and Emily Kay lead the Future Stars Championship - Image ©Copyright Ben Dando @ Cycling Shorts.
Team UK Youth: Steven Burke, James Lowsley Williams & Magnus Backstedt - Image ©Copyright Ben Dando @ Cycling Shorts.
Motor Paced Scratch Race – Steven Burke Team UK Youth
DHL Future Stars Scratch Race – Boys – Jake Ragen Maxgear Racing
Revolution Sprint Omnium – 200m TT – Dave Daniell 10.285
DHL Future Stars Points Race – Girls – Emily Kay Cunga Bikes
1km Madison Time Trial – Ed Clancy and Andy Tennant Rapha Condor Sharp
DHL Future Stars Elimination – Boys – Oliver Wood
Revolution Sprint Round 1 – Heat 1 – Matt Crampton 10.606 Heat 2 Dave Daniell 10.647
Team Elimination – Rapha Condor Sharp (Andy Tennant)
DHL Future Stars Scratch Race – Girls – Emily Kay
Revolution Sprint Round 2 – Heat 1 Matt Crampton 10.716 Heat 2 Dave Daniell 10.909
Australian Pursuit – Peter Kennaugh Team Sky
Revolution Sprint Round 3 – Heat 1 Matt Crampton 10.831 Heat 2 Callum Skinner 10.951
DHL Future Stars Points Race – Boys – Oliver Wood
Cycling Weekly Keirin – Matt Crampton 10.595
DHL Future Stars Elimination – Girls – Emily Kay
Scratch Race – Mark Cavendish
Revolution Sprint – 4 station 500m TT – Dave Daniell 32.545 (who wins Omnium with opts)
Overall Points Leaders after two rounds:
Team Leaders – Team UK Youth
Future Stars Girls – Emily Kay
Future Stars Boys – Jake Ragen
The week just gone saw my first camp as a rider of the Olympic Development Programme, followed by this years first round of the Revolution Series.
Me @ Revolution 33 ©Copyright Ben Dando @ Cycling Shorts.
The hills around Huddersfield and Denshaw set the scene for my first ODP camp, it was a tough four days, with Mountain Bikers and Track and Road riders under one roof. By the time Track League on Manchester came around, Tuesday evening, I was shattered, in fact everyone other than Super Sam Lowe seemed to be, he dished out the pain, whilst I started the long process of hammering myself into a junior rider. The legs where falling off, although its not surprising just back from my winter break, plenty of time to get the legs going again.
After a few days of recovery, it was back up to Manchester for the first round of Revs representing Rapha Condor Sharp, I was hoping to do a good ride, infront of a packed out crowd, with my sponsors names on my chest. However today was one of those, thankfully, pretty unusual days when I felt absolutely shocking! The highlight of my night was an attack in the opening scratch race, with Luc (Luc Hall, Maxgear), however it was not to be. I put in another effort to try to lead out Jack Hoyle, my first year, sprinter – (he wont mind me saying it!) team mate, however I was pretty gassed, he pulled out a 4th, good result for a first year, but we can both do better!
Another highlight of the night was talking to Jens Mouris. The Vacansoleil rider rode all the big classics this year, and is making a big move to the new Australian GreenEDGE team next year. His eagerness to have a chat and share some knowledge was really great and I will be defiantly looking out for his name in the results from now on!
Jens Mouris about to ride and win the Australian Pursuit at Revolution 33 - ©Copyright Chris Dando @ Cycling Shorts.
I will be hopefully riding the next Revolution on November the 19th. The new World Road Race Champion Mark Cavendish is also riding so im sure the crowd will be even more nuts that usual! Plenty of miles to get in the legs between now and then, English Coursework to get on with tonight. One last thing, what do you reckon of me in RCS kit?!
Revolution 28 Girls Future Stars Madison - Amy Hill & Amy Roberts - Image ©Copyright Anna Magrath
Yes that’s right, it’s that time of the year when our attention here in Europe turns to the warmth of the track as the road season draws to a close and the track season gets underway today with the British National Championships.
So if you’re not lucky enough to be attending the Nationals one of the best ways to see some vibrant cycling action is to attend a Revolution, don’t worry it’s not that sort of revolution! Revolutions are competitive but friendly track meetings between world pro cyclists and the best of British pro cycling, along with the cream of British junior talent. All this is condensed into a Saturday evening of electrifying entertainment.
Bradley Wiggins at The Revolution - Image ©Copyright Revolution
I’m a big fan of the events as you can tell, I’ve attended them since they started in 2003 and the atmosphere is amazing, it’s not intimidating like other sporting events can be, I think that’s mainly down to the fact that cyclists and cycling fans are a uniquely friendly and laid back breed. The Cycling Revolution Series is now in it’s ninth season and it will kick off with the 33rd event on the 29th October 2011. There are four meetings a year [usually one per month], already confirmed for the first is Alex Dowsett from Team Sky, fresh from his National Time Trial victory and I am told more top names are to be confirmed shortly for this first event, but throughout the season you will be able to see the likes of Chris Hoy, and Victoria Pendleton. Confirmed to appear during the season are Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas, Ben Swift, Russell Downing and Pete Kennaugh. Last years Revolution Championship team Maxgear will include Simon Yates, Adam Yates and Chris Lawless. Rapha Condor Sharp will bring- Ed Clancy, Andy Tennant and Dean Downing, and UK Youth will join the action headed by Magnus Backstedt, Steven Burke and James Lowsley-Williams, more will of course be added to the list as the season progresses and riders such as Luke Rowe will be available for selection once the new riders contracts start on January 1st 2012.
Your almost certain to see well known faces past and present wandering around the edge of the track mingling with the crowd. There are stands of cycling goodies, food and drink tempting you to part with your money. A great way work those calories off is to have a go at the Watt Bike Challenge, it’s open to everyone and is a real crowd puller.
The Revolutions give fans a chance to see the worlds best compete in a track league format (it was the first track league in the world). The evening’s are filled with different formats of racing including international grudge matches, where riders temporarily leave their Revolution League team to join with their national team to go against rival countries in crowd pulling races like the teams sprint, it’s a great way to see how on form riders are before the Olympics! The venue and event has a very family friendly atmosphere, it’s a great night of fast paced racing and music which enthrals both newcomers to cycling and those hardy old skool cyclists and fans. I’ve often taken friends with me who have no interest in, or knowledge of track cycling and they always come back for more! It will inspire any child to get into cycling, they’ll be pestering you to arrange a track session or find a club for them to join, I’m yet to be proven wrong on that one! It’s thrilling for youngsters because they see the Juniors [Future Stars] riding the track in the same teams as the pro riders and up against them. All teams compete for points towards the Revolution Championship and the all important winners Black Jersey. There are 8 teams with a mix of international, British and junior riders on each. Last seasons winners Maxgear and the runners up Team Sky will be part of this years line up along with other British Pro teams like Rapha and UK Youth. There’s also a bonus this year because the recent building work is now complete at The National Cycling Centre and the brand new adjoining indoor BMX Centre is now ready for competition and training sessions, so visitors can take a peek at what that has to offer, the BMX facility has a shared reception area with the velodrome.
Throughout the winter the Revolution Series takes place in four Saturday meetings (29th October, 19th November, 7th January and 28th January) at Manchester Velodrome, and with Olympic track tickets sold out, this is the perfect and for some the last time to see the Pro’s ride the boards as they reach their peak form in preparation for London 2012, tickets normally sell out well before the meetings so it pays to book early to bag yourself the best seats! I would recommend buying a season ticket, you get to enter the velodrome early and avoid all the queues via the VIP entrance 30 minutes before the main doors open, ideal on a cold, dark Manchester night. You also get 15% discount from the Revolution shop, but hurry I’m told the Season Tickets are nearly sold out!
To buy tickets you can call the ticket line on: 0843 208 0500
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Revolution 28 British Team Sprint Line Up LtoR: David Daniell, Ross Edgar, Pete Mitchell - Image ©Copyright Anna Magrath
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
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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.