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.
Interview with the Team Captain of VC St Raphael Women’s Team and lead British Cycling points scorer for Elite Women in 2010 and 2011.
How did you get into cycling?
As a youngster I grew up riding horses and used to compete in tetrathlon, that’s swimming, running, horse-riding and shooting at Pony Club. That ends when you reach 21 so I was looking for another sport similar so ended up trying triathlon. I quickly realised that cycling was the most fun out of all the disciplines and so started to focus on that with a local bike club. I quickly fell in love with the whole sport and so here I am. I never tire of striving to achieve more, cycling is a great leveller so you never quite feel like you’ve conquered everything, leaving you thirsty for more.
You work full time but still manage to be successful on the bike – how do you manage your time?
Managing my time is very difficult. Some years I have reduce my hours over the season to give myself a break but then it’s still not easy and I have raced the last 2 seasons having worked full time. I’m very lucky to work for such an understanding group of people as they are very flexible with me allowing me to work from home and flex my hours so that I can train and race. I love my job and it’s the reason why I have never tried to be a full-time bike rider, for me I have to have other things in my life other than riding the bike. My partner Jason also helps me out a great deal and is often ferrying me around to races…allowing me to sleep on the way!
You’ve won many races and have a number of National Champion jerseys – which would you say is your proudest achievement and why?
The Masters titles I have won mean a great deal to me but my proudest moments have come this year taking the sprinters jersey at the Bedford 2-day and getting on the podium at the Hillingdon GP, finally perhaps putting myself on the radar as a sprinter. I always take pleasure in doing the best I can and if a result comes from that then that’s a bonus.
What would you say to anybody who is thinking of starting racing, especially as it can be daunting getting on a start line for the first time? Any top tips?
First of all I can’t stress how important it is to develop your bunch riding skills before attempting to race, going out with a local bike club is a good way to learn some of these skills and gain confidence of riding with people around you and at speeds you wouldn’t by yourself. There are also a few Women’s training sessions that you can attend which are excellent. Then when you are confident, try to pick races that are within your reach to start with, perhaps local women’s races, don’t try to take on too much too soon as you can easily find yourself out of your depth both in terms of speed and technique. Always be realistic about your ability and recognise your strengths, some riders are better over hilly terrain and some are better at sprinting. Recognising these and targeting races to suit you will mean you will have positive experiences and enjoy the sport more. Don’t be swayed to do every race on the calendar just because everyone else is, be confident in your own training and race plan and stick with it. Most importantly it’s about your sport being fun.
Is there any advice in particular that you have been given over the years which has helped you to succeed that you could share with us?
I read a book once by Lance Armstrong, one of his quotes was that “pain is in the moment but failure is forever”. That’s something that has stayed with me and I try to remember when I am racing. Being the best that I can be is what I strive for so I train hard to save myself from disappointment.
Do you have any sporting heroes? Do you see anything in them that you could model yourself on?
I did a bike race a few years ago where a certain Lizzie Armistead rode and lapped the field twice. I witnessed first hand something special that day and hopefully she will pull on a rainbow jersey one day. I’d like to think like her I have some steely determination and a bit of a sprint at the end….just a little less of her talent!
Do you have a favourite event or circuit? What about the event/circuit do you like so much?
My favourite circuit has to be one local to me, at Thruxton Motor circuit. I love the circuit because it’s tough with the rise before the finish and can be very fast in places. When I heard that the National Master Road Race was being held there instead of the original road circuit I knew I was in with a chance at winning the title I’d been after for 4years, which I did and was delighted.
You have recently become the official Team Captain to the VC St Raphael Women’s Team, which in itself is one of the new kids on the block. How do you see the team evolving?
I’m excited and honoured at taking on that role, other teams have asked me to captain them over the last few years but I’ve not felt ready until now. I hope that I can lead the team to work together and get results. We now have a strong mix of riders covering track, road and time trials. It is a great mix of youth and experience and we have some exciting new talent joining the team as well as the hard core from last year. Having had 2 excellent training weekends over the winter I think we are ready to test our legs and get working together as a team, Cheshire Classic will be our first event.
Do you have any aspirations for the 2012 season?
Mainly I want the team to get some results and work together, a result for a teammate means just as much. I’d like to defend my National titles and perhaps the sprinters jersey at Bedford 2-day again.
Where would you like to be in two years’ time?
I’d like to be still riding my bike and enjoying it, perhaps with a World or European Masters title to my name.
The Race Across America (RAAM) is one of the most challenging and rewarding races in the world. It’s something that many cyclists aspire to achieve and I know it’s on the mind of at least a few of you right now.
This photo from last year’s Race Across America is one of my favorite cycling photos ever. Not only did I have to share it with all of you, I wanted to let you know more about the photographer, location, and rider pictured in it as well. It’s a beautiful cycling photo, but just might serve as motivation for you as well.
Dex Tooke in Monument Valley RAAM 2011 – Photo by Dan Joder
Date: June 17, 2011
Camera: Nikon D90, f/11, 1/125, ISO200, 70-300 Nikkor zoom at 100mm
Description of photo by Dan Joder:
This is a classic image of RAAM–the solo rider climbing a long grade in the spectacular Monument Valley. Although there was almost no traffic in the area, there were two or three cars on the road in the far distance as Dex approached my lens–I had hoped to have a completely clear highway to emphasize the feeling of emptiness and space. The clone tool in Photoshop took care of the motor vehicle problem and turned the image into what I felt and saw when I was there. I also experimented with various versions of this image from B&W to different special effects as Dex was, at one time, considering the image for the cover of his book.
Although Dan has spent the past 25 years of his life as a Cat 3 (and presently a Masters) bike racer, he doesn’t consider his photography to be focused on cycling. Generally his photos are of nature, landscapes, and streets. But when he crewed for his friend, Dex Tooke, in the 2011 Race Across America that all changed.
During last year’s RAAM, Dan’s official job was taking a shift as one of the “Navigators” in the follow van, but whenever his hands were free, he was shooting photos of Dex and the scenery around him.
Going coast to coast at 15mph is a great way to see the country! If you don’t know much about RAAM though, rest assured, it is most certainly the Mt. Everest of competitive ultra cycling. For these riders, the competition is much more an internal, psychological affair than a battle against one another. All, from the fastest to the slowest, deal with fatigue, saddle sores, hallucinations, sleep deprivation, wind, hail, heat, traffic, crew conflicts, navigation errors, mechanical issues and more in their 3000-mile crossing of America.
If you get a chance to crew for a RAAM rider–DO IT!
– Dan Joder
Last year, Dex Tooke
was on his second attempt to tame the Beast that is RAAM. You could say he had some “unfinished business” (his slogan and the likely title of his upcoming book) because, in 2010, he was forced to withdraw just 180 miles short of the finish line in Annapolis. In 2011, he was successful, crossing the finish less than three hours before the time cut-off. By doing so, he became just the sixth rider over 60 years of age to complete the event. To put this in even greater perspective, ten times
more people have climbed Mt. Everest than have successfully finished RAAM as a solo racer.
Mark Colbourne - UCI Para-Cycling Track World Championships Los Angeles, USA - ©Copyright Christina Kelkel
Today saw Mark racing in the 1km Time Trial, after he managed to take his first ever Para-Cycling World Championship Gold in his first International track competition! As a track debutant, Mark had to go off as one of the first riders with 10 more riders to come after his heat. Motivated by yesterday’s success, Mark rode a very controlled and fast kilometer finishing in a time of 1:19.380, only 1.163 seconds off the current WR time and good enough to take the lead at that point. However, the race still was not over and Mark had to watch his competitors trying to beat his
time whilst warming down in track center. With only the defending Champion and WR holder Rodrigo Fernand Lopez (ARG) to go, Mark was still in the lead and guaranteed a Silver medal. Lopez started his time trial almost a second faster than Mark in lap one, but as he continued his race Lopez’s lead started to decrease more and more. In the end, he crossed the line in a time of 1:19.102, only .278 ahead of Mark who had to settle for Silver.
Mark Silver Medal - ©Copyright Christina Kelkel
After the race Mark said “I felt very confident and mentally ready after the Gold medal win yesterday, even though my legs felt slightly heavy when I was warming up. This only was my second kilo in 4 months so I am really happy to be quite close to the WR, especially as I rode a 5 second PB. I got into a nice rhythm straight from the start but after 2 tough rides yesterday, my legs tightened up in the last lap.”
After the Para-Cycling Track World Championships, Mark will now focus on his preparations for the London 2012 Paralympic Games. Mark said “We have learned a lot from these World Championships and will now work on the bits we need to improve for London. We will be doing a lot of work on the road in the build up to the Games as the Road Time Trial is one of my main targets as well as the 3km Pursuit and the Kilo.”
It would be very easy today for me to get angry with the well respected journo in yesterday’s Times who ( in a précis to Olympic BMX) was less than complimentary and frankly patronising. So, as it’s very easy, I think I’ll do it. Now as close as sod it is to swearing the word pundit boils down to “he who should know best”. So in as much he rubbished a sport he knows absolutely zero about by calling it absurd and how the bicycles cannot be taken seriously… (average build on a club level machine roughly £1200 and more or less double that of a more than decent track bike) could be a good time for him to keep his trap shut.
Levels of fitness and precision cycle handling and tactics that many other top sportsmen would wince at. Why do you think Jess Varnish will lead out Vicky Pendleton this year? Simple. I love those two girls, but something written in the oracle says Vicky has to be the one to ride the final lap. Sadly, Vicky can’t live with Shanaze Read’s attack pace. If she could, we’d have a ladies team sprint record that wouldn’t be touched for a generation.. “so why doesn’t Vicky Pendleton lead out for Shanaze?”. Erm yes ok.
He further declared that although the sport was crazy and the bikes a joke, that it will all change at The Olympics where we shall see what the sport is all about. Erm..no actually Mr Barnes The Olympic games presents our sport in a weak light in my view. Hey don’t get me wrong I’d like to see the Medals come our way. Yet I agree with him. BMX ought not to be an Olympic sport. In my mind it becomes devalued by The Olympics. The Olympic competition is in no way a true representation of what Bicycle Moto Cross is about. Ok, you will see the elite of our sport in action, but consider this. The roughly two dozen riders that will sign on at Stratford are at the top of an elite group that is some several THOUSAND strong. The elite Road race entry is probably about 400 riders short of the total number of elite riders that that branch of the sport can muster worldwide. And you know from the last blog that road and velodrome are where my personal riding pleasures lie.
“so stop yer moaning John” well, no I’m in a whinge mood. 2 days processing the same number of riders that the organisers of a midweek club night at say Perry Barr or Bulwell, would be ashamed if they could not process comfortably in an hour….including recovery time, when 1200 on Sunday will go through the most exciting well organised machine very probably in any sport you can name!
So Mr Barnes. Do you want to challenge your poncy patronising words and make your way to Manchester this weekend? Roughly 1200 riders competing in all ages from 6 to 46. Many of our sport’s elite will be on show riding approximately £250,00 worth of laughable bikes. You’ll receive a copy of my little moan Mr Barnes. I’ll be middle of track on Sunday, iPad in hand couple of cameras about my neck. I’ll man up and defend my sport.. Will you have the balls to check us out and tell your readers that you owe us an apology? I somehow doubt it. You scrawl tripe for a Murdoch comic.. when did they last accurately report anything?
Thursday moan done. Can’t wait for the weekend. He won’t come. Far too many of us, plus our sport can speak for itself. So what’s this all been about then Jon? Leave me alone I’ve had gut ache all day.