Thursday, April 18, 2024

Paul Kilbourne – Part Two; ANC ‘Professionalise’, Ride the Tour, then … Stop

"I still don’t know if I’m ashamed or proud ... but pre-radios, clever use of team cars was something that influenced a lot of races."


HomeInterviewsPaul Kilbourne - Part Two; ANC 'Professionalise', Ride the Tour, then ......

We left our tale with Paul Kilbourne with ANC having ridden well in Ghent-Wevelgem and won the Sealink International and Kellogg’s City Centre Series but Paul felt that a more serious approach to support staff was required…

With these results like that did it that mean more staff recruited and a more professional approach was adopted?


“Sometimes local mechanics and soigneurs could be found abroad, but for me it was a great opportunity to work alongside some incredibly experienced soigneurs from whom I learnt a huge amount. 

“People like Angus Fraser, Jef D’Hont and Jan van Erp all worked on races for the team, and were all very generous with their advice and knowledge.

“We could also call on people like Steve Snowling, Vern Hanary, Phil Corley, Danny Horton and others as mechanics or for other roles when needed.

“For the Milk Race, the soigneur Jan van Erp came across from the Netherlands. He was very generous with advice and had a fantastic massage table. When he left I noticed that he had forgotten it… 

“No, it’s yours now” he told me – the riders had clubbed together and bought it for me!”

Did you make any changes as a result of what you’d seen continental teams do?

“We changed the way we did a few things. 

“One thing was that instead of all the staff traveling on every stage, I would typically take all the suitcases and the like from hotel to hotel. 

“That meant that when our riders arrived they could just walk into their room where their case was, with hot drinks, cereals and recovery nutrition all ready.

“We were the only team to do this in the UK but it made a huge difference. 

“One rider I knew from another team told me that this was why our team were doing so well in the stage races. 

“It was getting to other riders that we had started the massages and everyone was relaxing, whilst they were still queuing up in reception for a room key. 

“Maybe our version of marginal gains?

“Another move away from tradition is that instead of a massage rota based on GC position, we used a rotating system, last the previous night was first that night. 

“It’s often the rider who has had to ride hard tempo all day who needs at least as much attention as the race leader.

“It was good anyway to see Joey win the Milk Race with Malcolm second. “Malcolm managed to put Abdujaparov in his place; Malc might have been a ‘pin-up boy’ of the sport but he was as hard as nails on the bike.”

 Paul Kilbourne
Paul Watson demonstrates the mixed priorities in the team; road jersey and disc wheel. Photo©John Watson

What was the story about Capper having three teams in the UK for 1987?

“Towards the end of the previous season and over the winter, Tony was determined to build a team capable of making a mark internationally.

“The UK Professional Cycling Association limited the size of teams, largely to ensure that one team couldn’t dominate by numbers. 

“Tony, Mick and Phil found a way around this; three teams registered in the UK but all registered as one team in Europe. 

“It could all get a bit confusing, for us as well as for race promoters. 

“Typically Phil Griffiths might be abroad with one set of riders, and Mick and I might be at UK races with others.

“New sponsors (Tonnisteiner) from Belgium supplied some more support, especially lovely Citroen cars. We had two estate cars, often Griffo had one and I had another in the UK, on Belgian plates. 

“Several times when I was around Stoke other drivers would start having a go at me for something Griffo had done – they wouldn’t believe that there were two identical cars!”

Culture shocks with the continental sponsors?

“Yes, the new sponsors had a very different philosophy towards riders. 

“They were disgusted that the team staff might sit at the same table as the riders for a meal; they looked on them as slightly difficult racehorses, to be controlled but not fraternised with. 

“To be honest, that was common in those days, and I think that ONCE started to crack the mould with team meetings which were a discussion rather than a set of orders. 

“It wasn’t uncommon in some Belgian races for the DS to throw a spare tub and pump to a dropped rider and tell them to ride home as a punishment!”

 Paul Kilbourne
Joey McLoughlin in top form at the Tour of Britain. Photo©Graham Watson

1987 was the ‘Year of the Rabbit’ in Chinese astrology, and Le Tour?…

“I worked with the team, with Angus, on Paris-Nice. 

“This was the final test from the Tour organisers, and cemented the Tour invitation. 

“As usual, for me it was a blur of hotels. That’s where the soigneurs work though, between shopping and washing. No team buses with washing machines in those days. 

“I hope that Graham Jones has forgiven me for shrinking an undervest in a French launderette, in a drier. It had been a wet, dirty race and there was a lot of washing!

“We should have seen the signs with Tony Capper treating it as part family holiday, and disappearing regularly. He had a sidekick from the French side of the parcels business, an Englishman called Donald. I never did find our why he was there.

“It was a pleasure to look after the French riders, they were very relaxed in the environment and would be helpful, but never critical.

“Back home Malcolm won the Milk Race, with Paul Watson (of the ‘Lycra’ part of the Team) taking the Mountains jersey. Having two teams in (but really one) was challenging. There were tensions about bonuses and about the DS that had been brought in for the Lycra team.

“The massage table is where riders can talk openly and confidentially, it might be the race, other riders, the management or their personal lives. It never went any further.

“In the end I remember that the Lycra riders wanted me to DS, but it didn’t really matter, all orders came from the ANC car and were just relayed by whoever drove the Lycra car.

“I was especially pleased by one result whilst Griffo and some riders were away abroad; I was “in charge” when Tim Harris won the National Criterium Championship. Tim was a great rider to have on the team, always good for morale with his unique version of English / Norfolk / Flemish.

“I DS’d at another race near Leeds whilst Griffo and some riders were away. I had the Lycra car to look after a mix of riders. Joey McLoughlin got away, and I used the car to the maximum to shelter him from a brutal crosswind; time checks, bidons, chain squeaking etc. 

“In the write up of the race in a cycling magazine the journalist (who must have been more experienced than the commissaires) made some comment about the real win being attributed to the driver of the Lycra car. 

“I still don’t know if I’m ashamed or proud of that attribution but pre-radios, clever use of team cars was something that influenced a lot of races.”

The Big Loop?

“Lots has been written about the Tour but I didn’t go on it. I had used up a lot of leave to help get the team there, but I saw the writing on the wall and didn’t want to be there when it all went wrong, to be honest.

“Despite that, Joey went on to win the Kellogg’s Tour of Britain. 

“I met the riders in Birmingham, and Tony was still making promises to sponsors, but they’d lost faith in him and the general opinion was that any funds for ‘88 would disappear with him to the Isle of Man. 

“He hadn’t pulled the plug on the team yet though.

“The final Hurrah was the Tour of Ireland, which came after the Tour de France where we had two teams, ANC and ANC Ireland. 

“Malcolm won three stages, that was his springboard to his time on Spanish professional teams. Jef D’Hont came over to work with us. 

“Freddie Maertens was supposed to join the ANC Ireland Team – no doubt Tony had got funds out of the Irish franchisees, but that didn’t materialise. 

“Jef liked Ireland. The ‘craic’ entertained him, and we had some fun. Earlier in the season Tony had tried to engage Jef full time for next year.

“Tony didn’t ever really take to me. He liked to own things, cars, riders, toys and most of all people. I wouldn’t go full time for him; I had a good job and I saw this type of work as precarious. It also meant that I could be an independent voice, which didn’t always go down well; I was sacked frequently, only for an expenses cheque to arrive on the next Thursday with my travel instructions for the next race.

“Finally, with Jef, Tony could rid himself of me. 

“However, Jef told Tony that one proviso was that I was retained, on a day rate percentage of his fees. Jef enjoyed telling me that.

“In the end of course, the end of the ’87 Tour really marked the end of the team. So, only three people were with the ANC team from start to finish; Mick Morrison, Tony Capper and me – but a lot had happened in between!”

 Paul Kilbourne
Shane Sutton, first off in the Tour de France prologue in Berlin in 1987. Photo©Offside/Pressesports

I hate to mention the ‘D’ word but there were allegations floating around last year about team members kitting up?

“The subject of drugs always comes up when people talk about the late 1980s. 

“The first thing to say, as far as ANC were concerned, is that no rider ever failed a test (or even had a warning of being close to a line). 

“Being successful, the riders were tested a lot and no rider was ever reluctant to go to the control. 

“In fact, whilst in Belgium preparing for the UK City Centre series by riding the kermises, the police testers turned up and some of the field disappeared. 

“All the ANC riders finished, and Phil Thomas was the first reserve for the test, but wasn’t required in the end.

“My view is that that there was far more talk about doping than actual doping. 

“Part of my job was to ensure that there were no positives by mistake; off-the-shelf remedies, vitamin preparations and the like. I used to carry a Pharmacopeia for reference. 

“What is safe in the UK might have different ingredients elsewhere. Remember the skier who didn’t realise (or his carers didn’t realise) that Vicks inhalers in the US aren’t identical to the UK formulation.”

This man ‘wore the T-shirt’ – or should that be gillet? With thanks to Paul for his entertaining insight into a team which is