Monday, December 4, 2023

Colin Sturgess – “My focus? Getting those Ribble Weldtite hands in the air!”

"Bike racing is so ethereal and unpredictable that you need to be constantly rethinking and reviewing things."

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We caught up with Ribble Weldtite DS Colin Sturgess just before the first races of the year but thought we should introduce the man with a few of his palmarès:

  • 1986: 2nd to the late Dean Woods in the Commonwealth Games Individual Pursuit Championship.
  • 1987/88: British Amateur Individual Pursuit Champion.
  • 1988: First man to ride an 18 minute 10 mile time trial – on a road bike.
  • 1988: 4th in Olympic Games Individual Pursuit.
  • 1989/90/91: British Professional Individual Pursuit Champion.
  • 1989: World Professional Individual Pursuit Champion, beating Woods in the final. 
  • 1990: British Professional Road Race Champion.
  • 1991: 3rd World Professional Individual Pursuit Championship.
  • 1998: 2nd Commonwealth Games Team Pursuit Championship.

It’s fair to say then that he’s a man who knows a wee bit about bike racing.

And in a world of ‘knee jerk reactions’ and internet ‘Trolls’ whose vision recognises no shade of grey, he provides considered, common sense judgement on the cycling issues of the day.

Colin Sturgess
Colin Sturgess. Photo©supplied

DS-ing, did it come easily to you – and what lessons have you learned along the way?

“Yeah, pretty much so. 

“There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes that people don’t recognise or know about. 

“And the old adage that a good bike rider doesn’t necessarily make a good DS rings true. 

“My ethos is be open to ideas, formulate a plan after careful consideration, and execute that plan well. 

“Sometimes it works sometimes it doesn’t. 

“As Mike Tyson once said; ‘everyone has a plan until they get smacked in the mouth.’ 

“I like to be fluid/flexible. 

“Bike racing is so ethereal and unpredictable that you need to be constantly rethinking and reviewing things. 

“I try to give my riders as much opportunity for input as I possibly can, but on occasion I put my foot down, very firmly. 

“Ultimately DS-ing is about getting your rider across the line first. 

“Reductive, but true. 

“I’ve learned to be more patient and never to underestimate how even the most experienced of riders and rival DSs can freeze or go a bit, ‘mind numb’ under pressure. 

“So I try not to put pressure on my guys. 

“I’ve also learned I swear a great deal, so if ever I have a passenger in the car with me, mea culpa!”

Colin Sturgess
Colin Sturgess with James Shaw at the 2021 Tour of Britain. Photo©supplied

How did the Spanish training camp go?

The training camp went really well. 

“We were let down a little by the usually reliable Calpe weather, but not to the extent that we missed more than one day. 

“The guys had a structured block to follow, which encompasses everything from sprint drills, to TTT training, to hill efforts. 

“We finished off with a good hard 20 minute test up the climb of Tarbena on the final day to see where everyone was with fatigue in the legs, and I’m happy to report that all went well. 

“It’s tricky on camp as we have limited time and most of our riders have private coaches, so we don’t want to change too much. 

“For 2022 we are utilising Jacob Tipper as performance manager, Jake and I work well together bouncing ideas off each other. 

“We didn’t hear too many grumbles although the 200km day with nearly 4000m of climbing ‘challenged’ a few for sure.”

Colin Sturgess
Colin Sturgess and his boys before the Otley GP last year. Photo©supplied

I believe you still go ‘out with the boys?’

“Yep! I do. 

“I find it the best way to get to know my riders, and to see who is riding well. 

“It helps getting amongst it as I can see who rides in a certain way and who is nervous or confident. 

“I’m a big believer in being able to do what I ask of the riders. 

“So if they are set a seven hour ride with 4000m of climbing then I expect to be able to do it with them. 

“I did the 20 minute test on the final day with them, and didn’t disgrace myself. 

“I’m not great on the hills (never was) but I can more than hold my own on the flat.”

Tell us about your race programme.

“Our race program is a fairly broad church – plenty of domestic racing with a view to a minimum of one UCI race per month. 

“It’s worked out nicely that we get a few more overseas races than the one per month, but I’ve really refocused on the domestic NRS (National Road Series) as a target. 

“I feel we let ourselves down last year in this regard, and for our sponsors it’s crucial we show our jerseys and win races in the U.K. 

“As much as we had some amazing results with James Shaw and Matt Gibson and the 2021 squad in races like the Tour of Norway and Tour of Slovenia, we didn’t show well at home. 

“Matt’s third at the Beaumont Trophy was a saving grace, but other than that and a few good TT/TTT results and again Matt’s third in the Tour of Britain stage, we needed to have done far better. 

“Next up is the Eddie Soens Memorial at Aintree [won by Ribble Weldtite man, Cameron Jeffers, ed.] and next day we are racing Rucphen Dorpenomloop [Harry Tanfield was the team’s best finisher in 17th position, ed.] in The Netherlands. 

“Flat, fast, typically Dutch racing. The guys are really looking forward to getting the Ultras dialled in for that.”

Colin Sturgess
Colin Sturgess is easy to engage with. Photo©supplied

Tell us about the new aero bikes.

“The Ribble Ultra SLRs are something else. Just an amazing bike to behold. 

“They test amazingly in the wind-tunnel and they back it up out on the open road. 

“There were a few times on camp when I was on the front with one of the guys and you could tell I was having to work harder on my Endurance SL than they were on the Ultra. 

“A very impressive machine. 

“Working alongside Mavic and Continental we have an all-round package to be envious of.

“There’s a few little quirks moving on to the Ultra that the guys are noticing, such as no handle bar tape needed, but all feedback so far has been positive and as I said before, the bikes are a real head-turner. 

“I’m really looking forward to the guys getting into the first races on them, getting more feedback, and winning.

“Getting those Ribble Weldtite hands in the air!”