The Ribble Weldtite team have had their fair share of problems in recent weeks, with Covid taking riders out of competition, as well as crashes, mechanicals, untimely punctures, bad luck and some poor tactics putting that big win out of reach.
Ribble-Weldtite DS Colin Sturgess once again takes us behind the scenes to catch up with what the team have been doing since the Tour Series and the Lincoln GP, how they are facing the problems and challenges and where they are now, leading into the Lancaster GP this weekend.
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By Colin Sturgess, DS
We went into the Tour Series with a pretty open mind, it’s not something that we necessarily target – yes, we won it last year but in all honesty it was a three round race and we did well but it wasn’t as if we set out to win it, we were quite fortunate to do so and that’s the nature of crit racing; there was a big crash on the first first round last year and that set us up and unfortunately put Canyon dhb SunGod out.
As far as this year went, it was back up to seven rounds and unfortunately at the very first round in Guisborough we basically had the very same disaster that Wiv SunGod-Canyon had last year.
We had a disastrous round with a crash, punctures, mechanicals and then a bit of a mess-up with lapped riders and what to do /not do which admittedly affected more than us, it also affected a couple of other teams.
But on the night we were out-played by Wiv SunGod and we were made to pay for it – and let’s face it we did the same last year with Matt Gibson winning – and they took it to us and really gave us a serve but the issue was that it dropped us down massively in the ranks; we were sixth team on the night which was a complete disaster because if we’d been second or third team then we would’ve still been in the mix.
So that basically set the stall out for the rest of series really, and unfortunately coming back from that was always going to be very tall order so we used a little bit of psychology, speaking to the lads and selecting riders accordingly and just saying to them “the series is gone, we’re not gonna win overall but let’s go out there and show the jersey, let’s just try to win some individual rounds or team rounds on the night. We’re going to get good publicity for that and we’re going get the recognition and we’re just going to accumulate points, but there’s no pressure – the series has gone.“
This kind if framing takes the pressure off and people are then just focused on winning the night. If you do that five, six or seven times all of a sudden you’re back in the mix – which is actually what happened.
So we kept chipping away and we won a few rounds and Wiv won a couple of rounds and then it came to Ollie Peckover’s individual win on the night which was absolutely brilliant, that was Round Six in Barking. He had a great night, we won the Team, we won the overall Round, and that really did put put us in the driving seat.
Now we were only a couple of points behind Wiv and going into the final round in Manchester it looked like we could actually take it to them, all we needed to do was to win the round and we would’ve finished equal on points for the series but we would have taken the overall win because we would have had more round wins.
So the scene was set for the Grand Finale round in Manchester which was absolutely brilliant, I have to say. The organiser SweetSpot really pulled out all the stops, getting a major city centre venue for the last round was fantastic.
The course was pretty simple, just a big old block, but, a little bit harder than I think people were expecting, a little bit draggy and just not easy racing round there.
How it panned out unfortunately was that one of our riders crashed in the first corner on the sighting lap and he basically caused two of our other riders to get badly out of position and they couldn’t fight their way back through and then obviously when the race itself was underway we were completely on the back foot.
We had the two Tanfield brothers upfront but Ollie and Cameron were so badly out of position because of the other rider’s mishap that they were never in the mix unfortunately, and we needed that third and preferably that fourth rider up there as well.
They chased but it became very apparent very early on that Wiv had sensed what was happening and pounced on it. I would’ve done the same and there’s nothing malicious in it; you see a weakness in a in a competitor and you take advantage and fair play to them, they did remarkably well on that round, it was pure dominance from them and they really did make everybody else look like also-rans.
We tried, but as I say that mistake in the sighting lap basically cost us not just the round but it cost us the series as well, there’s no other way of saying it.
So that was that was Tour Series done; second team and some good results with an individual round win for Ollie and a couple of team wins, and also Harry getting to wear the Points jersey for many of the rounds as Bostock couldn’t because he was also in yellow.
So not a complete disaster but it could’ve been a lot better. Main takeaway from it? Well, we’re not the best crit team in the world and that’s fine; as I say, it’s not a massive target of ours but we do want to respect the race and we want to do well. SweetSpot put on a great show and it’s incumbent on the team to support that. I dearly wish we had been able to get up there more but it wasn’t to be, this year.
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In-between the Tour Series events we had the iconic Lincoln Grand Prix, which is always a good race.
To summarise, I wouldn’t say it was a fantastic day out but we had a decent day out, we finished third so a podium for us was good.
Stuart Balfour was extremely strong, he rode very, very well for Finn, and we had Harry and the other guys doing their work extremely well as domestiques. We finished second team as well so that bumped us up the standings which was good so it wasn’t a bad round, really.
Obviously factoring in the Tour Series then going into a decent road race as well, it’s very difficult for the riders to adjust; you’ve got a lot of late nights, a lot of travelling, the guys are drinking coffee and downing gels, they don’t finish racing until 8:30/9pm, then you drive home with sometimes two, three or even four hours in the car, you’re not getting to bed until 01:00 or 02:00 in the morning and then you’re not sleeping until 02:00 or 03:00 anyway so it’s very, very difficult, a lot more taxing on the body and the mind than a lot of people give credit for.
I think the disruption of having an almost month of having to train for crits, race crits, and no specific road racing hit us hard. Sadly we were down Ross Lamb and Alex Peters, both hit by Covid, we came back from the French race the Tour de Loire et Cher and quite bizarrely the two lads were in the back seat of my team car, Zeb Kyffin and myself were in the front, and two days later both the guys in the back came down with Covid yet Zeb and I didn’t.
Ross and Alex were pretty bad with it, out for a long time, and then Alex, as part of his rehab, started riding again and was making progress then got hit by car, so that was him out. He’s only just started riding again and getting back to any kind of structure, so in many ways the guy’s season is almost over before it’s begun.
I’m not saying that to be defeatist at all; he’s a fighter and he’s a tough cookie but you know we’re leading into mid-July and the poor guy is short on racing and there’s not a great deal coming up for him at the moment.
We don’t have the luxury of being able to sling riders into events for just training so Ross has taken himself over to Belgium now for some kermis racing to make up for lost time and the rest of the lads did a pretty good block of domestic racing and training after the Tour Series last month.
We specifically didn’t have any overseas races planned so it was very much on the guys just to consolidate any form they had coming out of the Tour Series and the Lincoln GP and to train for the National titles in Scotland.
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British National Championships
I’m not going to mince my words, the Nationals were a complete nightmare for us; we lost Finn and Stuart with Covid, so two of our stars were out. Harry unfortunately picked up a virus and he wasn’t in any fit state.
Ollie Peckover saved the day with a fantastic ride in the Individual Time Trial, Zeb and Charlie put in solid rides as well (Ed Hood wrote about following Zeb in the team car), we finished two in the top 10 of the TT, Ollie was 7th and Charlie was 9th, and Zeb was 12th, so we were there or thereabouts but when you consider that the year before we placed both Dan and James on the podium it’s a bit of a come-down.