A winner in crits and in stage races, Ian ‘Superman’ Wilkinson will be a key part of the Endura Racing line up for the Halfords Tour Series.
Endura Racing’s Ian Wilkinson has had a great start to the year with podiums in Europe and a key role in Alex Blain’s win at the Maldon Dengie Tour. Ian, a former winner of the Halfords Tour Series and Elite Circuit Series, has been busy in stage races looking to build on his second place on a stage of the Tour of Britain in 2011.
Last year in Otley, as close as a major race comes to his home in Barnoldswick (Lancs)
Ian was careful during the winter, doing his best not to get injured doing too much training and admits that after a tough training camp with Endura Racing, the Tour of the Med and Haut Var (both won by Jon Locke of Endura Racing) were definitely arduous. Having done them before, he knew what to expect though and got through the races doing his job and then a podium (2nd) came out of nowhere in Belgium (Beverbeek Classic).
A win then followed on a stage in the Tour of Normandy and that he admits has taken the pressure off him a little. His next ‘ride’ was in the Maldon Dengie Tour where he helped Alex Blain win the race for Endura racing. Alex said afterwards how Ian had admitted to not feeling great but from the back of a motorbike where I was, Ian, like Alex, was all over the race.
Asked how did he feel for that race, Ian replied “I was generally feeling a bit blocked that day and really struggling early on so I said I’ll just cover everything and ride a bit. As it happens, that’s the best place to be in that sort of event because you’re on narrow roads and so it put us right up there.”
Collecting funny coloured jerseys in France this year…
Ian admits that the front group at the Maldon Dengie Tour was a soft move, going on a steep descent down to a main road and was a lesson to everyone that breaks will go anywhere, anytime!
“After we went down that steep hill onto the main road, it just snuck off and then we went up the hill and into a tailwind, so everyone rode. We were away.”
Talking about the long gravel sectors, and how he and Alex coped with them, Ian explained, “both Blain and I come from a MTB background, Simon Richardson too, and people like that had the confidence to know it’s only gravel.”
“Hell fire, just ride it like you’re on the road! It was worth the effort because you just have to be at the front and we were riding quite well on it. It wasn’t technical but you always need to be up there. If you go back down the line, and you have to give yourself a metre off road (behind the rider in front) and the further back you get, as soon as you get off the sector, you’re chasing. If you’re at the front, even if you’re not going any harder, you’re not having to make ground up.”
“So, Blain was feeling real good and it was really satisfying to do a good job for him at the end and thankfully he finished it off.”
Alex Blain piling on the pressure on the gravel sectors with Ian close behind next to another former mountain bike racer, Simon Richardson … nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn
Talking about how he sacrificed his chances for those of Alex for the good of the team, Ian says “when you’re in a break and you have a teammate in there, you do feel a bit better because you have someone to work with but the underlying thing in this team this year is honesty.”
“So while how you feel yourself can be a perceived thing – on a particular course and on a specific day – you have to be honest with yourself and your team and ask yourself, are you on for this and then away you go. Blain has been going well for a bit so I had no problem with him going for the win.”
“That’s one of the beauties of cycling, it’s a team sport and Blain won and so did I and so did Endura Equipe”.
Halfords Tour Series
With a lot of stage racing done, it’s time for Ian to get some miles in with friends and teammates prior to the start of the Halfords Tour Series on May 15. Ian explained that such a series does leave a rider exposed to detraining if they are not careful.
“You don’t really get a chance to do any training with all the racing and travelling and you’re just racing and resting and racing and resting and getting fatter and slower! You have to try and find time to train a bit or else after a month of doing two crits a week, you come out the other end looking like bag of spanners for the road race nationals.”
Ian Wilkinson in the Endura leaders jersey for the Tour Series back in 2009.
“It’s the travel that’s tough. It’s not as hard as doing a stage race where you’re racing a 100 miles a day and travelling too and in the Tour Series, everyone else is in the same boat. Mentally, keeping focused is the thing. In a road race you can relax but in a crit, you have to be on it from the b of the bang.”
“I have been part of every series so far. I won with Halfords and have been second with Endura Racing a couple of times. No doubt, we’ve got an incredible team for it this year. We have several round winners in the squad but then every other team has a strong line-up too.”
“Every race you go to is going to be a serious challenge and with 11 rounds, which is nice to see, it’s going to be as hotly contested as ever. More money, more riders, more teams just means more pressure on everyone.”
“There isn’t a race we go to now that we don’t feel pressure though. It’s only the pressure from the riders themselves though and that comes from within because if you want to succeed, then that’s the chimp on your shoulder shouting at you, not the man paying your wages as much. Everyone is well aware of how big the Halfords Tour Series is and that it’s high on the agenda.”
Halfords Tour Series Woking 2011: Ian wins from teammate Scott Thwaites who’s the one who gets a hand in the air to celebrate
“When I won it with Halfords during the first season, that was a fantastic feeling having that team spirit and sense of achievement helping others to be winners as well as yourself.”
Which begs the question… what’s better, the individual ‘hands in the air’ win or the team win? “A race is a race man” says Ian. “Everyone out there wants to win the race, no doubt about that and you can only get those hands in the air with a win and by winning the race, you’ve given your team the best chance of a team win by scoring that one point.
The lowest number of points per team (3 riders) wins each round.
“You get something which ever way you win though. It’s very exciting to win a round on a personal level and then if you win the team, that too is a great feeling being part of a team that’s celebrating as one. I guess it’s about equal!”
So, May 15, Kirkcaldy in Scotland is when the team with a Scottish sponsor (Endura), get the speedsuits out and like Rapha last year, look to get off to a flying start in the one big series the team have yet to win.
The riders due to be racing the series have yet to be announced but Ian Wilkinson is far too good a crit rider to leave out so we’re going to say he’s a certainty!
Finally though, does Ian have a tip on what changes he makes to the bike for the crits? Okay, just the one he says smiling … “I may just lift the stem a little as you tend to ride on the drops a lot more and it helps with the cornering” he explained.
So watch out for ‘superman’ and his traditional entrance as he’s called to the line. The crit season is only three weeks away!
A different Superman entrance, this time on stage in 2009 at Colchester with Ian part of the team leading (and winning) the series.