In Stoke last Thursday, Endura Racing achieved their first major goal for 2012, the next one is the Tour of Britain!
When a sponsor invests as much as Endura does into a team like Endura Racing, results are important in the high profile events and in Britain, they don’t come much higher than the Halfords Tour Series. The team have been part of the series since the start, from a small road based outfit with mainly Scottish riders to the UCI registered outfit of today that can now compete with the best on the roads of Britain and in Europe.
After a year or two finding their feet, the team invested in riders capable of winning major events and for the last two years they have been second in the Tour Series which is not a place anyone, rider or team, wants in a race. So, one of the projects this year for Endura Racing was to win the Halfords Tour Series.
“It was a big big target and that’s no secret” says Julian Winn. “We did everything we possibly could to make that happen with the staff and riders so it’s mission accomplished.”
An amazing achievement is how one of the riders in Endura Racing, Ian Wilkinson, described the series victory. “No doubt when I was with the Halfords Team and we won it, the competition was slightly shallower but whether you have one team or four teams to beat, it’s still an amazing achievement.”
The plan says Julian Winn, was to keep the same five riders from the word go in the Halfords Tour Series. “A month out from the Halfords Tour Series, I said to the riders, you’re the Tour Series team and I want you to do these stages races in preparation. I wanted to create a Tour Series group”.
“Unfortunately, we lost Dean Windsor after he crashed halfway into the series. Zak wouldn’t be here if Dean hadn’t of crashed” says Julian. “There was no reason to bring Zak in before that, but we had the perfect replacement for Dean in Zak who knew he was a first reserve because of his experience in having done and won in the Tour Series before.”
Whilst the win by Endura Racing appears to have been comprehensive, as Ian Wilkinson explained, it wasn’t because the riders in the team were head and shoulders above the others but down to team work and experience. “Everyone has been committed to riding for each other and we all know that if we put our neck on the line, and it doesn’t work, there are four other guys to back you up.”
“The riders have also had the experience of riding the series before and know where they need to be for the finish and that made a difference” says Ian.
It is no surprise that for sporting director Julian Winn that the win at Woking was a highlight of the series. “That was what I have been trying to get them to ride like in every single round. They really got it right in Woking. It’s about riding as a team because that’s what this series is about. But, the way they have ridden the whole series is also a highlight. We have had our little ups and downs and bad luck but I think as a team, they have ridden really well.”
Not only the most successful rider at the Halfords Tour Series but also leader of the Premier Calendar, 22 year old Scott Thwaites from Yorkshire.
Success at this level doesn’t come easy for a team and Julian says there were a few key things the team did to help them achieve their goal. “I have had a very good mechanic and very good soigneur in Richard and Ben for the whole series and that’s been really helpful. Every time we have raced, everyone has known what they are doing. That was a key to the success and in-between the rounds of the Tour Series, we trained like roadman.”
“I know a couple of them were sceptical of doing long rides or anything over one hour on a Wednesday (Tour Series races were Tuesday & Thursday) and I had to convince them that it was important to keep the training going and the fire stoked between events.”
Asked was there a danger the riders in the team would be over confident after winning major races in Britain and abroad pre-Tour Series, Julian replied, “I don’t let anyone get over confident! There was no leader and everyone was equal. Every single race we do is important because of the investment that Endura have made in the team.”
“The was no way the Tour Series was going to take a back seat because of the success in races like the Tour of the Med because in the grand scheme of things, winning the Tour Series is worth more commercially than the Tour of the Med.”
“I always knew which riders I’d be using for the Tour Series and so knew which stages race they’d be doing to prepare for it. I also knew that it wouldn’t suit the likes of Jon Locke or Iker Camano; it was horses for courses.”
Now that the Tour Series has been won, it’s time to look ahead to other goals for the team. Will the team be looking at dominating other series or are there other ‘projects’? “Things like (British Cycling’s) National Series were never aims or goals and they will have to fit in with what else we are doing” Julian says.
“We’re looking at the Premier Calendar now with three rounds left and although the aim was never to win the Premier Calendar overall, Scott Thwaites has a good lead (98 points) so it would nice to win it but we’ll go to the events trying to win the races not to defend the series lead.”
“As for the national crit series, that will fit in with our other goals. They all get a bit critted out and the Tour of Britain is the next project. There were two halves to the British season, the Tour Series was very big and the Tour of Britain is also a big goal. Everything else is a building block for the teams’ processes, the team’s future and the needs of the riders.”
“A hundred per cent, it’s about trying to win the Tour of Britain and we’re really going for it. I firmly believe we can do that with the riders we have got. We’re not riding for second, third or fourth as I believe we can win the race because we have six capable riders of doing that now. That will be a serious project for us.”