The next major road cycling event in Britain is the Tour of Britain starting on September 9 and on the start line for the sixth time will be IG Sigma Sport’s Simon Richardson.
After the mind blowing crowds that lined the road to watch the Olympic road race, those of us in cycling can only hope that the momentum from Wiggin’s Tour de France win and the on-going success will see more support than ever for the country’s biggest UCI road event.
In the race will be the British UCI Team, IG Sigma Sport, one of six British based teams and IG Sigma Sport are expected to have a strong line-up including Dan Lloyd who was close to the top of the overall last year and Olympian Dan Craven. We also understand they’ll have a very experienced former rider and Tour of Britain stage winner as director sportif in the race.
2011 and Simon Richardson signs on for the stage at Stoke in the Tour of Britain. 2012 will be his sixth in the event.
That will help fill the sporting director void at the team left by Matt Stephens who has gone on to other things this year in cycling including being the person given the job of setting the riders on their way in the Olympic Time Trial.
Simon Richardson first rode the Tour of Britain in 2007 and says of the 2012 edition, “this race is the biggest race we do all year by a long way which is why it’s so exciting.”
“The course looks really good. I think the route has evolved over the last few years and seems to be making it a more selective race which is great. It is the highlight of the year and something to get super excited about and motivated.”
Simon says the Tour of Britain, the only UCI stage in the country despite all the success Britain is having in pro racing in Europe, is the best challenge for a domestic based roadie where they are given a chance of racing against strong European opposition in front of big crowds. It is, he admits, the pinnacle for everyone on a British team that gets to ride it.
Dan Lloyd is rumoured to be racing the event for IG Sigma Sport. Last year he was right up at the sharp end of the GC for Garmin.
Time for a break…
The season is a long one, starting back on April 1st in the Maldon Dengie Tour organised by the late Alan Rosner and in between there has been the Halfords Tour Series which is known for being a demanding event with town centre races all over the country.
Unsurprisingly then that riders are in need of a break before they start their preparation for the Tour of Britain. For Simon, his ‘break’ started after the last Premier Calendar road race in Stockton on Tees. “I took five days off the bike and was then away in France doing a little base training again. Sometimes it’s good to go back to square one mid-season and get that time on the bike again.”
The major problem for British riders though is getting the racing needed to prepare for such a big event against riders who have no shortage of UCI level racing in Europe. With no major events in Britain during August, quite ironic considering the way cycling has been catapulted into the spotlight of late, teams are having to try and get to events abroad which stretches budgets and means lots of travelling.
“We have a stage race in Sweden mid August” says Simon “and then we’ll be in Belgium for a couple of races late August before recceing one of the stages as a team. We now have a good August despite the fact we have lost that Prem which is a real shame. Every August for the last five years, everyone has had to go abroad to get that top level racing but no-one ever feels like it’s a huge jump when we get to the Tour of Britain.”
Simon pictured racing the Leazes crit this year. The season is now split between crits for May through to August and then the Tour of Britain in September with a smattering of Premier Calendar in between. A season that certainly needs more road racing…
Simon explained that in the Tour of Britain, some of the racing can be easier until the hammer goes down and then it’s a lot faster that what they are used to with riders needing to get used to making those type of efforts. “I did feel that the crits and Prems this year have gone up a knotch in terms of the level so I don’t think the gap between us and them will be as big as it has been.”
Another thing missing from the British calendar are stage races. There have been some in the past like the Surrey League one but outside of the two day Tour DoonHame in April, there is very little if anything for Elite riders and their teams. The Tour of Britain meanwhile is eight days long which, says Simon, hasn’t proved to be a problem for him.
“Maybe because I am getting older, and have them under my belt for the last few years, I find I’m not intimated by the length of the Tour of Britain. The RAS (Ireland) is eight days and I did that in May (Simon is a former winner) and that has been my programme for the last few years. Perhaps for some of the younger boys it might be a big undertaking though.”
Rabobank in the 2011 Tour of Britain shut it down once the break went and then controlled the race even with only six riders.
Life in the Pro Peloton
Whilst the Tour of Britain is certainly a big race for the British riders who, outside of Sky and Endura Racing, get little chance at such events, there are parts of the racing which are so very different to the races in Britain. Like the part of the race when the shutters go down on the peloton, a break is given its freedom and riders get to sit in the wheels while the top teams control the pace at the front.
For any rider who has not made that break, any chance of making a name for themselves on the stage is, in all probability gone, and that must be frustrating especially for the Brits on home roads.
“Everyone understands the hierarchy in cycling but it can be frustrating when the race is shut down” says Simon.
“Last year on my home stage in Somerset, the break went and I wasn’t in quite the right place to go with it and tried to go across to it and Lars Boom was the one telling me to stop. It is a bit frustrating but everyone understands how the racing works. People don’t strong arm it like they used to. I remember when Tom Boonen was giving it out and there is no way that would happen now. The race is a genuine proper race and there is none of that bullying.”
Asked if there are any ‘home’ stages for him, Simon replied, “There are none at home for me this year but there are some interesting stages. The one in Wales is great stage and it has been the last few years. It will be even better with the extra loop of Caerphilly mountain but then we miss Somerset altogether and head down to Devon.”
“Guilford will be the home stage for Sigma, Specialized and IG so those are the exciting stages for us.”
With no Premier Calendar events or National A races in August, its back to training for Simon now. “I’ll be training hard between now and the 14th of August when we go to Sweden for a stage race and then it’s another block of training before going to Belgium. It’s about getting back that endurance you lose over the Tour Series and becoming strong on the road again.”
Good luck to Simon and IG Sigma Sport. More news on that team and others as we get it.
Simon’s Palmeres Tour of Britain
2011: 33rd overall
2010: 6th on stage 3, 14th overall
2009: 70th overall
2008: 17th overall
2007: 47th over
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