VeloUK talks to Raleigh-GAC British stars Graham Briggs and Russell Hampton about their Tour of Britain preparations and ambitions
The 2012 Tour of Britain will be a big year for the Nottingham based team, Raleigh-GAC, sponsored by the city’s iconic brand, Raleigh bikes with a stage in Nottingham and also a strong squad from Raleigh-GAC.
At the start of this year, the Raleigh-GAC team unveiled a strengthened line up and during the last six months, the team have certainly had some notable success both here in Britain and abroad in UCI races.
Two of the riders to have tasted success in the Raleigh colours have been Graham Briggs who has been on fire of late and bronze medallist in the British Road Race Championship, Russell Hampton. Briggs, with the help of his Raleigh-GAC teammates, dominated the Elite Circuit Series to add to the success in the Halfords Tour Series and also his win in the Stockton GP Premier Calendar race.
Briggs has always been there or there abouts in Britain, winning the Circuit Race Championship in 2011 and then taking on the responsibility of leading the Raleigh-GAC team with aplomb. The South Yorkshire rider has ridden the Tour of Britain before with Pinarello and Rapha and when asked for his verdict on the race, two words were the reply … “bloody tough”.
Graham admits with his new found confidence and road legs, that it would be good to win a stage and do well in a race that on stage two, starts from his sponsors home city, Nottingham. “I am definitely up for this years race” says Graham. “With a stage start in Nottingham, it’s going to be a really big year for Raleigh and to be riding in the Raleigh jersey is great.”
Graham admits his preparation for the Tour of Britain pretty much started after the road nationals (end of June) where he had got in an early break with the Sky riders Dowsett and Stannard but with his crit legs on, his time out front was cut short. “After the nationals, I started my training for the Tour doing four or five hour days as well as the crits. I was very pleased to be able to do the training in the morning and then back up in the evening and get the results.”
Graham is one of a few riders in the area around South Yorkshire and Derbyshire to be doing the Tour of Britain and because of that, he’s been able to get plenty of quality training in with riders also aiming to do the nation’s biggest bike race. Four or five hours in the Derbyshire hills has helped him get his road legs ahead of a tough training camp in Spain this week.
Graham Briggs winning the Stockton GP, the final round of the Premier Calendar series.
In Spain, with sunny weather forecast, Graham will be looking to get in plenty of hard four or five hour rides in the mountains so he has some depth to his endurance to add to the top end he got in the crits. Then, after Spain will come some pro kermesses in Belgium to give him and the other Raleigh riders that top end they will need when the hammer goes down in the Tour of Britain.
Back home in Britain, his last before the Tour of Britain will be the very popular Newport Nocturne. In the Tour of Britain, he says he will have different options. Either putting all his eggs in the one basket and sitting in and waiting for a bunch kick on the stages which look like ending in a sprint or, going for a break and hoping that stays away.
“I have been sprinting a lot better this year and it’s helped having a few teammates around me. That support helps a lot and helps keep me out of trouble “ he explained.
It will be a far cry from previous years when he’s either been helping South Yorkshire’s Russell Downing when on the same team or just fending for himself in sprints. “It has definitely helped winning some races and beating some good guys. That’s given me the confidence to train hard for the race and I am definitely well up for the Tour”.
Russell Hampton – King of the Mountains jersey wearer in 2011
Alongside Graham will be a rider who made a name for himself in last years race by being ultra aggressive and getting in breaks that helped him secure the King of the Mountains jersey for the first half of the race and start a collection of Skoda Yetis. The soft cuddly ones, not the cars!
Russell who also pulled out a mammoth ride in the British Road Race Championships this year and says the 2012 Tour of Britain has rolled around quite quickly and that he’s looking forward to building on his success from 2011.
In a country dominated by crit races, Russell is grateful that his Raleigh GAC team has given him some freedom to concentrate mainly on road races and then used the crits as training. “I showed last year, you don’t need the days of racing to be in good shape for the Tour of Britain. You just need to train properly and specifically for the event” he told VeloUK.
“You can replicate a stage race in training as long as you know what you are doing. You don’t just sit on a bike for six hours and plod along at 20 mph” Russell explained. With the help of his father and some rather good riders in his region like Alex Dowsett, Russell can call on chain gangs and some motor pacing where Russell admits he uses both power measurements and ‘feel’ to gauge the efforts he’s making.
“I normally taper five days before the event but another goal is the British Time Trial championship which is the weekend before so it is quite difficult in that you don’t want to come into the TT champs tired but you don’t want to come off the gas to early either and lose the form coming into the Tour of Britain.”
The race starts not far from where Russell lives and trains so don’t be surprised if he’s at the front after Zero kilometre and getting stuck in to be in that first break, just like he was last year. The former GB Academy rider does admit though that it’s the second half of the race where it gets important.
Last year, part of the Sigma Sport team (now IG Sigma Sport), Russell did recce a few stages and that was good he says. “I knew, especially on the Dartmoor stage which was quite technical, where the important bits were and that was good for me and I didn’t have the stress of surprises coming up.”
But as Russell pointed out, guessing where the race is going to explode is never easy even with the knowledge of the route because the ‘race’ will go when it’s ready and that isn’t always on a climb. It could just as easy go on a descent but he does feel the home riders have an advantage. “The style of roads help make the style of racing and so its teams that come over here who get the surprise more than we do.”
“I have quite high hopes after the results this year. Maybe a stage result or a win would be really good. The jersey (KoM) I’m not sure about and would rather chase a stage win but we’ll see it how goes. We have a lot of strong guys in the team, and we’ll take it day by day. We won’t be there to make the numbers up that is for sure and we’ll be super aggressive and take it to them.”
Graham Briggs adds to the big races the team have won as he wins at home in Sheffield. Photo: Joolze Dymond.
Those in charge of the team’s tactics will be Cherie Pridham and Eddie White and with a strengthened team, they have been targeting selection for the Tour of Britain since the year began. “We have kept the guys focused on what has been the end of season target and have been consistent in the races we’ve done. The results have been coming, especially in the last two months, so I think that has justified our place” says Cherie Pridham.
“It was a relief that we got the invite and everyone can now knuckle down and focus on the race. Other than the Halfords Tour Series and the East Midlands CiCLE Classic, it’s the biggest race and the biggest focus for British Continental UCI teams so it is important for Raleigh and it’s sponsors based in Nottingham. We’re certainly proud to be part of the race”.
“The Elite Circuit Series (won by Graham Briggs of Raleigh GAC) was important to us and that went to plan. We’ll now take the riders for an eight day training camp in Spain and the Tour team will be selected from that.”
Whilst some riders in the team are almost guaranteed a place, Cherie admits she doesn’t want any of them to be complacent and is aiming to keep them all in shape right up until the race.
Having a British sponsor , especially one who has its headquarters in a city on the route of the race, the team manager realises the importance of them riders delivering.
So far this year, they have delivered that sought after success but the Tour of Britain is always the biggest test for any of the British teams and for Raleigh, not only will the riders be as best prepared as they can be but they’ll also have the confidence of having tasted success in Britain and abroad and we’ll watch with interest to see how they go against the bigger WorldTour squads.
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