Interview: Julian Winn of Endura Racing

VeloUK talks to Endura Racing’s Director Sportif Julian Winn about the second half of the season for 2011 and the team’s goal of doing it big in Europe

British pro team, Endura Racing, is probably the biggest budget team behind Team Sky in the country with equally big ambitions in road racing. The Scottish team are looking to build a successful team in Europe that gives them the publicity they need to get their brand well known in the many lucrative European markets, a goal that is proving to be progressing quickly. Wins this year include the Tour of Normandy (Alex Blain) and the Cinturón Ciclista Internacional a Mallorca (Iker Camano) as well as the Team Time Trial in the Czech Cycling Tour.

That push for victories includes the British market where the brand is already well known after almost a decade in the business and supporting clubs & teams as well as different strands of the sport. Meanwhile, the Endura Racing pro cycling team has grown significantly over the last few years and one of its two director sportifs, Julian Winn, admits “because we are trying to make it big in Europe, that influences the racing programme we have.

The Czech Cycling Tour was an example of where riders from the British part of Endura Racing were ‘blooded’ in continential event. Here Ian Wilkinson leads the peloton from Alex Blain and another of the Brits, Evan Oliphant.

The team have a European based squad as well as a strong team of riders based in Britain and are running a dual programme of races here and abroad and success is expected in both programmes.  And success the team has had even though some goals have not quite been realised. Like the Halfords Tour Series where they had hoped to win it overall.

“Perhaps we didn’t respect the Halfords Tour Series enough early on and I think that had a knock on effect so the second half of the season is about doing well in the Tour of Britain” Winn says.

“The Halfords Tour Series for sure was quite a big focus for us and without being disrespectful, the Premier Calendar and Circuit Series overall’s keep you in the press but are not massive goals. Don’t get me wrong, when we do these races, we want to win them, absolutely. The Elite Series Rounds and the Premier Calendar races, yes, we want to win them and care about winning them but the overall just comes as it comes.”

“It’s about turning up at those races as best prepared as we can and then trying to win them and then if we ended up winning the overall, great but it is not the focus to win it overall.”

Listening to Julian, my impression was that goals like those in Europe or here with the Tour of Britain, are just too big for the team to base its race programme around the overall for a series like the Elite Circuit Series and so on. But when asked if other stage races like the one in the Czech Republic recently are preparation races for the team, he says “no, not at all”.

Julian Winn: “… when we do these races (in Britain), we want to win them, absolutely…”

“Every race we do is commercially driven, Czech Republic and Norway for example and it’s about what commercially drives the team. The Czech Republic is a big market for Endura so that race wasn’t so much about preparation for the Tour of Britain but a race that slots into the schedule of races we want to do well in.”

“Races at this time of the year are thin on the ground, even in Europe, but we had an invite to the one in the Czech Republic and we took it (see the report here). Utah is the same and that’s a big target as well. I have looked at the par cours and even though there are WorldTour teams in there, which we respect, I still think we could do something in Utah and its doable.”

“I think there are a couple of people in Endura Racing like Iker who could do something especially with there being a time trial and mountain top finish. They should be good for us  so there will be a big push to do well in Utah.”

Asked about rider selection for races in Europe and further afield, Julian says “riders are almost self selected. The European based riders have that little more experience but if a British rider ripped the legs off the field in a Premier Calendar, then we’re like, let’s release a place and move people around. It is like having two teams, a British team and a European team and then blooding people into the pro races.”

“In Utah for example, we’ll bring Scott (Thwaites) in. There, he can enjoy the race and be around the better riders.”

Between now and the Tour of Britain, Endura Racing are going to be busy in Europe. They have the Tour Alsace (France, UCI 2.2) at the end of July and then the Tour of Utah in August (9th Р14th, UCI 2.1). The riders from Utah will then have a break giving the others a chance in races like Paris-Corr̬ze which falls just before Utah.

Another stage race they are hoping to ride is the ‘Settimana Ciclistica Lombarda by Bergamasca’ in Italy but should they not get a ride in that, Winn is happy to take the Endura Racing long list for the Tour of Britain on a seven day training camp like he did in 2010.

Tour of Britain 2010 and Julian Winn talks through the days tactics with his team.

“The riders need to race and the more they race the better it is for them” he says. “If we don’t get in Bergamasca though, then I’ll do a seven day camp like we did for the Tour of Britain in 2010 and found last year that really got the lads prepared as we raced the stages every day but there was no pressure.”

“It helped build the team and they had a really good camaraderie after the camp where they were out in the wind and rain and I even paced them at the end of it to give them the feel of racing.”

“Eight of the riders will prepare for the tour and then six will come to the start of the Tour of Britain. I think we’ll have a good idea of the team ten to twelve days out, maybe even three weeks out, but we’ll have to keep everybody at a decent level because it only takes a fall or someone being ill to lose a rider and it was like that last year.”

Julian adds that for those not selected for the Tour of Britain there will be another stage race so everyone in the team has something to aim for. It is though the Tour of Britain that so many of the riders in the team will be looking to ride but with only six riders to race due to restrictions forced upon the organisers in Britain, getting selected is going to be tough.

Winn though is confident the team can do something in the race. The Tour of Britain will see a time trial added to the stage list in 2011, something Winn feels the organisation did to make the race more exciting and play into the hands of a rider like Bradley Wiggins, Geraint Thomas or even Alex Dowsett. “It probably plays into our favour as well” he says. “Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think we have someone who can beat Wiggins or Thomas, but I think if we can sneak a few seconds here and then during the week and get to that point of the Time Trial unscathed, then I think we could even come out of it with something.”

“If we have got riders with a 20 or 30 second cushion over someone like Wiggins, then you never know and the Tour of Britain is a funny race…”

Stage 4 of the Tour of Britain 2010 and Jack Bauer (right in white) finishes 4th after a wet stage in the South West.

Plans are already well ahead for the Tour of Britain and after the team’s success in stage races in Europe this year, they appear to be on track to do something in the race that will help them stand out. Will the team have British riders in it? Probably is the answer but who will depend a lot on how the next few months unfold for both the European and British riders.

Will Endura go for the overall, stage wins or both? Winn seems already to have a good idea of who he’d like in the team to cover those bases but as he explained, he needs his riders on their toes and delivering for the team right up until the race arrives in Scotland for the departe.

VeloUK wishes them good luck and as ever, we’ll be following the fortunes of the British riders in the coming months prior to the Tour of Britain where as well as a busy European programme, they will also be busy here in Britain with the Circuit Race Championships at the end of July as well as a Premier Calendar (East Yorkshire Classic).

Endura Racing Team website

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