Feature: Riding With Metaltek-Scott

Paul Burgoine writes about his time in the team car watching the CiCLE Classic unfold before him with the rain falling and the wind blowing …

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Paul Burgoine writes… like a lot of cycling fans when at a Professional race, I have a slightly worrying obsession with team buses and cars. On one occasion at Het Nieuwsblad (what was Het Volk) I think Team Sky’s Director Sportive got a bit worried when the cavalcade seemed to stop him right next to me, on three occasions – with me standing beside the road screaming through the closed window, with him desperately trying to ignore me …

Why do all director sportif ignore the fans and drive around with the windows shut?

Tom Barras and James Gullen.

I was about to find out – getting a chance to ride in the Metaltek-Scott team car at the CiCLE Classic. Given they are sponsored by a haulage company, (The Knights of Old), I was half expecting team manager Andy Swain to be driving us around in an arctic, so I was pleasantly surprised to see the ‘Skoda’ every cycling teams car of choice.

Given the hellish conditions, a tractor would have been a more appropriate mode of transport and on some sectors a kayak would have been handy. As well as my team car experience, I had half hours worth of spectating due to the fact that I missed the start and needed picking up just outside Oakham, and believe me it was possibly as bad as riding.

The biting wind and driving rain managed to penetrate my clothing within five minutes so I was very happy when I got picked up. This was a real shame for the spectators that braved the elements to support the riders and they all deserve a big pat on the back along with all the volunteers that assist in the running of the race.

Anyway, once settled in, and after regaining the feeling in my hands, I was given the job of fiddling with the race radio (we had a dodgy one) and trying to get as much information as we could about the race. There are also walkie talkies that the respective director sportives use for communication.

I can’t emphasise too much on just what a terrible day this was. The race split within the first half hour. Metaltek-Scott had a rider in the lead group, Marcel Six, and the rest of the team on the front of the main group. It wasn’t long til we came across James Gullen off the rear of the peloton not feeling too good, but to his credit he fought his way through the cars to get back on.

By now, I was pretty excited things were going on everywhere. It was then that I realised why directors don’t sit there waving at the crowd, there is way too much going on to even notice the spectators at some times. When possible though, we did acknowledge the kids waving at us on route. The next bit of action came over race radio…. No 85 Dale Appleby punctured and needed service.

Andy proceeded to weave his way through the cars to get to Dale who at the time had been looking strong in the bunch. Grant Phillips, the mechanic leaped out of the car, while it was still moving to change Dale’s rear wheel and push him on his way. More drama, his gears were jumping so Grant leant out the window with Dale hanging on to the car to adjust them.

Wow you take this for granted when you watch it on TV but it’s quite a skill…. they seemed to know what they were doing so I thought I would get some close ups of Dale, DAMN…. Grant had to put another wheel in, by this time Dale had a real chase to get back into the peloton and at one time was being paced back in by a Sigma-Sport team car – Oooh that looked pretty scary too (very fast).

I was now completely wrapped up in the race. The weather was so bad (sorry keep going on about it) the race was splitting up into numerous groups. Marcel had managed to stay in the lead group. It was a constant battle for Andy to keep in the cavalcade no thanks to the car No@ (can’t say) in front that wasn’t making life easy for him.

More action over the walkie talkie, we were alerted to another rider with puncture – Tom Barras. Grant was in action again and after replacing Tom’s wheel and pushing him off – then just making it back into the car before Andy sped off, watching Tom weave his way through the cars was terrifying and obviously requires a lot of skill and effort.

There was only one advantage of getting a puncture, that was while being towed back to the bunch you could get a warm coffee in your bottle from the car, small consolation I should think.

As the kilometres ticked over, more and more riders were in difficulty and there were now three groups clear of the peloton with Marcel Six in the second group 30 seconds down on the leaders. After negotiating his way around the third group on the road Andy, radioed to one of the other directors to see if he could see Marcel, unfortunately he could, Marcel had been dropped by the group and was now riding alone in no man’s land.

When we got to him, he’d had enough… got off the bike and retired from the race, basically he had been beaten by the cold. Obviously Marcel was very disappointed about this, he felt he had given everything for this race but was beaten by the weather (not the only one). The mood in the car changed a bit, the panic had gone, there was no one in the lead groups so we drove behind the remaining riders in the peloton, until all the peloton got pulled out of the race.

I’m sure a lot of them were glad it was over. It was time to get back to the HQ for a warm shower and dry clothes. Andy rounded up all his riders and helpers and made our way back to the finish. Just to put this race in context, over 150 started and only 22 finished.

For sure this race will be talked about for years mainly about the weather conditions and people’s pain and suffering. All Metaltek-Scott riders got back safely Marcel Six, Dale Appelby, Tom Barras, Matt Gee, Rhys Lloyd and James Gullen.

I would like to thank all the staff and riders from Metaltek-Scott for a most enjoyable weekend.
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