Talkingshop: Raleigh’s Graham Briggs

Larry Hickmott talks to Graham Briggs who in seven races in the Elite Circuit Series, won four, was second in two and fifth in the other….

RST Cycle Clothing & Trigon Bikes

Graham was signed by Raleigh-GAC to lead the team in 2012 and he didn’t disappoint with nine pro wins including the Elite Circuit Series overall, a round of the Halfords Tour Series and a round of the Premier Calendar.

The phrase coming of age is one that comes to mind when talking about the season for Briggs. He stepped up to the plate and took on a leadership role at his team and led from the front. For me at VeloUK, there were many highlights watching Graham race; his time in breaks at the National Road Race Championships and on stage 6 of the Tour of Britain were two.

His win at Sheffield in his ‘home’ race in front of a huge crowd or the win in the new Premier Calendar event at Stockton on Tees (North East) were all examples of how Graham has ‘grown’ as a rider. In 2013, he will have a much stronger team to support him and he them in events here in Britain and around the World.

Graham signed an extension to his contract recently which he says is great for some security in a sport where many riders find themselves looking for a new employer at the end of each season. 2012 was so good he admits, that if he can repeat what he has achieved this year in 2013, it will again be a good year for him.

“The team has won so many races this year it will be great to carry that on next year” Graham explained when VeloUK spoke to him at Raleigh’s headquarters in Nottingham. Graham’s year started a little slowly with some illness and some rather harsh treatment from a commissaire in Mexico.

Who’s in the house, its Brigga of course! Graham winning at Brighouse in round 1 of the Circuit Series. Photo: Joolze Dymond

He recovered from those setbacks though and the form came during the Halfords Tour Series when he was the third best rider in the whole series based on top ten placings. Graham also had three podium places and also won a round at Colchester. Not a bad series for the South Yorkshire rider!

The defending circuit race champion was though very disappointed with his result in the 2012 British Circuit Race Championships in Otley and seemed to take that out on his pedals in the National Road Race Championships that followed shortly after. In that race, he was in a break with two Sky riders, Alex Dowsett and Ian Stannard as well as teammate Russell Hampton.

“At the nationals, it was about racing as hard as I could for the first hour and then see what happens” he explained. “It was good to get in the break and get some publicity for the team but I was under no illusions about the quality of the guys I was with. To be there for 60 miles was pleasing and gave me confidence going into the Elite Circuit Series.”

Confidence indeed. “I showed my intentions from the start at Brighouse when I won that. I knew I had good legs after the nationals so I wanted to win alone there. I wanted to try and show that I can win on my own and that I am not just a sprinter”.

Briggs struck again in the Stafford GP  winning that and then in a rain soaked Stockton Riverside GP, Briggs was second behind teammate Tobyn Horton. Two wins and a second from three. It got better. Briggs was the one the spraying the champagne in Abergavenny a week later after winning round 4 of the series.

If you think it couldn’t get any better, come Colne Grand Prix and Briggs was second to his teammate Russell Hampton in a two up sprint between them. Five rounds and three wins and two seconds!

By the standards set by Raleigh-GAC having won every round of the series so far, the East Yorkshire Classic was a failure with the best placed Raleigh rider ‘only’ third (Bernie Sulzberger) and Briggs way back in fifth! The winner was Richard Lang.

The final round was in South Yorkshire (Sheffield GP) and in front of 10,000 people, Briggs won again against some quality opposition. His dominance and that of his team in the Circuit Series was complete and with Raleigh – GAC winning every round bar one, they certainly showed they had arrived.

The season highlight for Graham, Sheffield GP and yet another victory. Photo: Jolze Dymond.

Asked for a season highlight, it’s no surprise Graham’s choice was the same as mine; the Sheffield GP. “The standard of the field there, the crowd and the way the team rode was just amazing” he explained. “Right from the off you could tell it was going to be a difficult race and I thought I had a good chance in a sprint.”

“After 30 minutes, I decided I wasn’t going to attack anymore and was going to save my energy for the sprint and it worked out well.”

As you can see from those results Graham had a real ‘purple period’ during July and August when Raleigh-GAC and Briggs were certainly a force to be reckoned with. Their utter dominance of that series will be hard to repeat but Briggs had certainly repaid the faith that Raleigh-GAC had shown in him at the start of the season.

“I was quite nervous coming into the season as to whether I could fulfil the role I was being given and a lot of people were looking at me and thinking ‘can he do it’ or ‘will he crack’ but I proved to myself and others that I can do it in all sorts of races.”

“Premier Calendar events and crits. I even got fourth in the Tour of the Reservoir when people said I couldn’t climb. I wasn’t in great condition then but still managed to hang on for fourth. That was pleasing and I built on that.”

“I was coming home happy after races; confident and ready to train for a week and focused on the next race. With so much racing, it’s not long before you have a chance to put things right if you had a bad race.”

A win in a Premier Calendar event, the Stockton Grand Prix showed more than ever that Briggs was able to win road races as well as crits.

You can see after reading about his season why he was so pleased with the year and he finished it off by training very hard for the Tour of Britain and getting stuck in including a long break on the key sixth stage.

But the season is done now and the curtain closed on those performances. In a few months, the pressure will be on again to repeat that in 2013 with a stronger team. With the list of Raleigh riders for next year laid out before us, Graham and I talked about the year ahead. For sure, with so many potential winners in the team, it won’t only be down to Graham to win the races as you will see when the team line up is released.

The team has two key things. It has improved its collective horsepower in a similar way to Endura Racing this year to give them more potential for controlling races. No team, as Endura Racing found out at the road nationals this year, can control a race in Britain but certainly they have some work horses in there who can help keep the team in a race.

“The British races are getting more European where a break can go at the beginning and is then reeled in” says Graham. “You need guys who can work to bring that break back and then some fast guys who can give it some gas at the end to make it easier for me to try and win.”

Graham then adds it may not be him doing the winning because he realises that the team has some other fast guys in the mix and he’s just as happy helping them win as long as the victory remains with the team. Part of their success has come down to their ‘sprint train’ which worked well for them in 2012.

The look says a lot about the determination of Graham Briggs as he fights the pain climbing Caerphilly Mountain after having been in the break all day and having gone over the top the first time with eventual Tour of Britain winner, Jon Tiernan-Locke.

“At Stockton this year, it played into our hands that some of the other teams missed the move so they rode on the front and we put one or two riders in there to help them. That helped to bring the break back and so we still had three or four guys who were able to set me up perfectly for the win”.

It’s that team work that Graham and Raleigh will be keen to get right quickly in 2013. Asked for goals next year, Graham says it’s the Tour Series which has become the flagship circuit race series in Britain over the last four years.

“The Tour Series is one of my big goals and to win that wearing the Raleigh jersey for a team who have done so much for me would be great. I don’t have to train too specifically for the crits as it only takes me one or two rounds to get going in them and get that top end.”

“The Premier Calendars are also something to focus on over the winter which keeps me motivated while doing the Tour of Britain this year and seeing I was able to compete with those guys on some of the days keeps me motivated for next season.”

That season is a lot closer than you might think as well with Graham and his wife Sam heading to Australia soon. Graham explained it can be difficult getting the long miles in here without getting ill and so he’s got a few training camps planned. A trip to South Africa for an event is just around the corner and then there’s a week long camp in Lanzorate with friends before a month in Australia.

There, Graham will combine some business with pleasure. Doing the Bay Crits will give him a chance to test his circuit race skills against the Aussie pros and he’ll also be doing some sight seeing in a country where there is plenty to see!

That should be the perfect way to start the year for Graham and wife Sam before they head back to Britain. A team presentation and then training camp will follow before racing commences in Europe and here in Britain for what will be a truly international line up. Can he repeat the success he had this season? On paper, yes. There’ll be no Endura Racing competing in 2013 in Britain but the standard is so high now, that any team dominating is never a foregone conclusion especially with the team line ups for next year so dramatically changed.

But if Raleigh repeat the way they dominated the Elite Circuit Series in other events in 2013, then they will for sure be a right handful for the opposition. It promises to be yet again a tasty time on the roads here in Britain.

Thanks to Graham for his time and good luck to him and the team in 2013.


RST Cycle Clothing & Trigon Bikes

Other Results on VeloUK (including reports containing results)

Other News on VeloUK

Tags: , , ,