Talkingshop: Raleigh-GAC Manager Cherie Pridham

VeloUK talks to team manager Cherie Pridham about the very international Raleigh-GAC team for 2013 that is certainly packed with riders capable of winning bike races

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Read the Team Press Release | Interview Graham Briggs | Interview Richard Lang

Only four riders remain from the 2012 Raleigh-GAC line-up and that says Cherie is to do with the progression that Raleigh is looking for with their team. Since it began with a budget that would struggle to pay a single rider’s wage in 2013, the team has continued to sign riders capable of winning and the 2013 team is by far the strongest yet.

“The new signings are part of the progression we wanted with the team when we set out with the original plan for Team Raleigh” Cherie explained. “That plan is to make that progression in small steps and developing the riders at the right speed as well as the race programme. After those small steps, this year, we’ve raised our game significantly.”

“Graham (Briggs) for example, is a prolific sprinter now and he’s one of the best riders in the UK but then the team as a whole isn’t just about Graham but a team that has delivered Graham to those results. So, right from the team base to the point we arrive at a race, it’s been a complete team effort.”

“To progress, it’s the nature of the game that a team loses riders but our theory is that to progress when replacing riders, you need to bring in better riders otherwise you are back in the same position. So the aim next year is to progress upwards a step further.”

With such an international line-up, seven riders in all from overseas with four from Australia, the manager is aware it will take time for the team to bond and come together as a unit just as they did this year.

“I believe the experience that we have brought in will hopefully have the team working as a unit a lot quicker than we did this year where it took three or four months before we had everybody gelled together and capable of performing their job on any given day.”

“We spent a lot of time researching the rider line-up and two of them came from the same team and are familiar with how a lead out train works. The four guys we kept are also very well drilled. So we believe our team will be one of the best drilled as far as lead outs go. From now on, it will be a matter of working out where we put those riders in that lead out.”

The team is not short of fast riders besides Graham Briggs. Both Richard Lang and Alex Blain have shown themselves to be well capable of winning in Britain as both did in 2012. Blain for example has won in the Tour Series before, Southport, as well as in major British road races such as the CiCLE Classic and the Maldon Dengie tour organised by the late Alan Rosner.

“A rider like Alex who has come from racing with Endura, one of the top teams in Europe, is bound to have the experience to do well. Richard too is a versatile young guy and with a good team behind him, I’m expecting he’ll be able to step up a level now that we have big engines on the team like Sam Witmitz who won the Sprint’s jersey in the recent Tour of Southland in New Zealand and Canadian Rob Britton.”

Alex Blain in winning form for Endura Racing.

Having strengthened the team, the question that it raises is where will their priorities lie? For Raleigh-GAC, the focus seems to be more on British events along with races in Europe and further afield.

The Tour Series for example is a big goal for any team and as we saw this year, while Endura Racing won it convincingly, other teams like UK Youth and Raleigh-GAC had their days during the eleven rounds. For Team Raleigh in 2013, the Tour Series, as it will be for a lot of teams, will be the priority but they are also looking forward to success in the Premier Calendar Series and the Elite Circuit Series.

“It’s good to have a strong team on paper but at the end of the day, the results will depend on how we put the team together and in the Tour Series, there are only five man teams. We have strength in depth and it will be an interesting challenge for us to see who we use for that series. There are some obvious candidates like Graham (Briggs), Sam (Witmitz) and Alex (Blain) and Alex has said to us he’s excited to be back riding the Tour Series”.

Cherie says the team also looked at having a team capable of doing well in road race events. VeloUK understands that next year, the season will be more focused on certain types of races; ie, Prems to start with then crits and then Premier Calendar events again.

“We built the team with the objective for doing well in the Premier Calendar races but also with the objective of taking the team into Europe and performing well abroad. Riders like Mark O’Brien and Lachlan Norris for example. I am quite keen to see what those riders can deliver but they also have to get used to the British style of racing where races go from the gun.”

A few of the riders in the team will also get an early start to the season with events like the Bay Crits and Sun Tour in Australia helping give them some intensity to their 2013 season preparations. But important for the management of the team will be to bring the team together for a training camp before they head out to Europe for their first races.

“The beauty of a team like Raleigh-GAC is that we have a race programme which will see us racing in Mexico, Canada, America and so on” says Cherie. There are plenty of races and the dynamics of the team and the way the sponsors chooses for us to race in those countries, gives us quite a diverse race programme.”

The weapon they will choose for that race programme will be the Militis 3 which is essentially the same bike they rode this year so successfully and that bike is expected to be available in the UK around mid 2013.


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