TalkingShop: Team Raleigh’s Alex Blain


Winner of two ‘classics’ last year year, Frenchman Alex Blain is back in Team Raleigh colours to help the team triumph in the first big race of the 2013 British season.

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“It is good to be back and with sunshine” Alex explained in one of the chalets that Raleigh have housed their riders in at a nearby golf course. “It will be a completely different race than last year and also with number 1 on my back, it will be different for me. A lot of riders will have their eye on me more than last year.”


The dry he says will make for a different race. “It is easier to stay on the wheels in the dry. In the wet, you have mud in your eyes and its definitely better to ride in the front and force it when you can chose your line and miss the holes. When you lose one or two meters, it is hard to get that back. But, in the dry weather it will be easier to stick to the wheel so it will be harder and more tactical.”

“I think Raleigh will be in the same position as Endura last year with a lot of focus on us having a strong team so it will be hard to do the same as last year but we have six strong riders here and the most important is a victory for Raleigh, not Alex Blain”.

“By being strong on the sectors can help us win the race. A lot of riders will be looking at us and me also so I will need to force it and make the race harder and drop most of the riders I can on the sectors. The wet weather last year on CiCLE made the sectors harder than normally so we will see what happens tomorrow.”

“Somerby and those rough sectors are like a proper climb, if some one is a bit tired on your wheel, you can drop them and perhaps get more than thirty seconds out of the sector. Those type of sectors can make a huge difference so that is where riders will try and split the race.”


One of the jobs for Alex today (Saturday) was too look at the final sector, Sawgate and then the finishing loop. Alex explained how it was important to have a look at the finishing loop to not have any surprises.

“The plan is to attack and not wait so we need to know if there are still riders on our wheel where we can force it so it is always important to know the finish. It is going to be a very tactical race in the dry weather. I know the strengths of old teammates like Wilko (Ian Wilkinson), Ian Bibby and the UK Youth and Madison teams.”

Alex post interview then went and had a good look at the Sawgate Lane sector which comes a long way from the finish this time, 18.5 kilometres where as in the past its come only a four or five K from the finish. He explained that he rode the Sawgate sector in 2010 but doesn’t really remember it and it was cut short last year so it was important to look at that.

“I need to see that even if I don’t have good legs and am not there with the leaders but if I am, then I want to know the roads.”

He explained how in 2010, his team, Endura Racing, missed the break and how it would be important this year to try and control the race. Not easy with six riders for any team but I saw first hand in the Dengie Marshes race in 2012 from the back of the motorbike just how strong Alex can be and perhaps the dark horse will be his teammate Eric Berthou …

What ever happens, it is for sure going to be one hell of an exciting race and I emphasis the word hell!


A liking for the onroad/off road races
Alex likes these type of races and recently raced in Tro Bro Leon, a UCI 1.1 race like CICLE but with a lot more ‘sectors’. “FDJ was well represented in the break and the bunch and we knew we had the strength to try and win the race. We took the responsibility for forcing the race on our shoulders and forced it with 50k to go which was maybe a bit early to do it but if we didn’t do it, then the breakaway would go to the finish without us.”

“So we forced it and had the riders from FDJ sitting on wheels on the first sectors and they were able to save their legs as they had riders in the front and then they were stronger than we expected on the last two sectors. They dropped us and there was no way back. The problem was we missed the break on the day and had to force it. We did show though in France that teams should respect Team Raleigh”.

Good Preparation races for the British season
Alex explained how with his new team, Team Raleigh, it has been a good start to the season. “Always I try to have good legs in Tour of Normandy because it is a race I like and you need to be in good shape for this seven day stage race. My plan all winter was to be good shape for Normandy and maintain it for one month for TroBro, which was my first goal after Normandy”

It has been a very busy season so far for Raleigh with a lot of high ranking races in France and Alex says “sure, we have tired legs but we also have strong legs because we have done a lot of hard races and this is a big goal (Cicle) and I want to do something here.”


Normandy – close but no cigar…
His first big goal was Normandy and he went close there, very close… “Just after the race I was really disappointed to lose a one week stage race by only three seconds and when you know that I started my prologue in the wet (the last 30 riders got a wet start to their race) I felt really unlucky but that is cycling.”

Two days later though (after the race finish) I looked back and saw the positive stuff like I was really strong, had a really solid team, a stage win and was second overall. I would like to have won it a second time though. Only two riders in 80 years have won it twice so it would have been awesome to be the third to do it.”

“I will need a rest though after this to come back strong for the Tour Series. They are only one hour races but it’s really nervous and very hard and for five weeks it is really tough so you need to arrive there with a fresh mind and fresh legs also”.


Alex is not the only Frenchman in the team and has been joined by Eric Berthou who has been a great signing with a lot of experience in UCI races and strong legs as well. “He is a good rider with a lot of experience” says Alex. “He knows the British races will be different and has been asking me how they are to ride but to help Raleigh to ride at a higher level, he has been really good.”

“He is a good captain on the road so we share the captain role and that is very helpful especially with all his knowledge in cycling and tactics. He has proved he is a good rider too and can win the strong races.”

The CiCLE Classic will be Eric’s first British race but be in no doubt, with many years experience riding pro races in Europe, he has both the legs and the tactical experience to do well. There will be a lot of unknown riders this year with many teams from outside Britain and the first two laps of Rutland Water will be important to get a selection made before the sectors and the real action begins.

VeloUK will be there and will be sending out pictures when possible which with internet on the course patchy may be more post race than during. Bring it on!



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