Feature Interview – Graham Briggs


First British winner of the Tour du Loire et Cher in France, Graham Briggs in 2014 is at home in a stage race or crit. VeloUK talks to him …

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Feature Interview – Graham Briggs 

As a former British Circuit Race Champion, unfairly, Graham Briggs was perhaps looked upon as more a top crit rider than all-rounder on the road. After Premier Calendar wins in latter seasons however (Stockton GP for instance) and then becoming the first ever British winner of the Tour du Loire et Cher stage race, ‘Brigga’ is certainly a threat to his rivals in whatever race he rides and that includes cyclo-cross!

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VeloUK caught up with Graham prior to the CiCLE Classic and whilst he didn’t win that, I can vouch for the fact he was one of the most prolific attackers at the start, as he was in the Tour of Reservoir. The win at the Tour du Loire et Cher was Graham’s biggest win to date and was also his first UCI stage race win and first stage win in a UCI stage race. Plenty of milestones ticked off in that event then!

Asked what he was looking for from the race going into it, Graham explained “having done it before, I was hoping to do better than I had previously and I knew I was going well. The objective then was to try and win a stage. I knew from 2008 when I was 7th overall, I wanted to go there and do better than that and you can’t get better than winning it overall!”

Graham was part of a strong team from Rapha Condor JLT with a number of riders capable on paper of winning stages and the overall. Riders like Tom Moses (stage winner in Tour of Normandy and now CiCLE Classic) or former British champion Kristian House. So was Graham picked to be the one for the race?

“We were just sharing the work of trying to get in the moves and on that stage I won, I was attacking early on from kilometre zero and the break soon went. A lot of the stages were also finishing in bunch sprints, so Kristian was helping me get up there on the first few stages. It was messy but I knew he could stay up there and not lose any time. Having ridden the race before, I knew there were a lot of bunch sprints in the race”.

“I’d also been having a few digs on stage 2 to test the legs to see how they were after Reservoir and they were good. Luckily, the stage I won, we also got a big time gap.”

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On twitter, it had been said the race was a little crazy with crashes and so on, crashes that reduced the men in black to four riders from six. Asked about how he saw the race, Graham explained “there were only six man teams so the race was nervous especially with nearly a 200 rider field.”

“On the first stage, everyone wants to be up there and thinks they can be up there so that first day, I lost count of the amount of crashes and lock ups. I didn’t really enjoy it either!”

Asked what a rider can do to avoid such carnage, Graham said a lot of it was luck. “On the the big crash where Will got injured (and Ed to), there must have been 70 riders who got held up. Matt Cronshaw had to have a few stitches after that as well. So I was lucky in that I’d stopped for a nature break with 25k to go and Moses was pacing me back and we just got back on before it happened so Tom and me had to do some cyclo-cross in the ditch to get around the mayhem.”

“If you can stay in the top ten or twenty it’s better but it takes a lot out of you to stay there and then do the finish as well.”

In Yellow
Asked how he felt after winning the third stage and getting the leader’s jersey, Graham explained “the night I pulled on the leader’s jersey, I went to bed thinking that I’d achieved one of my goals coming into the race”.

“I had the lead by 50 seconds over the rider in third and only five seconds on the next rider in second. I knew though in the break at the end, he’d been struggling so I knew I had better legs than him. So I was confident and it was just a matter of how well I recovered from being in that break.”

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“The guys in the team rode brilliantly on that fourth stage and kept me out of trouble early on and when we got to the finishing circuit, which I think was three laps, I was in the mix there and never really felt in danger.”

“The strategy was to let a break go which wasn’t too dangerous but at that point, there were a hundred and seven riders within a minute. So it was always going to be dangerous but we managed with a few teams to control it”.

“It had taken 50k before a break went on that stage and we just pegged it at around a minute or so and when we got to the finishing circuits a lot of teams wanted to race them as that was going to decide the overall.”

“So we got there and Kristian kept me out of trouble for as long as he could and I kept following the moves, trying to be aggressive to put them off and show I was strong. I think was 15th that day and didn’t lose any time so I was pleased with that.”

Having lost two teammates and down to four, that left just three riders for RCJ to control the race. Asked what the roles were for Luke, Tom and Kristian, Graham replied “Luke and Tom rode at the front and Kristian rode behind me and kept me out of trouble and told me to stay calm.”


Winning Stockton GP in Raleigh colours.

Back to John H for the third time
Graham has ridden for John Herety before and he and Tom Moses are revelling in the team with Mr H at the helm. “The atmosphere in the team this year has been great. Everybody is enjoying it and that shows in the results.”

“It’s nice to work with John who I trust and know he has been there and done it. I first rode for John in 2007/08 and then I moved on for 2009 before I came back for 2010/11 and then was away for two years (Raleigh) and then back for 2014.”

Asked what it is about working for John that seems to work for riders like Graham and Tom Moses, he says “we don’t’ seem to have to worry about anything. We just turn up and race and everything is organised and sorted. All we have to think about is the bike race. That definitely helps and we all get on well.”

In a race though, without race radios, the manager is limited to how he can influence his riders. There’s the pre-race strategy and perhaps instructions from the car when able but as Graham says, a lot of it is about riders thinking on their feet.

“You can go into the race with a plan and then that doesn’t happen and you have to change it. If we miss a move for instance, we have to decide between ourselves what the next step is. Sure, we have to make decisions and either go with them or go back and talk to John.”

The Good Form
Asked how he has managed to get the form to do so well early season, Graham explained “I had some time off after the stage race we did in New Zealand, but I knew going into Australia I had to be in good condition just to get round the Bay Crits. So I went there in pretty good shape and managed to stay healthy and then we had a good three week block of training before New Zealand and then I seemed to come up a level there.”

The race in New Zealand, says Graham saw a lot of climbing on every stage which made it tough and he finished that in fifth overall. On a mountain top finish after 4k or so of climbing, he was sixth and says he came back from there feeling like he had started the season on the right foot.

“I wanted to start the season off well. Not just internationally but in the UK as well and in the races I have ridden, I’ve been in the mix in most of them at the end.”


Crit or Road Rider
Graham admits it is good to have got the win in France and show he is much more than a crit rider. “Certainly, if you are a good bike rider, you should be able to ride all types of races. I don’t want to be named as just a crit rider; I want to be a road rider and winning in France has helped that”.

“I am feeling good on the bike at the moment and I think the thing about riding crits well is in the head. If you feeling good, your head will follow so it’s nice going into the Tour Series with good legs and the head in the right place.”

For Graham and the rest of the top pros, it is a busy May. We have Wilton on May 4 then Lincoln and then two days later, the Tour Series. Asked what the goals are, Graham admits it is to have a good Tour Series and try and help his team win it again.

“There are some tough rounds in the Tour Series like Durham, Edinburgh and so on and the tougher the better” Graham says. “All the riders doing the Tour Series are highly motivated for that and it’s a good series to race with good crowds and goods circuits. Riding in front of the crowds you get does lift you”.


2008 and riding for Rapha and John Herety in the CiCLE Classic.

Asked does Lincoln figure in the goals, “the focus before this year has always been the Tour Series so I didn’t really want to go into Lincoln with a lot of pressure and then only have a day before the Tour Series to recover but this year things are going well. The forms good so we’ll see how it pans out there! Hopefully I’ll be in the mix. It’s a special race very similar to the Tour Series with the crowd and pretty local for me.”

Then, after the Tour Series will be the biggest milestone of the year far from any bike race with the birth of his and Sam’s first child. “After the Tour Series, I’d like to have a few weeks easy to enjoy life with the baby. “

“Maybe a few turbo sessions to keep on top of things and then towards mid July, be back on it with some stages races to build the endurance ready hopefully to be selected for the Tour of Britain.

Thanks to Graham for the chat and good luck in Wilton and beyond …



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