Interview – Opie versus the Worlds Best


British sprinter Chris Opie of Rapha Condor JLT is relishing the opportunity to sprint against Cavendish, Kittel and co in his third Tour of Britain

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Interview – Opie versus the Worlds Best

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If the provisional start sheet is anything to go by, the bunch kicks will be quite awesome with Cavendish, Kitell, Farrar, Swift, Blythe and others all going full gas for the stage wins. In there will be British based sprinter Chris Opie (Rapha Condor JLT) from Cornwall who was 5th on the final stage in London last year.


With six man teams and a large roster of talented riders to choose from, his team manager had to make some tough calls. Another sprinter Graham Briggs for example didn’t make the cut but Chris Opie did. “It was good for me making the team” says Chris. “I enjoy racing my bike and the higher the level of competition, the better, so I am happy to be there again this year”.

His manager, John Herety, told VeloUK, “Chris was picked because after a season plagued with sickness he has come into form at the right time. We all know how fast he is here in the UK and he now has an excellent platform to show the rest of Europe just how quick he really is”.

“The team is a mix of GC contenders and riders capable of getting in breakaways but Chris will have as much support as we can give him on the sprint stages. That said, with the well drilled teams of Cavendish, Kittel Bennet, etc. I feel it will more than likely be a case of us trying to deliver him to the tail of those recognised sprint trains.” And Chris is up for that challenge saying “It will be a great chance again for a rider like myself to gauge just how well I am going against the greatest sprinters of my generation; that excites me” he adds.

Asked if he gained anything from that 5th place in the argy bargee world of bunch sprints, Chris replied “Yes but I genuinely believe I can go better though. Last years race wasn’t straight forward for me, entirely through my own fault (not packing spare shoes) so I had to ride seven days in a pair of shoes 1.5 sizes too big! I’ve learnt from that”.

Asked how his form is, Chris replies “Things are going well. I’ve been feeling good since the start of July and close to winning quite a few times. Since then, France was a good race, but after 150km in the break I wasn’t feeling too fresh at the finish. Sunday was much better, but I need to hit the finish line first”.

Chris was second to Adam Blythe at Ipswich where a barrier 800 metres from the line with no warning threw the race into a state of confusion. Chris got within a bike length of Adam in that race, closer than anyone did at Ride London, showing he has the speed and with so many top sprinters in the Tour of Britain, there may be more control until the finale which means more bunch finishes.

The first and last stages are kermesses, stages that are sure to end in bunch kicks. Asked about these, Chris replies “It will be interesting and I am sure the duration will be a little closer suited to our usual races, although a lot more controlled too, which will make them very different. It could potentially be a big help, especially day 1”.

Asked what he learnt about the bunch kicks last year, Chris says “positioning and team support are vital, but not being scared to be up there is another”.


With Cav celebrating another win, and Sam Bennett and Elia Vivani battling over the minor placings, just behind them in his oversized shoes is Chris  Opie, 5th. 

“You have a plan before each and every race, sometimes you attack, sometimes you wait. As a rider, you constantly have to be adapting to the race scenario for your team. Ultimately, it’s the team that needs to succeed”.

Unlike the European pros, the British based ones have little in the way of racing here to prepare for such a major race so the training side of things is very important. “As ever, I’ve been working hard with Steve Benton who he has kept me moving forwards. It’s been a tough year but he has done an incredible job keeping me sane!”

It isn’t just the physical training that needs to be fine tuned. There is homework to be done as well because in a bunch kick, there is so little between the first rider across the line and those behind him.

“Knowledge is Power” says Chris. “The fewer surprises out on the road, especially in the finale the better. Knowing wind direction makes a huge difference too. Any info we can get before a stage, the better prepared we are.”

“I’ve only been able to see the stages via maps and what’s in the Road Book for the race. It does help though for me this year that I know quite a few of the areas that we will be racing through”.

“I think there is the potential for quite a few of the stages to come down to a sprint. It may only be a group of 30 riders if it’s a hard finale but sprinters can climb especially if they know there’s a chance of a win. A lot of the climbs leading into the finish are also ‘only’ 3-7 minutes in length”.

“I’ve just looked up a bunch kick from last year, stage 4. It was over 70km/h but that was a tailwind finish. My power was nothing special, 12 seconds at 1016 watts. That highlights how important it is to arrive fresh at the finish. I was 9th there”.


Chatting with Rob Partridge in the 2013 Tour of Britain. They will be in different teams in 2014.

Keeping the energy levels up
Speaking of fresh, the stages in the race are as much as 140 miles and they have to race day after day for eight days in a row. No rest days! So how do they keep those energy levels up? “I would go for the big breakfast and then small top ups throughout the day” says Chris.

“If you ever want to see an all you can eat contest, a cyclists dinner table isn’t the worst place to start.” For mid race snacks, Chris adds “we had a really good granola bar this weekend (Ipswich). That went down well. I remember having half a Mars on the Welsh stage in the rain last year and that was also a good morale boost!”

Chris explains another important factor in recovering is a warm down after the stage. “Ideally there will be a warm down but this can depend on the conditions. Transfers and other priorities on that day dictate what we do.”

“We always have a Science in Sport recovery drink and food within minutes of getting off the bikes. We also have massage and to be honest anything else you can imagine needing. Just relaxing will make a big difference to how you recover too”.


Chris (right) Flying the flag for Cornwall in Devon ;-)

Third time lucky?
The 2014 race will be his third and asked for highlights from the two previous ones, Chris says “Last year’s Dartmoor and London stages were really quite special. The atmosphere and crowds were really were amazing! For me, Devon was even more special, lots of friends and family were there and it’s nice to hear your name being cheered!”

And low points from the race … “Pulling out on the Dartmoor stage in 2012” Chris replies.

Finally, I remember watching Chris struggle in his comeback race, the Pearl Izumi Tour Series event at Redditch. Race by race though he got better and better and when asked if having that forced break has helped him at this stage of the season, he says “I think it has. I never planned to have taken so long away from racing; it drove me mad. But it has kept me fresher, perhaps more than I have been at this point in the season. It also helps that I’m still ‘hungry’ to win”.

Look out for Chris in the dash to the line on Stage 1 in Liverpool. He’ll be the one in all black and on a black bike! Let’s hope it’s a bright day!


Chris Opie (centre of pic in black)sprinting at the Circuit of the Fens won by another rider to look for in the bunch kicks, Adam Blythe.

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