Winning the rainbow stripes is always emotional no matter the age category and so it was for Phil Roach who won a World Cyclo-Cross title at the World Masters a few weeks ago
Phil Roach â€“ World Cyclo-Cross Champion
What racing cyclist doesnâ€™t want to be World Champion? There may be some but itâ€™s a challenge that never goes away for most riders and for Phil Roach, winning his first has certainly been a great achievement.
Phil racing to third last weekend in the ‘stripes’ on the Raleigh RXÂ Race
Some may look at it and not give Masters racing the respect it deserves but what really emphasised the quality of the over 50s to me was the British Championships last weekend when riders of the calibre of Tim Gould and Chris Young are racing for the win and â€˜newcomersâ€™ to the sport as masters such as Phil, are in the mix. Phil finished third.
Whilst Tim Gould and Chris Young were legends as seniors and have progressed into the Masters categories and used that talent to carry on winning, riders like Phil Roach are working hard at competing with them and that they do very well indeed.
Prior to this year, the best for Phil at the Masters World Cyclo-Cross titles had been fourth. In 2015 that changed and he won his title in the 50-54 age category, one of five British riders to come away from the event with rainbow jerseys.
Itâ€™s all a far cry from how Phil got into the sport at 39. His career is in motorsport and in 2009, when working as the photographer for the GB Cycling team, we had the honour of visiting the Ford factory rally team in the Lake District.
There we were, Chris Hoy and a small group of rev heads from the GB team, me included, and as we toured the factory, there was Phil working away at one of the benches. Nowadays, he works in British Superbikes. The company he works for produces suspension for the British Superbikes with the winning bike of Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne having that same brand of suspension.
His job entails not just working in a workshop but also going to events from April to October and on race weekends, working with a top team as well as helping out many of the other riders using his companyâ€™s products. Itâ€™s a very busy time but a season that dove tails well with the cyclo-cross one.
2009 and it was a surprise to see a well known cyclist in Phil Roach working at the Ford Focus factory team as the GB Cycling team paid it a visit
It was whilst in Rugby with Phil working in Rallying for the championship winning Mitsubishi team, that the Roach family got involved in cycling. Son Steven, who was 5th at the Elite Mens Championships last weekend, was out with the scouts one day and his talent on a bike was noticed and brought to Philâ€™s attention.
â€œFrom that time on we went to Martin (Eadonâ€™s) training classes in Rugby and it went from there. I chose cross because my work has always been in the summer, rallying and British SuperBikes, and I canâ€™t train enough to do an endurance sport. The sport suits what I do as a job because I can concentrate on it because Iâ€™m not so busy in the winter. Itâ€™s perfectâ€.
Phil has done the World Masters for many years and has slowly chipped away at getting better and better at it, learning about the different riders and the way they ride. â€œIâ€™d done the course the year before and although it had been altered a bit, the course suited my style; muddy and hard riding where you have to keep powering through everythingâ€ Phil explained.
â€œIt was quite amazing really because when we arrived (Friday), 18 inches of snow had fallen and it was icy. But as the weekend progressed, the temperatures went up and it started to thaw out. The night before my race (Sunday), it also rained all night and we got to the course and there was 18 inches of water instead so it was pretty muddy!â€
â€œI went hard from the start (which Phil is known for) and on the first lap, the guy that went on to lead for most of the race, came past me and put quite a chunk into me, probably 25 seconds. I thought I need to keep holding the pace I was riding at and see what happens. Second is nice but first would be great I was thinking.â€
â€œFour laps in, there was one section I could ride really well and I took 11 seconds out of him in one go. That immediately lifts you and from that point on, I kept pushing on and the next lap, I took another ten seconds out of him and was with him.â€
Phil’s fast start gets him off the line at the British Championships in the lead
â€œThere was also a piece on the course where I could ride and he had to run and I put another five seconds into him and from that point on, I felt it was in the bag as we were into the last lap and I pushed as hard as I couldâ€.
â€œWith that much water on the course, it was keeping the bike (Raleigh RX Race) clean as well. Iâ€™d ride through a puddle or two to take the mud off and keep the bike light. I did two laps on one bike so whilst it was muddy, it wasnâ€™t sticking to the bike. I then changed every lap after that so that when you got on it, it felt lighterâ€.
â€œThe feeling crossing the line to win was unbelievable really. Because four of the Brits had won titles on the Saturday, that lifts you and you feel you have to do it because there is a camaraderie and you want to do it for them as wellâ€.
Asked if he felt any pressure as British Champion in the race, Phil replied â€œI think there would have been if I hadnâ€™t done it so many times. Because I knew the people around me and how they rode, it was like riding a Trophy.â€
The final words were reserved for the Raleigh RX RaceÂ cyclo-cross bike. The Nottingham based company are working more and more on producing quality cross bikes and the RX that Phil has been racing has canti brakes whilst the Raleigh range also has disc based bikes.
Steven Roach used his dad’s Raleigh RXÂ RaceÂ to good effect on the Sunday and is pictured leading ahead of Silver medallist Liam Killeen.
Phil had nothing but praise for the bike, both on and off the record! â€œAs soon as I got on the Raleigh, I felt comfortable on itâ€ he explained.
His bike is full carbon with Cole carbon wheels from Raleigh as well and Schwalbe tyres. â€œThe set-up has been brilliant all year and I have never had a problem with the bike. It rides well, turns well, and the tyres give me loads of grip and roll wellâ€.
The bike proved to be so good that son Steven rode it on the Sunday in the Senior Menâ€™s championships finishing fifth, testament to not just Stevenâ€™s ability on the bike but also the Raleigh RXÂ rangeÂ as worth considering if cross is your thing. Even if it isnâ€™t, that and the disc based cross bikes are perfect too for commuting, sportives and riding on or off road as well as cyclo-cross of course!
For Phil Roach, his Raleigh RX RaceÂ still has a lot of work ahead with at least five more â€˜cross events to go in the season and more opportunities to wear the rainbow stripes! Phil admits more than anything, it was an achievement to get to a level where he was able to win such a jersey and heâ€™ll be making sure he enjoys riding in it!
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