Feature Interview – Ian Wilkinson (Raleigh)


Raleigh-GAC team rider Ian Wilkinson looking to bounce back in 2015 after a disappointing few months in 2014

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Feature Interview – Ian Wilkinson (Raleigh)

Benchmarks are great things to judge yourself by after a disappointing season and on the final stage of the Tour of Britain in London, Raleigh’s Ian Wilkinson was in the mix for the stage, finishing 6th with big name sprinters both ahead of him and behind as well.


Typical Wilkes banter at the launch in France in 2014

“I had crap year being ill and found it is never easy to recover enough to get back into racing” Ian explained from his home in Lancashire. His season started and finished well and whilst the results for the year are not up to his normal standard, as he pointed out, there were quite a few races he helped out the other boys in Raleigh-GAC which never gets seen or helps getting a result.

“It was a disappointing year but ended well and thanks to Chez (Cherie Pridham, team owner) for supporting me during that rough middle bit. It’s why I am pleased to stay with the Raleigh-GAC team this year”.

Ian explained that despite the disappointment there were still highlights like the early season pro race in Europe, Haut Var.

“That was one of the best bits for me because it’s a mountainous race and not really suited to me but I was going really well. I got round and did a lot of work for Mark Christian who pulled a ride out on the last day”.


First win of the year, the Eddie Soens, a classic in British racing

“So I was super pleased with that. I was going well for the Soens and pleased to get the victory. It’s a classic and not an easy race to win. I was also going well at the Tour of Reservoir so I was happy with my form but after that, for one reason or another, it tailed off which is a shame”.

“I must have picked up some virus and then raced on it. I took ten days off before Lincoln and was feeling pretty good health wise. But I think it was one race to early and then I did the start of the Pearl Izumi Tour Series before having to stop. I missed the majority of the series which was disappointing”.

“It is a big thing the Tour Series and with it on tele and it being important to get Raleigh’s name on there, it was a shame not to be a big part of it. The lads did well last year and we’ll come back this year and win more!”

Being ill like that is a lesson for many reasons Ian explained before adding, if you’re not ready for disappointment, it is going to be a long tough road to deal with.

The Big Comeback
Ian did deal with the disappointment and came back fighting soon enough. “I was more unfit in the middle of the season than I was in the middle of winter” he pointed out.

“I was starting from a really crap place and I was working with Steve Benton at that point and we got there bit-by-bit. There were not many easy days as I was fully committed to get back and I wasn’t in bad shape in the Tour of Britain”.

“I was missing a little depth, because during the year I missed around 230 hours of riding. That is a lot of miles when everyone else is chopping round crits getting speed in their legs and so on”.

Ian had to get that base back and this was done whilst also racing Prems and more during July and August. “I was doing base work during the week and then using the races for the high end stuff as well as helping out the other guys in the team out”.


Circuit of the Fens, Ian Wilkinson of Raleigh (right) wins the sprint for 14th place from last years winner Marcin Bialoblocki 

“It was a massive training phase. The first time I felt I was going okay was the Circuit of the Fens when I’d eased back for the race and did alright. Then at Ipswich, I was massively disappointed about the finish where some of us we were sent the wrong way by an ill placed barrier. It was a shame not to have had a good crack at Blythey (winner Adam Blythe), I think would have run him close there!”

“I was moving forward at that point and feeling better.

The Tour of Britain
Despite all the problems during the season, Ian made the cut to ride the Friend’s Life Tour of Britain for Raleigh-GAC and didn’t know what to expect on stage 1 in Liverpool which saw a massive crowd come out to watch the World’s best professional cyclists.

“It is a massive race so to have it there on a circuit with a huge crowd able to watch it on the big screens was such a big thing. I was a bit unsure of the form there so it was a bit of feeler”.

“I had intentions of a good finish and I knew I was going okay but at that level, it’s a different sort of racing and in a massive group sprint, it’s easy to bottle it. You have to change the mindset completely”.

“In a Premier Calendar event, there might be four or five of you but in the Tour of Britain, there you are rustling in a big group of well over a 100. That was different and as it happened, I went early and got swamped with 800 to go!”


Catch me if you can! Ian Wilkinson showing good form at the RideLondon Classic getting in several early moves.

Ian’s Role at the Tour of Britain
In previous editions of Britain’s biggest road race, Ian has been able to get himself into breaks during the race and the 2014 Edition was also far from a sprinter’s race outside of the first and last stage. So what was his role in the Raleigh-GAC team?

“We were all ducking and diving for a breakaway and then looking after Matheiu (Boulo) and Mark (Christian). It was case of pulling for the GC guys and also looking for a good breakaway and get the best possible publicity for Raleigh”.

“The Tour of Britain was brutal and everyone was talking about it in the bunch. It was like a classic race stage after stage. In longer races in Europe, the down time in the middle where you bowl along and have a nature break etc, the roads are quick and everyone can have a freewheel and a chat before the nitty gritty part of the race”.

“On our roads, even if you are on a main road, they seem so heavy going, you are never rolling along. On the roads in Majorca, you do 20mph for fun where as in Britain it’s more like 17 or 18mph. They are slower here with a rougher tarmac and it is up and down all the time. It lends itself to harder riding unless you’re a wirey climber!”

“With small teams as well, the break is never given more than few minutes before the peloton starts riding again. It was a brutal race from start to finish so I was pleased to get through it”.

Was Ian able to conserve something for the last stage? “No” was the quick answer to that! “There was no conserving as it was balls out every day just to get round. Even in the Time Trial, you couldn’t go easy because you had the Worlds best testers going for GC and there’s me chopping round on a TT bike I have done three races on”.

“So I got round the TT, had a shandy, muffin, sleep and knocked out a sixth. That was alright!” He said smiling. Of course Wilkes!


Team Player. Ian leads Mark Christian out at the bottom of the Tumble on stage 3 of the Tour of Britain.

Mixing it with the very best.
I am sure many of you have seen the videos of the sprints in the top pro races and see how physical they are but how many of you would love to be in the mix with Kittel, Cavendish and the world’s best in a bunch sprint up Whitehall in London?

A lot of you I expect! So what it was like for a British based pro, a former builder turned bike rider, to be in that sprint?

“I was positioning myself at the turn (Tower of London) and on the run back to the finish, it was a bit of a bun fight to be honest. The teams had different trains going and as it turned out, I decided to wait and wait because the year before, we’d gone too early”.

“I was trying to be patient because when you are going at that speed and you stick your head into the wind, you have one effort and that’s it so timing is crucial”.

“I did time it pretty well. I could have timed it a little later as Zabel came round me late on. But on the right sort of finish, you can compete with these guys. It’s about being delivered well or finding the right wheel”.


Ian Wilkinson chasing the Worlds Best Sprinters to the finish line at the Tour of Britian. He was sixth.

“The bends on that finish, they make it better for a team without a lead out. The more technical the finish, the better it is for a lone shark to creep in and get a result as you’re not trying to deal with a lead out train”.

“There were people trying to get on the back of Kittel’s train and Cav’s train and the shit storm behind them is ridiculous and you don’t want to be part of that. If it’s a straight line finish, you have to deal with it and try and be in there unless you have your own lead out”.

“I was hovering behind the Movistar leadout and they pulled in and I nipped round them and that was it. The sprint was from that last corner. Once you were round there, you were in a line all the way to the finish. Kittel’s sprint was impressive”.

I said to Ian he must have enjoyed the opportunity to get in that mix? “This is what the sport is about, challenging yourself with the best” Ian replied. “I am fortunate enough to have that opportunity”.

Signing for Team Raleigh
Whilst for 2015 Raleigh – GAC lost riders to the new team One Pro Cycling and others in Europe, they did hold on to several key riders including Ian. “There were a few offers about but as Raleigh had supported me through the middle part of the year, short of them not paying me, I was more than happy to stay with them.”

Ian then had high praise for the bike … “The Militis bike is actually really, really good. I don’t have a bad word to say about it. This winter, I have mudguards on it, it’s comfortable, efficient, reliable, and so nice to ride and it races really well too”.


The 2014 Militis Raleigh bike. Look out for a new look bike in 2015!

“So the equipment is fine and the clothing great too (MOA). It looks amazing so I am really happy with everything”.

“I want to try and step forward this year in more of a team captain’s role and try and ‘g’ everyone up. There are some new riders coming in who I don’t know but I’ll soon get to know them and help everyone to be working on the same page and we’ll move forward”.

“I am looking forward to this season and all the racing we have. There are more bites at the apple nowadays so there’s a better chance of a win with more racing and also, less time to worry about training!”

“I have targets in there like this Tour de Yorkshire. That comes fairly close to where I live and going along Haworth main street, that will be a big thing”.

“Rutland is important and Lincoln too, and being the national champs, it is going to be an immense event. I’m pretty keen to get stuck in so Easter will be a busy period and then there’s the Tour Series before we start working on getting in the team for the Tour of Britain”.

“My role as team captain is to bring the new guys up to speed as quickly as possible on racing in the British scene so they can perform at their best. I’m sure after a few races under their belt, they’ll settle in and be fine”.

Winter Training
When I spoke to Ian, he’d just returned from a trip to Lanzarote. “We had a week in Lanzarote over Xmas and that was a low key week of riding and keeping the turkey belly at bay.”

Then we (Ian and his wife Jayne) came back for a bit and then we went again for ten days when there were a few other lads out there like Marcin, Tubs and Pete. That was nice. So I am starting to feel better now and in a few weeks we’re off on the Raleigh camp”.

“The season will come round pretty quick. It’s all about making the most of the goods days (weather) and then doing your best on the other days.”

Ian, who’s hoping to start his season at the Soens Memorial and then the Clayton Velo Spring Classic, says there’s no hurry to start racing. “The team training camps are good for some competition but when it’s cold, wet and windy and you are supposed to be doing a five thousound giga watt smash up Nick o Pendle, it can be hard to raise oneself for that”.

Ian though had such great form last season prior to the start of the Prems, he knows what works for him even if its part old school, and part new school. “I am doing some work with a power metre but I don’t think you can beat going out and feeling what the legs are like”.

“If you are doing a medium sort of effort then it should feel medium, if it’s supposed be hard, then it will be hard. There is merit in both ways of training and increasingly, for all the simplicity of the old school ways, there is a lot to be said for power meters. All these pro teams would not be using them if there was no merit in them”.

Ageless Superman
Like the comic book character his nickname is after, Superman, Ian quickly dismisses any notion that age has anything to do with how long he will race for.

“Life is brilliant” he says. “I am getting paid to ride my bike and as long as I keep performing, I’ll keep racing it”.

“Cycling is probably one of the most diverse age groups in sport. I am as fresh as a daisy and have years in me yet. These youngsters better watch out! I didn’t start till late and had a few years out. It hasn’t been a bad thing to have had a job behind me (builder) as well.


“I am really lucky and doing well. I’m one of the better riders in the country and still performing and as long as that is the case that should be good for me racing”.

Ian says riders like Malcolm Elliott who was winning right up until he got out at 50 is an inspiration and that cycling, unlike being a builder, doesn’t have the same wear and tear on the body. “Bike racing is massively demanding but not as rough on your body as being a builder” he says.

The British Scene 2015
The final question is about the British scene with six UCI teams. What does Ian think about the season ahead? “There’s been an even spread of the riders this year, one or two wildcards being thrown in like Von Hoff, but the cream of British riders is spread around the teams so I do think the racing will be more even this year and better than ever”.

“There were a few races at the end of last year like Ipswich for example that were like a proper pro bike races. The breakaway got away and then a few teams put their hats in the ring to say we have a sprinter, let’s bring it back and there was a sprint finish”.

“It is a classic bike race format rather than the normal racing here which is a war of attrition. Hopefully we’ll see more of the classic style in 2015!”

Good luck to Ian and Team Raleigh – GAC in 2015

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