Interview: Colin Sturgess

Former World Track Champion, Colin Sturgess, who guided Madison Genesis to an excellent season on the road chats about his time at the team after his momentous resignation on Wednesday

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Interview: Colin Sturgess

A week after we’d arranged to chat about his year on the road with Madison Genesis, Colin Sturgess dropped a bombshell on the cycling community by announcing his retirement from the team for personal reasons.

The response from said community is an indication of the love cycling has for this man and it was no surprise to hear his phone was going berserk with notifications as he tried to chill out by riding by bike….

Whilst Colin wasn’t able to discuss publically the reason for the resignation, he was full of praise for the riders and the team owners at Madison Genesis and said it had been a fantastic year on the road with them.

This year was the first one for Colin at Madison Genesis and when I asked what his goals were with the team when he started, he replied “I went into it with a two or three year plan. I was very aware of not going into Madison Genesis and wanting to change everything. I wanted to address a few things that could be done differently, and make small changes. The biggest thing I wanted to install in the guys was a little bit of confidence, to believe in themselves, take a risk and race in many ways, the way I used to race – aggressively.”

“I had hoped to implement that over a two or three year period with the view of becoming a really really good Conti team; one that I could ring up any race organiser in the world and say ‘I want to bring Madison Genesis to your race’ and tell them they were a top 10 conti team and this and that.”

“That was the big picture at the beginning of the year and I guess I had to moderate a few things and be a bit less idealistic as time went on”.

Prior to Madison Genesis, Colin was the DS of Metaltek Kuota when they won the UCI ranked event, the CiCLE Classic“ and when I asked what the difference was for him going from an Elite British team to a UCI ranked one, he says “budgets. I’m sure Swainy won’t mind me saying but the biggest difference between Elite and UCI teams like Madison Genesis is the budget. We were constantly balancing the books at Metaltek; looking ahead and saying if we did this race, the hotels are going to cost this and we can’t do this or that.”

“We were always cautious about spending money and I have to add that Madison doesn’t have an endless pool of money either despite what many may think. One thing we worked on this year a fair bit was tightening things up budget wise and using the money we had in the budget wisely.”

Colin then explained, that for example as a guesstimate, £50 at Metaltek could have been £250 at Madison budget wise and that in both teams, spending the money still hits the budget hard. The bigger budget though at Conti level does allow the team to attract the riders who can bring to the table more results during a given season.
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Colin then added, that at Madison Genesis, because he had a bigger budget to work with and riders were being paid, he could ask for more from his riders.

“Without denigrating any of the elite riders, when you start to pay a monthly salary to a rider, you can ask for more, demand more, tell them ‘I need results’, and in many ways, you can buy in a rider who can hopefully do that for you. My point is, if you are able to spend 20k or more, then you are going to get a rider equivalent to that pay level.”

One the biggest races he did in Britain early on in his reign at Madison Genesis, was the Tour of Yorkshire so I asked how that went for him in his role as DS so early in his time at the team? “It felt fantastic to be a DS in that race and I feel that set us up for a good season.”

Playful moment during the Tour Series where Col got in the face of the camera LoL

“The confidence we had from that event was amazing. We had Mikey (Cumming) in the KoM jersey, and some strong rides where they got in breakaways. The riders were keen and we knew we had a chance of bigger results. It was unfortunate we lost Matt (Holmes) with injury (their GC hope) and also George and Erick in the race but the guys went into it keen for it, aggressive. They wanted it and I don’t think a DS can ask for more because when a rider wants something, that is one of the most crucial things you can do as a manager or DS and that is to install that into riders”.

For Colin in 2018, coming into the role as DS of a UCI team was a new learning experience so I asked did seeing old friends from the peloton in his racing days at events help make him feel comfortable? Yes was the reply.

“The classic race for me we did was the Great War Remembrance Race (1.1) race in August in Belgium, a new race and a good one for the team to get into. Scotty Sunderland was the race director and I know him, and we have gone into the managers meeting and I caught up with Brian Holme, an ex teammate and allround good guy, Alan Pieper, another former teammate, and Herman Frison of Lotto Soudal. We came in and sat down and there were four of us from the Tulip Computers pro team in a row and now all DS’s. It was pretty special”

Pre-race briefing with staff

Season Highlight
When I asked what the season highlight was for Colin, I knew pretty much what it was going to be, the British Road Race Championships and Connor Swift’s victory.

“I have never been as moved and as proud of another rider’s performance as I have been for Connor and the team winning the nationals. I won some pretty good races myself and the buzz you get yourself is great but I was I moved to tears.”

“Connor is a quietly spoken guy, with a good sense of humour but he’s respectful and very down to earth. We’d been through a few races, and I remember saying to him, the win is going to come and when it does, it will be a biggy so don’t panic. Take it step by step, do the right things to give yourself the opportunity for that big win to happen and he did”.

And Connor’s ride at the Worlds last weekend? “This is the thing with Connor. He is young enough to be moulded into a various roles and he would have known, ‘Brammeier needs me to do this job on such and such a lap’ and he showed a lot of maturity for a 22 year old.”

“Riders that age can still be tempestuous and get carried away but he doesn’t. He freely admits he’s still learning but you can’t fault that ride in the worlds. I remember watching him on the front and thinking ‘oh my god, look at the people getting spat’ and thinking what a fantastic turn of pace at the front it was by Connor.”

“It wasn’t a turn where he just lit it up and it was over in a minute or two. It was a controlled, professional job being done so fantastic. That boy has such a future.”

The Tour Series was fought out by the teams of these two managers, Colin and Tim Elverson (Canyon Eisberg) seen ‘warming up’ for a race together at Stevenage.

Season Disappointment
“The biggest disappointment for me was not wining an individual round of the prems. We did so well but we didn’t get an individual victory and that frustrated me a bit. It wasn’t a negative as the guys were great but it just didn’t happen for us. We were targeting the individual win, the team win, and Tour of Britain qualification. So when you look at all that, it balances out and whilst we didn’t get an individual win, we did team win in both series and get the Tour qualification”.

“I was also pretty gutted not winning the Tour Series. I didn’t really have any pre-conceived ideas going into it that we were going to win. Obviously I wanted to and it would have been fantastic to have done so, but it’s not like we had a specific criterium team.”

“We were relying on guys like Richard Handley for example, one of the country’s most experienced road riders, and he rode out of his skin as a team rider in the Tour Series and got third in one of the rounds. The round that let us down and was one that was always going to be tough was Stevenage (pan flat).”

“It came down to an all out sprint and we didn’t haven’t an out and out sprinter. We have guys who can gallop like Connor, but we didn’t have a Matt Gibson or Chris Opie and that hurts us a little. We rolled the dice at Salisbury but fair play to Tim (Elverson) and his boys who stepped up to it. I can’t fault our guys commitment in the series though and would like to think it was one of the most exciting finales to a Tour Series we have seen in a long time”.

Back to racing for Colin?
After leaving Madison Genesis, what now for Col? Will he be tempted back into racing? “I might but it will depend on what I do work wise.”

“It was a lovely thought to think I could have raced this year but I quickly realised that wasn’t going to happen. I was able to ride the bike every day at the training camp in Calpe, and was feeling quite good but then when the team starts racing, you’re away every weekend, and during the week, it wasn’t practical. So next year it depends on what I do but I may end up doing some TT’s, some national Bs, TLI and LVRC. I enjoy it and love challenging myself”.

And work .. is he a man for hire I tentatively asked on a very emotional day for him? This of course may have changed in the hours since we spoke such was the reaction to the news of him leaving Madison Genesis, but on Wednesday he replied that he is happy to talk about possible work next year but first is going to take time off for a big trip to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his birth this year.

“I am a man for hire for next year and I think I have an awful lot to offer the sport especially with young guys. I enjoy working with them and they appreciate the help they get when learning whilst some of the more established and experienced riders think they know it all, so we’ll see. I definitely want to stay in the sport and think I have a lot to give. I have never said I know it all, because I don’t but I am keen to learn”.

Colin challenging himself in the Hill Climb championships

And finally, the Madison Genesis team for 2019 he helped sign up. Whilst not revealing the names in the team which have not been made public, Colin has helped to create a stronger squad for the next season. “I think the dynamic has changed slightly. The one thing that has changed is the team covers the crits with some new signings”.

“ When I spoke to one of the new signings, I stressed I wanted him to take ownership of the Tour Series again, be the team captain so I think we have covered the crits more but also given the team the opportunity of some assured wins in Prems with a couple of the new signings.”

“I am utterly gutted I can’t work with these news guys because I have massive belief in them. Like one of the new signings is an under rated rider who will win things whilst another of the riders should be World Tour. It is a shame I won’t be there but the team has been strengthened and gives them so many more options.”

Thanks to Colin and we look forward to seeing him continue in the sport either here in Britain or even in Europe in 2019 …

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