Feature Interview: Tim Elverson (Canyon Eisberg)

Chat with the boss of one of the top teams in the UK, winners of the Tour Series and a stage in Yorkshire, Tim Elverson of Canyon Eisberg

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Feature Interview: Tim Elverson (Canyon Eisberg)

Chat with the boss of one of the top teams in the UK, winners of the Tour Series and a stage in Yorkshire, Tim Elverson of Canyon Eisberg

Whilst it is sad, gut wrenching so, that teams have folded in 2018 and talented riders are lost to the sport, it is also awesome to see through a lot of hard work, teams like Vitus Pro Cycling and Canyon Eisberg both stepping up for 2019.

Both of them had to really tough it out during the winter of 2017/18 to be part of the racing in 2018 and for Canyon Eisberg, it was quite a year. VeloUK recently spoke to Tim who was busy with ‘real’ work with the company’s he is responsible for along with the pro team Canyon Eisberg.

Those companies include Roadwheel (http://roadwheel.co.uk) for motorcycle and car repairs and another company for housing development so in Tim’s words, he’s got a fair bit going on during the off season catching up. The 2019 season will be Tim’s eighth in the sport as a DS/manager/Team Owner after five with Pedal Heaven, and two so far with Canyon UK.

Since he got involved in the sport, he says that whilst there were three or four teams around back then, the level of the racing has gone through the roof. “The racing level has gone up a mile which is why when we go to the big races, we’re competitive and there is more depth here now” Tim explained.

Team Time Trial at the Tour Series

He added though, “but whilst we have seen a good growth in the racing level, I’ve never felt a financial boom in the sport because I have always been on the edge of being under funded. When Pedal Heaven withdrew their sponsorship, it was a battle to start again and then Bike Channel folded and it was a battle for this year too so I have never felt comfortable going into a winter because I have never had the luxury of multiple year deals. So I am not sure I have ever felt that secure and even now, whilst I am much better off than I was because I knew what was going to happen and I had a lot of good sponsors commit early, I am still chasing a decent budget because there just isn’t the money out there at the minute.”

Tim back in the Pedal Heaven days 

“I hate to blame Brexit and while I don’t think it is the actual reason, what it is creating is that uncertainty and that scares people and until someone sorts it out, it will continue to have an effect on all of us.”

Bigger and Better in 2019
Before we looked back at this year, Tim explained that for 2019, despite the lack of money around, he will have a bigger squad for next season, his biggest squad ever and one with an average age of 23.2.

The reason for the large squad, he explains, is partly because he didn’t want riders being lost to the sport. “I have taken on riders who found themselves without rides that I didn’t want to see go without, and partly because I am getting a programme together than can almost support a split calendar. The future is bright in that we are making progress but it still feels a challenge but then running any business is a challenge”.

Last winter was a big challenge to stay on the road for Tim and his team so how special was 2018 after all that hard work I asked? “Really good” Tim replied. “I tend to measure success on the progress made from the year before, and as long as I feel we have done that, then it will have been a good season. This year was going to be difficult to progress from last year as 2017 was such a good first season in the Canyon colours but we made it and made it with bells on.”

Harry Tanfield wins a stage of the Tour of Yorkshire, a first for a Conti team in the race

One of the biggest talking points from the last season will be a conti team winning a stage in the Tour of Yorkshire thanks to Harry Tanfield of Canyon Eisberg. It wasn’t long ago Tim’s team could not get a ride at Yorkshire and here they were with Harry winning a stage in the race.

“That was good” explained Tim “and it could have been two! It was brilliant for Harry and the same for the team. I am satisfied with that too because it was a win we did target him being up the road on (for that stage) because we knew he had a good chance if it stuck so there was an element of planning that went into the win.”

“Overall, this season, I was pleased with how the guys rode at the Tour Series too (which they won) , and then we proved at the Tour of Britain without Harry that we can still get stuck in and get good results. We took the jersey (Sprints) at the end (Alex Paton) but before that I was already satisfied as we had three top tens, Max in the top 20 on GC and so we had proved it was a good race for us even without the likes of Harry and showed we had that depth in the squad”.

There was much celebrating after the Tour Series victory in Salisbury

Another 2018 season talking point will be the manner in which Alex Paton in Tim’s team colours won the Sprints jersey in the Tour of Britain on the celebration stage around London. Whilst Alex had probably already won it the day before with his ride then, there was still a challenge coming from a formidable opponent in Matt Holmes (Madison Genesis).

When asked how he felt about that ride of Alex Paton’s , Tim replied “it was very special. He lived with me for a period to help with the logistics of having riders close as he lived at Dover and it was simpler to move him up here.”

“So he lived with me and the family and whilst I don’t have favourites in the team, and they know I run the team very straight and I’ll pick who I think is right for a race and the teams goals, Alex is a close friend and he had a tough year.”

“He started well and people never got to see that. He rode the European races really strongly and was coming on nicely and into form for the CiCLE Classic which was a target race and then he was involved a crash that wasn’t his fault at two thirds distance”.

“Then a week later in Yorkshire, he was in another crash (hit by a car), again not his fault, and he was more injured from that crash than we realised. It took some time for him to get over that one but I could see the form coming and was optimistic with what I wanted from the team in the Tour of Britain, he was the right rider to put in the race.”

Alex Paton winning a jersey in the Tour of Britain

“So when it came off, I was particular satisfied and it was nice also because he’d had such a battle to get to that point this year. What he brings to the team with his big heart and courage and not always results, is what you saw on that final day of the Tour of Britain. I mean, Matt Holmes (Madison Genesis) rode exceptionally to take the fight on, but that moment when Alex fought his way up to Matt in that final sprint, and came alongside Matt for me, that is what sport is about.”

“That was a special moment when a lot of people probably had a tingle down their spine because it was such a nice moment and you won’t see that often. It was the icing on the cake and he deserves it.”

Did the Tour Series victory surprise him? “No. I wanted to win it and I felt we had been competitive last year but we had so many wet races then and had wet issues. In the dry races (2017), we’d won* so I knew we could do it if we got it right. It is not easy because Madison Genesis and JLT are both very good in that racing so it was going to be a battle but one I had been looking forward to for quite a while. I did want to win, and felt we could but you still have to go out there and do it”.

* Team win at Aberdeen, Individual wins for Jack Pullar & Chris Opie

Chris Opie winning in Redditch in 2017 – Tour Series

“It is a tough series and a team needs to be consistent throughout the whole month. Winning one round is difficult but wining the series is a huge challenge and it was something we hadn’t done before and I was pleased we did do it. It was a team effort as well with a lot of different riders getting involved and that last round, Hank (James Lowsley Williams) made it particularly spicy for us!”

Tim though is not a fan of dwelling on his team’s results and would rather look forward and to future victories. “You have to look back and see how you did a good job in a race but I tend to not look back too much” Tim explained. “You have to look at who (riders) brought what to the table, and who helped us get to where we needed to get to though”.

“You need to look at where we were weak and how we can improve from there and I have had a reasonably big shuffle in the squad for the next season. With Chris (Opie) and Hank retiring and a few riders retiring with injury before that and me not re-signing a couple means I have quite a big reshuffle and I have a few more than I had in the squad this year.”

“I have quite a lot of new faces next season but have retained that core group of around seven or eight riders. I have a lot of new guys but everyone one them has a link to somebody in the team so I think they will settle in well. We have already had a couple of team rides with half the new guys so I can start creating that bond.”

“There is also lot of banter on the Whatsapp group and I think the team will be real strong next year.”

“The team of 18 will include three specialists (GB trackies) who will be missing for chunks of the season and also a few young guys” says Tim.

“The original plan was to have 14 riders plus a specialist and now I have 15 riders and 3 specialists. I have one first year senior, three second year seniors and along with the ‘specialists’ I know I won’t get a full season out of them all so suddenly I am down to 13 and not quite two full teams for a split programme. The numbers in the team though will allow me to rotate the riders more as I know this year, some of my riders did way too many races because we were short on numbers.”

“Every year I have thought I have too many riders to manage but every year we have had injuries and sickness and I am sure next year will be no different and I will have a bigger calendar as well. It is a nicely balanced squad I feel.”

Tim ‘warming up’ with ‘rival’ manager Colin Sturgess

A Lister
It doesn’t feel that long ago that when we spoke about Tim and how he was the new kid on the block like back in the Pedal Heaven days. But now he is signing riders who have won some very big races both here and abroad. It is like he is now an A lister in the sport of cycling in Britain. Does he feel that way himself?

“I like signing the good riders I have and am pleased we have got to the point in the sport that these riders want to sign for the team and pleased they will come to my team for less money because they like the way it is run and the calendar we are running. That is satisfying and says that me and the rest of the staff are doing a good job”.

One surprise for many will be the addition of two riders from abroad. Tim has always been known for developing young riders who have quickly made their mark in the sport. Asked about why two foreign riders, Tim replies “originally I didn’t realise there were going to be so many teams folding and I needed to find riders who could win bike races that weren’t the obvious riders in the UK”.

“I wasn’t prepared to finish second or third in races and I had to figure a way of finding winners and the solution was to go over the water to find some riders. Having different style of riders in the teams helps the youngsters develop as well and it is still about developing the youngsters for me. They need role models and I thought having some foreign riders with that different style of racing would help the youngsters.”

“I was clear early on I needed some foreign riders because having raced a lot in Europe now, I liked the way some of those guys ride and I want that to rub off on some of my guys. That was the logic and at the time, I thought JLT and One Pro were continuing and didn’t have a cheque book to prise riders out of those teams so I felt I needed to go elsewhere”.
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“I have been cautious signing older riders though, those who don’t’ have ambition for example. I want young hungry guys and the older guys I have got, based on conversations and what I have seen, are still hungry to achieve more, so I’m satisfied they are here for the right reasons.”

Finding riders isn’t difficult especially when you have as many as five or six a DAY from July getting in touch with Tim and after a spot on his team. Tim added that it was especially pleasing to get so many requests from riders in places like Holland and Belgium who have seen his team race and like what they saw.

Racing In Britain
The final topic of discussion was racing in Britain – does the team have more of a European bias racing wise and does the lack of racing in Britain harm the team? “Not really. I would like to know what the British calendar is going to be but I’ll do every decent race there is in the UK because we have UK sponsors we want to represent here and want to support British racing.”

“So you’ll see us in the National As and UCI events as well as early season Nat Bs if the promotor wants us because it is racing and we’ll have a split calendar. If there is one race here and one in Europe, then the team will split and do both just to get the legs under us”.

Winning at the Perfs – the team look to be at the race again in 2019 …

“I’d like the British racing calendar to be better but from a budget point of view, it is quite expensive racing in the UK. Now we are more established abroad, we get start money so instead of paying quite an expensive entry fee for one here, I get given money in Europe. Ironically, for me, a lot of the races abroad are closer to me as well.”

“We regularly race in Holland/Belgium and the same day we’ll race in a Prem and the DS who’s done the Dutch/Belgium race is usually back at the service course before the one who has raced in Britain!”

One race he doesn’t have to travel far for is the season opener, the Perfs Pedal. Is that one he’d like to do again in 2019? “Assuming Mick wants us, we’ll be there because it is a local race. We respect the race and have done it for years, personally as a rider and as a manager”.

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“It is not an easy race as the team is putting its head on the chopping block but the organiser has always been welcoming and we do it for the right reason; we want to support the local race. I think probably 70 per cent of the riders in the event like us being there to see the pro guys close at hand but then there will always be a few guys who think it should be made easier by us not being there but Nat B’s should be hard and they should be able to cope with it if they want to be Elites”.

Doing European races though will always be a key part of Tim’s race programme because he firmly believes that doing them helps them be competitive in the likes of the Tour of Yorkshire and Britain which is important for him and the sponsors.

At the time we spoke, Tim was already wanting the season to start and the good news was he was able to confirm that sponsors Canyon (UK) and Eisberg were already on board and there could be some new ones to confirm when the team releases the team name and its riders in November.

Thanks to Tim for his time and good luck to the team in 2019.

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