Feature Interview: Cherie Pridham (Team Owner)

After a tough battle to keep her long running team alive in 2017/2018, and a season giving young riders an opportunity to taste what pro racing in Britain is about, Cherie Pridham’s team Vitus Pro Cycling will have a strengthened line-up for 2019 – we chat to Chez

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Feature Interview: Cherie Pridham (Team Owner)

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Despite some tough battles with injuries from her riding days, Cherie is pleased to be looking ahead to an exciting 2019 with a great line up

After a tough battle to keep her long running team alive during the winter of 2017/2018, and a season in 2018 giving young riders an opportunity to taste what pro racing in Britain is about, Cherie Pridham’s team Vitus Pro Cycling will have a strengthened line-up for 2019 – we chat to Chez

Whilst many will take the news of teams closing and think the the domestic cycle racing scene in Britain is in dire straits, the truth is that it is not as bad as many think, even if it could be a whole lot better, mostly with the racing calendar.

In 2019, we will still have major events like the Tours of Yorkshire and Britain, Ride London as well as special events like the CiCLE Classic on top of events like the Tour Series. Sure, road racing is not what it used to be and British Cycling need to help the organisers wanting to put on major events instead of hindering them, but team wise, 2019 will be every bit as exciting as previous seasons.

Stevenage 2018 and ‘Chez’ g’ing up her riders before the team time trial

I remember the days when the peloton was made up of mainly individual riders and teams were a luxury that few had the opportunity of being part of. Nowadays, the peloton in some respects is a victim of its own success and some riders with mortgages and responsibilities will not have a choice on whether to keep going in the sport when their team folds and other teams cannot meet their wage demands.

But spare a thought for team owners. Knowing them as I do, you take the challenges faced by a lone rider and multiply that by ten, twenty or more times and you get an idea of how tough it is to keep a team on the road. I am sure if it was easy, a respected manager like John Herety would not have announced his team stopping this season.

One ‘tough cookie’ when it comes to team managers is Cherie Pridham who during her time with the Raleigh team, went from a DS for the team to being a team owner and when Raleigh stopped sponsorship at the end of 2017, tough decisions had to be made. Does she stay in the sport or pull back and return when the sponsors are there.

Tour of Yorkshire and a young team get the opportunity to race with the worlds best which without Cherie and her team’s hard fought battle to keep going in 2018 after a change of sponsorship, these young riders would not have had that. For that, her team in 2018 was a great success.

Thankfully for many a young rider, Cherie battled hard backed by a solid team of supporters to keep her team on the road and whilst it may not have had the success of repeated Premier Calendar Series wins or major event victories, staying in the game saw the team show her sponsors they were well worth the backing they had been given and now many of them will be smiling widely with the signings the team has made for 2019.

VeloUK met with Cherie at the Cycle Show, where the team owner clinched another sponsorship deal or two and speaking about 2018, Cherie explained “we always said it was going to be a transitional stroke development year for Cherie Pridham Racing. We knew we had to pull back and build up the infrastructure and keep going in the right direction ahead of the next season.”

“There was a lot of pain, and effort, but I can’t take credit for keeping the team going as I have a solid board of directors on Cherie Pridham Racing and keeping the team going saw a lot of hard work from everyone connected to the team who kept my feet on the ground and motivated to go through that transition phase”.

Adam Kenway racing up the Cow and Calf in the Tour of Yorkshire

Like it is for everyone, ups and downs are part of life and having had many a sleepless night and long long days in meetings and so on, Cherie and her team including sponsors are now smiling at the prospect of being competitive again in 2019.

Asked whether it was worth the sleepless nights and the anxiety that goes with having an uncertain future, Chez replied “yes, it was. We still have a lot of work to do and we are not home and dry in terms of being back to where we have been in the past development wise, but we are pointing in the right direction and that proves that if you have the resources in people behind you to ride out the storm, then hopefully you will find light at the end of the tunnel”.

In 2019, Cherie Pridham Racing, under the name Vitus Pro Cycling, will have a very strong team and those who have poked fun at the team in 2018 will be looking at the team for next season and smiling on the other side of their face. It is easy to put down a team struggling to remain afloat when you haven’t had to suffer the battles they have had to suffer.

Chris and Pete working hard for the team in 2018

Cherie says of the 2019 team which is pretty much complete, “we have got a good mix for the coming season but still need to focus on the development side; in product as well as the young riders. Giving the latter opportunities is key. We have kept that young rider element there with riders I feel genuinely want to race their bikes.”

Whilst the star names of the new team will take centre stage when the line-up is announced in the latter part of November, having the young riders in the team is key for Cherie. Two of those young riders rode for the team in 2018 and keeping them on is, says Cherie, down to the riders own hard work and their desire to progress as well as these rider’s having confidence in the team and that team’s manager.

Tim Torrie, one of three riders Cherie has retained for 2019

“We have re-signed Adam Kenway, Tim Torrie and Liam Davies” Cherie told me. “Both Liam and Tim were 18 when we took them on, first year under 23s and it was their first time at this level. They are very different riders and had different experiences this year”.

“Tim was still doing his GSCEs whilst Liam had left college and whilst being different personalities, they both showed they wanted to be bike riders and were willing to commit to that goal in a big way. We always say to these young riders, you have to earn your respect in the British peloton and I think Liam for example, did that.”

Liam Davies

“He had a few knocks and lessons in the peloton like at Durham where he caused a crash, through no fault of his own, on the start line. That is part of his development and credit to Liam who handled it well.”

Whilst not so much a development rider, Adam Kenway is still learning about racing at this level and when asked about her popular rider in the team and peloton, Cherie says of him, “I think we may see a different Adam next season as he’s had a lot of pressure this season to try and hold the team afloat from a flat crit to a hilly crit to a stage in the Tour of Yorkshire; he’s really done a good job for us.”

“I think now we can race Adam in events where he is going to ride best and hopefully have more rotation on team jobs. He loves a good breakaway and we’re not going to hold him back and hopefully we have signed guys who will support him, and if he doesn’t get into the break, maybe he can go for the result in the race”.

In summing up the squad for 2019, Cherie added that it is mostly a British squad with maybe one or two signings from outside the British shores. “Sometimes signing an overseas rider can be a gamble” says Cherie who has been inundated with rider’s CVs, not just from Britain but world wide.

“We have seen from the early days that bringing in foreign riders from all over the world can sometimes work and sometimes not work. It depends on how they adapt to the British programme and the crits.”
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State of Domestic Racing
Cherie’s time in the sport as a DS/Manager goes back a long way to teams like the Merlin Development squad in 2004 with junior and under 23 riders before moving on to an amateur team and then team Raleigh. How has the scene changed I asked over those ten plus years?

“I think you have to look at the scene here realistically and take a step back. If you look back ten or twelve years ago, there were only a handful of teams then, and every sponsorship of teams has a natural life span. It is a sad that perhaps as many as three teams have stopped this season but I think 2019 is still going to be an exciting season. There’s a good mix of teams and whilst we won’t see JLT Condor who were so strong, instead the riders from there and elsewhere will be split around the teams.”

“I think it will exciting for the Elite (non UCI) teams as well who may well have picked up some of the riders left without a team. Who those riders will be will depend on who still wants to race and we may see some riders retire. I fully appreciate that for many of the older riders, they will have mortgages and responsibilities but just like us team managers, sometimes you have to take that risk like we did this year. You have to pull back so you can step forward again the next season or the one after. And that is life for riders and people in this sport”.

A team without its supporters and helpers is very much poorer – Cherie however had passionate supporters by her side in 2018 helping her team in the major events

When the team announcement is made next month (November), people may look at the riders and think naturally enough they are with Vitus Pro Cycling and the other teams because of the teams folding.

But Cherie was keen to stress that her signing of riders started well before the teams folded. “We’ve been working on this team for 2019 all season” Cherie says. “We had a plan when we set up Vitus Pro Cycling and it takes time to do it properly. You have to take the right steps at the right time as well as take the punches you are going to get”.

And the racing next season in Britain … will that change because of the teams folding I asked? “The conti teams generally have control of races” she explained “but I think in 2019, the racing will be more exciting because a few of the elite teams will show they are quite capable of racing the races. The other factor of course is whether there will be a selection criteria for the Tour of Britain and also who has signed for which teams”.
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On the budgets for teams these days, Cherie says it is a lot different to the days when those budgets were a lot bigger. “Everybody has had to pull back and watch the pennies they spend and that is reflected in the races we all do when planning a race schedule. With our budget now. We can’t go to places we used to like Canada and Mexico but we can still give the opportunity to young riders in big races.”

Whilst Cherie, and other British teams, may not have the budgets of a few years ago, there is still lots of exciting things to be smiling about ahead of the 2019 season. Not just the star names on the team roster but next season the team will be on new bikes and they will certainly have people talking.

Pete Mooney, a legend in the sport in Britain , known as much for his work as a mechanic for Cherie as he is for his cyclo-cross exploits for many a year (decade LoL)

Finally, Cherie was keen to thank her staff who have supported her this season and many others before it. “Mick, Pete, Eddie, Michelle and Chris are my crew and have been with me for many years and really support me. On top of that, I have the backing from the likes of David Nelson (Smith Cooper LTD) who has been with me around six years and of course Michael Kirkland.”

On top of that, the team has many many smaller sponsors and many long term sponsors who continue to back her team, and show that what Cherie and her team of riders and staff are doing is worth that investment. Fans of the sport can expect to hear more on the team in the latter half of November.

Thanks to Cherie for her time to do this interview…


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