Feature Interviews: Ali Slater (Vitus Pro Cycling)

One of the key 2019 signings for Vitus Pro Cycling p/b Brother UK is Ali Slater who has been Mr Reliable at JLT Condor for many years and in 2018 won his first UCI race in France as well as coming close in the Tour of Yorkshire with second place on stage 1.

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Feature Interviews: Ali Slater (Vitus Pro Cycling)

You could say that Ali is a hugely under rated rider, says his new manager Cherie Pridham at Vitus Pro Cycling p/b Brother UK, and when you look at the results he’s had, versus the publicity, that certainly seems the case. Ali was second on stage 1 in the Tour of Yorkshire last year and then followed that up with third in his ‘Home’ race, the Lincoln Grand Prix. He then topped all that with a stage win and sixth overall in the Kreiz Breizh Elites stage race in France.

Ali Slater getting his hands in the air in 2018 – lets hope we see more of this in 2019 …

All this while being an essential team player in the JLT Condor team.

Asked was 2018 a good year in his eyes, Ali replied, “It was a really good year, probably the best I have had. The UCI win gives me confidence after being there or there abouts for a while and generally being pretty consistent. It was really nice to finish it off and hopefully take that confidence and keep it going as that’s what everyone wants isn’t it, to win as many races as possible”.

There wasn’t only that victory in France but that memorable second place to Harry Tanfield in the Tour of Yorkshire on Stage 1 and very close to the leader’s jersey. “That showed there can be opportunities in these races” he says , adding “and whilst they (the stages) can be very controlled by the World Tour teams, they don’t get it right every time which makes the race brilliant to be aggressive in, to get up the road and get some good exposure for the team.”

“I really enjoy the Tour de Yorkshire too. It was a tough race after being in that break all day on the first day, but it’s aggressive racing, brilliant roads and mega crowds. Where it is in the calendar for the World Tour boys allows us that opportunity to get involved. The level in the UK too is getting better every year with more juniors coming through, and that helps keep pushing that level up and up”.

Ali (right of picture) getting second on stage 1 of the Tour of Yorkshire

Winning races wasn’t something Ali had the opportunity to do a lot in a team that was so strong, it was able to control races in the UK which we asked about. “The nature of the JLT team” explained Ali “was it was a really strong team and we had multiple guys who could get up and win races. So in a lot of British races, we also had a strong enough team to control it on most types if courses. That meant there were a lot of times where I and others were working for the other guys but in general, they were the right guys to work for and when you have the success we had, it paid off”.

Was it hard doing that job when you know you can win races yourself I asked Ali? “Sometimes it’s difficult and you have that slight clash when it’s a race you want to go well in but in general, we’d sit down at the start of the year and John H was always clear about it and laid out what we were doing and playing a team role was part of being on JLT.”

“There are swings and roundabouts and whilst you ended up working for guys quite a bit of the time, when that team was working for you, and you’re in a strong position, you didn’t want for any support it was that strong”.

Ali’s team work at JLT Condor was not new to him as he was part of a very strong Hargroves Cycles junior road race team with riders who have ridden and still riding in the World Tour. “Back then it was (Owain) Doull, (Jon) Dibben, Sam Lowe and me. We were all good friends so it was quite different. It was junior racing and everyone got involved and I think we just got on well as a group and so we were successful working for each other”.
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Winter and looking forward to a new team, a new start
Once the 2018 season was over, Ali had a good break with four or five weeks off before the slow build up for 2019 began. “I went out to Majorca in November which helped get me going again before I then began the build up to Christmas (Christmas Day off). I may go to Majorca again in January.

“For the first three weeks after the break, the training was relatively unstructured. In Majorca, I rode with some friends, again, relatively unstructured and got the body and legs into a position where I can then crack on and train. I’ll added some structure before Christmas and then eased off and then will build on that”.

“Going to Majorca was a good opportunity to escape some bad weather, spend a few hours on the bike without it being quite so cold, wet and energy sapping and use the climbs there to do longer efforts, low cadence and tempo stuff”.

Ali (right) training in Bendigo (Australia) in 2017 with James Gullen

His winter training he says is about making sure he’s doing the work without putting himself in a hole and creating too much fatigue.

Asked when the serious training begins, Ali replies “probably a bit later than previous years just because of when we’re racing. So I’ll probably look to sharpen up around the end of February/start of March before hitting the racing season as hard as possible. Before that, I’ll do the ground work so I have big base to work off”.

“The thing to avoid is hitting the form too early. You want to be going well but also be fresh because it’s a short season but it’s an intense one going from one race to another. The last few years, it’s been a full on programme from the start of the season (Jan 1) so this year will be different starting later and hopefully it will allow for a peak when we hit those first prems so I will try and target those”.

Talking about the early season, he says “I really hope we get into the Tour of Normandy. That would be brilliant. I always enjoy that and hopefully that will set us up for the first races in Britain. It was good to be part of the team that won it with Tom (Stewart) (in 2018) and despite being down to four guys, holding on to the jersey on the last day was really good”.

Ali talking at the team launch 

In 2019, Ali says he’d like to take as many opportunities as he can get. “I am confident I can get up there in the Prems so I’d like to give as many of those that suit me, a good go, and hopefully with the team we have for this year where we have a good range of options, plenty of fast guys, young guys who are quick and guys who can climb, so hopefully we can give the races a good shake”.

After third in 2018, one goal will be his home race, the Lincoln GP: “I love Lincoln. It is relatively local to me being from Lincolnshire so I would like to go well in Lincoln. I was third last season and would like to better that. The CiCLE Classic is a brilliant event and obviously, everyone wants to ride the Tour of Yorkshire and Tour of Britain so it would be good to be in them too”.

Finally, when asked why she signed Ali, his manager Cherie Pridham says his signing was a golden opportunity to sign a rider with a huge bank of experience to call upon and his calm nature on the road is a valuable asset for the team. He is a rider, says Cherie, that has the ability to win the team races and she is looking forward to letting him off the leash and showing his potential on the road with the team. For Ali, signing with two teammates (Ed Clancy and Graham Briggs) from JLT Condor was also a key part of his move to Vitus Pro Cycling p/b Brother UK. “I think that is really useful, to have that cohesion there that can hopefully be brought to the new team and get everyone working as a unit as fast as possible”.

Good luck to Ali in 2019 ….



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