Feature Interview: Alex Richardson

Lincoln GP winner in 2018, Alex Richardson is on fire in 2019 with two big early season British classic victories (Wally Gimber & Severn Bridge) and another in Belgian – we chat!

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Feature Interview: Alex Richardson

A new signing for 2019 at Canyon DHB and Tim Elverson, was Lincoln Grand Prix winner in 2018, Alex Richardson. He had ridden for Tim before and been coached by him as well so was a well known quantity for the team but few could have predicted he would have started 2019 quite as well as he has.

Alex winning Severn Bridge in 2019 – Photo: John Pierce (PhotoSport International. uk usa asia)

Quite simply, Richardson is on fire which makes it all the more curious that he’s only a reserve for the road race at Coalville this weekend LoL! Alex has won two prestigious National B’s (Wally Gimber and Severn Bridge RR) in 2019, been second in another (Primavera RR) and also won a E/1/2/3 circuit race at Abingdon. Four races and a worse placing of second LoL.

But that isn’t the impressive bit. Alex also went to Belgium and won the Omloop van het Waasland (kermesse) in a very impressive manner as he explains later in this feature. VeloUK spoke to Alex this week and when discussing his many victories already this year, he says “the Belgian one was the big one in that it showed me, rather than other people, that I can do it at that level”.

“I could not have asked for my year to have started in any other way. The team has gelled well together and that’s a happy place to be. We get a lot of encouragement as well. It’s not one of those teams where they are trying to make it hard for the sake of making it hard. It is a very nice and flexible environment to be in.”

What seems to excite Alex even more than the victories themselves is his work with coach Steve Benton. “I am working with Steve Benton again now that One Pro is no longer and he’s free to work with me and that is some gain. Not so much in improving my 20 minute power but he is helping me build a much bigger resistance to fatigue. He is incredibly clever and since January has also accessed within me another 10 or 15 watts which were probably already there but I didn’t know how to get them out.”

It all adds up to Alex being an even better bike rider than he was in 2018 when he won the Lincoln GP solo and went close at Leicester Castle Classic and other races. But 2019 is going to be a year when Alex will look to move up a level with more racing UCI in Europe and hopefully build up an impressive CV to get noticed by the bosses in the pro teams competing in Europe.

For example, instead of the Klondike GP in three weeks, Alex is expecting to be racing the UCI event, the Circuit de Ardennes (2.2 stage race). But when it comes to racing in Britain, he says the CiCLE Classic (also a UCI race), is a race he’s put his hand up for to his team boss but as yet is a ‘to be confirmed’.

“If I was able to do something in that race, that would be fantastic. I have asked to do it but again I respect our squad and there are only six riders he can send to it and whatever six he sends, they will all be very good riders and there will be a logical reason why he has sent them there. It is one race though I feel I have a good chance in”.

Knowing how lumpy the CiCLE Classic race is, Alex is for sure a rider the race is made for.

The Lincoln Grand Prix, for which he is the defending champion, is one non UCI race he does hope to make the team’s selection for. “The squad is very strong and it’s down to Tim to make the call and I’ll respect his decision, but Lincoln is one race I think I have a pretty good chance of doing. But, even if I didn’t get a chance in these races, the team’s calendar is so strong, there are a million others later in the year to target.”

“I have a really good working relationship with Tim; I’ve known him a long time and am not afraid to voice my opinion to him and he knows and respects that.”

Whilst UCI races are a target for Alex, he isn’t down to ride those the team are doing this weekend in Europe but says he may be doing Volta Limburg Classic (UCI 1.1) the week after for which he is down on the start list, a race another British team, Madison Genesis are also down to ride.

Alex says riding Volta Limburg should help bring on his form even more for the Ardennes stage race and then CiCLE Classic and Lincoln which are all close together.

In talking to Alex, we’d spoken about a lot of the races that are on in the next six weeks but one we hadn’t mentioned was the Tour de Yorkshire, a race that many many riders really want to do. Alex however has a more prudent view on the race. “I haven’t really looked at the parcour but the question for me is, do I do that race, where the level is lot higher (2.HC), or do I go and try and win a race like Ronde van Overijssel which is a 1.2 which I may have a very good chance of doing well in”?

“Or, could I in Yorkshire, do another Tanfield (stage victory from a break)? You never say never but I like to work on probability and I would argue rather than just getting round Yorkshire, and potentially being out of my depth in getting a big result, I may as well go elsewhere and try to really build up the CV because I do want to move up. Tim knows that. I want to experience more in this sport…”

“Yes, it would be nice to do to say I have done the Tour de Yorkshire, but it is a very short window for me and no disrespect to it, there is other stuff to be done at this time of the year. Also, if there are a lot of sprint days, I would not want to take the opportunity away from two of the sprinters we have in the squad who potentially could do something. I am not winning a bunch kick so why not give them the opportunity.”

Whilst the Tour de Yorkshire may or may not be a target for him (his boss may think otherwise), one UCI race that Alex would like to do is the Tour of Britain. “Physically, I think I will come on a lot this year from the racing and the longer, grippy stuff all week in that race will suit me. There are sure to be opportunities within those eight days in breakaway days etc.”

Alex’s target races are very hilly, grippy races. “I have to try them. My power to weight is good, not world class, but I have good resistance to fatigue I think and can deliver very close to my 20 minute test power at the end of three or four hours so for me, it is a little bit of dipping into the unknown but the Belgian win was quite exciting.”

A grippy race and Alex Richardson getting stuck in at the Tour of Reservoir in 2018

Going back to that race Alex won in Belgium, Omloop van het Waasland, he explained the race was on a very twisty parcour and the weather was not nice! “It was extremely windy, and it was hailing in the middle of the race so it was a very grippy day out. A lot of people’s legs fell off and I felt I was one of the strongest”.

“Typically in the past, the race has been a bunch sprint but possibly the weather and wind affected that outcome this year. All that and being able to ride in the cross winds played into my advantage a little bit. I found myself towards the end of the race feeling it fragmenting and I got myself in to a couple of moves.”

“In the final move, there was Cibel rider from a very strong squad who bring through a lot of good riders and he was seriously pulling in the move with me and him doing the majority of the work. I put him on the front in a headwind section, and I knew in 300 metres we’d turn out of the headwind section and into a housing estate which was quite protected from the wind.”

“So I hit him as hard as I could with 15k to go as I felt I could go faster than him and the other guy who wasn’t doing much. So I timed the effort well and hit him hard and went full gas for the 300 metres and knew from them on it was a time trial effort and it was hit and hope.”

“There was no response from them and they were swallowed up by the bunch which was coming at me at some pace. I only won by 26 seconds after having had a minute and half at one point. Initially, we were really shifting as a foursome, oh my goodness. I have done all the numbers and average speeds and I held a good average speed for the last 15k, getting on for 28mph despite the bad conditions.”

Alex and Tobyn Horton (Madison Genesis) full gas out front of the Leicester Classic in 2018, caught on the final lap

Comparing his 2019 wins…
The win in Belgium certainly sounds impressive and with the strength in depth in those races, the win certainly on paper looks more impressive than national Bs where the strength in depth can be a lot less.

For Alex however, he says when comparing the races, that he had fairly similar sensations on the bike. “I felt I was riding within myself for most of the day in all the races so I am very happy with what I have achieved this year”.

The wins have also given him a calmer outlook on future races and the need for the wins. “I am just as happy now for other teammates to win as well in races I do. If I can’t win, I don’t want to be second – that’s not an option as a squad, we have to win and I will take great delight in seeing teammates win too. So I’m not scared of losing which I hope will play to my advantage”.

Alex solo’d to the win at the Lincoln GP in 2018, a race so many riders want to win that it is never easy

“The goal for me is the UCI races. It is nice to win a domestic race and I have huge respect for the calendar here and love racing in the UK. The type of racing and the riders but I really want to do the sport on an international scale. I want to do more. Domestic racing isn’t enough and I want to be at the top level if I can.”

“Tim’s calendar is spot on for me; grippy racing, hard mans racing, endurance racing. It’s not stage races up mountains which would not suit me like it would an out and out climber.”

For a rider who wins a lot of races solo, do time trials interest Alex? “Definitely” he replies. “I did enter a time trial locally in a couple of weeks but it appears I will be doing another race abroad potentially in Holland that weekend. For sure though I am going to enter the national time trial and have a go. I don’t know if I will be any good but hey, you don’t know unless you try.”

“I spent a lot of time in November, setting up a bike and dialling in a position and getting comfortable for it and training for that kind of effort as well. I have also been in a wind tunnel but that was more about confirming what I already knew and that I wasn’t making any big mistakes”.

“It’s no good being aero if you can’t push the pedals which some riders forget. That is why the sport is so great as there are so many elements to simply riding a bike and that fascinates me. The process of going fast constantly occupies my day and I am constantly reading stuff. It’s a really a big interest of mine and I am so lucky to have this interest in something I am fairly good at it seems and be able to have a go at it properly.”
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Proper bike racers
But whilst Alex wins races solo, there is a lot more going on back in the peloton where he says there are a lot of riders in the UK who are really good ‘bike racers’.

“You know a real bike racer when you see one and we have a lot in the team that are like that. No matter what form they are in, you know they will be at the end of the race because if you are that good a bike racer, you know how to get yourself round. Like Jonny McEvoy (Madison Genesis), is a really good bike racer, Tom Moses (Madison Genesis) too. These guys are what I like about that type of bike rider in that they will not give you an inch. If they have to put you a bush, that’s where you are going!”

“At the Wally Gimber, I was racing with Mikey Mottram (Vitus Pro Cycling p/b Brother UK) who is a friend of mine and I have a huge respect for him. He is fantastic guy. I have a lot of time for people who really commit and work hard at things and he is one tough cookie I’ll tell you.”

“Teammate Alex Paton and I were one twoing him at the Gimber. I shut the door on him too and so on as I wanted Paton to go up the road. Alex did try and I shut the door on Mikey to stop him following. I didn’t give him any room but he fought back hitting me on the side of the leg as if to say ‘move out of the bloody way’ as he knew what I was doing. We spoke about it afterwards and had a laugh.”

“The guy (Mikey) is a monster and he took some getting rid of at the Wally Gimber. I don’t think he gets the respect he deserves and is one of the people I am really happy to see get an opportunity like this (a place in a UCI team). I hope Cherie gives him some good opportunities and looks after him because he really deserves it.”
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All the victories that Alex has had shows the form is good but that is no surprise when he explains how he trains and that his off season is measured in days rather than weeks! “I am generally full on in training because I love the process.”

“I’m always trying different things and Steve is sending me stuff to do that also keeps me guessing. So I am always training hard and never really relax too much. Historically, people have said to me over the winter, you are doing too much, you will blow up and so on but this isn’t the case.”

“I know how to manage it and if I stop enjoying it, then I’ll take three days off and then historically I’ll be climbing the walls! My off season for example was four days long as riding my bike makes me happy and feel good about myself so I don’t need a month off as I’m not sick of it”.

Looking ahead to the season that lies ahead and the big picture, Alex is out to challenge himself and his rivals in the races that are to come and he will soon see whether he has what it takes to move up into the international racing scene.

“I know I will have around twenty five opportunities to prove myself on the UCI stage and if I can’t deliver in those 25 opportunities then that tells me I’m not good enough. It may be in those races that in seven or so of them I am doing a team job but I should still be able to deliver in one or two of the rest”.

And the crits, are they a target or something to be avoided I asked? “I’d like to do a couple and I had this conversation with Tim and he said I’ll probably be in a couple. It is nice to do the domestic stuff so I am sure I will do a few and when you’re at the front in those races, you can make it hard. There is a lot of racing to look forward to!”

“I love a bike race and a tear up, love the sport. I am gutted I didn’t find it earlier in my life as it is the most addictive thing. I’m 28, in my best years now until I am 34 and so have six years of good stuff and I’ll get my turn if I am good enough. If not, I know I will have tried really hard. I will never be one of those people who is complacent and happy to be average. I’d prefer not do anything!”

Thank you to Alex …


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