Feature Interview: Colin Sturgess (Kuota UK GSG)

Feature interview with the much loved Colin Sturgess, former World Pursuit & British RR Champion who will race for Kuota GSG in 2019 and has already had some victories

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Feature Interview: Colin Sturgess (Kuota UK GSG)

Tour of Malta last week and the top step for Colin

I think it’s safe to say judging by the love from fans to Colin on social media, that the former World Pursuit Champion (Bronze medallist too) and also a former British Road Race Champion, Colin Sturgess is a much treasured legend in the sport of cycling.

In recent years, he’s not done too bad as a DS either, working with Dan Fleeman in Dan’s victory in the CiCLE Classic and then being in the team car of Madison Genesis when Connor Swift won the British road race championship. So it was a shock when Colin resigned from Madison Genesis at the end of 2018 before going off on a pre-planned back packers trip around Vietnam and Cambodia.

In 2019, Colin has decided to return to bike racing and a few weeks back, won the first round of the ProMasters Series beating some ‘names’ in doing so. Last week he was in Malta, winning some races and finishing second overall in the mini stage race. In two weeks, Colin heads to the scene of his triumph with Dan Fleeman and the CiCLE Classic, not as a DS this time but as a rider.
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So how has Colin ended up pedalling a bike in anger again? “I was at a bit of a cross roads after leaving Madison Genesis and didn’t really know what I wanted to do” he started saying when VeloUK caught up with him recently.

“I had the back packing trip booked already and went on that and got my head round a few things. It was good to spend the time just travelling and thinking and clear the head. I got back and I really wanted to ride my bike a bit and just keep fit because one of the things I have found is that riding my bike does keep my mental health issues in check and does keep me on an even keel.”

Riding a bike Colin admits is a love of his and also helps keep him fit. When he doesn’t ride it, Colin can’t help but get a bit depressed as well as put weight on which he says he does dead easy. “In Vietnam and Cambodia, where it’s 50 US cents for a pint of cold beer, you can imagine I put some weight on but I’d already said to Rob Orr that I’d be keen for some bike time in Calpe when I got back.”

A memory from his back packing trip at the end of 2018 – two months in Calpe and Colin was back to racing weight and fit enough to win bike races again. Follow Colin on twitter here

“Rob and I ended up getting a villa in Calpe and then spent two months out there and I was able to lose the weight I’d put on and a bit more and get over 5,000kms in the legs. I said to Dave (Williams at Kuota UK) I’m getting there and so he came out to Calpe for a bit as well.”

To help a mate, Dave Williams at Kuota UK offered to provide a bike for Colin to race on as well and so the plans to race a bit in 2019 started coming together. The plan initially for the former World Champion was to have a play at some LVRC stuff this year and race the Tour of Malta with Dave but those plans seem to have blossomed a little.

“I got a ride in the CiCLE Classic and I’m starting to look to get into some other races as well” Colin explained. “My biggest challenge is getting a ride in races because I have been out of racing so long. I don’t have the ranking points so I got turned down for Coalville which is a local race for me. I was a bit hurt as it’s the first time I have had an entry returned but I was in good company!”

Boss of DHW Agencies Dave Williams with Colin and Madeline Scott in their new kit from GSG

Colin admits though he’s not under any illusions about what he can achieve in the sport. The last time I saw Colin race was the hill climbs champs a few years ago and the focus is to not concentrate on one discipline or another but mix it up in different events in the sport. “I like the competitive edge and I am competitive by nature and have got a lot out of the sport” he says.

That competitive edge came to the surface again recently in the first round of the ProMasters series where he won the over 50’s race. Winning again he says felt fantastic. “I don’t know very many of the masters riders simply because I haven’t been racing in that scene for a few years. I knew Andy (Lyons) and a few of the names and found there are some strong boys in there with big engines.”

“It brought back to me a lot of my own racing memories. Andy was bloody good and smart with it and so to win was a decent ride. I didn’t ride it as aggressively early on as I normally would as I held back. When the break went, I was thinking I’d be happy to see it get 45 seconds, a minute max, and then maybe try and get three or four to go across to it.”

“The next minute I heard it was creeping up to a minute and I thought right, I’m going across and expected I’d get halfway across and more would come across to me. I then realised nobody was coming across so I floored it and got across. On the last lap they started to finesse so I thought I’d clip off which I did with about 5k to go using the cross winds on a downhill drag to get clear and that was it.”

Colin not only won a World title in the pursuit but also a Bronze medal as well… Photo: Graham Watson

Did the win bring back memories from his younger days? “It does” says Colin. “You cast your memory back to a lot of the races in the past as you never forget what you have done and you almost want to relive that experience. It doesn’t get easier with age; in fact it gets a damn sight harder because your legs won’t do what your head wants them to do.”

“The head is thinking its 25 again and pretty invincible and has this plan to attack here, drive it for so many minutes at x amount of watts. Then you go to execute it and it’s one of those ‘hang on a minute’ moments, I’m 50 now and have to back off”.

“I don’t think about my age on a bike though” Colin continues to explain. “I train in and around Leicester and the next youngest person to me on the chain gang is Matt Sinclair who’s just turned 40 and then you have Rob (Orr) at 38 and a whole swathe of youngsters like the Garner girls (Grace and Lucy), Lars van de Haar when he comes over or Gabz (Cullaigh). I don’t think about my age, I just go out and train with them”.

“You have to be aware of your age as you don’t recover as quick and your legs and body doesn’t always do what the heads wants but it’s not like I’m backing off because I’m 50.”

When Dan Fleeman won the CiCLE Classic, Colin was in the team car behind the chasers – in 2019, Colin is down to pin a number on and line up with a star studded field

The Cicle Classic
The CiCLE Classics holds some good memories for Colin like the year he was DS at Metaltek Kuota and his rider Dan Fleeman won the race . “It will be pretty strange going from a team management role in the race to actually lining up and having a number on my back. I’d love to ride it aggressively and honour the race by having a good show though. I won’t use age as an excuse if I don’t do well but it is a hard race and a hard man’s race.”

Preparing for a race like that though is a tough ask when his ‘rivals’ in the race have a bigger race programme than he does. “I’ll be training hard around what races I can do before that” Colin says. “Like, if I’m doing a time trial, I’ll ride to it, race and ride back so it’s a decent day on the bike. I’ll get some motor pacing too so I am taking it as seriously as I can but as you say I will be up against it with teams like Canyon having x amount of UCI race days as have Madison Genesis and others. You just do the best you can with what you have got”.

Colin coaches other riders but who does his coaching I asked? “I coach myself” was the reply. “I have to be quite aware of my age though. It isn’t that you can’t train hard because you can put yourself in a box but it’s the recovery that’s important. So where as a 25 year old rider can smash themselves for three, four or five days in a row and then freshen up, I can do two maybe three days back to back and then I really need to recover. So I have to be easier on myself than I want to be which is quite difficult as I am hard on myself by nature”.

Two grown men in tears – it must be the British Road Race Championships when Connor Swift won with Colin in the car behind him

Has his training changed since the 80s and 90’s I asked? “I used to live behind my dad’s motorbike and motor-pacing was my big thing with five sessions a week and then recovery rides to get the volume in really easy. The three hours a day behind the motorbike though would be tip top quality.”

“Now, I can’t do that so I have to be very adaptable like today I felt good so it was like make hay whilst the sun shines and I had a really good session. A 35km an hour average for two hours and a lot of efforts within that. Tomorrow though I have four hours planned but I know I’ll to ride steadier as I went so hard today.”

One thing that seems to separate the old pros to the modern day pros is the number of race days they do in a season so I asked Colin’s view on that. “If I cast my mind back to my second year as a pro, I did well over a 100 race days. In that were 50 odd kermesses and you could race every day of the week and stick yourself into a hell of a box. Now though, people are a lot more savy and they pick and choose their races.”

“I really enjoy racing though and would rather do a race every week than a race every three weeks and expect to win. I still want to win the races I do but I enjoy the competitive edge of racing as well”.

So what will it take for Colin to look back at the end of the season and deem his year on the bike a success? “I didn’t set out to go and win the Promasters series race or get a ride in Rutland and races like that. It’s just happened and I’m getting some form and holding my own with guys I’m training with and now have a win or two, so it is kind of snowballing and got me thinking ahead”.

“I have the yearly planner on the wall now and it’s getting filled in with lines here and rest weeks. there and starting to evolve. As long as I enjoy it and it doesn’t become a chore then I will be happy with some wins”.
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The Bike
Coming back into the sport funding yourself is never easy no matter what the palmeres so Colin is very pleased to have the support of a mate and company that supported his team at Metaltek; Kuota UK/GSG and Dave Williams.

Colin’s steed for 2019 is a team edition Kuota Khan, their flagship bike equipped with modern equipment like Shimano Dura Ace Di2 mixed with a few ‘old school’ quirks like a ten year old saddle design from San Marco and big old Pro Sprint stem. “Dave has come up trumps for me and I’m so grateful for that support. We go back along away and he remembers me as a junior riding the Peterborough crit in 1986 and giving them a hard time as junior”.

Colin’s Kuota Khan bike on the top of a popular climb outside of Calpe but where’s Col… in the restaurant  perhaps!

“I realise I am not going to set the world alight and there are a lot of young riders who probably deserve sponsorship deals but Mavic too have stepped up and loaned me some wheels, shoes and helmet and Secret Training with nutrition. That support is quite humbling as I have never been one to go out and there ask for product and think I deserve it because I’ve had a rainbow jersey.”

“I’m doing this off my own back out of savings from last year so it’s a big thing this help I’m getting and means I can give it a good crack again”.

And is Colin fussy about his bikes? “Yes, in many ways yes but I have to work within the parameters I have. I can’t just have this or that and ring Sean at Mavic and say I need these wheels or this lid. I am very respectful in that and I am thankful for what I have been given. Before, as long as it was functional and got me round, I wouldn’t have minded if it was Shimano 105 but I am now quite particular and do like some bling and like riding on nice stuff.”

The very familiar climb of Michaelgate but this time its Colin Sturgess racing up it . Picture Stewart Clarke

Bipolar and Cycling
Colin’s issues with being bipolar where a person’s moods can change massively is not something he hides away from and Colin has been open about it in the media as several articles on the subject have shown.

Asked how he manages having that in his life and racing his bike, Colin replies “one of the things I found is that racing helps. It gives me a focus as long as I am not too hard on myself (pressure wise). Like having that goal on the 28th of April (CiCLE Classic) is a massive goal for me and I’ll need to keep that goal setting going. If was to stop after that, I’d be in a heap two weeks down the line so I am looking at what’s in May”

“Like, I can do a LVRC stage race that will be fun with a few mates. So it is about setting targets you can achieve and tick them off and get right the balance between good and bad pressure.”

One thing Colin admits though is that cycling is a better option to the medical help in a pill. “It is work in progress but 12 years of my life, mostly in Australia and latterly in the UK, was spent on prescription drugs for it and that absolutely canes you and was horrible. It may be very good for you when you are ill and floored but long term, they are shocking so I have managed to come off them and now is the best I have felt physically and mentally for many many years.”

“I still have ups and downs but they are a lot less extreme. The downs are down and not nice but not so bad you are reaching for the bread knife. Bike racing is like a natural drug for it for me and I think it’s important say it’s not for everyone. It can exacerbate certain things if you are constantly tired or injured and not able to do it, and so it can have negatives but for me, it keeps me on an even keel.”

Colin admits he’s a different person on the bike in a race to off it though. “I have moderated my behaviour over the years and our personalities change as we get older but I am still ruthless but respectful on the bike.”

“As a professional, if I set my sights on a race, then I would normally have a very good ride in it. If I set myself a target like a podium at the Worlds, I only failed to do that on one occasion. That champion mentality is knowing yourself well enough to go ‘right, you know this is what I need to do and this is how I am going to get it’. In many ways, it is quite cut throat.”

“Respectfully ruthless is something I learnt in Belgium so by all means , respect your competition, but you have to be ruthless and execute the plan and then walk up to a rival afterwards and say, congrats well done, good ride but I had to do that like put it into the gutter or do this or that for the win.”

Top left and the World Champion stripes along with some of the racing kit for 2019 from Kuota UK and Mavic.

Finally, for a rider who has worn the hallowed Rainbow bands and the British champion stripes, is Colin looking to get them on his back again albeit as a Master category rider? “We’ll see” was the reply adding that if he does, it will probably be on the road in the road race or time trial.

His goals to do that on the track will depend on whether he has a bike and the equipment to give it a good crack. “The only reason I wouldn’t is I don’t have the financial backing to get track time. My track bike is 19 years old, an old national squad bike and I don’t have track wheels either. So if I wanted to do the Pursuit, I’d need the bike, the wheels and track time at Derby. It’s an arms race if you want to win but never say never…”

Thank you to Colin for his time and good luck in the first of those goals, the CiCLE Classic. 


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