Feature: Junior Development Team

The Fensham Howes MAS Design Junior Road Race Team has a goal of creating a structure to support some of the UK’s most promising 17-and-18-year road riders to help in their quest to be World Tour Riders – we quiz Giles Pidcock on the team and its goals this year

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Feature: Junior Development Team

The Fensham Howes MAS Design Junior Road Race Team has a goal of creating a structure to support some of the UK’s most promising 17-and-18-year road riders to help in their quest to be World Tour Riders

The UK is now one of the largest cycling countries in the world after lottery funding came on stream in the late 1990s and changed the fortunes of British racers which has resulted in Olympic medals and then the creation of Team Sky (now INEOS). What we have in the UK now is a very well developed route for promising young racing cyclists with the likes of Wiggins, Cavendish, Thomas, and so many others having gone through the various academies.

From the age of 13, children who show a talent for pedalling a bike fast are picked up by British Cycling and become part of their journey. They call this their “rider route”. On the younger side, the rider route is very wide based and probably involves more than a thousand riders across the country. As riders progress along the route, system support offers lower and lower numbers of riders.

By the time they are 17/18, there will be only nine places available on the British Cycling Rider route-called the British Cycling Academy at this level. What the nine Academy riders receive from BC is coaching, equipment assistance, a small annual scholarship and above all a high-quality racing program consisting of both the UK and abroad. The racing program is vital for the development of world-class riders.

They must compete against the best in the world from this age to develop the skills, strength and experience they will need later to become Pro Bike Riders. Some of the best races are in Belgium and other northern European countries. It is in everyone’s interest that all countries work together so that the best riders can compete against each other to make the sport stronger. This is where the Fensham Howes MAS Design Junior Road Race Team come in.

Joe, Bob and guest riders Max, Tosh and Matt at Acht Van Bladel in Holland 

There are more than nine junior riders in the UK who are good enough to be world champions and/or Pro riders. The Fensham Howes MAS Design Junior Road Race Team provide an environment that helps riders learn about themselves and about bike racing. To compete at the highest level, each rider needs equipment, kit and some pretty serious dedication to train and travel.

The riders in the Fensham Howes MAS Design Junior Road Race Team have this promise. They live and behave like professional athletes. But they can’t do it on their own. Being part of a team is crucial. This is because whilst there is only one person who wins a race, it’s actually a team sport and that’s why it’s only teams that are invited to all the big races.

In addition, it is a major logistical challenge to get riders and support staff at the events – all of which need to be organised. Fensham Howes MAS Design Junior Road Race Team has been around since 2015 – when it was called the VCUK PH-MAS Cycling – and was originally run by Neil Hendry. Neil ran it until the end of 2018 when Giles Pidcock took over from him. In the time Neil ran the team, they won most of the big races in the UK and many of the riders went onto greater success.

2016 and Tom Pidcock is winning races for the team like the early season classic, the Clayton Velo Spring Classic

Emerging top riders such as Tom Pidcock, Jim Brown, Adam Hartley, Sam Watson and Will Tidbull have all ridden for the team at some point. Going into 2020, Fensham Howes MAS Design Junior Road Race Team plan to have five riders. These are three first year Juniors from this year and two riders moving from youth to Junior.

Here is a Q & A with Giles Pidcock on the 2020 Fensham Howes MAS Design Junior Road Race Team.

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What’s the history of the team?
Giles: The team was established as one of the top junior outfits in 2015. It was Neil Hendry who decided to start helping local junior riders with equipment, kit and trips to national series races. Two of the first riders to benefit were Adam Hartley and Rob Scott.

The following year Neil teamed up with Velo Champion, who already by then had supported many riders (like Adam Yates, Nicole Cooke & Hugh Carthy) in their earlier years. It was in 2016 that Tom (Pidcock) joined the team and they won a number of high-profile UK races riding Shark bikes and Velo Champion Kit.

Coming into 2017, the team had become PHMAS and were riding Ridley bikes supplied by Paul Milnes Cycles – another UK business with a long track record of supporting top British riders – going way back to riders like Dave Mann in the 80’s. The year 2017 was a stella year for the team winning the National crit champs, Junior Tour of Wales and a heap of other races. Neil continued to be involved with the team in 2018 but it was his partner, Nicky Hartle who managed the team day to day.

By this time, the team was supporting a new crop of riders including Jim Brown and Sam Watson. By the end of 2018, Neil and Nicky wanted to take a step back from running a junior boys’ team full time so I agreed to continue the project into 2019. Since then Neil and Nicky have continued to support youth riders and for 2020 have set up a junior girls’ team.

Sam Watson winning the Junior CiCLE Classic

What is your goal for the team and it’s riders?
Giles: There are many talented and committed 16 -18 year olds in the UK. Only nine of these get the brilliant support from the British Cycling Junior Academy but there are more than nine riders in Britain that might be able to make it as pro bike riders. We want to create opportunities beyond and in addition to those provided by BC.

How do you create these opportunities then?
Giles: I think the opportunity comes from the race program we have put together. Since this used to be Tom’s team and because he now has a growing profile, race organizers are interested in what we’re doing. Consequently, we’re doing pretty well at securing invites to some of the best junior races in the world. Because we only have five full time team members, we can offer guest places to others.

We don’t mind helping any rider – from another big team or wherever. Obviously the riders we give places to have to be capable. Getting top 15 or so in a UK national series race is about the minimum we need really. We’re going to some of the hardest races in the world so obviously riders need to be at a certain level.

Junior Paris Roubaix winner Lewis Askey guesting for the team in 2019

Why do you have such a small team?
Giles: We want to support the BC National Junior Road Race Series but in these races there is a limit of four riders per team in most races. We didn’t want to be in a situation where we have to tell any of our lads they can’t ride so we decided to run a small core team and offer guest places when we race abroad.

So, if a junior rider would like to be considered for a guest place they just need to contact you?
Giles: Yes, just email me on giles.pidcock@fenshamhowes.com

Who’s on your team then?
Giles: As a I say, we have five riders. They are:
– Bob Donaldson – winner of the Junior Tour of Poland last year as well as stage #1 in the Tour of Mendips. BC Junior Academy Member
– Fin Pickering – 2019 National Youth Road Race Champion. BC Junior Academy Member
– Max Poole – winner of the prestigious U16 2019 Coppa D’Ora in Italy. BC Junior Academy Member
– Joe Pidcock – best young rider at Junior Tour of Wales and podium in Junior Tour of Ireland. BC Junior Academy Member
– James Wordsworth – 5th in Junior Tour of Ireland Stage Race

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That’s a good group of riders. How did you manage to persuade them to ride for this team?
Giles: Well, I bred one of them (Joe) so that was straightforward! Over the past few years, as they have come up through the ranks, we’ve travelled the country with Bob, James, Max and Fin as they’ve done youth racing. Apart from Bob (who’s from Lancashire), all the riders are from Yorkshire. Logistically, it makes sense to support local riders. We’re lucky I guess that Yorkshire produces some pretty good cycling talent.

We also work with some great partners. We have Ridley Bikes, support from Paul Milnes cycles and this year we have Maap clothing. This is all top quality stuff and gives the lads the equipment they need to be the best they can be. We get good financial support too from a local garage and MAS design – a firm of Architects run by cyclist Mark Scatchard. Mark is massively supportive of cycling in Yorkshire and also sponsors the Otley Cycle Races, Ilkley Cycle Races and Neil’s PHMAS junior girls’ team. He’s a top man.

The team’s riders getting a taste of Tour Series action

It sounds like a lot of work. Why do you do it?
Giles: I just want to help really. I’ve had a lot out of the sport over the past 30 years. When I was racing, many people helped me and I now want to put something back in. My wife (Sonja Harper) and I already organize the Otley Cycle Races and have over the years organized lots of other events. Running a team seemed like the next logical step.

I know a fair bit about bike racing and what it’s like to be a young rider trying to find a way and think I can help some of these lads make it onto the next stage – which is a decent U23 team. It’s also great fun too. I just like being at a bike race and it’s a lot easier driving the car and organizing the logistics than actually riding in the race.

What are your expectations for 2020?
Giles: I expect the riders to give their best in each event. To try and animate the racing and be part of it. If they ride positively, then we’re bound to get riders up the road and if they do this then most of the time, they’ll be in a position to try and win or at east get on the podium. I’m not really worried about whether they win or not, I just want them to get to the end of each race feeling that they did everything they could to get a result. We focus a lot on the process of preparation and racing. If we can get all that right, then the results will probably look after themselves.

So what’s the first part of the season look like?
Giles: We start with Clayton Velo as an opening event. It’s a good one to get back into the intensity of actually riding a bike race. Juniors also have a pretty good track record in this race too with Tom back in 2016 and then Ollie (Rees) last year. After that, we’re off to Belgium to ride Kurne Brussels Kurne. Later in March we’re doing Guido Reybrouck in Belgium. Last year we won this with Sam Watson, so we have a reputation to protect. Then on 5th April, we’re riding Junior Tour of Flanders which is a week before some of our riders are doing Junior Paris Roubaix (for GB). Later on we’ll ride some of the elite crits, hopefully some of the Tour Series and of course the Junior National Series. It’s going to be a full-on year.

Thanks Giles and good luck to the Fensham Howes MAS Design Junior Road Race Team in 2020 and riders wanting to guest for the team, do get in contact with Giles

The Team’s Facebook page: 



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