Feature: Steve Lampier (Ribble Weldtite)

Double blow for Saint Piran ambassador Steve Lampier (Ribble Weldtite) as his Tour of Britain hopes are dashed and is then knocked down by van whilst training

Feature: Steve Lampier (Ribble Weldtite)

This year was supposed to be a key year for Saint Piran ambassador Steve Lampier who rides for Ribble Weldtite in 2020. After signing for the Ribble Cycles sponsored team with the aim of riding the Tour of Britain – which was due to start in his native Cornwall – Steve saw his hopes of a ride in Britain’s longest stage race dashed because of the suspension of races in the UK.

Steve racing in 2020 in Arabia, photo James Huntley

Then, with targets re-evaluated, Steve, who says he was in super form, was out training on his Ribble TT bike, looking to improve his time trialling when a van backed out of a field onto the road and he was unable to avoid it. A couple of weeks after the accident, Steve is still in a special hospital for patients with severe trauma.

He has a shattered shoulder blade, broken collarbone, three fractured ribs, punctured and lacerated lung and a severely ruptured spleen. His injuries are so severe, he’s had to have oxygen, proper strong painkillers, undergo surgery and when we spoke, he said the stay in the hospital was mentally and physically taking its toll.

It was very noisy (tea time) as we spoke on the phone which makes sleep for him impossible meaning he’s tired all the time, very bored and aching all over. He also can’t have visitors because of the covid pandemic and says the whole experience is soul destroying. Just one example of how life can be turned on its head in a split second.

Steve explained that a van reversed out of a field as he was coming past it on his Ribble Time Trial bike. “I tried to avoid it but the shoulder blade slammed the back of the van and that made a mess of the body whilst there is no damage to the bike and just a little dent in the van”.

Back in February, super motivated and happy but now with a broken body, Steve has a different battle on his hand to get through 

Steve added the doctors have said it will probably take 16 weeks for him to heal and be back to normal. Which means his hopes of doing some time trial championships to work on that side of his racing have been dashed as had his ride in the Tour of Britain.

Steve is one of the longest serving riders in the British peloton right now, if not the longest serving, but admits he is still undecided on what will be happening in 2021. The Saint Piran team ambassador says he will continue working with the Cornish squad as he has for a few years now, and will be racing of course but at the moment, isn’t sure where his career will go with a few options inside and outside of racing.

It is he says, very tempting to go for a ride in the Tour of Britain next season but adds he has been offered work elsewhere too so whilst he sits in hospital and beyond, there is a lot to be thought through in a year where the sport and its teams have been put through the mill and the future is so unpredictable.

On the racing side of things, Steve knows the Saint Piran’s team plan has always been to go UCI in 2021/2022 and he also knows that the team’s owner Richard Pascoe (Ricci), believes in him. “Ricci wants me to race still and has a lot of belief in me and that means a lot to me; to have someone to believe in you. The team’s UCI plan has been and is 2021/22 but like all plans, nothing is assured until it’s signed and we don’t know what will happen so I have to consider all my options”.

Steve on his way to third in the Ryedale GP in 2019

One thing is for sure, his connection with the Saint Piran team is still very strong despite riding for a rival team. Steve explained that his connection to the Saint Piran team’s Richard Pascoe (Ricci) goes way back to 1996 when he rode Ricci’s bikes as a Youth and Junior. But for 2020, like there may be for 2021, Steve had to find a way of getting a ride in the Tour of Britain in a UCI team.

“We tried to get Saint Piran to UCI level but fell short with the money required and whilst we could have done it, I think it would have stretched the team too much financially. I was always saying if you are going to have a UCI team, you have to do it properly.”

“Then we learnt the Tour of Britain was coming to Cornwall and would go past my front door and of course I wanted to be there. The Ribble Weldtite ride was quite last minute. I had known Jack (Rees) at the team for years and was chatting to him on messenger. After a few days of chat between myself, Ricci and the Ribble team, we came up with a deal that was beneficial for all parties.”

“I would remain an ambassador for Saint Piran racing and still do the day-to-day running of the team whilst racing for Ribble Weldtite.”

That included hand picking the riders in the team for 2020 who like the rest of the peloton, have not been able to race. That sounds like it could have been a lot of work for Steve who has been racing for many many years now but the fire was still burning. “When I was at JLT, it was a mega team and John (Herety) was a good manager but I don’t think he got the best out of me. I don’t think he used me in the right way looking back”.

Steve racing up the Tumble in the Tour of Britain

“I was used up a lot, which is fine but I think more could have been got out of me. I rode the Tour of Portugal in 2017 and was like this is one of the biggest races I have done, and then afterwards had nothing as I wasn’t going to the Tour of Britain or anything which is understandable as they had a mega team.”

“So I was thinking what can I do next and Ricci had set up the Saint Piran team so I dropped back into that and as people know, I had two pretty good years there with no pressure running the team and stuff. But then we learnt the Tour of Britain was coming to Cornwall and that changed things all over again.”

In 2020, in the colours of his new team Ribble Weldtite, Steve raced two UCI events before everything went bang in the cycling world as lockdowns were put in place and racing stopped. Steve had gone into the season with plenty of motivation after knuckling down, getting the weight down and was training really well with a structured training programme way way different to the one he would have followed when he first started racing.

“Before this season, I have been riding the races I wanted to ride, doing what I wanted to do, and I’ve trained well and looked after myself. For a few years, I have been a couple of kilos heavier than I would be at peak form for the Tour of Britain as I was in 2014/15 as there was no need to be that super light. But this year, I thought I’m going to knuckle down and strip some weight down and was super motivated and trained really well.”

Steve playing to the camera in the Saudi Tour alongside Charles Page who he helped in the team’s Dutch race that followed. Pic: James Huntley

“I started training properly the week after my daughter was born, (December 2019) and hadn’t missed a training session. What myself and Ricci and Ribble Weldtite devised was unique and gave me the one chance to say ‘right, lets do this’. So I had the motivation to ride the races (UCI) I have missed for a few years and also to teach the kids something so I could put something back.”

“I was going well at the Ribble Weldtite training camp and did what I needed to do. In my last race, I helped put Charles Page in a move that I got into myself. I was sitting on the back getting yelled at by a load of Dutchies but we had a sprinter in the group (Page). Unfortunately, Charles crashed with 2k to go. I’d put him in the right place on Brenton Jones’s wheel and but unfortunately he decked it but that is bike racing”.

“I got a lot out of that race, 200k’s in the legs and did a team job for Charles but for me, it was all about the Tour de Yorkshire and Tour of Britain. Everything was geared towards that and that was why I was so motivated.”

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Young Rider Development
The journey on the bike now though isn’t just about him. Steve says the Saint Piran 2020 team was handpicked by him and they are riders he’d seen race and spoken to in the previous year. It wasn’t done off a piece of paper.

“I had been trying to get Chris Opie to come back and ride for the team for two years. We were going to be teammates and that was going to be mega but then I joined Ribble. He was disappointed but having him back is pretty cool. He will win races, he is a winner and his chances are greater as a sprinter. I like working for sprinters and also like their mindset of being winners.”

Steve explained that Opie’s role this year was to help the younger guys with their race craft and get them dialled in because he can explain what he wants done for a specific race and get the team to race as a unit. “He may not always pull the victory off” explains Steve “but if the team can do things right as a unit, and everyone takes ownership for what they have done, they will learn quicker because you don’t ever want to be that guy that lets the team down.”

Steve in the 2008 CiCLE Classic racing for a foreign team

What else do the young riders need to learn to be in a professional outfit I asked Steve? “Having a professional attitude” says Steve “and having them thinking about that is one of the things” says Steve. “Being professional about resting and recovery for example. What they do on social media is also a big thing these days. The amount of times I have had to pull riders up on stuff like not wearing team kit when they take pictures of themselves and post them on social media.”

“Common sense is needed when in a team at that level like not publicising a personal sponsor that is a rival to a team sponsor for example.”

Onto race craft and moving around a peloton is a key skill for riders who know that saving their pennies for the finale or to do their job is key. Is that something you can learn I asked? “50/50” says Steve. “There are guys who learn a lot of their race craft when they are younger because they are not the strongest, so they become good at surviving in a race but then you see bigger, stronger guys in a national A peloton who can’t ride in a bunch for toffee and they haemorrhage energy.”

“They can learn it but they have to have the confidence to want to learn it as well and it’s hard to tell people things nowadays which is a problem”

‘Working as a unit’ is something I hear a lot at races but like a lot of phrases, what does that actually mean? Talking about it, Steve says “I have done a lot of racing and not been a big winner because I haven’t got that final sprint or have been with a sprinter that is faster than me. The key though in a race is about getting rider A to the finish in the freshest possible physical/mental state.”

Steve when racing in the Under 23 category at the British championships.

“It’s about keeping them out of the wind, getting them bottles, riding on the front or near the front all together so if there is a problem, then they can go back with whoever the designated leader or leaders are. A team will always go into a race with one of two plans, like an A and B. That is what we did last year.”

Using the Lincoln Grand Prix as an example, a race he knows well, Steve explained that if he had a rider capable of winning the race, the aim would be to get him to the bottom of Michaelgate in the freshest possible state but added it would also be up to that key rider to make sure he makes it into splits that can go early and stay the distance because it isn’t always going to be a bunch riding around chasing a break.

“When Mark Lovatt won it, the race split to pieces really early so you have to be prepared that it could split with 20 guys going up the road and they may not be seen again so the onus is on the leader to be in the moves because his team isn’t going to take him there.”

“And if you have some one in the team who can go long (to the end of a race), and they get in the move, then there is no pressure on you to chase and the team can sit there and wait. The tactics are simple enough … It’s all about numbers, getting the most number of wheels for the key rider to have in front of them because they can then manipulate that situation to get those wheels to take them as far down the road as they can. And if that key rider can get a teammate to go away so a rival has to chase which means they can sit tight, this will also keep his men fresher for when he needs them to do their job.”

Another key moment for a team is the post race debrief I see so often at races and this is also super important says Steve. “In races, if we find guys can’t do something, in the debrief after, we’ll discuss why they couldn’t do it. Was it because they were scared of riding in the bunch or couldn’t follow so and so’s wheel. Maybe they didn’t feel good and so on. We’d get it out in the open and that brings everyone up a level”.

Steve’s bike in the Saudi Tour

Team Ribble Weldtitle Bike
Finally, I had a word to Steve about his race bike. At Saint Piran, Steve rode Colnago but with Ribble Weldtite, his weapon is the Ribble Cycles Endurance SL R that has proved over and over how much of a great race bike it is. John Archibald’s third in the British RR Championships and solo win at the Stockton GP in 2019 just two examples.

It’s Steve’s second season on a disc braked bike and he says he wouldn’t race on a bike without disc brakes now. “The Ribble bike is super fast, very aero with no cables showing and super stiff”. Steve explains.

“It looks amazing and as a race bike, if you have a budget, say 6k, then this does everything it says on the tin. It’s perfect and I’m really impressed with it. It’s comfortable as well so you can do an all day ride.”

Thanks to Steve and healing vibes to him for the rest of the year….

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