A few years ago I did a story for Cycling Plus magazine - with young rising Brit stars, interesting to look back - especially at the praise heaped on Ian Stannard, who came close to winning Milan-Sanremo at this year...
The new wave of young Brit pro racers are taking the peleton by storm, and they are very much at the forefront of a new generation striving to revive and clean up a drug stained sport. We spoke to three of said new generation at the recent round of the Revolutions track series in Manchester. Here’s what they had to say.
Mark Cavendish – T-Mobile
Former World Madison Champion and first year pro with T-Mobile, “Cav” has really set the world alight this year, earning 11 victories in his debut season, and marking himself out as one of the fastest sprinters in the world.
Winter training motto – Make sure you have people around you to train with, people who have the same motivation.
Geraint Thomas – Barloworld
The young Welshman is no stranger to success, having been a Junior World Tack Champion, as well as having won the junior Paris-Roubaix. In this, his first year as a pro he rode and finished the Tour de France, as one of the youngest riders in the peleton.
Winter training motto – Set yourself deadlines, have a time to get out and just do it.
Ian Stannard – T-Mobile
An accomplished track racer, and a competent roadman, the tall and calm Stannard is rated by his compatriots as something of a powerhouse, so he should have no trouble fitting in as a neo pro this coming season with the T-Mobile squad.
Winter training motto – Keep thinking how much tougher it ill make you by riding in all conditions.
ST; It’s been something of a big year for you guys – thrown straight in at the deep end with top teams like Barloworld and T-Mobile, and finding yourself racing against guys almost twice your age and riding in the biggest events in the world. What were your very first impressions?
CAV; Well, I had a bit of a shot at it the year before, as Ian has this year, as a stagier; so I knew roughly what to I was up against, and that it was a case of training really hard through the winter to survive it. But I think the problem was that I tried and trained a bit too hard, especially being young. I knew I would be okay with it, but I got a bit sick and run down. But I’ve got very high ambitions, and do push myself too hard at times.
GT; With it being a much smaller team I got an easier and more relaxed start to the year, and I was still racing on the track, so I didn’t race a lot on the road to start with. I came in to it nice and steady, did ok and the team were happy with me.
ST; Do you all come together much through the season?
CAV: At races, some times. But we’re all pretty well based in the same place in Italy, where the GB house is. I’ve been living with Gee (Geraint) since May, and Ian is there too, so we’re together a lot of the time.
IS: I’ve been in Italy for part of the year, and it’s a good set up, and good for us all being in the same place.
ST; What kind of atmosphere is there within the teams? T-Mobile has undergone huge changes recently?
CAV: Lots of the other teams are all based in the same country, even the same town, and with mainly riders from one country. You tend to get the French, or Italians and then the rest of the team. T-Mobile is completely different, and at first I didn’t know how that would be. But there are riders from so many different countries and all over the place, yet the atmosphere is really good. At races, training camps and things we all get on together, and socialise off the bike too. The fact that we work so well together all round has shown in a lot of the race result too. At the dinner table it’s always pretty rowdy.
GT: It’s a smaller team, but we make more noise at the dinner table when we’re drunk! Everyone speaks Italian, but me – so they all have a great time. No, really it’s a great and relaxed atmosphere. And the South Africans speak English too, so it’s always good fun. And slowly I’m picking up Italian.
CAV; He’s slowly picking up English as well….
ST: As neo pro’s, and even with some decent wins under your belt, it must have been a shocker landing at the Tour de France?
GT; It was a really big surprise, but it’s the place to be, the biggest bike race in the world. It was a great experience. It was great to just get stuck in and find out what it’s all about.
CAV: Yeah, I’d had Pro Tour wins and thought maybe I would go, but I knew I was only going to ride half way, which made it easier. It was a lot tougher for Geraint, knowing he had to go and push himself day after day. I knew my goad was experience.
GT; I didn’t know how things would go, and experience was the main aim. I wanted to get to the first ret day, and then see how I was. Then I just kept going. I had some real hard times, but then there was the last day, that made it all worthwhile.
ST; What was the best thing about it?
GT: Having watched it on TV so often to actually be there was a dream come true. Riding those roads, and then seeing the Eiffel Tower, coming over the bridge and into the last left-hander, I’d seen it all on TV, but it was amazing. The whole team were together, as we had the mountains jersey and stage wins too, which was very special.
CAV; It’s a whole different level to anything else I’d ridden. The media attention and the build up to the race were huge, especially with being British and the London start. It was really emotional that whole first week. I had some bad luck in those first days, which was really unfortunate, as they were the days I was going for. But that’s all part of it, and learning what the Tour is about.
ST; So what has been this years ultimate high?
CAV; I dunno really. When I started winning regularly that was a highlight, but it took away from any specific event. I really wanted to come away from Paris-Tours with a result; that would have been a highlight, but it didn’t happen. So I think just having a good season stands over any particular race.
ST; Geraint, are you surprised how well he’s done this year (Cav)?
GT: Err, not really. He’s fast, so I knew he was always going to win races. But, well, I was surprised he beat me on the first stage of the Tour of Britain, I was really up for that (wink wink). But we’re all pretty close, and being together it’s good for all of us, and it show’s that what the federation are doing is working.
ST; The Italian Brit base is really paying dividends, and now Ian is stepping up to T-Mobile, how intimidating is that – trying to follow in Cav’s footsteps?
IS: It’s been a great experience living and racing with the guys in Italy. They are a great motivation, I was really worried about riding as a stagier at first, but it’s working out.
ST; The whole programme in Italy was borne from the track. And despite doing so well on the road you’re all still heavily involved with the track; is Beijing the next stop?
GT: We all owe a lot to the system, and the track. So it’s always down to us to keep working at it and to help repay the system for it’s investment, and to keep the ball rolling. And yeah, for sure Beijing is a major goal next year. Barloworld are really supportive too, and let me put a lot of time into the track.
CAV; It’s important for all of us, for all of those reasons, we wouldn’t be where we are today without the support we’ve had, and we all have a lot of national pride too The Olympics is also a real sporting highlight, and I will definitely put a lot of focus on getting there. We have such a strong track system that selection is always a struggle, but I’m hoping I’ll get there.