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PEZ On The Scene: Rapha Condor-Sharp In Spain!

It’s not all World Tour teams, Tour and Classic winners and International Professionals here at the PEZ Spanish HQ. The guys at Rapha Condor-Sharp might not be riding the Tour or the Giro this year, but the team is organized like they are and the riders attitude is just like any Continental Pro. A day with Rapha Condor-Sharp in Benidorm!

Most of the World Tour teams have been in this part of Spain in the last three months, either starting their winter training or putting the finishing touches to it and I’ve been lucky enough to have visited them for some great photos and interviews. There has also been many other top teams from all over Europe, but the first British team I’ve seen this year were staying in Benidorm and when team manager; John Herety invited me down for a chat and a coffee with the lads, how could I refuse?

The team had brought down a van and a team car for the training camp.

The previous day the riders had a hard ride in the hills, so today they were mostly taking it easy with just a short ride and a coffee stop. Three riders were not so keen on doing much as they’d found a section of black ice on the top of the Col de Rates and acquainted themselves with Spanish tarmac, one of those was Mike Cuming. I’ve interviewed Mike a couple times before, for a quiet lad he can be cheeky. I met him in reception and was complaining about how difficult parking is round that area; he commented that “it must be difficult parking your mobility scooter and finding a place to charge it up!” Youth of today, I don’t know…

OK guys here’s the plan!

Mike showed me where John and the rest were gathering for the ride at the back of the hotel, the sight that greeted me was just like any car park at the back of a hotel that has a cycle team staying in it, soapy water on the ground, bikes all over the place and riders looking for their bike, you don’t need to be World Tour for this situation.

Dean Downing.

One of the first down from his room and ready to go was Dean Downing; he has been around for many a year now and is probably the most experienced rider on the team. His palmarйs cover National championships, victories all over Europe, Taiwan and Bermuda on the road, plus a lot of wins on the track. At 37 he has a lot to pass on the young riders in the team, the youngest being Luke Grivell-Mellor who has only just turned 19 earlier this month.

A happy bunch.

The team are a happy lot, but John Herety is very much in charge. Yes, they joke and mess around like all teams, but when a rider came down late he was told in no uncertain way, this also happened over some riders using their Condor TT bikes and others on their road machines, but today there wasn’t that much pressure.

Jimmy Mac, when are you coming back?

The plan for the day was for an easy ride to the cafй, then some would be doing a bit more before returning to the hotel for fat measurements before lunch and a nutritional talk from Mayur Ranchordas after.

“Look, in my day…”

We would be heading out of town and going for a coffee in “diferens cafй” on the beach front in Altea, not far, but a good stop off point. The problem of the one-way system had to be sorted out and then (eventually) we got on the road.

There was one big question I had to ask John and I couldn’t wait for our chat at the cafй. How does he get away with having three named sponsors? If you remember I asked the same of Johan Bruyneel and his RadioShack-Nissan-Trek team, he wanted me to ask the UCI as it was their problem. John explained that Rapha and Condor had set up a separate company called; Rapha Condor before the team existed, so with the electronics firm Sharp joining there is still only two named sponsors, i.e. “Rapha Condor-Sharp.”

Easy roads round here.

Out on the road it wasn’t too difficult for the team to stick together on the quiet roads, there are fourteen riders on the team roster, Ed Clancy and Andrew Tennant are both following a different plan as they will be competing at the London Olympics this year and Kristian House didn’t attend. So there were eleven riders plus Tom Southam who is now assistant sports director, Southam still looked fit enough to give some sore legs.

The DS has his say.

So twelve riders and a team car didn’t take up much room and the drivers round here are used to seeing full World Tour team pass this way on a regular basis. Once we got settled in the cafй it was time to get the low-down on the team from the top man; John Herety.

PEZ: What are the most important events for the team this year?

John: The series of televised crit’s are very important. TV time counts and when you have two cycling related sponsors that are appealing to “new” cycling clients, the sort of person who is probably new to cycling that is used to wearing/using quality goods at the high end of the market. There is no question about it that cycling is the new golf. It’s all about the image.

PEZ: What about the overall plan for the team?

John: We’ve changed the emphasis of the team, for the past three years we have been the top team in the UK and you can’t go better than being the top team in the UK, plus we would ride some international races to achieve those aims in the UK and that’s what we were trying to do, so we’ve decided to take a step back and we will eventually turn it into an under 23 team, but you can’t do that over night. This year we have started by taking three or four guys from the under 23’s as the old riders moved on, which was a conscious decision on our part to do that. From an events point of view we will be doing a similar calendar; things like the Tour of Taiwan, all our sponsors are pretty big in Asia, we won’t do a full Asian programme, but Tour of Taiwan is a UCI 2.1, so it’s gone up in status, that’s a big race for us to do. We will also ride the Tour of Normandy, then after that the next big one will be the Tour of Korea. We will also do some races in Spain, the Vuelta a Leon (UCI 2.2) and Vuelta a la Comunidad de Madrid Sub 23 (UCI 2.2U) and then the Tour of Britain, the Tour du Gйvaudan Languedoc-Roussillon (UCI 2.2) in France, the Tour of Pyrenees we’re looking at doing along with a full British programme with the Premier Calendar series and the circuit race series, but our biggest thing for our sponsors is the Tour Series, the ten week series of televised races.

How many cortado’s?

PEZ: Would the TV races be more important than the Tour of Britain?

John: No, on a par I would say of similar importance, but realistically we would get more exposure from the Tour Series because obviously the big teams are not going to be there and the focus is on British teams, so you are going to get that coverage. We have always done well in the series, the format is a little different, it’s a team series as opposed to a first across the line, and it’s good because the winner gets publicity, the team that wins it gets publicity and the overall team gets publicity. It’s a bit like the constructors competition in Formula 1, that’s the thing they place most emphasis on: the team that’s leading overall, so you get three chances of a bite at the cherry and also there is a sprints competition, so four reasons of a TV camera to be on your team, so there is lots of potential for publicity. The format is good; five riders and you can swap those riders around each week for each round and it’s based on a points system and the team with the lowest points wins, with the total of the first three riders in each team at the finish. So for a sprinter like Dean Downing there is no point in him going off on his own because he would always score well anyway, ideally you want a non-sprinter to go away. It’s changed the dynamics of the racing and its pretty good I must say.

And Deano.

So that was a very nice chat and coffee over and time to head back to the hotel for a chat with five of the under 23 riders; Mike Cuming, Felix English, Luke Grivell-Mellor, Richard Handley and Oliver Rossi, and maybe have some lunch?

The Boss, John Herety.

First up was Felix English; who is Irish, has an English accent and is famous for out-sprinting Sir Chris Hoy.

PEZ: So do you feel Irish?

Felix: Yea, I do. I was born in Brighton, but both my parents are Irish and all my family is over there.

PEZ: So what did it feel like to beat Chris Hoy?

Felix: I can’t really remember, I just got the thought in my head and went for it.

PEZ: You are all under 23, so what are you aiming at, what do you want to get out of the team?

Luke: I want to gain some experience from the other guys, I’m 19 so I want to learn as much as I can from the races I do and do as well as I can. I’ll be racing when I get back to England and then off to Taiwan, that will be serious, it’s a different part of the world and then the Tour of the North, but mostly UK racing.

PEZ: What about you Felix?

Felix: I’m going to Taiwan then the Nations Cup with Ireland and then the Ras Tour of Ireland. This year I will be riding Nations Cup’s, the Europeans and hopefully the Worlds with Ireland. A good mix.

PEZ: And you Oliver?

Oliver: I want to make the transition into the under 23’s, get some races under my belt and learn the races. I was a junior last year so it’s a bit of a big jump, but there is a really good atmosphere in the team.

Richard: I’ve been an under 23 for two years now, this is my third year as a senior so I’m looking to improve, I was with Raleigh last year, so coming to John is a more established team that’s well organised and John is a great manager as well. We know what races we are going to up to April and we all know where we are going etc. Nobody has been overlooked, he has a full team and we all have something.

Mike: Yea it should be a good year, it’s my last as an under 23, I hope to show a bit of talent somewhere and maybe learn a bit more from the older guys also. I should learn something from John, he’s been doing it that long, and he’s given me a good chance.

PEZ: Two years ago you rode for Raleigh, then last year for a smaller team (Twenty3c-Orbea) which was a bit of a step back.

Mike: Yea this is a step back up and hopefully up from here and I’m looking forward to getting stuck into some races. I’m in my last year as an Under 23, but I haven’t had that much experience at UCI level, so I’m looking forward to races like the Tour of Normandy and Korea. Normandy has some big teams like Europcar, it will be good to rub elbows with those guys. I’m looking forward all of it, like being in the team, good atmosphere, good banter and hopefully I’ll get some good results and impress a few people. We are really lucky to have John, because the bigger teams now want to ride races like Normandy, but they know John so we get in when other teams don’t.

Right, who’s going home?

PEZ: Where do you all want to be in five years time?

Richard: I’ve tried not to look so far ahead, just take one year at a time and try to progress all the time.

PEZ: Any of you thought of going abroad?

Oliver: I was thinking of Belgium if John hadn’t phoned, this was just too good really. Mike: Last year I was thinking of going to France, but then if you can live in the UK and get the support you get from Rapha and still ride the nice races, why put yourself out to be sat in a cold apartment in Belgium.

Better than Belgium!

PEZ: You all talk about the atmosphere on the team, what’s so special?

Mike: I think everyone on the team get on with one another and if one of these guys won a race you would be just as happy as if you had won. On other teams they would prefer someone from another team to win instead of a team mate. The bikes are great and the kit is great!

The Team.

So that’s what some young Pro’s think of life in the Rapha Condor-Sharp team and with that sort of back-up they have no excuses. Before lunch I saw two more examples of the care the riders receive. Mayur Ranchordas was testing the fat on the riders, which became a competition between James McCallum and Dean Downing, won’t say who lost, but it was water for lunch for him. The other advantage the riders have is the tie up between the team and Claremont Hospital, Dean has broken both collar bones, one repaired in the US the other at the Claremont, both had healed well, but the finishing work on the Claremont bone was very tidy.

Thanks to the Rapha Condor-Sharp team for an interesting day and a nice lunch and good luck for the season.

• See the team’s website at: RaphaCondor.cc

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