RetroFile: Graham Jones Interview
Our Spanish correspondent, Alastair Hamilton, has been working on a Sporting Tours training camp on the Costa Blanca, where one of the tour leaders is ex-British pro, Graham Jones. Graham’s palmares include 2nd place finishes at Het Volk and San Sebastien, plus top 20 in the Tour de France. Over his 9 years as a pro, Graham picked up enviable experience on the continent, and more than a few stories – some of which he was willing to share with us…
PezCyclingNews: Graham, you were a professional cyclist from 1979 to 1988, what teams did you ride for and who were your team leaders?
Graham Jones: I turned pro for Peugeot, then went to Wolber and from there to System U. At Peugeot there were a lot of leaders, Duclo (Gilbert Duclos Lassalle) was only starting to look good, of course he went onto lead the team for the classics, Paris-Roubaix obviously being his best race. We also had Jean-Luc Vandenbroucke (VDB’S Uncle) for the classics and sprinter Jacques Esclasan. Hennie Kuiper was the leader for the Tour, but in the two years he rode for the team he never won anything, he was second in the Tour once, though. Also double Tour winner, Bernard Thevenet was finishing his career with us. Then with Wolber and System U the leader was Jean Rene Bernaudeau, the two teams were the same, just a name change. Bernaudeau was to be the new Hinault, but that didn’t happen. The System U team eventually took on Laurent Fignon, and he won the tour.
PCN: Did you ride for the ACBB team before you turned pro?
GJ: Yes, I did ride for them the year before I turned pro, but I left England at 18 years old. First I spent a year in Holland then a year in Belgium before going to France and the famous ACBB team in Paris.
PCN: Did that help as a stepping stone to Peugeot?
GJ: Yes, a big help, but the ACBB wasn’t the feeder team to Peugeot as every-one thinks, not at that time. Before me, Paul Sherwen went from ACBB to Fiat, I went to Peugeot and that got the ball rolling for a lot of English speakers to go the same route as me. Robert Millar, Anderson, Roche and Piper.
PCN: You were the first English speaker at Peugeot, do you think it made it easier for the others?
GJ: Yes I was the first, maybe it made a difference for the English speakers that followed me, Roger Legeay was a rider in the team then, and as a manager he has had a lot of faith in British and Australian riders.
PCN: Why do you think you, Paul Sherwen and John Herety, all came out of the same area (Manchester) at the same time?
GJ: I think you get some good riders in an area and it brings every-one on, you could say the same about Liverpool before and Yorkshire after us, it’s just we went further.
PCN: When you were second in Het Volk in 1982 and San Sebastian, did that make a difference to your standing in the team? And how did the French riders react?
GJ: They were pleased for me but not much more. As to my standing in the team, well I didn’t get a ride in that year’s Tour de France.
PCN: You were second in Het Volk to Fons De Wolf, was he a bit of a VDB of his time?
GJ: A bit, both classy riders, but De Wolf had done it all by the time he was 25, Het Volk, San Remo, and Liege etc. Then he was finished, that was it. I think he now runs a bar some-where in Belgium.
PCN: The classics are about to start, did you ride them all?
GJ: Yes, all of them. Not the new ones, like the HEW Classic and at Leeds. I rode every professional race, except the Vuelta a Espaсa. Well you did in those days!
PCN: So, things have changed, now riders only ride the cobbled classics, the hilly classics or none. How do you feel about that?
GJ: Some riders could specialize in my day, but not like now. There are some riders these days who have a good start of season, say in Australia, then you don’t hear of them until the Tour, and there are riders who only train for a stage win in the Tour, they could never win overall, just go for a stage, then you never hear of them all season. You couldn’t do that then. Lucien Van Impe would train specially for the Tour, but he would ride some classics and the Belgian National Champs and win it one year.
PCN: Who is going to be the King of the Classics this year?
GJ: All the usual riders, Museeuw and Tafi, the old boys with some-thing to show for their last year or years if they don’t retire. VDB is an interesting possibility. Armstrong will do well in Amstel, probably, as it’s his tester for his form for the Tour, then he goes away to fine tune. This is some-thing I think Ullrich should have done in the past, or maybe he will in the future.
PCN: Thank you Graham, you rode the Tour de France five times, can we ask you some more questions on that for a part 2?
GJ: Yes sure, but Alastair, it’s taken you four weeks to do this interview, I go home soon!
PCN: Er, yea thanks.