On The Road: Tour of Britain – Up Hill and Down Dale

cycling 300x280 On The Road: Tour of Britain   Up Hill and Down Dale Martin Ayres hands over to his colleague Neil Thompson at Jaguar for Tour de France 2013. Neil has worked at Jaguar for a similar time as Martin, but feels less inclined to name a number! He also was the first embedded performance mechanic with the team in 2011, and here picks up the ‘On The Road’ Blog. Like Martin, he is a big pro cycling fan now after spending time with the team.

I think it’s been a shock, again, to see just how much you British love cycling! As a sport long dominated by continental Europe, the march of ‘Les Anglais’ has been an unstoppable force for a few years now.

As a DS with Team Sky I’ve had the privilege of seeing this development from the inside, but when we come back for the team’s ‘home race’ each year it’s a real adrenaline boost. The crowds lined the whole route of the Time Trial today were two or three people deep. We had the windows rolled up in the Jaguar, but the cacophony coming from the roadside was just brilliant.

What the supporters might not realize is quite how much of a difference they make to the riders during each stage. The sight of hundreds of Union flags along the roadside during the Tour de France get the guys more motivated than during any other race. Except, perhaps this one. Bradley, Ian (Stannard) and Josh (Edmondson, Team Sky’s UK Neo-Pro) have not stopped smiling yet this race. It’s also very amusing to see just how much recognition the continental riders on the team are getting. Bernie Eisel may not have thought he was a celebrity in the UK – how wrong he was! Our bus has been absolutely mobbed the past few days and Rob Jorgensen (our PR manager) made a pretty accurate comparison with the Tour de France for the level of attention the team is getting. It makes sense as it’s our home race, but we never expect it. It’s a real pleasure to see!

It’s well known that we like to go into races with a clear plan, and it’s been a very satisfying couple of days. The guys are as motivated as I have seen them in any race, and now to hold the Gold leaders jersey means the riders have executed the plan to perfection. We controlled the race on a really tough stage yesterday where the weather and wind turned the racing into a survival exercise for many of the teams after a long hot summer. Not so the men in black (and blue). They controlled the race from the gun and I think the weather actually helped – something close to nostalgia for Bradley and Ian remembering their club rides in driving rain. Josh is too young to be nostalgic – must seem like just another day for him!

That said, the racing has been fierce – probably one of the toughest week-long stage races there is, which is helping grow the profile of the race in a big way. The territory is very much like the spring classics races in Northern Europe, all short sharp climbs and twisty roads. The difference is that we all know the roads of the classics inside out as they are raced on the same course time and time again. Each day here is like racing a new classic and it makes my job as DS very tough, needing to know the strategically important points of each stage is certainly adding to the workload.

From here on in, we are going to defend the jersey with the aim of taking it all the way to London on Sunday. Tomorrow will be slightly tougher for other teams to attack the Jersey as it is a little flatter. We’re hoping that the sprinters teams’ will help control the race and chase down the inevitable breakaways that will happen. Our job will be to protect Bradley in the closing 10km and the sprint finish – something Bernie Eisel will remember well from the 2012 Tour de France. It’s Thursday and Friday that will really show if we’re going to take the Jersey home, as the mountains kick in and we’re expecting attacks left right and centre. But we’re prepared, and above all it’s going to be great, enjoyable racing for the guys.

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