September lunch

At very short notice Shane Sutton was unable to speak, attending the funeral of his Sky team soigneur Txema Gonzalez who tragically passed away.

AT even shorter notice our own Dan Lloyd stepped in and gave a fascinating and lucid presentation in three parts covering the demise of his current team (Cervelo Test Team), his own introduction and development in our sport and finally the traditional question and answers session.

Thank you Dan with all our best wishes for your future career with the developing Garmin Cervelo team next season.

Dan has very kindly issued his presentation;

Thanks for having me. It really does feel like I am a guest having been absent since about April, but there has been a reason for my absense! To give you a very brief insight into my race calendar this year, I did Etoile de Besseges, Tour of Oman and Het Volk in February, Paris Nice, Dwars Door Vlaanderen, E3 Prijs and Gent Wevelgem in March, Tour of Flanders and GP Pino Cerami in April, the Giro in May (I only had one race that month!), the Dauphine Libere and the nationals in June, and the Tour de France in July, by which point I had 80 days of racing, so when you add in training camps and travelling time, you start to get a picture of how little time I have spent at home this season. I don’t blame my wife for the affair she had!

Before I get going, I am going to make my excuses, in that Gordon asked me to talk here at quite short notice after Shane Sutton was understandably unable to attend, so I’ve only had a day or so to think about what to say. So, during what might be a short talk, I’d like you to think about any questions you might want to ask me – it can be about absolutely anything which you think is of interest, if you ask me what would I like from the bar then all the better!

I’m going to start with some current affairs. As many of you may know, but some of you not, Cervelo Test Team is winding up and coming to an end on 31st December this year. It sounds awful and tragic, and it is for many of the riders, staff and their respective families. Before I go on and explain the ins and outs of this, I will say that I am one of the lucky 7 riders who Cervelo have taken with them to the Garmin team, which will be called Garmin Cervelo next season, so I am safe in my job for at least another year, and as I also had a couple of other offers, I hope to continue in this profession for a good few years yet.

The demise of the current team is a complicated affair. When we had our first ever get together in 2008, the owners Phil White and Gerard Vroomen explained to us all that they had a long term plan, but that whatever happened, they had the budget in place then that would guarantee the team for 4 years. That, I believe, even though it might sound strange, still stands.

Our team was NOT a Protour team, it was a pro continental team. Many people assume that Cervelo is a protour team, but the fact is that we had to gain wild card entries into all of the biggest races. That came about relatively easy over the past two season – the team had a good relationship with all the major race organisers, we have a good, clean image, and we have the big name riders that make the team attractive to those organisers. Being a Pro Continental team, though, meant that it could be run on a lower budget. We didn’t need to have 30 riders, which meant we never had to run a triple program, we also weren’t obliged to do every race, we could skip races like the Tour down Under, Tour of Poland etc etc, effectively Cervelo as a brand could pick and choose the races which would give them the most exposure.

A change in the UCI rules this year effectively put a spanner in the works. Next year, with the new rules, each Pro Continental team will receive 18 points to “spend” during the season. The Tour de France will cost 9 points, whilst the other grand tours and major classics will cost 6 points each. It doesn’t take a mathematician to work out that a Pro continental team will only be able to do 2 or 3 major races in 2011. This simply wasn’t an option for the team – only being able to do a couple of major races in the season just would not give enough return on what was a considerable investment for a bike company.

The other option was to apply for a Protour license, but that would require a significant increase in budget, which Cervelo just couldn’t support on their own. I know that they came very close, just after the Tour de France, to signing a major sponsor, but when that finally fell through, the owners felt they had no choice but to stop the team. Obviously, in the mean time they must have been in talks with Garmin about a merger, which makes sense as Cervelo obviously still need a presence in the biggest races, but there was only room for a handful of riders and even less staff, although having said that, the womens team are going over as a complete unit, which is great for them.

So, whilst from the outside, it looks pretty bad, there were sound reasons behind the decision, which must have been a hard one. I had an email from the team the other day, and 80% of the rides and DS’s have options for next season, but that figure is only 25% of the soignuers and mechanics. It is those guys who will suffer the most, because whilst there are 25-30 places in each team for riders, there are only5-8 places for full time mechanics or soignuers, so places are few and far between, especially in September.

So I hope that gives you a fairly detailed account for what happened and exactly how things have arisen.

Now, the second thing I am going to talk about is my brief history in the sport, how I started and how I came to be where I am today. It’s not going to be long winded account but it will give you an idea about how I got here.

So, don’t shoot me down for this, but I started racing as a mountain biker, in 1994 when I was 14. I’d read a couple of my friends MTB magazines and decided that I wanted one, so I pestered my Dad, who eventually succumbed a few months later and bought me one for Christmas. A few months after that, I did a very local race at Matchams in Ringwood – I did pretty badly but I was addicted. I progressed onto other local MTB races, then regional races, and eventually national races. I got my first road bike, a steel GIOS, in 1997, a first year junior, which I keenly used for training. My first road race was in 1998, an evening circuit race at Barnsfield Heath, and my 2nd race was the Junior tour of Wales the same year. For that race, I drove myself up, booked a B&B, did my own washing, bike mechanics and bottles, and basically just got myself organised to do everything on my own. I carried on racing MTB’s mainly, with road as a secondary thing, for my first two years as a senior, culminating with riding for GB at the World Espoir champs in 2000. It was that year that I won my first Elite road race, the Cobham spring road race, and wrote a pleading letter to Stuart Benstead to let me into the Archer, which he kindly did.

The following year, I spent half the season here domestically, and the second half in France, racing with UVCA Troyes, where I was team mates and flat mates with a certain Russell Downing. The next year, 2002, I went back to France for the whole season, this time in the Clermont Ferrand region, and rode about 2 laps of the Worlds in Zolder before crashing out and losing 4 teeth. 2003 was my first taste of racing with the Pro’s, with the very modest Endurasport team (the same sponsor as the current Endura racing team). I was based in Italy, and got to do some big races with the likes of Francesco Casagrande and Johan Museew. 2004 and 5 was spent with the Flanders Pro team in Belgium, where I learnt the roads of the Flanders region, how to ride on cobbles and in echelons, and finally how to drink Leffe. In 2006 I was a bit stuck and raced all around Asia with the Giant Asia team, but in 2007 I came back to Europe with the DFL Cyclingnews team, 2008 I spent with the An Post Sean kelly team.

Those 5 years of being a ‘pro’ but would be better described as being an amatuer riding in pro races. It was a very volatile and uncertain period for me – I don’t think I ever knew before the middle of December who I would be racing for the following year. I was never paid much by the teams, I relied on personal sponsors of which Barry was the biggest, but also from equipment sponsors, and I also had one year of support from the Dave Rayner fund. I think what kept me going through that whole period was a real passion for the sport, and a real belief that all I needed was a chance in a big team to show what I could do. And finally, that chance, that opportunity came last year with Cervelo, and the rest, as they say, is history!

There are a couple of points to giving you a rather boring history of my time on a bike. The first point, and one that has been mentioned a lot in the press, is that I got to this point the old fashioned way, i.e. without having anything to do with BC bar a couple of world championship selections. I always feel this slightly clouds the reality of the situation, which is, that whilst I didn’t receive help from BC, I got help from many other places. My family, my first coach, advice from my first training partners, many many sponsors, race organisors without whom I couldn’t have even started, friends who take me to the airport etc etc the list goes on. There wasn’t really a road program at the WCPP when I was younger, and having never ridden the track in my life that avenue wasn’t ever on the cards. These days, BC has a well established road academy in Italy, which is a fansastic opportunity for the few that are selected. However, I honestly feel that had the academy been around when I was younger, it wouldn’t have been good for me. I say that, because I was a later developer – by the time I was last year Espoir, the cut off point for the academy, I wasn’t strong enough to hold my own in a top level pro team, so from that point of view, it has worked out better for me to take my own path at my own pace.

My second point is very related to the first one. I’ve met a couple of young local riders recently. They have many things in common, both are very enthusiastic, ambitious, determined, committed and passionate about the sport, they both remind me of how I was at the same age, when I was already living for the sport. But, there is another worrying thing that they have in common – both are very troubled about the fact that they haven’t been recognised by BC’s talent program. They feel like they have missed the boat, that their chances of achieving their ambitions have all but vanished. And that is something that I found very worrying, that young riders now think that the be all and end all is with the BC system, so I encourage any of you, who meet or know any budding pro’s, to explain the other options available, that if they are determined enough they can succeed just with the support of the people around them.

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