Season Opens, Heavens Open

Anyone waking up to a dry and bright Sunday morning could have easily been forgiven for assuming that the weather forecast was completely wrong in its prediction of heavy rain. This state of affairs wasn’t to last too long however and by 10:00am the aforementioned rain had arrived in Biblical proportions.

Pimbo Industrial Estate was the rather unglamorous location for Sunsport Velos first race of 2017 the Cull Cup and Duncan Sparrow Road Races. Nestled in Skelmersdale in West Lancashire this insalubrious venue was about to play host to an epic women’s race completely shaped by the weather and animated by a bunch of tough as nails racers who gave their all in the quest for early season glory.

Meeting an hour before the midday start the seven riders for Sunsport tried in vain to keep warm and dry in their vehicles but inevitably they would have to emerge to undergo their pre race turbo warm up. Luckily the teams gazebos did provide a modicum of shelter although the futility of this would be exposed once they set off for the start line.

 

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Liz Burrows, Lizzy Banks, Hannah Larbalestier and Gabriella Nordin

Tactics had been drawn up beforehand but the conditions and the sensible decision by the commissaires to shorten the race to just 10 laps from the original 22 meant that a last minute recalibration was needed.

 

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Seonaid Thompson versus the elements

 

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Rosie Walsh shadows Felicity Gledhill

The race set off at a more than steady speed, the riders appearing eager to get things done and dusted as soon as possible, and the good pace, which lasted throughout prevented any meaningful break getting away. Lap after lap the bunch passed by in close formation, the protagonists at the front changing places but gaining no meaningful ground. Sunsport were animated within the bunch, always searching for opportunities and countering rivals doing likewise.Inevitably however a bunch sprint ensued on the steady uphill drag of Peel Road with Emily  Nelson of Team Breeze taking the honours from her team mate Manon Lloyd.The Sunsport girls had ridden faultlessly, showing tremendous teamwork and youngster Felicity Gledhill led out Lizzy Banks to contest the sprint in which she bravely battled to a highly creditable fifth place.

Seonaid Thompson had succumbed to the conditions towards the end of the race but otherwise a full complement of Sunsport riders crossed the line in close order to the winner and as first races as a team goes this was a great success.

There were some very wet and exhausted riders come the finish but the general feeling was of immense satisfaction of a job well done.

Lessons will be learnt (although they will be unlucky if they encounter this type of extreme weather again all season) and plans will be tweaked and all things being equal the team will be climbing onto a podium in the near future.

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Sunsport Velo at the Head of Affairs

Lizzy Banks provided her own first hand account of the race:

“First, let’s set the scene. We’re on an industrial estate on the outskirts of Skelmersdale in early March, it’s grey, it’s 3 degrees and the horizontal rain that is pouring down and flooding the road is doing its best to attempt to turn to snow! Welcome to Pimbo!

This afternoon was the first race as a team for the ladies in yellow at Sunsport Velo WRT. We had 7 out of the 8 team members riding today as Vicki was out in South Africa having a really tough time in the sunshine (note how none of us are even a tiny bit jealous)! Today was also the first opportunity for the riders to get racing on their brand new Cervelo team bikes.

On the start line the riders were informed that the race had been shortened from 22 laps to only 10 meaning the race would end up being just short of an hour, instead of two. In hindsight, although initially disappointing, this was the right decision for the commissaries to make as the freezing conditions really took their toll on the riders. Changing gear became impossible without looking at the shifter to see what your seemingly detached hand was up to and there was no chance of getting in the back pocket to take a gel!

Because of the shortened race, the agreed team tactics immediately went out the window and it was a case of thinking on one’s feet! More than anything, this race was a great opportunity to get the majority of the team together to practice communication and working together in the bunch before the target races of the season creep upon us. Every race is a learning curve, no matter how experienced you are, and today was a good opportunity to learn lessons which can be built upon as well as recognising what we did well and taking a lot of positives away from the race.

Lizzy Banks

Lizzy Banks

The race was animated by a particularly dominant Team Breeze but the Sunsport Velo WRT riders were always quick to respond and both neutralise attacks as well and make attempts to set up breaks. It was also great to see the riders confidently moving around in the bunch, working together to bring riders to the front when needed and communicating well. As we expected the race came down to a bunch sprint into a vicious headwind where I managed to grab fifth place in the sprint.

We are looking forward to next weekend where the team will be racing the first round of the team series at Hog Hill in Redbridge.”

 

 

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Who is………….Lizzy Banks?

Lizzy Banks is a rising talent on the road racing scene. As the current British Universities and Colleges Hill Climb champion she goes up hill very fast. She is also full of energy, talks a lot and is, with respect, a bit daft. She’s serious as well though and will be stood on many a podium in the coming years, that’s for sure.

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Name: Lizzy Banks (née Stedman)

Age: 26

Hometown: Sheffield (adopted). Originally Malvern.

Live: Sheffield

How long have you been cycling: I have been racing for 2 years. Before then, cycling was just a really useful means of transport.

Career highlight so far: 3rd place at the Manx GP 2016. It was the first round of the British National Women’s Road Series and it was great to get a good result early in the season. It was a fantastic course too as we did two laps of the rock with the great climb up Snaefell and the roadside support was fabulous all the way around.

Biggest influence on your cycling: My husband, Gabriel. He is incredibly supportive and has sacrificed so much just to get me to this point. Sport can be incredibly selfish. You give up so much yet at the same time you demand so much, be it time, financial support or emotional support for the highs and lows. Gabriel is my consistent voice of reason and encouragement, happy to sacrifice every weekend to drive me all over the country, do all the cooking, make sure everything is ready before the race and patch me up when it doesn’t quite go to plan!

What are your ambitions in the sport: To ride for Great Britain in the Olympic games and to one day become the world road race champion (no harm in aiming high…. right?!).

Who do you most admire outside of cycling: I’m a bit stumped on this one. I’ve never really had heroes as they only tend to let you down and my opinions of those I don’t know are fickle as they are only based upon what you can read or watch in the media.

Away from cycling what would be your preferred career: If I ever finish my degree (I’ve been at it since 2010…) and continue in the medical profession I would like to be an anaesthetist, however, If i had my time again I would definitely train as a carpenter and furniture maker.

You’re stranded on a desert island with three famous people (dead or alive) of your choice. Who are they? Rene Redzepi, to forage all the food and serve up some tasty delights. Ray Mears, for his survival skills. Stephen Mangan, to provide the comedy. I was hoping to get a woman in there to balance the sexes but I think it’s such a perfect choice that there is no need.

Favourite Holiday Destination: Mallorca

Should pineapple as a pizza topping be outlawed: Yes

When were you last inebriated: Can’t remember, I’d had too much to drink 😉

Your house is on fire. What one possession do you save: The cats. Whichever one is stupid enough not to do a runner. Marcus would have probably fled by now, so I’d have to save Delia.

One word, any word: Food

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Lizzy. Fast on the Road, Fast on the Track

Multiple Choice

Strictly or X Factor: Strictly
Ketchup or Brown Sauce: Ketchup. It has to be Heinz
Cats or Dogs: Cats. Obviously.
Ant or Dec: Dec
Fish and Chips or Lentil and Cashew Nut Roast: Fish, Chips and Curry.

And finally (this is the deep question!) if it all ended tomorrow how would you sum it up?: It’s been turbulent.

Lizzy can be found on twitter @ElizzyBanks. Give her a follow, she’s entertaining!

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Lizzy with team mates Felicity Gledhill and Rosie Walsh

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Who is……..Hannah Larbalestier?

The county of South Yorkshire has always been recognised as a hotbed of cycling. With its proximity to the Peak District and the rugged landscape it offers it is an area that has given rise to such luminaries as Malcolm Elliott, Dean and Russell Downing, Chris Walker and more recently Adam Blythe and Ben Swift.

The women too are making their name and hailing from Oxford but now residing in Sheffield (so for the purposes of this feature she is an honorary Tyke)  is triathlete turned roadie Hannah Larbalestier.

Hannah makes her debut for Sunsport Velo WRT in the next few weeks and is currently  undergoing a tailored training programme which also includes physiological testing and personal nutritional advice to ensure that she is in the best condition once the season starts. Before she gets racing though we wanted to make her our next victim for the Q and A feature.

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And now, in her own words:

Name?                      Hannah Larbalestier

Age?                           23

Hometown?…….Oxford

Live? ……………Sheffield

 

How long have you been cycling?

Stabilisers came off back in 1997. Got my first roadie at the age of 13 and started competing in triathlon, but I only did my first season of road racing in 2016.

 

Career highlight so far?

Favourite race was Ilkley Races – such a punchy course with an awesomely fast technical descent. Was very happy to take 4th in a field against girls from Drops and Ford Ecoboost. Taking 3 consecutive wins at Maindy in Dani King’s presence was also kinda cool.

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Biggest influence on your cycling?

Probably my SO, Liam. Knowing how hard he trains definitely helps for a bit of motivation when I don’t fancy hopping on the turbo after a long day in the lab! 

 

What are your ambitions in the sport?

I’d love to get some top 10 finishes in the Matrix Fitness GPs. Also hoping to be strong enough on the road to help teammates get some decent results in the National Road Series!

 

Who do you most admire outside of cycling?

I’m a big fan of Casey Neistat’s work. His films are always great to watch, and he has a great get-out-there ethos, and basically put all he had on the line to see if he could make it as a film-maker (I wish I had that kinda ballsy-ness).

Away from cycling what would be your preferred career?

I’m a neuroscientist/molecular geneticist…so I should probably say that! But I also have a pipe dream of opening a cycling café and/or scraping by as an artist.

 

You’re stranded on a desert island with three famous people (dead or alive) of your choice. Who are they?

Ray Mears for foraging and good conversation, Beryl Burton, and Thor Heyerdahl so we could build a raft and escape!

 

Favourite Holiday Destination?

Somewhere new, and not full of tourists! Mountains and/or sea are a bonus.

 

Should pineapple as a pizza topping be outlawed?

For sure.

 

When were you last inebriated?

Long enough ago that I can’t remember.

 

Your house is on fire.

What one possession do you save? My bike of course!

 

Name a famous person who really really irritates you and in 5 words why?

Trump. Arrogant egomaniac with no policy. (sorry to get political)

 

One word, any word? Banana

Multiple Choice

Strictly or X Factor? I don’t think I could sit through an hour of either!

Ketchup or Brown Sauce? How about chipotle mayo??

Cats or Dogs? Cats (lower maintenance than dogs!)

Ant or Dec? Is it possible to separate the two?

Fish and Chips or Lentil and Cashew Nut Roast? Lentil and cashew nut roast



And finally (this is the deep question!) if it all ended tomorrow how would you sum it up? 

It’s been pretty awesome. If only I’d spent more time on my bike and less time behind a computer. Let’s hope the roads are good in the afterlife.

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Follow Hannah on twitter @hlarbalestier

Follow Sunsport on the web sunsportvelo

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There’s Something Stirring in the Hub

I had the pleasure of visiting the Sunsport Velo training hub at Cafe Velo Espresso  on Saturday where two of the teams young charges were being put through their paces by team co-owner and coach Stuart Percival.

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The squads youngest two recruits, Rosie Walsh and Felicity Gledhill were undergoing physiological testing on Sunsports state of the art equipment in readiness for the coming season a service which Sunsports riders have the great advantage of being provided with in  the bid to give the team an edge

The opportunity was also taken to work on strategies for the coming season including a development of the communications and social media aspect that is so vital in the digital age and also to analyse equipment and clothing and to discuss the race calendar as it starts to take shape

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Team manager Jerry Ricketts rode his bike in setting a fine example to be followed on two wheels by Phil Jones, the MD of Brother, who are the main sponsor of the team for the coming season. Phil got to witness this cutting edge technology employed by Stuart and his team that should give Sunsport a vital edge over their lesser equipped rivals once the gloves are off.

Over the coming weeks all of the riders will coninue with the physical assessments which will be coupled with nutrional advice and analysis by Allie Boot. Coupling this with a tailored training plan all adds to the professional ethos within the squad.

The teams first race is now just a few weeks away and the anticipation is building. There is still plenty of work to be done but it is clear at this stage that Sunsport Velo are well placed to make a good impact on the peloton in 2017. The social media presence is ramping up rapidly as is the training and there is a genuine buzz of excitement around HQ.

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Who Is…………..Gabriella Nordin?

Gabby Nordin will race the 2017 season with Sunsport Velo WRT having moved over from Starley in the close season. As one of the more senior and indeed experienced members of the squad she will be charged with reading race situations and actively communicating tactics to her team mates.

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Having recently written, directed and starred in a high profile and completely unsolicited advertising campaign for one of Sunsports Sponsors, Doms Ease Oil, Gabby should prove to be a media darling in the coming season. Gabby Endorses Doms

Finally, some people are just cool. You know that by looking and listening to them. Gabby is one of those and the answers she gives below verify this. Of course I may be completely wrong when the season starts and I witness her lobbing her bike in a hedge or fighting, cleats slipping and sliding on the tarmac, with one of her team mates!

Name?………  Gabriella Nordin

Age?………..  28 years old

Hometown?…..  Amal, a small town in Sweden.

Live?………… Maidenhead, near London

How Long Have You Been Cycling? ………I’ve always ridden a bike for leisure/transport. Tried my hand at road racing in 2012 and haven’t looked back since!

Career Highlight So Far?…….. Finishing 2nd in three stages of the 4-day international stage race tour of Malta last year and placing best British-based rider overall. Also finishing in the top 10 at the Tour of the Battenkill (an iconic elite race in the US) is something I’m really proud of. Racing the Prudential RideLondon GP around Buckingham palace and St James’s park in 2015 with the best riders in the world was an epic experience. The crowds and atmosphere were immense!

Biggest Influence on Your Cycling?…….. Wow, so many people. Definitely my dad. It was because of him that I started cycling in the first place. He used to kick my ass big time up the hills. In every race team/cycling club I’ve been part of there has always been more experienced riders and support staff that have taught me so much.  For that I am forever grateful!

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What Are Your Ambitions in the Sport?…..  To be part of a women’s team where I can contribute with my strengths and experience to achieve the best possible result for the team, while at the same time learning from others. This year I’m hoping to do well at the Swedish National Road Race Championships and in hilly races abroad.

Who Do You Most Admire Outside of Cycling?…….. My family and close friends. They are all incredible people so I can’t just choose one!

Away From Cycling What Would Be Your Preferred Career?….. When not cycling I work part-time as an accountant. Growing up I wanted to be a firefighter!

You’re Stranded on a Desert Island with Three Famous People (dead or alive) of your Choice. Who are They?…….. Kellie Nightlinger for her well-known survival skills, Jim Carey to keep the spirits up and Channing Tatum for some eye candy!

Favourite Holiday Destination?….. Tough question. I like pretty much every place I’ve visited but Uruguay was very special. I spent three months there in 2009 learning Spanish. The people were super friendly and the scenery was breathtaking. Would love to go back some day!

Should Pineapple as a Pizza Topping be Outlawed?….. I love pineapple and pizza but some food combinations should be banned! Peanut butter goes with pretty much anything though.

When Were you Last Inebriated?….. Too long ago for me to remember! I’m not a big drinker but do enjoy a bit of wine or champagne.

Your House is on Fire. What One Possession Do You Save?……. That’s a tough question for a cyclist who has more than one bike! Ask me again when I get my Cervelo R2 from Sunsport Velo 😉 

Name a Famous Person Who Really Really Irritates You and in 5 Words Why?….. Christopher O’Regan, a Swedish historian and TV personality. He is so incredibly boring!

Strictly or X Factor?….. I don’t watch much TV but if I had to choose one it would be strictly.

Ketchup or Brown Sauce?…. Brown sauce

Cats or Dogs?….. Cats all the way! 

Ant or Dec?….. Who are they? Must confess I had to google that one!

Fish and Chips or Lentil and Cashew Nut Roast?….. Cashew Nut Roast. I love vegetarian food!

And finally (this is the deep question!) if it all ended tomorrow how would you sum it up?… What an incredibly journey it’s been but as one chapter end another one starts. Now it’s time for the next adventure!  

Great answers Gabby and now you know who the Geordie National Treasures are as well

Follow Gabby on twitter @gabriellanordin

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National Cyclo Cross Champs 2017

The domestic cyclocross season drew to a close this weekend with the prestigious National Championships taking place at Peel Park in Bradford. Racing took place on both Saturday and Sunday with the Elite Women’s and Elite Mens events concluding the weekend.

The Women’s race was a rather one sided affair with overwhelming favourite Nikki Brammeier winning at a canter from Hannah Payton and Beth Crumpton. The absence of Helen Wyman, still in the latter stages of recovery from injury, meant that Brammeier had no serious challenge as she rode to her third senior title.

 

Over in the men’s event Ian Field took his fifth senior title with relative ease from 2016 champion Liam Killeen and in third place Paul Oldham. The men’s event was bursting with talent from ace MTBer Grant Ferguson to veteran off road legend Nick Craig (for the record twice the age of Ferguson) and 3 Peaks superstar Rob Jebb.

 

The Junior Men’s event was taken by U19 European Cross Champ Tom Pidcock who entertained the crowd with a superman ride over the line. I’ve a feeling we will be seeing a lot more of this over the coming years.  Pidcock is a rare talent who has the potential to mount the very summit of this sport.

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As usual the atmosphere at Bradford was terrific with enthusiastic crowds spurring the competitors on and down in the mudfest that was the pits the support crews worked tirelessly illustrating that for all that cycling is an individual sport there has to be a strong backup team of friends and family keeping the show on the road

Finally a special mention for a dignitary of the day, British Cycling legend Brian Robinson BEM. if anybody doesn’t know Robinson was not only the first British rider to finish the Tour de France he was also the first one to win a stage. Just imagine with all that has happened, particularly recently with British Cyclings incredible success, it was Robinson who kick started all back in the 50’s.

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Brian Robinson

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Macclesfield Supacross. A Christmas Cracker

I didn’t know that today (27th December) was a Bank Holiday.  I also didn’t know that the M6 would resemble the main car park at Disneys Magic Kingdom on Thanksgiving Day. So when I left the house in plenty of time to catch the Vets and Women’s race at the Macclesfield Supacross and actually arrived  half an hour after it finished my stress levels were moderately raised to say the very least. So rather than stick to the original plan of taking the usual mountain loads of shots I decided to lighten my post event editing workload and just pick off the odd arty number from the senior event. The resultant shots are featured below.

The course at Macclesfield is widely acknowledged to be one of the best in the series and the fact that the event lands immediately after Christmas and on a Bank Holiday heightens the enthusiasm and the atmosphere resulting in one of the very best events on the cyclo cross calendar. It draws entries from the higher echelons of the sport in the North and coming less than two weeks before the Nationals acts as a great warm up event.

For the record forty seven year old Nick Craig took the honours doubling up on his earlier victory in the Vets. Second place went to Billy Harding with NWCCA series winner Giles Drake in third.

The women’s event was graced by the presence of Dame Sarah Storey. I only saw her leaving however thanks to that ruddy traffic jam!

Enjoy the shots and as usual feel free to download but for personal use only. Commercial use can be arranged if you contact me first.

 

 

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