Wednesday 19th February 2014 marked the official presentation of Team Raleigh, the UCI continental level cycling team who return to professional cycle racing after a highly successful campaign in 2013.
Back (L-R): Giddings, White, Pridham, Stones, Christian, Blain, Atkins, Perrett, Barker, Hinault, Vicars.
Front (L-R): Lourenco, Oliphant, Wilkinson, Boulo, Kneisky, Berthou, Zoetemelk, Roche.
This year’s 10-man team retains some of the most talented riders of 2013, Premier Calendar winner Evan Oliphant, Rutland-Melton Classic winner Alexandre Blain and under-23 Manx rider Mark Christian amongst them, along with a talented mix of new faces.
The packed launch took place at the team’s winter training camp in La Londe de Maures (near Marseille, France) in front of special guests and Team sponsors.
Notable among the guests were former Tour de France winners Joop Zoetemelk (winner of the 1980 Tour de France for TI-Raleigh), Bernard Hinault (five times winner and now Team Raleigh patron) and Stephen Roche (winner in 1987).
Cherie Pridham: “Today is a special day for Raleigh, being able to announce my team with the blessing of so many former cycling greats. We are striving for a return to the pinnacle of professional cycling and I hope that this event very clearly signals our intent.”
“The squad of riders we have assembled this year has tremendous strength in depth and will be a force to be reckoned with both at home and on the continent.”
Chief Operating Officer of Derby County Football Club John Vicars was also present at the launch in his role as Team Raleigh patron.
Speaking in his capacity as an advisor to the team, Vicars added:
“As a cycling enthusiast I feel very honoured to have been asked to take this role alongside the team’s French patron Bernard Hinault. I was approached to provide strategic direction [for the team] and identify areas where they could increase commercial revenues. We are now gearing up for what promises to be an exciting 2014 season for the team on the Continental Tour.”
The launch event featured introductions by Hinault, Zoetemelk and Geoff Giddings, Raleigh’s Marketing Director, before the new squad was invited onto the stage.
As has been a Team tradition over the last three years, Scottish rider Evan Oliphant triumphantly announced the arrival of Team Raleigh with a highland chorus on the bagpipes.
For more images of the launch see Raleigh UK’s Twitter account here.
This year marks the first in which the new Team Raleigh are competing in the colours of the famous TI-Raleigh team, so dominant in the 1970s and 80s, winning the Tour de France in 1980 and a further 77 stage wins during their illustrious reign.
The team kit features Team Raleigh’s headline sponsors GAC, iPro and Skoda across the prominent positions with other jersey sponsors including SRAM, Schwalbe, MOA, Unior, Motorex, and E-Careers also on display. See here for the full list of Team Raleigh 2014 sponsors.
The kit will be commercially available from Raleigh UK in March 2014.
Yanto Barker is a name known to many racing fans for his success in last year’s Tour Series rounds. His strength and experience will be a huge boost for Team Raleigh on the demanding UK criterium circuits.
Ian Wilkinson isn’t just known as ‘superman’ for his extravagant saddle-balancing act. Wilko is a real powerhouse, able to muscle his way to the front of a sprint and also able to hold his own on the demanding early season classics like Rutland-Melton (winner in 2013) and Tro-Bro-Leon (which features in the Team’s calendar again this season).
World Madison Champion Morgan Kneisky is undoubtedly a massive talent and has demonstrated the sort of ability on the track that has set so many riders on the path to greatness. His prowess on the road will be put to use in the blisteringly fast circuit races like the Tour Series.
Matthieu Boulo’s season has been under way for some time already as the talented French rider spent the winter competing in cyclocross. Boulo picked up the team’s first win of 2014 in Gouesnou, France in January and finished second in the French national cyclocross championships. This early season form meant Boulo was on form for last week’s UCI 2.1 Tour of the Mediterranean, finishing 31st overall.
Liam Stones has had a meteoric rise since he turned professional in 2012. Strong results in the Tour Series and IG Markets London Nocturne gave this Northampton-based sprinter and crit specialist a place within the Team Raleigh fold in 2014.
With UK and European junior time trial titles to his name, Joe Perrett could be next in line to join time trial specialists like Alex Dowsett and Bradley Wiggins. Hailing from Ilford in Essex, Perrett can also turn his hand to breakaway victories as he did in the Ryedale Grand Prix.
Evan Oliphant starts his third season with Team Raleigh having been ever-present since 2012. Hailing from Edinburgh, Oliphant is a strong all-rounder, able to excel on long stage races or use his pace to drive the peleton in fast sprint stages. Evan won the Tour of the Reservoir in 2013, setting him on the way to win the Premier Calendar series.
Mark Christian is a product of the GB Olympic Academy and had an excellent schooling on the track, picking up multiple medals in Madisons, Scratch and Points races, plus Individual and Team pursuits. Mark can also turn his hand to the road as he demonstrated to devastating effect, leading a four-hour breakaway on stage 4 of this year’s Tour of the Mediterranean.
Another of the riders retained from 2013, Alexandre Blain is a hugely popular rider in his native France where he has featured highly in notable races such as the Tour de Normandie over successive seasons. Alex is a Classics specialist and will once again be targeting races such as Rutland-Melton and Tro-Bro Leon.
At just 21 George Atkins is another Team rider with huge potential. Former British Junior Road Race Champion, British 2013 Madison Champion and overall winner of the Elite National Criterium Series and member of the GB Olympic Academy Programme for the past three years, George is certainly one to watch in the UK and Europe this year.
After last week’s Tour of the Mediterranean Team Raleigh continue their race programme this weekend (22-23 February 2014) with the Tour Haut Var, beginning in Le Cannet des Maures, France on Saturday 22nd February. For the full 2014 race programme see here.