Endura Racing unveiled its 2012 squad at the London Bike Show today (14).
The 16-strong UCI Continental team, one of just six from Great Britain, will race in the world governing body’s Europe Tour and the biggest domestic events.
In a high-profile launch to press and public at the Excel centre, the riders and team manager, Brian Smith, were invited on stage to discuss their goals for 2012.
Smith said his team would not ride to “make the up the numbers” in European races, and outlined ambitious goals for the domestic calendar.
“We’re an international team, but the UK market is very important to us. That’s why I increased the fire power of the UK riders. It’s great to see the likes of Bibby, McEvoy, Tiernan-Locke, even Erick Rowsell coming in. It’s great to have these guys on the team,” said Smith.
He targeted victory in the Tour of Britain and the national road race championships, to which he pledged to send an eight-man squad, and Premier Calendar events.
“At the same time, we want to be pushing above our weight in Europe, so the likes of Mallorca, and the Tour of Med, these are very important races for us. We’re not going to make up the numbers – we want to want to win stages. I know we’ll be fighting with WorldTour teams in these races and it’s going to be very difficult, but we want to have success in these races. It’s about spreading the wins throughout the team. I want to see everyone of these sixteen guys win a race this year,” he said.
The team has made a number of key signings in the closed season, strengthening their roster with established and developing talent. Former national road race champion, Russell Downing, has joined from Team Sky, after racing last year in some of the biggest WorldTour races, including the Giro d’Italia.
Downing told RoadCyclingUK he was focused on riding to win.
“The programme is brilliant. The team is in its third year. It’s going onwards and upwards. It’s up to me to bring a bit of experience to the team and take it to the next level. It’s coming towards the end of my career, but I still feel really fresh in my head and want to continue to race. The last two years with Sky, I’ve proven I can do it at the highest level. I want to get back to winning ways. The fire is still burning,” he said.
Downing will start his season at the Tour of Mallorca, before riding the Tour of the Mediterranean and the Tour Du Haut Var. But the Yorkshireman is also hoping to ride key races in the domestic calendar, including the Tour of Britain and the Lincoln Grand Prix.
“I was disappointed not to ride the Tour of Britain last year with Team Sky. Lincoln is one of those races I’d really like to ride every year if I could. It’s just 40 miles down the road from where I live. All the guys come out and give me a cheer,” he said.
Downing said his effort to finish last year’s Giro d’Italia, after a fall on stage nineteen sent him over a crash barrier and down a 20-metre drop, had given him new belief in his abilities.
“To ride the Giro was a good feeling, and to finish, with broken ribs and a broken sternum, was even better. I definitely feel stronger in myself now. I know I can do anything: one day classics, small stage races, three week tours. I can go over climbs and still be good at the end,” he said.
Two signings from the collapsed Motorpoint team (reborn in 2012 as Node4-Giordana), have also strengthened the team. Ian Bibby and Jonny McEvoy went head-to-head in the Premier Calendar last season, with Bibby crowned champion after finishing ahead of McEvoy in a sprint in the series-closing Richmond Grand Prix.
Additionally, the team has brought in three riders from Rapha-Condor-Sharp: Dean Windsor, overall winner of last year’s Halfords Tour Series, Jon Tiernan-Locke, winner of the King of the Mountains competition in last year’s Tour of Britain, and 2011 Tour Doon Hame and Rutland Classic victor, Zak Dempster.
Dempster told RoadcyclingUK he had a simple strategy for 2012.
“It’s pretty basic – just win as many races as possible, either myself or as part the team. It’s a really complete line-up. Every rider on this team can win. As long as someone wins in an Endura jersey, I’m happy.
“I had a really good season last year and that went a long way to establishing myself internationally. This year, I’m not fussy. If it’s sprinting for a 50mph sign or to win the Lincoln Grand Prix, it doesn’t matter,” he said.
Despite an emphasis on UK talent, Endura have retained an international core of riders. Six of the nine riders kept on from last year are from overseas.
Ian Wilkinson, Rob Partridge, and Scott Thwaites, all stage winners in last year’s Halfords Tour Series, are the British riders who will race again for Endura in 2012.