Endura Racing will launch its 2012 squad at the London Bike Show today (14).
One of just six British teams registered at the UCI’s Continental level to compete in the governing body’s Europe Tour, the Scottish-based squad has made a number of key signings in the closed season.
Among them is 2011 Premier Calendar champion, Ian Bibby, who joins the team of ambitious manager, Brian Smith, from the Motorpoint squad, which has been reborn in 2012 as Node4-Giordana.
Bibby told RoadCyclingUK about the highs and lows of 2011 and his hopes for 2012, where, despite joining a new team, he will be surrounded by familiar faces.
“I’ve met quite few of the lads. I know most of them through racing. It’s certainly a strong team. We should be one of the strongest ‘Conti’ teams. They’ve signed some really good riders,” he said.
A programme of international racing sits at the heart of Endura Racing’s ambitions for 2012. Bibby won the third stage of the Cinturón Ciclista Internacional for Motorpoint last year, a 2.2 category race on the UCI’s Europe Tour, finished third overall, and won the green jersey competition.
“Some of the races Endura have planned made them very hard to turn down. We’ll be racing with WorldTour teams which is where I want to end up some day,” he said.
The team recently announced its participation in the French Tour Du Haut Var, one of the most prestigous races on the UCI Europe Tour.
Bibby will be joined at Endura Racing by former Motorpoint teammate, Jonny McEvoy. The pair trained in Mallorca before Christmas, and fought a close battle for the Premier Calendar in 2011, a series Bibby told RoadcyclingUK that he hadn’t initially targeted. “I wasn’t going for it. I just did my best in each race,” he said.
Entering the final round, the Richmond Grand Prix, just eight points separated the teammates. McEvoy won two stages in the opening round, Tour Doon Hame, but Bibby’s fourth overall, followed by the narrowest of second-placed finishes to Endura’s Zak Dempster at the following Lincoln Grand Prix, and victory two races later at the Tour of the Reservoir, gave him a mid-season lead that survived a disappointing finish in the East Yorkshire Classic (despite being in contention for the win in the final straight) and a no-score at the penultimate Twinings Pro-Am Classic, thanks to fifth place in the series-closing Richmond Grand Prix, where he finished ahead of McEvoy in a bunch street to seal the title.
Bibby posted a series of top five finishes in the Halfords Tour Series in 2011, coming agonizingly close to wins at the opening round in Durham and at the third round in Peterborough, where he had jumped clear of the peloton, to help his Motorpoint team, the defending champions, to finish third overall in the series. “There was good racing every two or three days. As you come further south, the crowds get bigger. I really enjoyed Durham,” he said.
Bibby was the first non-Sky man home at last year’s national road race championships, where after 122 miles he out-sprinted Rapha-Condor-Sharp’s Kristian House to finish fifth behind Wiggins, Thomas, Kennaugh, and Stannard in Tyne and Wear. “I was reasonably happy. When there’s that many Sky riders, its hard to win it, you just need to get as high up as you can.”
Bibby rode the Olympic test event in Motorpoint colours, and sprinted ahead of all members of Team GB but one to finish ninth behind Cavendish on The Mall, after narrowly avoiding the crash that ended the hopes of Garmin-Cervelo sprinter, Tyler Farrar, with just two kilometres to go. “It was fantastic. I didn’t realise how big it wasn’t going to be until I got there. There were so many fans it was unbelievable. It was one of the best races of the year. I was surprised how fast it was. There was a big crash with two kilometres to go. I think me and Andy Tennant were the last two to get through without getting involved. We were surprised to get back on with one kilometre to go,” he said.
Bibby believes Cavendish can win the Olympic road race but warns that Box Hill could prove decisive. “It’s going to be a big test. It’s surprising how dead the roads are round there – it’s very tiring on the legs,” he said.
If the London-Surrey Classic had shown Bibby’s ability to compete against the world’s best, The Tour of Britain provided further evidence. In sprint finishes among a peloton packed with the world’s fastest men, Bibby showed his speed. A courageous ride up the climb of Gun Hill on the third stage brought him into a leading group of mainly WorldTour riders that swept up Sky’s Alex Dowsett on the run in to Stoke. He crossed the line sixth, on the wheel of Cavendish, and behind Sky’s Geraint Thomas and Steve Cummings, who were all pipped by stage and overall winner, Lars Boom, and his Rabobank teammate, Michael Matthews.
The following day, Bibby sprinted to fourth with the same time as stage winner, Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo) and race leader, Boom. Bibby moved to fourth overall, and was looking forward to defending his position to the race finish in London. But on the seventh stage from Bury St Edmonds to Sandringham, he crashed out of the race.
“It was a disappointing end. I’d been really enjoying it. I was trying to stay in a good position for the time trial [on the final day]. I think there was only a couple of seconds covering the top five overall. The day before I’d been feeling pretty good, going for the sprints to get a few seconds,” he said.
After fulfilling today’s PR duties, the team will focus on the season ahead, beginning with a training camp the following week in Mallorca.
Endura Racing will not have things all their own way in 2012, and certainly not if their British competitors in the Europe Tour have a say in the matter. But Bibby and his new colleagues will be determined to reach the team’s considerable potential this season.