Britain’s top road teams dominated the domestic calendar in 2012.
Endura Racing won the Tour of Britain with Jon Tiernan-Locke, Team Sky won the national road race championship with Ian Stannard, and Team Raleigh-GAC won the Elite Circuit Race Series with Graham Briggs.
A new British team will seek success next season. The Madison-Genesis squad will be managed by Roger Hammond, one of Britain’s most successful riders of the last decade, and make its debut next month in the IG Nocturne at the London Bike Show.
Hammond has recruited some of the biggest names on the domestic scene, including 2011 Premier Calendar champion, Ian Bibby, former national circuit race champion, Dean Downing, and Andy Tennant, a member of Great Britain’s men’s team pursuit squad, the reigning world and Olympic champions.
But Hammond has opted to mix youth with experience, and among those who will bid to make an impression at the top of the British road scene next season is Chris Snook.
Snook, an employee of the team’s sponsor, Madison, and a first category racer, got the call from Hammond after two determined seasons competing in events on the Premier Calendar, and this year, in the national road race championship.
“I was lucky in that I work for Madison,” he says, modestly. “Madison and Roger offered me a ride on the team, and I bit their hand off.”
Regular visitors to RCUK will already have read of Snook’s rapid elevation from armchair fan to first category racer.
Riding with Cardiff Jif road club while studying in the city, Snook caught the racing bug while watching television coverage of the 2008 Tour de France and Beijing Olympic Games.
Returning to London after completing his studies at Cardiff University, Snook called at his local bike shop, Banjo Cycles, and was soon offered a place on the shop’s team.
His new team is managed by a former rider whose palmares includes a third place at Paris-Roubaix, runner up at the 2007 Gent Wevelgem, two national road race titles, and seven national cyclo-cross titles. So what changes is he expecting?
“For me it’s a fantastic opportunity – the organisation, support, and level of planning is something I have not experienced in my racing before. It will make a huge difference,” he says.
Snook had been following the, ahem, genesis of the team closely, since he learned last year that his employers would be backing a team to compete in the biggest domestic races. The team grew from a project to build a steel racing bike with the features of contemporary carbon machines (the increasingly de rigeur press fit bottom bracket, oversized headtube and so on) led by Dom Thomas, the designer of Madison’s house brand, Genesis, Snook said.
Things have moved quickly since then, both for Madison and for Snook. A British made, Reynolds 953 race bike will be at the centre of the project, and Snook has gained valuable experience this season by competing against some of Britain’s best riders in races like the Lincoln Grand Prix (won by another former national road race champion, Endura Racing’s Russell Downing) and the national road race championship.
Snook met up recently with Hammond, Tennant, Bibby, Downing and co for a two-day meeting of the Madison-Genesis team; the first time the entire squad had assembled in the same room.
“The first day, we were introduced to all the brands and kit that we will be using next season. We’re lucky to have support from the best brands in cycling, and we should be getting some special custom kit made for us. It was also the first time we got to see the bikes we will be riding for next year.
“The next day was focused more around the season ahead,” says Snook. “Roger explained the sort of racing we’ll be doing, the training camp etc. It was a busy couple of days, but very worthwhile.”
Snook’s off-season has suddenly taken on a completely new aspect. Far from winding down, riding for pleasure, and making his own assessment of his return to race condition, he’ll be working with Forme Coaching on a closed season programme with an added dimension to that of his new teammates: a full-time job.
“We have to focus on the quality of my training in and around my working hours,” he says. “It’s a challenge, but certainly achievable.”
His tongue-in-cheek assessment allows for nothing more than wrapping up warm, fitting quality lights to his machine, and heading out into cold dark evenings, but the training of the modern professional cyclist usually extends to far more scientific methods; an area in which Forme Coaching are adept. Hard miles in the cold and dark will still need to be logged, however. “You get used to it!” Snook jokes.
While he won’t be expected to reach his peak for months, Snook will need speed in his legs as early as January, when he races in the Nocturne criterion at the London Bike Show: the event at which the Madison-Genesis team will hold its official launch. With public relations duties fulfilled, and an indoor racing experience to add to his palmares, Snook will head to his first training camp with his new colleagues in February.
“This should give us some quality time on the bike and let us bond further as a team,” he says.
We’ll be following Snook’s progress throughout his neo-pro season. In Hammond, he has a manager with an ethical stance to match his impressive palmares, and in Bibby, Downing, and Tennant, colleagues who have already experienced all that lies before him.
With the merger of Endura Racing with Net App to form Team NetApp-Endura, and consequent promotion to Pro Continental racing, the domestic scene will seek a new force among an elite group of domestic teams that includes Rapha Condor Sharp, Team IG-Sigma Sport, Raleigh-GAC, and Team UK Youth. Madison-Genesis look well placed to join them at the sharp end of Britain’s biggest races. Snook, his new manager and teammates will seek to do considerably more than make up the numbers.