Interview: Behind-the-scenes at Team Raleigh

Cherie Pridham discusses life at one of Britain's UCI Continental teams

To those born in a certain era, the red and yellow jersey of the current Team Raleigh squad evokes memories of the famous TI-Raleigh team and names like Joot Zoetemelk and Jan Raas.

Today, the trade team of Nottingham’s iconic British bike brand competes as a UCI Continental team – one of five in Britain – though there are hopes in some sections of a return, one day, to the heady days of years gone by.

Cherie Pridham is at the helm of a Team Raleigh squad boasting the likes of 2013 British domestic number one Yanto Barker

At the very least, the famous jersey will be lining up alongside the likes of Omega Pharma-Quickstep and Team Sky at RideLondon at the weekend.

The 2014 Team Raleigh squad boasts the likes of Elite Road Series leader Yanto Barker, world track champion Morgan Kneisky – winner of the Shugborough Kermesse last weekend – and Commonwealth Games riders Evan Oliphant and Mark Christian.

At the helm, meanwhile, will be Cherie Pridham, who in her role as directeur sportif has led the squad to the top of the current British Cycling Elite Road Series standings.

We were invited to spend time with Pridham in the team car at the recent Stockton GP to see how the team clicks, and she believes both the squad and the brand are heading in the right direction.

“Well it seems like I’ve been part of it now for ever,” Pridham told RCUK. “I’ve been DS for Raleigh for four years now and it’s an incredible position to be in, particularly representing such an iconic brand as Raleigh.

“I think, as we develop together, the team and the company itself will grow in the same direction but like everything in life you have to do it in small stages.”

In Stockton, with Barker looking to defend the Elite Road Series leader’s jersey, as well as having the team bidding for a race win, a long day on the front ensued as a small but dangerous move went clear.

Raleigh are among the teams leading the way on the British domestic scene

With Alex Peters (Madison-Genesis) a threat to the jersey in the lead group, Barker rallied the troops on the front of the bunch. From the team car came first the call to ride hard, then, when it became apparent they would be getting no help, to ease off.

Barker, however, trusted his legs and continued to work to bring the gap down – not enough to bag the race win as Russell Downing (NFTO) made a decisive attack off the front to catch and pass the front quartet on the final lap, but enough to keep the jersey.

And an upbeat Pridham believes the recent restructuring of the British domestic road racing calendar is playing into the team’s hands this year .

“It’s like anything,” she explained. “You have to work with the programme and the way the programme works now it almost gives everyone a chance to recharge their batteries before moving on to the next series.

“You focus a little bit on the road and stage races, then you have the crits, then back into the road series and then the crits and the road together before the Tour of Britain again – pending invite, obviously!”

Putting a race programme together, however, is not just about picking the best riders for each event and moving on.

“You always look to see when you are putting the programme together, and obviously you’ve got to look at what the sponsors want exactly and then you work to the sponsors wishes,” Pridham explained.

Team Raleigh have adopted a retro style kit for the 2014 season and Pridham, bottom right, explained the sponsor’s wishes are crucial in team selections

“Obviously the televised races are where it’s at and then you work down to the smaller one-day races.

“We’ll look at the Tour Series and the other big televised races but I think holding on to the Elite Road Series jersey and going for the GC and overall in those is important because that gives us the television time too.”

Therefore, it’s unsurprising to see such a strong provisional line-up for Raleigh at RideLondon, with Ian Wilkinson and Matthieu Boulo set to join Barker, Kneisky, Oliphant and Christian.

Raleigh and Christian impressed at the most recent British UCI-classified race, the Beaumont Trophy, where the latter finished second, while there is also the small matter of Tour of Britain places up for grabs.

In some respects, RideLondon acts as a scene-setter for the Britain’s premier stage race, with the hilly one-day event pitting the WorldTour’s elite against the best of Britain’s domestic scene.

Raleigh will fight on the domestic front alongside the likes of Rapha Condor JLT, Madison-Genesis, NFTO Pro Cycling and Node4-Velosure, and this season NFTO, new to the scene this year, and Madison-Genesis, in their second campaign, have provided stiff competition to the older guard in Rapha Condor JLT and Raleigh.

But Pridham believes new competition can only be a good thing – even if in many cases the biggest changes are merely the jerseys being worn.

Matthieu Boulo, twice a winner at this year’s Tour Series, is part of a strong provisional line-up for Raleigh ahead of RideLondon (pic: Tour Series)

“I think, at the end of the day, it’s the same riders,” she admitted. “The managers essentially manage the same way.

“All it means is the riders have different jerseys on. I think it’s down to the managers and the team on the day, to do the strategy, and then you just race against what you have to race against.

“It’s great to have new teams, but it doesn’t necessarily change anything. It just makes it bit more interesting and a bit more fun.”

Such sentiments could even be extended as far as the star-studded cast set for the RideLondon start line, and Pridham and her experienced Team Raleigh squad will certainly hope to defy their smaller budgets and make things ‘a bit more interesting’ on the day.

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