Another new signing to VCUK Ph-MAS for the 2016 season is 2nd year junior Tom Chandler. Chandler who rode for Sherwood Pines/Sram team in 2015 moves across to the Yorkshire based squad to add strength to an already formidable line up. VCUK’s manager Neil Hendry took an interest in Chandler after he took a fine victory last July on a rain lashed Stewkley circuit in round 8 of the British Cycling Junior Road Series.
5311 Media sat down with Tom at a Team Scotland training camp recently deep in the heart of the New Forest to talk about both his new team and Team Scotland.
Is this your first camp with the Scottish Team?
“Its my first road camp yes although I did a couple last year at the velodrome(Sir Chris Hoy) in preparation for the Junior track Nationals but this is my first fully organised one with the team away from home and family.”
A dive into the unknown for you then?
“Oh yes, I didn’t really know what to expect but the week looks very structured for us with the focus on our performance. Its pretty exciting for us all.”
Is it what you expected a camp to be like?
“Although, like I said its really about our performance, we have the opportunity to sort out any problems or questions we have mentally as well as the physical side of things. As well as riding we have to get our kit and bikes washed and turned round everyday, ready for the next day, so its non stop.”
Lets talk about your new team and signing with VCUK for 2016.
“It all came about after my win in the National Junior Series at Bath, Neil(Hendry) had a chat with me about maybe signing for them and we kept in touch. I was pretty sure I’d be signing for them after the Tour of Wales at the end of last season.”
VCUK have a strong squad lined up for the new season.
“I think We have the best Junior riders in the country, We have a load of National wins and results between us. Tom Pidcock and Harry Hardcastle are probably the best 2 Junior riders on the road at the moment. The set-up and support from the team is incredible for us. Its looking like an exciting year ahead for us.”
What are your targets for 2016?
“For VCUK its obviously the Junior Road Series and for Scotland I hope to be picked for the Junior team pursuit again, last year we had both a senior and a junior team but I’m not sure this year if we’ll have the same again or just 2 teams. We have a lot of strong riders for the pursuit, the 3 I rode with last year, Andy Brown, Angus Claxton and Lewis Mulholland are all on the camp this week. 2016 is an important year for me to get as many results as I can before I move up to Under 23s.”
What are your targets for the future?
“My aim is to perform well and represent Scotland at the Commonwealth games in 2018 but ultimately its to move on to Team GB and the Under 23 Academy, I think that will be difficult because I’m not on GB’s Junior Academy but I believe its do-able so long as I get some good results this year.
I’m still studying for my A-levels and I’ve applied for university bit ultimately I’d love to do this full-time but I have something to fall back on if it doesn’t work out. I like to keep things open.”
Balancing school, bike racing and life is a big ask for a 17 year old, do you think riders put themselves under a lot of pressure to succeed ?
“Yes and no, its obviously very busy having to manage school and training but the way I see it is you really have to love riding your bike because thats the release from the school work. If the training becomes too much and I stopped enjoying riding the bike then it would become difficult to mange both.”
Looking back to your victory at Bath last year did you feel any pressure to continue winning races?
“Not really, if anything it gave more more confidence in races. Bath is fairly close to home so we didn’t have a hotel but I felt tired on the way there and the weather was atrocious, but I got in the break of 11 and my target is always a top ten at a National, so I thought if I beat a couple or others, job done but it worked in my favour at the end and I got the win. It was just one of those days on the bike where I felt good.”
“I looked at my win there as an open door to hopefully more opportunities and it did open doors. It got me signed to VCUK and the chance to ride in Europe with them. I did a race in France at the end of last season with them which was so different to racing in the UK. They had rolling road closures, we went out on a 100KMS loop then finished on a kermess type circuit. I got 14th which I was pretty pleased about."
"The win also got me noticed by the Scottish coaches, Mark McKay gave me a chance to try for the pursuit squad and I did ok in that.”
Meet the new boss… Well actually he’s the same as the old boss, in fact he still is the boss! Unlike many team managers, Neil Hendry has no real history in the world of cycle sport. Although Neil has been running a cycling team for the last six years, previous to that, cycling was almost alien to the Otley man. It was Neil’s wife Nicky Hartle who turned his head to cycling, after opening the Otley based Dirtwheels Cycles shop six years ago, and there begins his love for the sport.
5311 Media’s Joolze Dymond took the VCUK PH-MAS Cycling Team manager aside for a quick chat, after the team launch at Wigan’s Haigh Hall on Saturday.
This love affair with cycling started some six years ago then?
“Yeah, when Nicky opened the Dirtwheels shop I suppose, I hadn’t ridden a bike for years until she opened that. We built the business up during the first year, then had a senior men’s 2/3/4 (category) team for a couple of years. Three years ago, we put together a junior team with a couple of lads who already rode for the Dirtwheels Cycles Team and it has gone from there really.”
So a fairly straight forward endeavour?
“Oh no, it was ok… But it was really hard work and, to be honest, I almost packed it in at one point! Then we went to the Junior Tour of Wales at the end of that year, with a couple of guest riders in the team, which seemed to turn things around. The weekend was so much fun and it showed us what could be done.”
Who rode for you then?
“We had Scott Auld and Julian Varley with us, who have both gone on to ride for bigger teams; Zappi’s and Team Anon respectively. Last season we put together another strong team with the likes of Rob Scott, who has stayed with us for this season.”
You have a reputation in the sport for nurturing up and coming riders, and the ability to find the best in them. Running a bike team obviously takes a lot of time, effort and money. Why do you do it?
“I like to make things work. It’s not an ego thing by any means! But you do try your best and, for me, I really enjoy seeing these guys develop. Last year was a phenomenal year for us. I know we are very fortunate that we have the support to do it: we have some great sponsors who keep delivering for us, they have the same ideas as we do. They just love to see young riders develop.”
Looking ahead to the new season, you arguably have the strongest junior team on the road.
“On paper I’d argue that we do. Tom Pidcock, Rob Scott, Harry Hardcastle, Tom Chandler, Adam Hartley and Harry Paine - not a bad line up, is it? We sat down after last season with a list of names, thinking ‘If we get him, that’s a real bonus’ and so on… In the end, we got who we wanted! Everyone we approached said yes.
After last season’s success, we had 55 lads apply to ride for us over the winter, but obviously we couldn’t take them all. I didn’t enjoy saying ‘no’ to any of them.”
Although we’re concentrating of the junior lads for this interview, can we touch on the rest of the VCUK PH-MAS?
“Of course! We’ve just had a great cyclo-cross season with Ava (Oxley-Szilagyi) who won the U14 National Trophy Series and the U14s National cyclo-cross title, Alison Kinloch also had an impressive season finishing 3rd Vet 40 women in the Championship series. We also have Lydia Mellen riding for us, who last year won the U15 British Transplant Road Championships. We’d like to do more with a women’s team, but we just can’t find enough women out there to ride at that level. So we are concentrating our efforts on both Ava and Lydia this year, to give them that start in the sport.
And the goals for this year?
“Junior National Road Championship title, last year we were just one step off the top, with Rob (Scott) coming second to Nathan Draper at Ryedale. The junior National Road Series races are a big target of course. We are also planning Ava’s road season, and her first U16 cross season later in the year. So there’s a lot to focus on!”
Occasionally in sport someone comes along and turns heads. In cycle sport one such rider is Tom Pidcock. The first year junior has been described by some as an accidental hero, maybe an overnight sensation but as often found the term overnight usually is the outcome of a lot of hard work and dedication.
Pidcock is on British Cycling’s Academy for road and track and has signed to VCUK PH Mas Junior Road Team for the 2016 season but it was the recent cyclo-cross season that got people talking about the talented Otley rider who took the National Trophy Series overall after a dominant campaign riding for Oldfield / Paul Milnes team, a 2nd place at round 7 of the Junior World Cup at Hoogerhide and fifth at the Junor Cyclo-cross World Championships at Zolder. Not a bad palmares for a rider so early in their career.
5311Media’s Joolze Dymond sat down with the talented rider at VCUK’s recent team launch.
Cyclo-Cross wasn’t your top priority last season but your performance could be described as better then average.
“Well I was fortunate to be selected for the GB Academy so that really had to be my main priority and cross had to take a back seat I suppose but I am hopeful that I will be able to talk to the coaches at British Cycling and they will allow me to ride more cross.”
Obviously riding a full season at cross should secure more points for a better grid position at the World Championships. We’re you disappointed not being able to ride the cross Nationals?
“I was, if I had won that I would have got more UCI points and moved to the third row on the grid but I had a commitment to ride a track meeting at Holland with the Academy. I am hopeful they will allow me to ride more cross races and I’m hopeful I can ride a full season of National Trophy and World Cup races next season which will move me towards the front of the grid at the World Championships.”
At the Zolder World Championships recently you were gridded on the sixth row and with pretty much the World’s best ahead of you, your race could have been over before it started.
“Yeah, it could have been better, I got caught up behind three crashes on the first couple of laps which didn’t help, I think those cost me a podium place and who knows I may have won if I started further up the grid.”
What was going through your mind waiting for the gun to go?
“I knew the Zolder course was pretty tight with a lot more hairpins then Hoogerhide, I had ridden it over the Christmas period but I think I rushed the start then and I ended up further back then where I started so I took my time at the start and there was crash on the first bend which I managed to ride over some of it but my back wheel got stuck in someone’s handlebars which took time to untangle, then a Spanish guy took me out on the big descent so I had to pit then someone rode me into a post which banged my knee which was painful but with three laps to go I found my legs and started moving up the field. I got a bit frustrated when I rode the Zolder World Cup but my coach told me if anything happens at the Championships, stay calm, which I did and it helped me ride my race. I was annoyed a bit with fifth at the
time but looking back fifth in the World isn’t a bad result.”
But as a first year junior you still have another opportunity at next years Championships?
“Oh yes definitely and hopefully be in a better position to go for the win.”
You have a busy season ahead with your commitments on both track and road for GB and VCUK, will you be able to balance that with your aspirations for cross?
“I have my season fairly well laid out for me already with both GB and VCUK so I have to fulfil those commitments but I am hopeful for next year’s cross season I will be allowed to choose a few races.”
Cycle sport is a tough sport for anyone involved in it and trying to balance races with rest is a fine art, how does Tom think he will cope with the added pressure of more races this year?
“I think the travelling will be hard, going to more races means more travelling and trying to fit training into the mix as well isn’t going to be easy and I still have my A levels to sit later in the year.”
For many riders coming into the sport there is always a dream of racing professionally, is that a dream for Tom?
“Thats the idea, its plan A, its what I want to do and at the moment I don’t have a plan B. I want to be the best at this, I want to be a World Tour rider or a World Champion. I can’t sit in an office, I know I’d get bored.”
Riding three disciplines now, road, track and Cyclo-cross which one do you want to major in?
“Road. I still want that World Junior title at cross next year though but road I see as my future. I want to go to Italy with the academy and live and train there.”
And finally, what was the celebration about at Bradford?
“Haha, I wanted to do something different then just putting my arms in the air, I saw Van Der Pole do something similar so I thought, lets go one step further and take both my feet out the pedals and my hands off the bars."
Armstrong: Face to face
What’s it like to meet and ride alongside Lance Armstrong? Mel Brand knows. The Team IKON-Mazda rider is one of two women taking part in the Cure Leukaemia: Le Tour - One Day Ahead charity ride which Armstrong is supporting, and which is being led by former England footballer Geoff Thomas. Mel, Geoff and 11 other fundraisers will ride the full Tour route one day ahead of the actual race, and recently the team went to Aspen, Colorado, to train with Armstrong. In this exclusive interview she tells OutTheBack what it was like to meet the most controversial rider in cycling history.
“So let’s put the history, everything aside for now. As if he were a normal man on the street, how does Lance come across to me? I found him a very persuasive, compelling, charismatic character, a man who is very outgoing but keeps his personal life close to himself.
“Lance, I could sense, was a leader and one could easily see how he led a team of cyclists, he was never going to be a domestique for anyone. He is direct with people, he knows what and who he wants, I don’t think he would suffer fools gladly.
“He welcomed 18 of us to his home, and was an impeccable host, who enjoys entertaining his guests. Whether that was something he was doing to try and put behind him the past and to make a fresh start, I don’t know. But at the BBQ people were dropping by, neighbours, friends, he seemed to be a regular guy who’d share a beer with you. While we were out riding people would say ‘Hi’ and wave to him.
“Lance set up a cancer charity (Livestrong) and now is involved with another cancer charity, so I don’t think he’s doing any different to what he’s done before. He resigned from Livestrong and now he wants to support another charity. He raised so much money for Livestrong and raised the awareness of testicular cancer which really was a taboo subject years ago.
“The group got to ride out with Lance a couple of times over the weekend in the mountains around his house. Riding with Lance was great, it was like a club run to be honest. There were no questions off limits, we could ask him anything we wanted, so we just chatted as you would on a club run. He was our tour guide really, stopped for coffee on the first day, and then he took us all for lunch at the famous Woody Creek Tavern on the following day.
“You have to realise Geoff took a chance inviting Lance to join the ride and he knew there would be an incredible backlash - but it’s got so much media coverage for the charity. Let us be realistic about this, why would Lance Armstrong want to ride around France for a couple of days with a group of sportive riders, for personal profile or for a charity? I’m not going to comment on that, but he’s riding it and that’s what matters. People should to make up their own mind about him, but you need to hear both sides of the story and not jump on the social media bandwagon of ‘I hate Lance because someone told me to’.
‘As a person he came across as nice guy.’
Photo: Elizabeth Kreutz
For many who follow womens cycling in the UK, Mel Brand will be a familiar face, The Ikon-Mazda rider can usually be seen on the front of the peloton chasing down a lead group or ‘looking after’ her team mates, but on July 3rd Mel will be taking on the biggest cycling challenge her life. Le Tour-1 day ahead, 3344KMs and 21 stages of the professional mens Tour De France. Along with ex England footballer Geoff Thomas, who completed the epic journey in 2005 and controversially Lance Armstrong who will be joining the ride for a handful of stages the Birmingham based rider jumped at the chance to take part in the ride when a space became available.
How did the ride come about ?
“I saw a tweet on Cycling Weekly about the ride and a female rider had pulled out so I read around it a bit and thought thats something I’d be interested in doing. I had to see if it was feasible with my day job, which it was so I signed up, the company I work for, http://www.prologis.co.uk have been very supportive both financially and allowing me time off to take part.
You still work full time, so how do you balance a work/training life?
“ I have to train both before and after work, Gary Palmer, my coach has developed a training plan which allows me quality training during the week and longer rides on the weekend. I’d be training to race anyway but We have adjusted the plan slightly in preparation for July”
It has been documented many times that Lance Armstrong was an inspiration to Geoff when he was fighting his leukaemia and Geoff approached Lance to be a part of this years ride, Obviously Lance’s inclusion doesn’t bother you?
“ The way I see things is, I’m not going to raise money for such a great cause because another person is, whoever that may be and thats where I start and end. I remember him racing and I think he has had some kind of influence on people in the cycling world, weather good or bad. He raced hard and raced successfully but obviously there was a negative side and here wouldn’t be the place to comment on it”
Are you looking forward to riding with him?
“I think it will be interesting so yeah I’m looking forward to riding alongside him. He won 7 tours and I don’t think there are many people in cycling that have more experience then he does, I’m sure he’s an interesting character and I’m looking forward to meeting him, we will be a group of 12 on the road so he will be on the road with us, just us together”
Mel will be keeping us up to date with her progress leading up to the 3rd July and during the ride.
For more information about CureLeukaemia and the ride go to