Wick’s Evan Oliphant carried on for his Plowman Craven team where Tony Gibb left off at last week’s Eddie Soens’ Memorial Race, by winning the second stage of the Bikeline two day in North Wales yesterday, and finishing up the two-day race in second overall today.

Evan Oliphant
Evan takes us inside his Bikeline experiences.

The man in pink and blue won the stage yesterday despite the presence of three of the Rapha team in the finale. VeloVeritas spoke to Evan shortly after his win, and again today once the race was finished.

How did the prologue go for you?

“It was 1.6 kilometres uphill into the wind, so it was about power. Ian Wilkinson (last year’s Girvan winner, from Science in Sport) won it; he was second in it to Chris Newton last year, so it wasn’t a surprise. I finished ninth about ten seconds back, but I got baulked by a couple of horses which came out of a park, that cost me a couple of seconds.”

Stage 1 – 1.6km TT

  1. Ian Wilkinson (SIS-Trek) in 2min 50.22sec
  2. Dean Downing (Rapha-Condor-Recycling.co.uk) at 2sec
  3. Simon Richardson (Plowman Craven) at 3sec
  4. Russell Downing (Pinarello) at 4sec
  5. Tom Barras (Plowman Craven) at 4sec
  6. Freddy Johansson (Pinarello) at 6sec
  7. Simon Gaywood (Plowman Craven) at 7sec
  8. Richard Kent (SIS-Trek) at 8sec
  9. Evan Oliphant (Plowman Craven) at 10sec
  10. Kristian House (Rapha-Condor-Recycling.co.uk) at 11sec

Then you won the road stage?

“Yeah, it was three laps of a 20K circuit, it was very windy and after only about four K my back wheel collapsed, I got out of the saddle and it just fell to bits! With the benefit of hindsight, it was one of the carbons that James McCallum crashed on last week at Aintree and maybe it was cracked in the pile-up? (James isn’t riding the Bikeline due to the injuries he sustained in last week’s crash.)

“I had to chase really hard to get back, there were a lot of guys getting shelled-out due to the wind and there were big gaps between the cars in the convoy, so it was hard going.

“I used a lot more energy getting back on than I did in the prologue, that’s for sure! I hid for a lap to recover, then I went away with a Pinarello guy, but he got dropped after one spell. I rode on my own for a bit, then five riders caught me, Matt Stephens (Sigma) another rider – I’m not sure who he was, but there were three Raphas — Dale Appleby, Robert Partridge and Dean Downing.

“The three of them began to attack me turn-about; Deano went and I chased, with Appleby on my wheel, when I caught him, it was close to the finish and I jumped immediately. Appleby couldn’t respond and I managed to put a little time into Dean, who took the jersey on account of his good ride in the prologue. It’s just a pity there are no bonuses or I would have the jersey. The Rapha manager, John Herety came up to me and said; “how come you never rode like that for us? (ie. the Recycling team).”

Evan Oliphant
Evan at the Eddie Soens race.

What’s the plan tomorrow?

“It’s a longer stage tomorrow and there’s a big climb about ten miles from the end, if I’m going to win then I’ll have to go there, but Rapha will be watching me closely, obviously!”

That training camp in Limoux has done you good.

“Yeah, I was a bit jet-lagged for the first three days because I had just flown back from Australia, but once I was over that it was good, we got some solid work done.”

How was Oz?

“Good, but I had a few crashes in the Bay Crits and at the Tasmanian track carnivals, I took it easy in January to try and recover, but I’m still getting physio for my shoulder — it’s loosening-off all the time though.”

PCA got off to a great start at Aintree?

“Yeah, I lead Tony (Gibb) out for the last four or five hundred metres and he took the win easily.”

Another good day today.

“Apart from stray horses and broken wheels, that is!”

That was it for day one, and we planned to talk to Evan after the 3rd and last stage. We were hoping we wouldn’t have to get Dean’s number out of the BlackBerry so we could talk to the overall winner!

Stage 2, 56Km

  1. Evan Oliphant (Plowman Craven) 56km in 1hr 16min 15sec
  2. Dale Appleby (Rapha-Condor-Recycling.co.uk) same time
  3. Dean Downing (Rapha-Condor-Recycling.co.uk) same time
  4. Matthew Stephens (Sigmasport) at 5sec
  5. Matthew Higgins (Team Corley Sport) same time
  6. Rob Partridge (Rapha-Condor-Recycling.co.uk) same time
  7. Simon Gaywood (Plowman Craven) at 35sec
  8. Russell Downing (Pinarello) same time
  9. Marc Perry (Sports Beans-Wilier) same time
  10. Mark Wordsworth (Team Corley Cycles) Same time

Overall Classification after Stage 2

  1. Dean Downing (Rapha-Condor-Recycling.co.uk) 1hr 19min 7sec
  2. Evan Oliphant (Plowman Craven) at 8sec
  3. Dale Appleby (Rapha-Condor-Recycling.co.uk) at 14sec
  4. Rob Partridge (Rapha-Condor-Recycling.co.uk) at 17sec
  5. Matthew Higgins (Team Corley Cycles) at 21sec
  6. Matthew Stephens (Sigmasport) at 24sec
  7. Ian Wilkinson (SIS-Trek) at 33sec
  8. Simon Richardson (Plowman Craven) at 36sec
  9. Russell Downing (Pinarello) at 37sec
  10. Tom Barras (Plowman Craven) same time

Well, Evan tried hard to take the overall win in the Bikeline two day, but had to settle for second on GC plus a stage win; we spoke to him today on the long haul back to Bonnie Scotland from North Wales.

Evan Oliphant
Evan likes to spend the winter in Oz. Who wouldn’t!?

What was the stage like?

“It was 140 kilometres with a big climb around 20 K from the finish, it was a 39 x 19 job, but you could have gone up it in the big ring. The weather was ok, sunny but cold without too much wind.”

What was the PCA game plan?

“I was to follow Dean Downing (Rapha, yellow jersey holder) and the rest of the team would attack, forcing Rapha to chase and wearing them out for the climb.”

How did it pan-out?

“It worked well, we got Simon Gaywood in the break, he was well placed on GC, so they had to chase. Russell Downing was in the break, but he punctured at around 30 to go and the break came back quickly after that, I guess that he must have been doing a lot of work up there. On the climb we got Simon Richardson up the road and that forced them to chase again.

“Appleby and Partridge (Downing’s Rapha team mates) worked hard over the top, but they got a lot of help too, from Sigma and Tom Southam (Halfords). They brought Simon back and I tried a few times to get the gap but they hauled me back each time.

“I went with about one-and-a-half K to go, but they caught me with 300 to go, I still got around tenth on the stage though; Wilkinson won from Dean Downing. The time gaps were the same as yesterday and I ended-up second on GC.”

Who impressed?

“Apart from me, you mean? Russell Downing was very strong, he was the only one from the early break to survive the climb and he was still in the sprint at the end. Wilkinson, obviously and my team mate Simon Richardson is going very well.”

Feelings on the weekend?

“Happy — I wanted a top five on GC to give me a good start to the Premier Series, I got a stage win and second GC, so I can’t be unhappy.”

What are management saying?

“Yeah, they are pretty happy; it’s ironic though, Rapha didn’t win a stage but they took the GC. They had eight riders and we were a man short with seven; the missing rider does make a difference.”

How real is the PCA — Rapha rivalry?

“It does seem to be ‘them against us’ but I guess that’s inevitable because we’re the two strongest teams.”

Next-up?

“I’m not going all the way to London next weekend, so I think it’ll be Aberdeen; then it’s Girvan the following week; I’ll be doing a lot of work for that.”

Goals for 2008?

“A couple of Premier calendar wins, the series overall, the British road race and a good ride in the Tour of Britain.”

Do you think you’ll go abroad again?

“I’ve been! The racing here is much better than it was a couple of years ago — if that break had gone up the road three years ago, that would have been that. But there’s proper team work now and its hard racing, I think I can be competitive abroad but whilst racing in Britain.”

Yesterday, I said I hoped I wouldn’t have to bell Dean Downing to get the winner’s take (I meant that in the nicest possible way, Dean!) — but I had to make the call!

Evan Oliphant
Deano – off to ‘The Masons’

Congratulations Dean; that was a great ride in the prologue to kick-off.

“Yeah, I surprised myself! I was just two seconds down on Wilko; last year I lost 30 seconds to Chris Newton on the same stage.”

Then you were third on stage two?

“It went well, we got three in the break — me, Rob Partridge and Dale Appleby and no one seemed to chase, it hovered at 10 seconds but at the death we’d stretched that out to 30/40. We tried to get rid of Evan but he was very strong and none of us could get round him, but it was a good stage for us because I took the jersey.”

… And you defended well today.

“The team did a fantastic job for me, I’ve never been in that position before, where I had seven motor bikes to follow! There was a break of eight got away early and Russ (Dean’s brother, Russell from Pinarello) was the main danger.

“When that came back, PCA took the race to us — they got Richardson away and we had we had to work hard to get him back, but we got a bit of help from Sigma, who were working for Matt Stephens. Evan attacked me on the run-in, but I brought him back each time, his last dig was late, I closed him down but Wilko got round me. I hung on for second, I had a quick look round to make sure I was clear, than I stuck my arms up to celebrate the win.”

So that was second, third, second, and the GC?

“Yeah, I’m very happy with my start to the season and the way the ‘Men in Black’ have gelled, especially the young lads; they rode a very mature race today.”

You must be looking forward to Girvan?

“Yes, especially when I see how well the team is riding.”

Celebrations tonight?

“My wife is taking me for a meal, but print that I’ll be going to ‘The Masons’ – that’s the pub we go to for a drink if we get a win!”

Stage 3

  1. Ian Wilkinson (Science in Sport-Trek)
  2. Dean Downing (Rapha Condor-Recycling)
  3. Russell Downing (Pinarello RT)
  4. Matt Stephens (Sigma Sport)
  5. Gary Hand (Pedalpower.org)
  6. Tom Smith (AW Cycles)
  7. Matt Higgins (Team Corley Cycles)
  8. Evan Oliphant (Plowman Craven RT)
  9. Mark Perry (Sports Beans-Willier)
  10. Dieter Droger (Sportscover-Spiuk) all same time

Final overall

  1. Dean Downing 4-22-11
  2. Evan Oliphant at 8sec
  3. Dale Appleby (Rapha Condor-Recycling) at 14sec
  4. Rob Partridge (Rapha Condor-Recycling) at 17sec
  5. Matt Higgins at 21sec
  6. Matt Stephens at 24sec

Thanks to Evan and Dean for their time, VeloVeritas will be at Girvan for round two!