VeloVeritas caught up with Evan Oliphant recently to chat about his and his team’s very successful racing trip to the states, here’s what Ev had to say about it.
Why were Plowman Craven in the US, Evan?
“There was no racing in the UK, the Archer was cancelled due to lack of police cooperation and there was another race near London where we got our entries returned because the organiser thought we’d dominate the race. As it happened, we saw the results and Rapha rode it! Plowman Craven have offices in LA; that’s a factor, but probably the main thing is that Tony Gibb’s girlfriend works for BA and got us a great deal on the air tickets!”
How does the US scene compare to the UK?
“I’d say the standard is slightly higher than Premier level here. There are bigger crowds and the standard of promotion is better. For instance, the Sea Otter was advertised on TV, it’s a big event, there were 8,000 riding the mountain bike races. Cycling is definitely on the up-and-up in the US, there are a lot of good European and Aussie riders over there.”
Do you think you might “do a Malcolm Eliott” and go and race there?
“The racing certainly suited me where we were, the climbs are shorter; you get up them on power.”
What was your race programme?
“We rode the Redlands Classic, but we were a bit jet-lagged because we had only been there two days. Simon Richardson was 22nd and I was 40th in the prologue. But we were the only team not on time trial bikes, we didn’t take them because of the airline baggage charges. I was finishing in the front groups but I punctured on the last stage. If you’ve got power, you’ll do OK there. Bottero (overall winner, Colombia & Rock Racing) was very strong on stage one, where he grabbed all his time. Toyota and Healthnet were chasing full on – we were doing 50 mph – but they couldn’t get him back. Having said that, he was toiling in the criterium – he’s not the best bike handler.
“After Redlands we rode a crit at Santa Barbara, there was a women’s volleyball tournament on and there were all these scantily clad, drunk girls stumbling about at eight in the morning – it was great! We were working for Tony Gibb, he was second, one of the Successful Living guys pipped him. Tom Barras was fifth and I was eigth – so it was a good day’s work.
“After that we had a race with a $30,000 prize list, I was in the lead group but crashed; I ended up 13th; the cash was only for the top ten. It was a hard race, there were only 20 left at the death; Healthnet did a one-two, with Hilton Clarke winning it.
“The Sea Otter was next, over 75 miles, it’s a huge event with a full programme of events, including mountain bike races; there’s also a big trade show. The race is on a circuit, eight laps, but there’s a leg from the start/finish out to it; it’s a tough one – hilly. The finish was tough because the leg back to the line has a two-and-a-half mile climb.
“I was actually riding for my team mate, Simon Richardson – he’s going very well. I got away, but was caught – I got stung on the lip by a bee! I got away again and held it to the line. There wasn’t a big crowd at the finish because most of the fans were out on the circuit. Plowman Craven’s boss, Simon Barnes was there with his US and UK executives, so that was nice.
“Simon Richardson sat on once I was away and he nicked second; he told me that Rock Racing stopped chasing me with a kilometre to go – I was just up the road and Simon was really surprised when they sat up.
“The Rock Racing guys came up and congratulated me after the finish, but then they vanished, they wouldn’t attend the prize presentation – I think they were very disappointed.”
Are Rock as ‘glam’ as we’ve heard?
“Well, the team cars were Bentleys, Lamborghinis and Rolls Royces! They’re riding the Ras (in Ireland) and we asked what they’ll do for team cars; “Oh, we’ll just buy some over there!” “
Morale must be good in the PC squad?
“Yeah, it’s a good set up. Tony Gibb is team captain – if there’s no hills! Tom Barras is a good guy, he’s always on the radio telling us what’s going on and keeping morale high. We rode another race after the Sea Otter, it was on the Laguna Seca motor racing circuit. I was seventh, Successful Living won that one.”
You had bad luck at East Midlands, when you got back?
“I crashed on the second rough section but the team brought me back up. I was feeling good but I punctured with about 20 K to go and ended up 22nd. The break was just up the road when it happened, we could see them.
“It was obvious that it was falling apart, but two of them managed to hang on to the line (Ciaran Power of Ireland & Pezula won from Jan Bos of Ruiter De Kapellen & The Netherlands after they survived the day long break.)”
“The Chas Messenger stage race (Evan was third on stage two; Russ Downing won overall); the Lincoln, then the Ras, where we’ll be up against Rock Racing again.”
What do you put your good form down to?
“I’m more experienced and I raced less in Australia over the winter, in previous years I think I’ve done too much and been a bit tired at the start of our season. My motivation is good too, it’s the first time I’ve had a set up like we have at Plowman Craven, with a team working for me. At Recycling I was always working for someone else.”
VeloVeritas wishes Evan all the best for the Lincoln and the Ras – should be good!