As befits a company, part of whose bread and butter is the soap opera, Sky’s very own ‘Peyton Place’ rumbles on.
“Brad and Chris are out of love – but can they shelve their differences for the team and their second dad, Dave Brailsford?
Tune in after the Tour de Suisse to find out!”
Meanwhile, further down the divisions – which many forget are the ones the Pro Tour is built upon, the ‘little guys’ just get on with it.
One excellent result lost in the recent Giro and Sky polemics is that achieved by those Rapha Condor JLT boys.
The Tour du Loir-et-Cher, Edmond Provost is a UCI 2.2 with 2014 as the 55th edition; riders as diverse – and talented – as German Olympic team pursuit star Guido Fulst and Norwegian ex-World Elite Road Race Champion Thor Hushovd have won the race and in 2002 a certain Philippe Gilbert was second on GC.
‘Man in Black’ and ‘Crit King’ Graham Briggs demonstrated that he can do more than zoom round town centres for an hour by winning the 208 kilometre stage three then holding the jersey until the end to become the first British rider to win this tough and prestigious event.
Briggs was third in the National Junior Road race back in 2001; joining the ill starred Agisko Dart team in 2006 before moving to the more solid Recycling squad for 2007.
The team merged with Condor in 2008 and that was the year Briggs began to establish himself as a master of the art of criterium riding.
In 2009 he spent a year with Phil Griffiths at Candi TV before rejoining John Herety at Rapha Condor Sharp for 2010 and 2011; winning the national Criterium Championship in the latter year.
Raleigh was the name on the jersey for 2102/13 before he came ‘home’ again to Rapha Condor JLT for this season.
A spell in New Zealand where he took fifth in the New Zealand Cycling Classic and then third in the big money, OCBC Criterium in Singapore confirmed the form was there and he travelled to France for his second ride in the race with a stage win in mind.
He took time to speak to VeloVeritas the week after the best win of his career.
Congratulations, Graham – but not the first time you’ve ridden the race?
“No, I rode it in 2008 when I was seventh on GC; I didn’t remember it as being that hilly and I went with the goal of a stage win and improving upon my 2008 ride.”
Tell us about Stage Three, please.
“On Stage Two I felt good and was trying to get with the breaks.
“On Stage Three I was aggressive from kilometre zero; initially there were five of us away but that grew to 11 after around 50 K.
“It didn’t feel that hard in the break but we went to a maximum of eight-and-a-half minutes – which was good for the morale because we weren’t working that hard.
“With 25 K to go there were three of us left and at the death I took the sprint – there was just one of the other two up there on the GC but I took the bonus.”
208 K – a long way for ‘crit guy?’
“I’ve been training really well; I was fortunate to be with the team in Australia early in the year where I was doing long miles.
“Then we were racing in New Zealand with a training camp in Tenerife after that – it was a real solid start to the year.”
You were against some tough squads, Cult Energy and Jo Piels for instance – it must have been tough to defend the jersey?
“The next stage was a tough one, yes – narrow roads, little lanes, cross winds, steep climbs…
“There were three laps of a finishing circuit and I made sure I was always in the top 10 or 15 – I was pretty pleased with how I was going after being in the break all day on Stage Three.”
Did your ride in New Zealand buoy your confidence for the season?
“Definitely, I didn’t know what to expect; there were stages with 1500 and 2000 metres of climbing and to be able to get top five overall was a great boost for my morale.
“The result was good for my head and gave me confidence for the coming season.”
And it was foot and mouth disease which got you into road racing?
“I originally worked in a bike shop and rode ‘cross and MTB but then the foot and mouth outbreak happened and I turned to the local road league.
“I got third in the junior Nationals and that was me on my way.”
Agisko Dart in ’06?
“I’d just come back from racing in France but the team didn’t work out.”
Recycling in 2007?
“That was the first time I worked with John Herety and the team was a solid enterprise – unlike the Agisko team.
“My programme was mostly UK criteriums that year.”
Then the merger with Condor for 2008?
“Yeah, the team became Rapha Condor Recycling and I was kept on – there were more stage races and stronger guys, less of a development team.”
Then with Phil Griffiths at Candi TV for 2009.
“That was the first year I started making proper wages; I learned a lot from racing with guys like Russell Downing and Malcolm Elliott and rode races like the Cinturon Tour of Mallorca.
“And Russell won the Tour of Ireland of course – that was a fabulous experience.”
Then back to Mr. Herety at Condor for 2010/11?
“John offered me a place and I accepted; I’d really developed as a crit rider but was also able to get top ten placings in Tour of Britain stages in 2009.”
Why leave for 2012?
“I went to Raleigh for financial reasons and was well supported on the team and won a lot of races including the Elite Crit Series.
“I guess it was a sideways move but I felt I had something to prove.”
So why leave Raleigh and go back to Condor, this year?
“Towards the end of 2013 I fell out of favour with the management.
“I’d worked hard in training but didn’t get a ride in the Tour of Britain; and that’s what it’s all about – you want to ride the biggest and best races as a pro.
“John Herety knew I wasn’t happy and I asked if I could come back – we sorted out a deal and I knew exactly what to expect with John and Rapha Condor JLT.
“I’m very comfortable with the move.”
What’s the focus for 2014?
“The Crit and Tour Series are a priority but I’ll be riding the likes of Rutland and Lincoln so there’s plenty of opportunity for me on the road.”
And you do big mileage runs – that’s unusual for a ‘crit specialist?’
“I’m fortunate that I don’t have to do a lot of specific criterium training; I’m a punchy kind of rider naturally and I do like to do my five hours up in The Dales.
“During the Tour Series I still like to do one long ride every week – usually on the weekend – which gets you away from the pressure of having to perform in city centres.”
What’s ‘to do’ in 2014?
“The Tour Series is a massive goal for the team – we have guys like Ed Clancy, Felix English and Chris Opie so we want to win.
“I also want Tour of Britain selection; I’ll be disappointed if I don’t ride that.
“My wife is expecting a baby in July so I’ll have to settle down to fatherhood – that’s there on the list along with winning the Tour Series and riding the Tour of Britain!”