George Atkins
George Atkins. Photo©Martin Williamson

A familiar name cropped up to win the recent David Campbell Memorial Race in Fife, run on a tough course over the Cults Hills – that of George Atkins.

Atkins spent time living and racing in Scotland a year or two ago riding for the Velo Ecosse team.

This year he’s stepped up from the 100% ME amateur squad to ride as a pro with the Raleigh.

He first appears on the palmares lists with a bronze medal in the British Youths Pursuit Championship in 2007, taking the same colour of medal in the Junior Pursuit Championship one year later.

He really ‘arrived’ in 2009 however with wins in the National Junior Road Race, Madison and Pursuit Championships.

In Commonwealth Games year he won the British Elite Points race and took silver in that discipline in Delhi.

In 2011 he took a break but was still runner-up in the British U23 Time Trial Championship.

He repeated that achievement in 2012 and added the British Scratch and Team Pursuit titles to his swag bag.

Last year he won the madison Championship with Jon Mould and took arguably his best result ever in winning the British Elite Criterium Series.

He spoke to VeloVeritas soon after he’d conquered Cadgers, Porters and Langside Braes en route to his win in the Davie Campbell Memorial.

The Davie Campbell road race – how did that fit in, George?

“I didn’t make the Raleigh team for the Rutland so the Davie Campbell was best replacement for me – doing the race meant I could see a few friends back in Edinburgh and get some good riding in with the local bunches too so it was a no brainer!”

How does Scottish racing compare to down south?

“In my opinion it’s very different – quite unorganised and could be described as negative, a bit more of a slog than a tactical battle at times but no less hard than racing down south – equally as hard just in a different way – I like racing up in Scotland, the courses are always decent and seemingly traffic-free!”

Raleigh – how did you get the contract?

“I think my ride in the crit series was probably what got the contract.

“I’ve been on Cherie’s (Pridham, manager at Raleigh, ed.) team in the past so already had a good relationship – I know Evan Oliphant well and Pete Jacques too so having a few guys in your corner always helps.”

George Atkins
George chose to turn pro for a UK-based team. Photo©Martin Williamson

Why not try for a ride in Belgium/France?

“I never really considered it – looking at guys like Erick Rowsell and Scott Thwaites going to Pro Conti set ups from UK based outfits shows it’s possible to move up from the UK.”

100% ME to Raleigh – what are the main differences?

“With 100% ME the winter was mainly track based whereas with Raleigh I’m on the road.

“I was the eldest guy on the team last year, now I’m the youngest this.

“There are a few differences with travel too, with 100% ME the team lives together so got picked up and ferried to races as a squad; whereas with Raleigh people are based in France, Wales, Scotland and England.

“It’s your job to get to a race or get halfway to a race – I really like having to be organised and am pretty easy on travel – it can be physically tiring at times though.

“On 100% ME you train as a group – with Raleigh you’re under your own steam.”

Tell us about your winter training, please.

“Last winter wasn’t great, I had a fair bit of illness and a few niggles with my knees, it could have been worse though!

“I spent a lot of the winter on the road then rode a track league before the Spadgers Six ran by Jacquesy (Pete Jacques, ed.).

“It was nice to show the stripes (British Champion’s madison champion jersey, ed.) there and get the win.

“After that I had a low key festive period due to ice so did a bit of turbo then headed off to Spain in early January.”

How were the Tour of the Med and Haut Var for you?

“They went OK – I got through the Med in decent shape.

“I didn’t have any racing in the legs before it so was a bit nervous but felt I got by okay.

“I got ill soon after that though so Haut Var was a write off.”

Will there be other Continental races with Raleigh in 2014?

“Hopefully yes, I’m not too sure at the moment though – our next main target on the horizon is the Tour series – that’s the only thing in mind for the moment.”

George Atkins
George switched to Raleigh from the BC-funded 100% Me. Photo©Jean Bollaerts

Are crits the big ‘thing’ for 2014 for you?

“Yes – road racing hasn’t gone greatly so far however I’m hoping to remedy that.

“But I’ll be showing what I can do in the crits – the whole team is really up for the Tour Series so we’ll see how it goes!”

Does the team run two parallel programmes – crit and road?

“No – we’ve got a squad of 10 guys so we’re just concentrating on one thing at a time – I quite like that because it keeps you hungry.”

What’s your programme after the summer crits?

“We’ve not got anything definitive at the moment, the Tour of Britain will be my biggest goal after the crits.

“Looking at guys like the Yates brothers and Tom Moses seasons so far really makes you think; ‘what’s stopping me?’”

How about your track ambitions?

“The Commonwealth Games track would be great to go back to and have another crack at the Points – If I do a few ‘rides’ in the Tour series I think I’ll have a good argument.

“I’ve proven myself before so yeah, I’d love to go.

“After that, I’m not sure; I’d need to show I can ride team pursuit.”

How has the ‘Retro Raleigh’ look gone down?

“I think it’s well-liked! I’ve not heard many people not liking it.

“I guess knowing what the T.I stuff looked like makes it cooler too.

“There’s a lot of cool team kit out there this year!”

George Atkins
George sporting the famous Raleigh red, black and yellow. Photo©Martin Williamson

2014 will be successful, if …

“I get to October and I’m not riding Hill Climbs!”