The press release said:
“Spokes Racing Team: It was officially announced today by British Cycling that Kirkcaldy based Spokes Racing Team will host a round of the British National Junior (under 19) Road Race Series in 2015.
“It will be the first time in around 25 years that a Junior National race will be held in Scotland and a first for Fife.
“A field made up of the best 100 riders in the country is expected to roll out of Kennoway on June 7th to take on the 75 mile route which will see the competitor ascend the 21% Cadgers Brae three times then for good measure the infamous Cults Hill before they reach the finish at the foot of Langside in Kennoway.”
We decided we best ‘have a word’ with the man behind the Spokes bike shops and racing team, Craig Grieve…
How long have Spokes been around, three shops now?
“We started trading in St. Andrews in 1992 so been going now for 23 years.”
Is the sportive boom still booming?
“We are still selling a huge amount of road bikes to men and women their 40’s and 50’s who are brand new to cycling and hooked by the sportive idea, especially the Étape Caledonia and the local Kinross Sportive.
“Most of them go on and develop their cycling interests and become repeat customers.”
I see Steve McCaw is building some nice Treks for you – how have Trek weathered the Lance storm?
“I think Trek managed to quickly distance itself from the issue and because they were only ever a sponsor rather than team owners they came out of it pretty clean.
“Our high-end Trek sales have really gone through the roof in the last three years so it’s not really been an issue.”
Why start a team – what’s in it for you?
“We started initial discussions toward the end of the 2013 team when my son was a final year youth A and it became clear Scottish Cycling were not going to support the juniors due to the Commonwealth Games.
“A lot of the parents were worried the boys would be left in the lurch with no focus on them so a few of us got together and the team was born.
“My own son was the driver for me initially; but I’ve become so close to the boys now I get the same buzz when any of them do a strong ride.
“I have to be honest and say I did have a little cry when Fraser Martin got on the podium at the Junior Lincoln GP – it seemed to make all the work worthwhile.”
You quote 40 wins for the team in 2014, who were your most successful riders win-wise?
“Our most prolific rider was Grant Martin who was youth A last season.
“He had around 15 wins on his own including the Scottish Junior Keirin Champs whilst a youth A so we have high hopes for him as a junior this year.
“His big brother Fraser had a great season with around five road wins, the Scottish Madison Champs and a couple of podiums in the British Junior series including the Lincoln GP.
“Lewis Grieve had a couple of road race wins but had a very consistent season as did Stuart Balfour.”
How do you exploit the team’s successes PR wise?
“To be honest it wasn’t set up with thoughts of marketing for the business but obviously due to the success the promotional opportunities have started to come.
“We are probably starting to get a spin off from it and I feel the Team is raising the profile of the business.
“If that continues it’s a nice spin off.”
How did you get the British Cycling U19 race up to Scotland?
“We have promoted the Scottish Junior RR champs for the last two seasons in order to develop a race of the quality required for the National series.
“Once we were sure we had the correct product we put in the bid and after a bit of negotiating and tweaking the course we got there.
“I think it definitely helped that we are now well known on the junior scene and we have also indicated that within a few years we would like to turn it into a three day Junior Tour.
“A few of the English regional development team managers have been in touch to say how pleased they are that we’ve got it and that is pleasing to hear.”
Is junior racing in Scotland on the up? That’s not reflected in TT’s we attend.
“Numbers are still not huge.
“I think last season there were around 45 juniors with licences but the quality in the 45 is really good.
“To give you an example at the Glasgow Revolution track meet recently there were 11 Scottish riders in the main events and six of them were under 19; incidentally four of them were ours!”
What sort of support do you give your riders?
“In terms of support the guys get all the tools required – bike, clothing, shoes, helmet, energy food etc as well as expenses for the big races.
“We’ve put a team car on the road this year with help from The John Clark motor Group and we have a good race support system where we try to make sure we get to all the big races together and fresh.
“We fly the boys to some of the further away events such as South Wales, South of England etc and the cars will drive down early to pick them up and get to the race HQ.”
When you go down south how big is the ability gap to the English riders?
“When we first went down last year we struggled in the first couple of race.
“I had no control over what the guys did the previous winter as the team was just forming and Scottish Cycling had the juniors on the track every couple of Sundays during the winter so their opportunities for endurance rides were slim.
“They learned the hard way but by May we were competing at the front and giving as good as we got. Fraser, Lewis and Stuart all ended up riding very strongly from the middle to the end of the season.
“We had two riders in the Top 20 in the Tour of Wales until Lewis crashed out on the last stage and Stuart went on to finish around 13th.
“This winter the preparation has been better and although there have still been a lot of track session on Sundays the guys know what they need to do.”
Do you have a coaching system in place?
“We don’t have a specific coaching system in place.
“The option is there for them and I coach four of the guys and a few of the others have coaches they have worked with for some time so there was no need to change that.
“Matthias Barnet is coached by Richard Davison and won the British youth RR in 2014 so I think it’s safe to say that combination is working and it’s the same idea with some of the others.”
What’s the biggest mistake young riders make?
“One of the biggest mistakes I’ve come across is not giving enough respect to the change from youth to junior racing.
“The distance goes from 30 or 40 min criteriums to 70 mile road races overnight.
“Many of them think it’ll be OK and don’t put in the hard work required then get hammered and disappear.”
Does Scottish Cycling do enough to promote junior cycling in Scotland?
“That’s a tricky question – there’s a lot of work goes on with the youths but when they turn junior it kind of dies out unless you want to be a track rider.
“There’s a huge focus on track now by SC as it’s an easily controlled coaching environment and it’s also seen as a place we can make an impact at the next Commonwealth Games – but anyone who has any road ambitions tends to be treated like they have Ebola.
“It makes it hard for the youngsters as they are being asked to drop every boy’s dream of riding the Tour de France at the age of 17 or 18 in the hope they get selected for one race in three years time.
“It’s almost as if you’re made to feel like you’ve turned to the dark side if you mention road racing.
“For the full track guys it’s never been better in terms of facilities and support.”
2015 will be a success for Spokes if… ?
“We are looking for a win in the British National Junior Series and a top 10 overall.
“We are introducing the first year seniors to the Premier Calendar – there are no targets other than for them to ‘get round.’
“We are also heading across to Europe with both teams to ride some UCI stage races; again with the aim of gaining valuable experience.
“We also hope for our National Series race to be a great success.”
VeloVeritas wishes Craig and Spokes every success for 2015 – we’ll keep our eyes out for them …
Thanks to Craig and Stewart Martin for the use of their images.