Saturday night saw Dave and I make our way to the Spokes Limits team presentation for 2017. It was deja vu with the weather and the venue.
The presentation of riders however showed a significant change from last year. There were fewer riders and a number of new faces. Most noticeably Grant Martin having moved on to join his brother at Raleigh GAC.
Another major success for a team designed to foster talent and enable them to transition to the next level. It was less clear where some of last year’s riders had gone to pursue their cycling dreams. What wasn’t in question was the impressive list of results achieved in the previous twelve months.
Arriving uncharacteristically early provided the opportunity to find out more about the Limits, the power meter company and their product, who are one of the principal team’s sponsors, and find out a bit more about the team for 2017, which has changed significantly – seven riders will be pulling on the new kit this year.
- Alex Ridehalgh isn’t able to make the evening but enthusing about his new team in a short video message is the first new face to be introduced.
- Joe Reilly will be with the team for a second year and hoping for a little more luck during this campaign. Last year his season was brought to an abrupt halt by a serious crash in Germany, where he split his kneecap in two, another rider’s chainring causing the horrific damage. A two week hospital stay in Germany was followed by many months of recuperation and therapy. Blair Whiteside points out that despite the injury Joe has recovered sufficiently that he’s been picked on merit and is clearly going well.
- Dylan Hughes is new to the team, having won the Junior Tour of Scotland, an impressive result on his palmarès already.
- Charlie Johnston is also new to the team and relatively new to the sport and a real “prospect”, Craig tells me.
- Finn Crocket, another new face, who is aiming to break the Scottish Junior 10 mile time trial record this year and as the reigning champion at the distance will be worth watching.
- George Wharton from Lancaster is the North West Region Junior Road Race Champion and regular twenty one minute ’10’ man, another new face looking to benefit from the Spokes race programme.
- Stephen Dent is also going in to his second season with the team, as the national criterium and road race champion (beating teammate Grant Martin into second place) he has proven he has what it takes at Junior level in Scotland and is looking to move up a level this year.
So what of last year’s results and riders? I caught up with Craig to find out where last year’s charges, who produced some impressive results have gone.
The programme mixed domestic Scottish racing with regular sorties abroad.
Junior Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, a super hard super fast race we witnessed saw Grant Martin finish an impressive twelfth. Grant will join his older brother at Raleigh GAC this year. His results last year were solid with second in the junior Road Race championships, second in the Crit at the Castle (Stirling) and he finished the year in the Under 23 Six Day at Ghent.
No team presence at Kuurne this year though as the field has been reduced in size and Spokes unfortunately have missed the cut.
The Philip Gilbert Junior road race features many of the climbs in the Liege-Bastogne-Liege Classic including the finishing climb up the Cote De La Redoute. Last year saw three of the team finish in the top forty, no mean feat as there were only sixty finishers from a field of 240.
The team will be back again this year, this being one on the five planned European adventures which will see a mix of single day and stage races.
Similarly the Sint Martinusprijs five day stage race in Belgium is on the programme. Last year saw five of the six riders finish. The race starts with a team time trial on day one which, as Craig tells me, adds to the Grand Tour feel of this race. The team performed well in the TTT, beating the German National junior team, whilst riding standard road bikes. Grant Martin managed a top ten on one stage and the team will be back for more this summer.
Another impressive performance at UCI 2.1 Tour of Axel stage race saw guest rider Reece Wood finish fourth overall. The event straddles Holland and Belgium over three days of racing.
A new race on the programme this year is the Gorey Three Day in Eire. This is the 51st edition of this classic Junior race and will I’m sure be a hard three days.
A nice Trek Emonda SL, the bike that the team will be using in 2017 was set up with the unobtrusive Limits Power Meter.
The device only extends the distance of the pedal from the crank by 17.5mm, unnoticeable to most that have used it.
With the bike set up on a turbo I resisted the urge to have a go and settled for a couple of photos.
We chatted to Gordon Drummond, one of the team of five at Limits, to find out about this Scottish success story which is based in Aberdour in Fife. The project which has relied on crowd funding to make it a reality and it’s an incredible story so far.
“We set up a crowd funding page on Indiegogo, a website for entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial backers to bring projects to life.
“This raised $557,000, which whilst a large amount of money has been eaten up quickly by R&D and production costs.
“The background to the power meter project evolved from a solution designed for electric bikes.”
I wondered about the difficulties crowd funding might pose for entrepreneurs. Gordon confirmed that pleasing so many people can be challenging. Their Facebook page has seen mixed comments; with many wondering about delivery dates for the product which essentially is what most investors are interested in obtaining. Reassuringly for the Limits team the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive – check it out at https://www.facebook.com/Limitspowermeter.
The product was about a year later than the team had planned in getting to market which has caused some difficulties. The good news is that Limits have shipped 1900 units with a further 200 to be dispatched shortly.
This is the first generation design with the second generation model in the pipeline and likely to be tested by the Spokes team. Priced at around the £250 mark this looks like a power meter that will be affordable to your average club or sportive rider.
The future looks bright with products going to sixty six countries already and distributors across the globe either signed up or looking to get the on board.
So the riders are full of enthusiasm, the bikes, clothing, race programme and support are sorted but before we wish them well for the season almost upon us what about last year’s riders?
- In no particular order Craig tells us Ben Gifford had a solid year in 2016 winning two races but like several of last years team, is focusing on his studies this year.
- Finn Harrod focused on the track and medalled at the British Student Games Track Championships. This year he has moved on to an English track team.
- Jordan Stronach, a strong time trial rider who helped the team to second in the Scottish team Time trial Championships last year has decided to focus on his studies this year.
- John McLeod had a solid year, he is starting a medical degree and the bike will less of a priority for a while.
- Kieran Kirk is still racing for Spokes Club, a committed rider who has improved greatly and getting stronger.
- Ross McMurtie suffered from a number of injuries and will be focusing on his studies this year, he still managed a win in the supporting race at the David Campbell Memorial.
- Mathias Barnett had a solid season despite some bad luck in 2016, making the winning break in four National Series races only to puncture in all four. What tyres was he on Craig?! This year he will ride for a new team as part of his studies in London.
- Sean Noon, a senior rider still with the Spokes Club, is focusing on 10 mile time trials this year, having come very close to breaking the Scottish Junior record a few years back.
- Tim Jones had a good year getting his 1st category licence as did Stephen Dent. Impressive from the Juniors. Tim was the team’s top finisher in the British Junior Road Series, finishing 18th. Again studies will occupy Tim this year.
A rejuvenated team building on previous successes, offering incredible opportunities to a group of guys to dip their toes into a world of European racing with impressive backup and commitment from Craig, Blair and their team of helpers. Wishing them all the best for 2017.