It was this time last year when we last spoke to ex-Rayner Fund rider, 24 year-old Mansfield man, Ross Lamb; he told us he was going to be enjoying a change of scenery, from his habitual Flanders Flatlands to the Toulouse suburb of Blagnac in the Haut-Garonne region of Southern France – with dusty, warm, ‘Roman’ France to the East and the mighty Pyrenees to the south.
GSC Blagnac–Velo Sport 31, nice, we thought – but as oor Rabbie said; ‘the best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley‘. In modern parlance; ‘s##t happens!’
Almost a year to the day since last we spoke, Ross; GSC Blagnac – we even saw a picture of you in their strip – but those nice 2019 palmarès we checked are all up in Belgium? And what about Swift Carbon Pro Cycling?
“I started the year with Blagnac and I quite enjoyed the first month but then they started pulling out of the UCI races we were supposed to be riding… things went downhill from April so I started to look around.
“My good friend, Jake Scott got in touch with around June time to say there was a place opened up at Swift – which was good timing because I was in a dark place at that time.
“Initially, I was living in an apartment in the team managers’s garden and that was fine but when I moved to the team house and that definitely wasn’t fine. But I learned a lot from the experience.”
How come those Belgium results – some nice ones; fourth in the Stadprijs Geraardsbergen and Memorial De Bruyne and second in the Memorial Johan Hannes with Alvaro Hodeg behind you in sixth place?
“I was with Swift from June; the squad they picked for the Ryedale GP was pretty much going to be the selection for the Tour of Britain and I wouldn’t be riding so I took myself over to Belgium to race and see if I could get a ride for 2020.
“I got some decent results and spoke to continental team Tortelleto and others but nothing came of it and I’ve signed with Swift for season 2020.
“I had offers for amateur teams but I’ve been making the podium in pro kermises so to go back to riding in amateur races seemed like a step backwards.”
What were the highlights of the season for you?
“I took fifth in the Essor Basque. We drove the parcours and I thought “this isn’t for me!” but I got a good placing and looking back, I could have won.
“And if I’d been a bit bolder in the Geraardsbergen race I could have won that too.
“The guy who won it went away on the Muur with a lap to go. I was behind him and could have got up to him but I thought “he’s not going to stay out there on his own for a lap?” – but he did!”
How did you adapt to riding British racing?
“I haven’t ridden that many and whilst I quite enjoyed the criteriums in Otley and Sheffield, I’m not so sure about the ones on tiny, shopping precinct circuits – if you start at the back then you might as well forget it.”
Swift did some good races in Europe last year though – le Samyn, Loir et Cher and the Sante Tour in Poland for instance.
“Yes, and whilst the programme hasn’t been finalised we’re looking at some nice, cosmopolitan races in 2020.
“One of the reasons I’m sticking with Swift for 2020 is that Pete Williams, who races for the team and has huge experience (he’s been on the podium in races like the Tro Bro Leon and the Ràs and has ridden the Tour of Britain since 2008) will be adopting a managerial/DS role and I have a lot of faith in him so when he tells me the programme is good, I believe him.”
Swift Carbon machines – South African origins, I believe?
“The guy who started the company is a South African ex-pro called Mark Blewett who raced for a Portuguese team; he’s really into the fine detail of frame design.
“I know you’d expect me to say this but the minute I sat on one of the Swift bikes I thought to myself, ‘this is nice!’
“The bike I had at Blagnac had a crack in the top tube and they wouldn’t give me another one, so it was good to be on a really sorted machine.
“The groupsets for the 2020 bikes are by Shimano so they’re top-end machines for sure, I’m looking forward to riding one. “
“The Volta a Portugal was won overall on a Swift this year and they’ve achieved big results in triathlon, too.”
When’s the first team get together?
“There was a training camp in Calpe in December and we’re having a formal team launch in the new year.”
Is Brian Steel still coaching you?
“Yes, I was actually out on the bike with him the other day so our relationship carries on.”
Which races would you like to leave your mark on in the UK this year?
“I’d like to perform well in the Lincoln GP and the Rutland and I want to gain selection for the Tours of Yorkshire and Britain.
“It’ll be nice to ride a season at home, that’s three years I was in Belgium.
“And whilst there are a lot of crits, the Premier Calendar races have hillier parcours; I’ll just have to adjust to the style of racing.
“If there are gaps in the calendar I can always nip over to Belgium and ride the pro kermises – I have a lot of friends over there who I can stay with.”
Do you miss Belgium?
“The racing, yes. The Inter Club events aren’t UCI so I think folks in the UK underrate them but they’re very hard races.
“The training, not so much. There’s not a lot of ‘picturesque’ going on over there and it’s uncomfortable on the bad roads.
“I’m looking to forward to training in the Peak District, hopefully in the sunshine!”
We admire his optimism and look forward to seeing his name in those 2020 results.