As well as Raleigh’s Evan Oliphant’s recent overall win in the Premier Calendar another national competition was claimed by a rider who has close links to Scotland – 100% ME’s George Atkins regards Edinburgh as his second home and spent time in the capital after he left the BC ‘Plan’ a year or two ago.
A former Commonwealth Games silver medallist on the track and now back with the BC programme he displayed great consistency to win the six race National Criterium Series just as Oliphant was sealing the Premier Calendar.
We caught up with the Sheffield man as he racked up the miles to get his road legs back after all those one hour town centre efforts.
Congratulations, George – was the series a big goal for the team?
“Not a huge one, we ride under an anti-doping message and the crits don’t really fit in with the programme so there was no sponsor pressure.
“I did the crit series because I wasn’t riding the road or track at the European Championships – my girlfriend and parents were my support team for the series.”
Is 100% ME the latest incarnation of ‘The Plan?’
“Yes, it’s basically ‘The BC Academy.’”
The first race was at Otley where Felix English won?
“That’s probably my favourite course; it suits the roadmen and I was able to get in the move and finish fourth – I didn’t quite have the zip at the end but it wasn’t a bad start.”
And then you won at Stockton?
“Yeah, that was a bit of a surprise!
“But because I’d finished fourth at Otley I was on the front row of the grid for this one and that makes a difference, you don’t have to fight your way up.
“I was suffering for the first 25 minutes then I got away and just slipped into time trial mode – it’s a lot smoother riding on your own than it is constantly fighting for position.”
And there are sprint points – so if you’re away you pick those up?
“Yeah, but I didn’t realise that ‘til the fourth round!
“I started to pick them up again in the fifth round but had missed out in Wales and at Stockton because I didn’t know they were on offer.
“It’s not a great deal of intermediate points but they do all add up.”
Abergavenny was the third round and Mike Northey won?
“That was where I began to think that I might have a chance of the series, I finished seventh having begun to ride a bit more defensively.
“It was a bit of a negative race and I had ridden the first 100 K of the Abergavenny Grand Prix in the days before and didn’t have the best legs.”
Then Colne where Ed Clancy won?
“I was seventh again in that one which wasn’t too bad but it was a quick race and I didn’t have any team backing to help me – that makes things even more difficult.”
Beverley was round five and Jon Mould won.
“Graham Briggs was my closest rival and Felix English too – but a group got away and I managed second in the bunch sprint for fifth.”
Sheffield was the finale with Dean Downing getting the verdict – but you didn’t have it sewn up …
“It was all set up for me to lose with English, Northey and Clancy all attacking me and their team mates letting gaps open.
“But the Downings were riding to win – Deano took it at the end – and that helped my cause plus I managed to pick up intermediate points as well as finishing ninth to take the series overall.
“It was a pretty stressful night because that race has a scary finish to it.”
Who was the rival who you were most worried about?
“Graham Briggs, he was the most consistent – Clancy and English were good but blew hot and cold with both of them failing to finish two rounds.”
How do the crits fit in with your training for the road and track?
“The track is over for me – at the Commonwealth Games the team pursuit guys will be riding the bunch races.
“Crits fit in with track preparation but aren’t great for the road – during the series I was really just riding them and going for easy rides.
“This last week I’ve been getting back into the groove of long road rides – I hope I can gain selection for the Tour of Britain or Tour de l’Avenir.
“At home things are pretty much wrapped up with the two crit series over and the Premier Calendar finished for the year.”
How has BC been for you this time around?
“Keith Lambert who manages the team has been faultless and it’s a good group of lads.
“But it’s disappointing for me that my main passion – which is the track – is finished for me.
“I may do the track Nationals but as far as the international side goes I haven’t got qualifying points for World Cups so can’t ride at that level.
“If you’re not with BC then the track is a closed road at international level.”
So it’s a life on the road?
“I’d like to ride the Tour of Britain again, I rode last year and got a bit of a kicking, but I’ve moved on since then and would like to show myself in the breaks.
“Despite the fact that it was hard, I enjoyed the race – but 100% ME is a big squad and it’ll be hard to gain selection.
“If I do ride the track Nationals I’ll take time off after them and then start a proper winter of road build up for next season.
“The last two seasons I’ve ridden the track during the winter so it’ll be good to start a road season properly prepared.”
And will you still be 100% ME for 2014?
“No, I’ll be too old so I’m looking for a UK team for next season.
“I think I’d rather be based in the UK with a team which has a good programme and rides races abroad.
“I think that’s what would suit me best.”