Aberdonian Craig Wallace joins Evan Oliphant at the ‘Heron squad’ for the next phase of his career – here’s what he had to say to VeloVeritas, recently:
Congratulations; was 2015 still a Braveheart year, Craig – what support do they provide?
“Yes, I was fortunate enough to be given funding from Braveheart once again.
“That’s my third year now and I really can’t describe how grateful I am to everyone involved – it has allowed me to race and live abroad full time.
“Without it this would not have been possible.
“The money I receive goes on basic living costs – rent, food and travel expenses.”
You’ve said you didn’t ‘click’ in Spain, this season – why was that?
“I don’t want to paint a negative picture of my time there as there were good moments this year as well.
“Last year was an ideal year, yes I broke my hip early on but in a way it made me even more focused and driven to come back stronger – which I did. I finished the 2014 season as one of the strongest riders on the U23 circuit over there.
“Some silly errors which forced me off the bike in winter and being sick at the start of the season meant that I always felt like I was constantly playing catch up. Whenever I was getting some form again I would get ill or pick up a niggling injury which would put me back to where I started again.
“It was a frustrating time, especially as the team were looking at me to get results.
I returned home to Scotland in May with the main aim of trying to get some consistent training in the legs. I pretty much rode five or fix hours every day for the two and a bit weeks I was home and still managed some ok results in races here.
“I returned to Spain and in the first race back I found myself leading the sprints competition at the Vuelta Casteleón. Once again however I soon found that I was repeating what had happened in the first part of the year so it was clear something wasn’t right.
“Thinking ahead for 2016 I decided to return to Scotland to end the season. I’m very happy that I did.
“Thanks to Brian for helping me find a team Spain and to Gorka and the guys out there for having the opportunity to race with them.”
It must be hard when there are so many Spanish lads looking for a contract?
“Definitely – to be a foreign rider living there and to progress you have to be constantly head and shoulders above the home riders as the home teams are likely to go to their own riders first, which is fair enough.
“It does make it hard though.
“And at the end of the day even though we all worked as a team and got on – everyone was out for themselves to get a pro deal, something which I came to realise.”
But some nice late season form in Scotland – remind us of your wins, please.
“Yeah, I was surprised given my lack of racing and training- my condition really wasn’t that good but I still managed to get some wins – The Tour of the Glens standing out as I finished several minutes ahead of second place.
“I was getting some legs back just as the season finished- typical!”
Spain v. Scotland how do the levels compare?
“It’s a completely different style of racing.
“In Spain it’s very controlled with the bigger u23 teams trying to set their main man up for the win. You can have 80-100km of flat roads and in a bunch of 200 riders it’s not exactly hard. It’s the fight into the climbs and then the full on effort up them that makes the difference between the two.
“So you can be putting out these huge 20-30 minute efforts at the end of a race whereas in Scotland it’s more of a slow burner.
“Races tend to split up fairly quickly and I found you have to actually “ride” a lot more if that makes sense.
“There’s no 200 man bunch to sit in.”
How did you get the ride with Raleigh?
“Evan Oliphant put a good word in with the management and it progressed from there.
“A big thank you to him!”
Cool to have a world champion on the team – Kneisky is a nice guy, have you met him or any of your team mates yet and when is the first camp?
“Apart from Evan and Fraser I haven’t met any of the other riders, I’m excited to do so. I met Cherie and Eddie (team managers) when I was down in Derby to sign the contract.
“I think we are going to somewhere in Spain early next year before the racing starts which will be good to get some form!”
What’s the word on when you get your bikes and clothing?
“I think I’ll be getting my training bike in a few weeks to see me over the winter.”
Have you done your 70’s/80’s Raleigh homework?
“Friends would probably tell you that I’m a bit sad when I comes to cycling history – I love watching and reading anything about racing “back in the day”. I could tell you every winner of the Tour of flanders since 1980 for example!
“To be involved with such an iconic brand is super cool. There is so much history there with cycling greats such as Joop Zoetemelk and Jan Raas. I really want to do the jersey proud next year.”
Why a GB option for 2016 – your strengths would play well in France or Italy would they not?
“True, but there are plenty races now in the UK that can suit my characteristics.
“With races such as the Tours of Britain and Yorkshire as well as the RideLondon Classic it is really too good an opportunity to turn down as I feel I need to be riding these races now to bring me to the next level.”
Is Kenny Riddle still coaching you and will there be changes to method given all those UK crits?
“Yes although I’m beginning to take a more hands on approach to planning my training. I still run everything by him and add in what he says.
“Come January I will need a solid structure in place from him but until then the main goal is really to “get the miles in”.
“I’d also like to say a huge thank you to Kenny for supporting me throughout this year, I see him more as a good friend as opposed to a coach. He was always there at the end of the phone when needed- It makes a huge difference when someone is willing to help so much!”
What are your thoughts on all those crits?
“There are a lot of crits but also many good quality road races so I think it will balance out nicely.
“I’m looking forward to them – something new that I’m keen to do well in as they are important for the team.”
How will you spend the winter?
“The current plan is really to play it by ear.
“If the weather turns bad I will likely head somewhere warm to train but if it’s not too bad I’ll stay at home.”
Will you be moving down south for the season?
“No, I’ll be staying at home in Aberdeen.
“I will likely fly from Edinburgh down to Derby to save driving all that way.
“I won’t have to take a bike as my race bikes will be staying down there so it will be a fairly simple way to travel to races.”
2016 is about…?
“…enjoying it – it will be a step up in terms of the races we will be riding and I can’t wait to really push myself to prove what I’m capable of.
“I’ve never been more motivated, I really can’t wait to get racing again.”