Sunday, September 19, 2021
HomeInterviewsStuart Balfour - Dave Rayner Fund 'Rider of the Year'

Stuart Balfour – Dave Rayner Fund ‘Rider of the Year’

"January and February are about preparation; my first big targets are the u23 Liege-Bastogne-Liege in April, which I’ve ridden before..."


Our track boys’ and girls’ terrific Commonwealth Games, World Cup and Worlds performances apart, the ride of the year by a Scot on the road was Stuart Balfour’s win in the supporting u23 race to the GP Ouest France Plouay, one of the most prestigious amateur in France – this was special. 

The Dave Rayner Fund thought so too and made him their ‘Rider of the Year.’

As well as his Plouay success he won in Montpichon and at the Ronde Briochine; he was top 20 in the tough Kreiz Breizh UCI stage race and top 10 in the Tour de la Manche.

Nice results in what is still one of the sport’s Heartlands and races are hotly contested. 

We thought we best have another word with the 21 year-old from Heriot. 

And to our surprise didn’t find him in the Borders ‘taking it easy until Xmas,’ he’s out in France already preparing for his first training camp.

VeloVeritas respects the man’s commitment; Flanders, Tuscany, Brittany/Normandie – the places where the sport matters.

It’s in the soil and blood. 

Stuart Balfour
Scottish rider Stuart Balfour is the Dave Rayner Fund’s ‘Rider of the Year 2018’.

Congratulations Stuart, winning the Rayner award must have been special for you?

“Thank you, yes, I was really happy to get it and it was great to be in the company of guys like Ben Swift and Adam Blythe and listen to their advice.”

And will you be a ‘Rayner Man’ in 2019?

“I hope so, I’ve applied again – it’s mostly awarded to u23 riders and I’m still only 21 years-old.”

Has your Plouay win changed your life?

“I’d say so, a lot more people are taking notice of me now.

“My team, Cote d’Armore is now linked with the Israeli Cycling Academy pro continental team and I’m hoping that if I can continue my progression then I may get the opportunity to step up.”

Stuart Balfour
A great way to take a big win – solo. Here Stuart takes GP Ouest France Plouay u23. Photo©Bruno Perrel

We saw you rode the u23 Paris-Tours, how was that?


“At 60 K in the crosswinds kicked in when we were on a gravel climb but to be honest, I had no legs, I’d been a wee bit sick prior to the race.

“The last 100 K were the same as the pros ride and whilst those sectors looked not too bad on TV, they were crazy with big lumps of rock laying on the surface – but remarkably, I didn’t have any punctures!”

How has the winter prep been going?

“I had a month off back home but now I’m doing a variety of sports – running, rowing, swimming and I’m back in Brittany right now, the same house as last year, which is really nice.

“The team has a three year lease on it; I’m here on my own and getting ready for a training camp we’ve organised down in Calpe, Spain.”

Stuart Balfour
Stuart is much in demand these days. Photo©Cote d’Armore équipe.

Do you have a coach who plans your training with you?

“Yann Dejan is my coach.”

[Dejan was recently appointed Technical Director for the Moroccan Cycling federation, ed.] 

“He’s from the south of Brittany, I’ve worked with him for four years now and we have a very good understanding.”

How’s the programme looking?

“Similar to last year but the nature of the team has changed, a lot of the more senior guys have moved on so the average of the team is younger and they expect riders like Owen James and I to step up into leadership roles.

“The season will start with a series of races commencing down on the Vendee on February 10th; the first one is the Circuit des Plages Vendéennes which is an Elite National event over 142 kilometres – they’re usually run off in horrible wet and cold conditions and most of them are on pan flat parcours, which doesn’t really suit me.

“But there’s one of them which is hilly so I’m looking forward to that day.”

[Regular readers will remember that Englishman Douglas Dewey did well in these races back in his Nantes Atlantique days, ed.]

Stuart Balfour
Stuart has taken the honours in France several times this year; here, at the Ronde Finisterienne. Photo©novel

What’s 2019 about?

“I’d really like to move up.

“January and February are about preparation; my first big targets are the u23 Liege-Bastogne-Liege in April, which I’ve ridden before but didn’t do anything memorable.”

[Stuart was 75th in 2017, ed.]

“And the Tour of Brittany in late April which is a really important race for the team.

“We won it last year with Fabien Schmidt so we have a lot to live up to.

[Schmidt is 2018 champion of Brittany and rides for Team Delko-Marseille Provence-KTM in 2019, ed.]

“Those are my two early targets but I’d really like to get a ride in the u23 GB team for the Worlds, which are in Yorkshire. That’s a big goal too.

“I want to try and end the season on a high so I can think about moving up to the professional ranks.”

Stuart Balfour
Stuart is already preparing for season 2019 with Cote d’Armore. Photo©supplied

Will you cut yourself any slack over Xmas and New Year?

“A little bit but I had my holidays in October so I’ll keep my training going over the holidays but allow myself some treats.”

VeloVeritas looks forward with interest to monitoring Stuart’s progress in 2019 and wishes him ‘bon chance’ in his quest for a pro contract.

However at last count we believe there are 21 World Tour, 94 pro continental and 200 continental riders ‘sans contract.’ 

Sobering stats but class will always prevail.

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

Related Articles

Mark Stewart – Another Four World Cup Medals in the Bank

He’s been quiet, that man Mark Stewart, Scotland’s reigning Commonwealth Games Points Race Champion. But he’s back with four World Cup medals on two continents within a matter of days. Best ‘have a word’ we thought to ourselves...

Matt Gibson – UCI European U23 Scratch Race Champion 2015

Le Tour is like Pac-Man, it gobbles up every bit of attention there is in the world of bike racing; the Tour of Austria runs concurrently but you wouldn’t realise. For the record, Victor de la Parte of UCI Continental Team Voralberg won it; beating six World Tour and seven Pro Continental teams in the process. In addition there were the UCI European U23 Track Championships in Athens – stand out rides were a sub four minute team pursuit by the GB squad to win and a win in the scratch race by one of the pursuit team members – Matt Gibson.

Mark Stewart – This Young Scot is British Points Race Champion 2014

At the next Commonwealth Games there’ll be no David Millar or ‘Jamesie’ and even the perennial Evan Oliphant might not make it to Gold Coast City, Australia in 2018. But Dundee’s Mark Stewart should be there; at just 19 he took sixth place in the 20 K Scratch Race in Glasgow behind New Zealand’s World’s Omnium medallist, Shane Archbold with the distance being covered in 22:43 @ 52.819 kph – that’s quick.

Katie Archibald – European Individual and Team Pursuit Champion 2014

Katie Archibald has been at it again; winning major championships. This time it’s the European Individual and Team Pursuit Championships in... Guadaloupe? Those French...

Christina Mackenzie – National 12 Hour Champion 2020

Covid having put paid to her 2020, ‘End to End’ bid after her brave but ultimately unsuccessful 2019 attempt, Christina Mackenzie (Stirlingshire Bicycle Club) had to re-focus and made the CTT 12 Hour Championship her goal for the year. ‘Mission accomplished,’ winning by some 12 miles with a provisional 251.64 miles on a tough course in equally tough conditions.

Cameron Richardson – a ’49’ For His First ’25’

Cameron Richardson ‘crossed over’ from duathlon to cycle racing a couple of season ago, recently won the Tour of the Campsies and recorded a '49' for his first 25 Mile TT. It seems fair to say that this chap has potential…

At Random

European Time Trial Championships

The 2018 European Time Trial Championships didn’t produce a surprise winner, or runner-up but there were a few surprises lower down the order, men who we’d expected to go a tad faster. But the parcours was pretty technical and not one for the pure ‘Boulevard Blasters.’ Here’s the VeloVeritas rap on the top 15.

Le Tour de France 2013 – Stage 1: Porto-Vecchio > Bastia, 212km. Kittel survives the Chaos

It was Kittel today. My son asked me today what the chances of Cav taking the win and the yellow jersey were; "95%" said I, confidently. But it’s that other 5% which makes it a bike race. The bulk of the stage was a ‘paint drying’ job with the early break – which went in remarkably fuss free fashion - of Jerome Cousin (Europcar), Juan José Lobato (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Lars Boom (Belkin), Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Cyril Lemoine (Sojasun) sitting up in the huff because they couldn’t get the gap; then the peloton doing the same to give the escapees some space and incentive to get back on the case.

Ponferrada World Road Championships 2014 – U23 Men, Sven Erik Bystrom Takes it Solo

Well, if there's a pizza place in Ponferrada, we can't find it. It's rude to criticise your host's abode but we're mystified by how the Worlds came to be here. The communications are terrible, it's four-and-a-half hours by road or rail out of Madrid or get transfer flights up to the North West and more driving.

(Just) Desserts And Grace

Desserts And Grace. Great food pun. Well, an ok food pun. I'm sure there are some unemployed former News Of The World staffers who could come up with something better". Enough of unimportant stuff though! Onto the cycling.

The Scottish 25 Mile Time Trial Championship 2010

Arthur Doyle, (Dooleys) comfortably retained his Scottish 25 Mile Time Trial Championship 2010 title with 52:54 on a cool but mostly dry Sunday morning around the verdant Howe of Fife, second was the man on the big fixed gear who was the surprise of the 2009 ten mile champs, Peter Ettles (Sandy Wallace Cycles) with 54:07-surprise this time was Philip Kelman (Deeside) with 54:44 off an early number 45 start. VeloVeritas didn't arrive until number 92 was on the line, so apologies to Mr. Kelman for the lack of photographic evidence. However, we were up at 06:00 am on Sunday to edit yesterday's road race pictures; we weren't slacking...

Toby Perry – “My goal was to win a race – I’ve done that now!”

Flavio Zappi’s boys are in full effect in la Bella Italia and Scotsman Calum Johnston is turning the pedals in anger in Espana and the man who won the Memorial Zumzarren in Estella-Lizarra, Navarre, Northern Spain where Calum finished 14th recently, was an Englishman; 21 year-old Toby Perry from Ashford in Kent, by name.