Wednesday, October 27, 2021
HomeInterviewsCraig Grieve - Spokes Racing Team Owner

Craig Grieve – Spokes Racing Team Owner

"This year there have been less applications for the team but the quality has been very high – the cream of the crop."


Recently we’ve run interviews with ‘Young Scots on the up.’ Messrs. Stuart Balfour, Mark Stewart, Alfie George and Oscar Onley. What’s the common denominator – apart from talent? They’ve all ridden for Spokes Racing Team. High time the man behind it got a bit of recognition, we thought to ourselves, here at VeloVeritas. Craig Grieve is his name, the man at the helm of Spokes Cycles, with branches in St. Andrews and Dundee, and manager of the successful junior team through which so much talent has passed.

Craig raced ‘back in the day’, riding for the Fife Century and Kennoway Road Club, making the Scottish junior road team and paying his dues in Belgium and The Netherlands in those 240 rider, warp-speed criteriums.

Craig Grieve
Craig Grieve chats to friend of VV, Dave Chapman. Photo©Ed Hood

In these days when ‘net shopping gets stronger every year, we began by asking how business is for his shops?

“Business is good but to compete against the internet businesses you have to offer stuff that people can’t get simply looking at a web page; great customer service and expert bike fit – and you hope folks put a value on that.”

How did the race team come about?

“My son started to race and that time there weren’t a lot of schoolboys and juniors racing.

“But at the track leagues I got to know the other lads’ fathers – they approached me and suggested we get together and take teams down south to ride the bigger schoolboy and junior races they have down there.

“It all started from there.

“I think 2014 was our first year of having the team, with my son, Stuart Balfour, the late Ben Forsyth, Hector Lancaster and Fraser Martin.

“To start with, we didn’t have a team car, we’d go down to races in England in the shop van and then hire a car to go in the race convoy.

“For the first couple of years we didn’t have sponsors and we paid for everything out of our own pocket.”

How do you get those continental race invites?

“We wait on the UCI calendar appearing then send off emails to the organisers expressing interest.

“One of the first we rode was the Three Days of Axel in The Netherlands – we got smashed, it was brutal.

“But we picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves down and resolved to cherry-pick our calendar a bit more carefully.

“Gradually, our guys improved, gained confidence and second year lads could say to the new lad the following year; ‘it’s not as hard as you might think.’

“When Steve Dent won a stage in the Sint-Martinusprijs Kontich it showed we weren’t just there to make up the numbers – and that’s what we tell the lads in our pre-race talks.

“It’s a bit random though, our first time at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne we had a top 12 placing – but since then they don’t even answer my emails.

“But the guys at the Sint-Martinusprijs love having us in the race every year.”

What’s in it for you, Craig?

“I enjoy it, seeing guys moving up – sometimes you wonder why you do it then we get a wee gem of a rider and it renews the sparkle.”

Craig Grieve
Craig Grieve and Alex Dent (in yellow), at the Junior Tour of the Kingdom last season. Photo©Scottish Cycling

How do you select riders for the team?

“Every September we put an announcement up on FaceBook that we’re inviting applications.

“Then we have a selection camp of 14/15 guys which we narrow down to eight or nine.

“This year there have been less applications but the quality has been very high – the cream of the crop.”

New recruits for 2020?

“Murray Lawson, the lad who was fastest up Falkland in the national champs but didn’t get the title.

“One of the time trials we have at our selection camps is up Purrinden and he absolutely ripped everyone to shreds – so I wasn’t surprised by the national result.

Oscar Onley stays with us but we’ll be sharing him with AG2R.

“Aaron King stays with us too; he was seventh on a stage in the Sint-Martinusprijs and top 20 on GC, he’s really suited to that Belgian school of racing.

“Adam Mitchell was on the GC podium at the Kingdom Classic, our two stage junior race in Fife.

“Callum Thornley was originally an MTB man but has come across to the road.

“And we have a couple of lads who’ve come over from Edinburgh Road Club, Alex Gibb and Ross Birrell.”

Have there been many disappointments in recruitment over the years?

“All ones that I started, despite my gut instinct, ones that fizzled out after folk telling me how great they were – but not seeing it myself.

“But I’d rather look at successful guys like Fraser Martin, Finn Crockett, Logan McLean, Joe Reilly…”

The biggest successes?

Mark Stewart, Jack Carlin and Stuart Balfour.

“Stuart’s progress has been steady, not spectacular – but getting that wee bit better each year to where he is now; enlivening the World Championships.”

Craig Grieve
The Spokes team car is a familiar sight at races around the UK and continental Europe. Photo©Ed Hood

Where does the money come from to pay for all the trips?

“We have an annual dinner which raises a good sum and our sponsors are fantastic with us – Verge clothing for example give us some £5,500 worth of clothing.

Kingdom Gas, the Bell Group, First Choice Mortgages, Carrs Flour and Chrystal Petroleum all come with cash for us.

“Usually there will be someone in management who’s into the sport or has friends who are.

“My method of obtaining sponsorship?

“Go out and grovel!”

What does 2020 hold?

“We have a little bit bigger squad for next year; the season is longer with the Philippe Gilbert Classic moved back to October…

“By the time the Tour of Wales comes around in August some of the lads are getting tired with all the travel to and from races, so we decided we’d like a wee bit bigger pool.”

Your opinions on juniors riding ‘mega machines’ – should there be restrictions on spend/level of equipment?

“We have this discussion every year but what can you do?

“Albeit Youths are restricted from deep section rims and Ultegra is the highest level of equipment we have our guys ride.

“The worst thing that happened to time trialling was the introduction of the specialist time trial bike costing from £5,000 upwards – kids think that if they don’t have one then they can’t be competitive.

“On the subject of restrictions, we’ve heard that the French Federation have lifted junior gear restrictions; it used to be 52 x 14 but now a junior can ride 53 x 11 if they chose to.

“We’ll have to take separate transmissions with us with dedicated chains and cassettes or we’ll end up with chains not meshing and hassle.

“And before we finish our chat Ed, can I just say a big ‘thank you’ to our great helpers without whom it couldn’t happen; Blair Whiteside, Andrew Duncan, Dave Chapman, Stuart Munro, Andy Mitchell, Peter Kneeshaw, Paul Sinnot and Keith McCrae – they’ve all given invaluable help to the team.”

VeloVeritas would like to thank Craig for his time and what he does for the sport of cycling, particularly in Scotland.

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

Ollie Robinson – a Great Start to 2020 in Belgium

It’s that time of the year again; when young men cross the North Sea to the Flatlands, full of dreams of pro contracts, flowers and kisses from pretty podium girls. It doesn’t always work out like that for all of them but one young English rider has made a very strong start to 2020 with excellent early results; young Mr. Ollie Robinson.

Douglas Dewey – “I have to start proving I can make it”

It was back in the spring when we last spoke to Douglas Dewey; he’d just won Gent-Staden, the first big race on the Belgian amateur calendar. Since then he’s ridden a very varied programme, including stage races in France and Belgium, hard fought kermises, a silver medal in the British Elite TT Championships and bronze in the British Pursuit Championship.

Robert Hassan – Looking Forward to the Next Premier

A third place in last Sunday's Drummond Trophy alerted us to 18 year old Robert Hassan's form, so we thought we better have a word. His dad introduced him to cycling five years ago, initially mountain biking, and has mentored him ever since then, with Robert getting more into the road scene as he turned Junior a couple of years ago...

Dylan Westley – Developing as a Rider and a Person with Equipo Lizarte

Stepping up from the Junior ranks to compete in the u23 category is a big deal for any young rider, but to combine it with moving to a new team as well as living away from home in a different country takes courage and a rock-solid belief in your ability - qualities talented 18-year-old Yorkshireman Dylan Westley has in spades.

Paul Double – 2nd in the Giro di Romagna

With so many tales of broken promises, teams folding and disillusioned young men heading home to Blighty from Europe, it’s good to tell a story where it all comes together and there’s a podium involved. Paul Double has been on our radar for a while, first as a ‘Zappi Man,’ a CTT Hill Climb medallist, riding for one of Italy’s top u23 teams – the mighty Colpack Ballan – then last year back as a ‘Zappi Man.’

Jacob Hennessy – Mitchelton-BikeExchange is home for season 2018

You ride your first race in March 2015 and by 2017 you’ve won the U23 Gent-Wevelgem. Promising? Yes, that’s what we thought. Jacob Hennessy is only 21 years-old and has left the shelter of the British Cycling plans and programmes for the rough and tumble of the Continental Teams and the UCi Asia Tour. Mitchelton-BikeExchange is his home for season 2018.

At Random

Michael Nicholson – “I’m pretty low maintenance”

Scotland’s Michael Nicholson was in fine form for the four stage Tour of the North, held over the Easter weekend in Ireland. He took eighth in the stage one prologue, seventh on stage two, won stage three and was 11th on stage four to give him a final second on GC behind Velo Veritas regular, James Moss (Node4-Giordana).

Michael Mørkøv – It’s time to stop calling him a “Six Day Star”

The last time we spoke to Danish six day star Michael Mørkøv was back in June after he’d pulled off a brilliant but unexpected win in the Danish Elite Road race Championships for his Saxo-Tinkoff team. And he’s done it again – this time taking a beautiful stage win in the Vuelta, out sprinting the entire peloton to win Stage Six on the day when Tony Martin (QuickStep & Germany) came close to pulling off what would have been one of the all time great Grand Tour stage wins.

Michael Mørkøv – From the Tour to the Olympic Track

One of the men who enlivened the race amidst what was a pretty dull GC battle in this year’s Tour de France was Saxo Bank –Tinkoff Bank rider, Michael Mørkøv. The Dane wore the leaders’ jersey for the king of the mountains during the first week and was in the breakaway more than 800 kilometres during le Tour.

Coming Close in Merelbeke

Best part of 200 riders, good crowds, the music playing, the beer flowing and the kermesse burgers cooking... all the elements of a typical kermesse here in Merelbeke, Belgium. I made the point of being on the front from the start here, knowing like usual it would explode from the off and not wanting to be caught too far back when it did. Not long into the frist lap and I found myself in the first move off the front but this was to be pulled back only a few kms later. After a few laps in the bunch I thought it was time to try again...

The Time Capsule: Colby Pearce – An American Team in the Six Days

The experienced American rider Colby Pearce was one of the guys looked after by Kris, Martin and Ed at some of this winters' Six Days, including the recent event at the Ballerup Stadium in Copenhagen. Having raced at elite level on the track at the Olympics, at World Cups and in the World Championships, as well as being a National Champion 14 times and holder of the US Hour Record (50.191), together with a spell working as the US Track Coach, Colby had seen most of what track cycling had to offer. One element was missing though: Six Day Racing...

John Archibald – on breaking the Scottish 10 Mile Time Trial record

It’s hard to believe that since I started cycling in 1971 nearly four minutes have been hacked off the Scottish 10 mile time trial record; when I started it stood at 22 minutes and 14 seconds: 1971  P.Templeton  (Dundee Thistle R.C.)  22 mins 14 secs. It now stands at 18 minutes and 38 seconds thanks to that man John Archibald (Pro Vision) - a time he achieved this morning on the fast dual carriageway tarmac beside the River Clyde at Westferry.