It’s in every young road cyclist’s dream – the same scene: standing in the start chute with the speakers blaring and the announcer hyping the crowds, surrounded by the biggest stars in the sport, awaiting the gun, ready to set off on your home race on familiar roads with familiar faces appearing in the crowds cheering you on.
With the Tour of Britain beginning in a few days, the UK’s newest UCI Continental team SwiftCarbon Pro Cycling has announced the line-up of six riders, whose dreams will come true in Penzance on the 5th of September. They’ll be up against powerful teams like Team Ineos, UAE and Deceuninck - Quick Step and the biggest stars in cycling – Mark Cavendish, Julian Alaphilippe and Wout van Aert.
Reporting for duty are Will Bjergfelt, Ross Lamb, Chris Latham, Ollie Peckover, Alex Peters and Andy Turner, each with a remarkable story to tell. In the cars, as directeur sportifs, we’ll see team founder Paul Lamb and rider Pete Williams (more about this later).
Lamb took the team to the 2021 Volta a Portugal – 11 days of fierce racing and equally brutal heat was a baptism of fire for the UK riders. “Due to the lack of racing over the last 15 months, caused by the pandemic, the pool of riders available on form and race-ready was significantly reduced. That said, the squad chosen have all earned their place on merit and have all got recent stage race form, gained from the Volta.” Each of the riders (as with all bike racers) has an interesting story to tell of their journey to the start line.
Williams has completed 11 Tour of Britain events on a bike and this’ll be his first in the car, directing tactics and supporting the riders during the race. While he’s still registered as a rider, his wealth of experience will be invaluable, plus there’s a certain level of kinsmanship that younger DSs have with the riders. “I’ve raced the Tour of Britain in all but one of the last 12 editions so it’s fair to say I’ve got some experience at the race. The last 5 or so years I’ve taken on more of a leadership role within teams and acting as a DS seems like a natural progression and is something I enjoy doing, supporting other people achieve their ambitions and trying to bring a group together to work towards a common goal. Being a DS is a role I know I’d be well suited to and I’m excited to build my experience in this area,” says Williams. “But I haven’t completely ruled out a return to racing so we’ll wait and see what the future will hold.”
Bjergfelt made history as the only para-cyclist to compete at the Volta a Portugal. The 43 year old was an elite level mountain biker, competing at World Cups, before a fateful training ride in 2015. He broke his left femur, right fibula and tibia and pelvis and had a brain bleed. After a week in intensive care then four further weeks in hospital, he returned to the sport, on the road. “It took two years to get enough strength back to be competitive again.” His injuries meant he qualified as a para-cyclist, and he won his first national TT title in 2017 and represented Team GB at world level on the track and road. “Riding for a UCI Conti Team has been a huge benefit to me racing at this level – I love being part of the squad and I get to play out being my own version of a Jens Voight for the team as a strong domestique, helping the lads progress and the team gets results.”
Turner put in a surprise performance at the recent Volta a Portugal. The crafty Welshman got himself into a break and was caught with only 1.5km to the finish. “I was gutted, but also very pleased that I got myself into a position where I was fighting for a potential win at a UCI 2.1 race. I think the ride on Stage 3 of the Volta made quite a difference and contributed to my selection for ToB and gave me a massive confidence boost. I know I can get myself into that position again and hopefully next time the payoff will be big,” says Turner. “My role at the race will be sniffing out those breakaways. And if I don’t get away on a stage then helping the team as best I can… fetching bottles/food when needed.”
Ross Lamb (no relation to founder Paul) is a one-day specialist suited to Belgian-style racing who has turned his hand to multiday events. But his first sporting ambitions were more Wembley than WorldTour. “My mind was set on being a footballer. I didn’t know anything other than football for a long time. I played centre forward for Notts County – I scored two goals in my first game for them. Cycling was just a hobby and background sport. I started road cycling in 2012 with Mansfield Road Club and won my first cycling race at the North Midlands Road Race League. 2014 was my last year of playing football, and by then I was spending more time on the bike doing a few races. I joined Beeston Road Club in 2015 and won East Midlands Road Race League, then went racing in Belgium for a couple of weeks – that’s when I started to take cycling seriously. 2016 was my first year at having a ‘proper go’ at cycling; I joined a brand new team, the Bryan Steel Academy.” Since that first race, Lamb has developed into an extremely versatile rider, one who can climb, sprint and can act as a top domestique when he is required to. His briefings at the Tour of Britain will include getting breaks and supporting the team’s GC rider Alex Peters.
Latham is another tough, one-day specialist who can mix it up in a big bunch sprint, proven by his track cred. As a former national team pursuit champion, podium finisher at Six Days of London and bronze medallist at the UCI World Championships in the scratch race, there’s no doubting his world-class pedigree, canny tactical ability and lethal punch when it counts. His versatility, insight and pure brute strength will be invaluable to the team’s stage and GC hopes.
Peckover was national level swimmer until the age of 14 till he tagged along to watch his older brother James who had been invited to a Regional training event by East Midlands Coach Rob Sharman. He liked what he saw, borrowed a bike, and joined Nottingham Clarion the next week. From there he was hooked, and picked up a silver medal at the 2013 U16 National Circuit Championships. As a junior, he raced in one-day and stage race events in Belgium, Spain, Poland, France and Germany, excelling in individual time-trail stages. “Ollie first rode for me in 2018 [for Paul Lamb’s previous team]. That year he came second in the global Zwift Academy competition for a place on a world tour team. With the help of a new coach, has transformed himself into one of the best young riders in the country in road racing and time trialling,” says Lamb. Joining SwiftCarbon Pro Cycling in 2021, Peckover has already produced some top early season results, breaking TT course records, and grabbing a handful of podiums, before being selected to race at the Volta a Portugal. “The intensity of that race has primed his talent, and we are expecting a great performance from Ollie at the ToB where no doubt he will be looking to get into breaks and lead the team in the TTT.”
Peters is a highly talented rider who, at under-23 level, won just about everything on the UK road circuit there was to win. A stint at Team Sky and a 12th place finish on overall GC in the Tour of Britain in 2015 was followed by three years away from the sport. Now Alex is back and more committed to racing his bike than ever before. Lamb says, “Although specialising as a climber, Peters’ characteristics are well-suited to the 2021 course, which makes him the obvious choice as the team’s protected rider. His recent win at the Ryedale Grand Prix show that the form is right there where it needs to be to compete with the world’s best.”
We look forward to seeing the team perform in the race of their lives. Keep an eye out for them. They’ll be they’ll be on their Ultravox, Hypervox and Racevox bikes in the road stages bikes in the team time trial on Neurogens.