Team Wiggins at the 2018 Tour of Britain
An Under 23 Team with Big Ambitions
It was a dreary, grey Tuesday morning and on the outskirts of Bristol town centre a water tower imposes itself over Clifton Downs, an expanse of greenery, set against the concrete jungle of this historic town. This was no ordinary morning though, as the green was awash with marquees and hoardings, the 2018 Tour of Britain had arrived, as had some of the world's leading cycling teams and some smaller players, looking to make a mark on this UCI Europe Tour Race.
Among the sea of team buses and grand tour winning superstars, three Skodas and a campervan sat, what these vehicles housed though were some of cycling's most promising under 23 riders and a team behind them of world-class quality. We'd be joining Team Wiggins for the third stage of the Tour of Britain.
Better late than never
When the 2018 Tour of Britain teams were announced earlier this year there was a noticeable name missing from the list. Having initially lost out to Aqua Blue Sport, a place opened up for Britain's national tour, after the Irish team announced they would be folding. With just six days before the riders set off from Pembrey Country Park, in Wales, Team Wiggins got the call and the young team found themselves shifting their race programme, away from a series of pro kermesses in Belgium to the Tour of Britain.
Who are Team Wiggins?
Backed by one of Britain's most decorated sportsmen, Team Wiggins was founded in 2015 and initially saw Brad race for the British based UCI Continental team before hanging up his racing wheels. Since then the team has evolved into an under 23 team, designed to nurture and bring young talent on, with the aim to develop riders and get them ready for the rough and tumble world of professional racing.
Amongst the list of stars to have gone through Team Wiggins' programme and onto WorldTour teams are the likes of Owain Doull (Team Sky) and Scott Davies (Team Dimension Data). With hot prospects, Gabz Cullaigh and cyclocross and time trial world champion, Tom Pidcock, currently on their roster, the management are clearly doing something right.
We are fortunate to get the chance to meet and work with many cycling teams, yet arriving and being welcomed by director sportif, Simon Cope, and his staff we realised quite quickly this was a completely different setup. Professional, yes, stressed or feeling the pressure, definitely not. There was a friendly, even some would say family feel to the team, with soigneurs taking sandwich orders and riders larking about out of the windows on the campervan. It was refreshing but also did not take away from the professionalism of the team, these guys weren't here just to make up the numbers, as the previous stages had proved.
The Race So Far
Only three stages in and the riders had already stamped their authority on the 2018 edition of the race, mixing it up in breakaways, picking up a top-five finish and currently leading the Eisberg Sprints Jersey. With some of the hardest stages yet to come the team were both realistic but also excited about the prospect of picking up further accolades as the race headed towards the finish in London.
We spoke to Simon Cope, a former British Cycling coach and a man who has worked with some of cycling's biggest names, ahead of the 11:30am rollout from Ladies Mile. Cope explained that due to the short notice only one DS and one car would be present in the race convoy and although the team were looking to be active, the overall win was off the cards. Keeping expectations realistic, the team are run on a fraction of the budget of WorldTour teams, relying on key sponsors such as Le Col, Pinarello, SRAM and Zipp to help support their calendar.
The Third Stage
The skies had opened and the rain had begun to fall as the team was presented to the crowd. Losing Joey Walker after a nasty crash the previous day, the team were down to five riders. Talking to the team's designated sprinter before the stage, Gabz Cullaigh explained the plan for the day was to go for the sprint and try and get Tom Pidcock into the top ten on the general classification. With Irishman, Matthew Teggart, leading the sprints classification, the team were also looking to hold onto the red Eisberg jersey. A packed stage lay ahead, and although relatively short, at 127 kilometres, with the climb of Cheddar Gorge and a constantly undulating profile meant this was going to be no walk in the park.
The Race is On
The flag dropped and after a four kilometre neutralised zone, the race was on. Full gas from the gun, the attacks were flying, as teams looked to get riders in the moves. It wasn't just the pace that was heating up though. The race had barely begun when Tom Pidcock came onto the race radio, asking his teammates if they too were heating up. Dropping back to the car, Tom threw his gilet through the window and sped back up towards the back of the peloton.
Life in the Convoy
As the speed and terrain took its toll on the race, riders could be seen slipping off the back of the bunch. Sitting tight, the Wiggins boys were looking comfortable though. Calling up the car, which was sitting 14th in the convoy, to pick up bottles and energy gels. The soigneurs were hard at work on the side of the road, trying to find a rise, where the riders wouldn't be moving at such a pace, it was a tough ask.
Making their way through the infamous Cheddar Gorge, the riders began their journey back towards Bristol. With former world time trial champion, Tony Martin, and a distinguished break forming there was no let up in the pace. Coming into the sharp end of the race and the WorldTour teams were starting to flex their muscles, with QuickStep driving the peloton towards the penultimate climb. After an attack from Gaviria was nullified, Team Wiggins' Tom Pidcock struck out, instantly opening a gap on his fellow riders. The youngest rider in the race had flown the nest but this attack was shortlived as the likes of BMC and EF Drapac p/b Cannondale began winding things up for a sprint.
A Fast Finish
A diminished bunch came roaring into the finish, with Luxembourg national champion, Bob Jungels, leading out Tour de France KOM winner, Julian Alaphillipe for an emphatic win, beating BMC Racing's Paddy Bevin and ONE Pro Cycling's Emīls Liepiņš on the line. Team Wiggins finished strongly, with Tom Pidcock sprinting in for 17th place and Matthew Teggart retaining the Eisberg Sprints jersey.
Back to the bus and as recovery drinks were being consumed and riders began warming down on their Elite trainers, the staff were busy packing up bikes and getting ready for the transfer to Nuneaton for the fourth stage. Like a well-oiled machine, the team were ready to depart just as Matthew Teggart returned from the podium presentation with a bouquet of flowers.
With plenty more racing ahead and some exciting young future WorldTour riders in their midst, Team Wiggins are proving time and time again how they can mix it up with the world's best. We wish all the riders and the team the best for the remainder of the Tour and season.