Many of us would like the pro lifestyle, travelling to far flung places, riding the best bikes, wearing the latest kit and racing in front of huge crowds. Unfortunately for many this is just a dream. However ONE Pro Cycling have allowed their members a taste of this dream through their member rides and Sigma Sports were lucky enough to join the team for their latest ride in Surrey!
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The day dawned and from Sigma Sports HQ I had a 16km spin over to the start of the ride at the Foxhills Country Club. After getting slightly lost and having to ride the whole way into a nasty headwind I finally arrived in the grounds and was welcomed by a long driveway leading up to the clubhouse.
Reaching the clubhouse I spotted the large ONE Pro Cycling team bus, a fleet of team issue Cervelo S5s and Keith Hicks, the team mechanic, busily preparing the machines and pumping up the Continental tyres, ready for the morning’s ride.
Bike parked I ventured into the club house where I was met by ex-England cricket star and co-owner, Matt Prior, the chairman and co-owner, Simon Chappell, race team manager, Becky Frewing and sports director, Matt Winston.
The lucky members were already assembled in the adjoining room and were enjoying a beverage ahead of the 11am roll out.
Before the ride ONE Pro cycling Chairman and co-owner, Simon Chappell explined that this ride was an opportunity for their southern members to have a chance to experience the pro treatment, following their innaugural member ride in Yorkshire earlier in the year. Simon then went onto explain the ethos behind ONE Pro Cycling, explaining; "One of the dreams when we set up ONE Pro Cycling was to make it a team that all the fans could get in involved in, and what better way than to get out on our bikes."
Time to ride and we were joined by ONE Pro Cycling riders Jon Mould, George Harper and Yanto Barker. All three were down to ride Sunday’s Ride London Surrey 100 race. Matt Winston and Matt Prior gave a brief run through of the plan for the morning and announced that they have applied for a UCI Pro Continental licence for the 2016 season.
The riders were clearly excited about this news, as we discovered when we spoke to Yanto Barker: "I think it's a fantastic opportunity for all the riders. I think it signifies the intent of the management of the team, Matt and Simon, and I also think it represents the significant achievement for a UK based team to stay UK based and ride at that Pro-Conti level, reducing the gap from Sky to continental teams."
Ready to roll and around a dozen excited ONE Pro members clipped in and headed out of the grounds for the 58km loop round the lanes around Windsor.
From the outset we were looking like a well drilled unit as we tapped along at a relaxed 27km/h, allowing people to chat to one another and the ONE Pro Cycling riders. As well as the pro riders, the two Matts and Simon Chappell had also donned their ONE Pro Cycling kit and saddled up for the ride.
Giving us a taste of the pro team experience, a fully stickered up ONE Pro Cycling Audi sat at the back of the group, ready to provide support should we need it.
The wind was pretty strong but the sun was out and spirits were high. There was a real buzz in the air. Riding with top British pros is something many of us had only dreamt of.
With a few rolling hills to test the legs the pace soon started to rise. At 11 kilometres to go we hit Priest Hill. The climb is just over 1 kilometre long, with a 5% average gradient. Last year's British Elite Road Series winner, Yanto Barker was on the front and it was no surprise that the group splintered as some riders pushed on, while others took the climb at a more leisurely pace.
Regrouping at the top there were a lot of out of breath riders but all clearly had enjoyed the climb. Matt Prior explained we were going to split the group in two for the last 10 kilometres, with a faster and slower group.
Setting off in the faster group the buzz of riding with the pros was definitely adding motivation as most of the original group had opted for sitting on the fast ONE Pro train back to Foxhills.
Coming into the last kilometre and with an undulating road attacks started to come the pace rose yet again as we approached the Foxhill sign.
Rolling into the entrance, the group knew they’d had a workout but from the beaming smiles you could tell everyone had thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
Tierney Maude, the team soigneur greeted us with tasty recovery drinks and the team, staff and members gathered round as Matt Prior thanked everyone for their support and the fantastic ride.
Spinning back to Sigma Sports HQ I’d had a fantastic time, met some new people, had a chat to the team and was treated like a pro. What more do you need?
Giving the members access to the team on events such as this really ties into their hashtag and ethos that the riders and members are all part of #ONEteam and after this ride I couldn’t agree more.
For information on how to become a ONE Pro Cycling member click here