Flat out to underline credentials on world circuit
A BRITISH-BASED team are hoping to enhance their growing reputation when the Tour de Yorkshire hits the county's roads in 15 days' time.
One-Pro, part-owned by former Test cricketer Matt Prior, are in the second season of a five-year plan to break into the world’s elite.
Currently holding a UCI Professional Continental licence, they are aiming for World Tour status by 2020 and a strong performance in Yorkshire would be another step towards that.
The team, which includes Skipton-based Pete Williams, are currently racing in Belgium, but head sports director Matt Winston said the second edition of Yorkshire’s own race is a major target.
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Winston joined One-Pro as a founder member of staff two years ago, after working for British Cycling as their Olympic development coach.
“I was DS (directeur sportif) for One-Pro on the Tour de Yorkshire last year,” recalled Winston.
“I was also around when the Tour de France was in Yorkshire a couple of years ago.
“I spent a couple of days working with one of the World Tour teams, so I have been around it and I’ve really enjoyed watching it grow.
“I am from just across the border in Mossley and I used to do a lot of riding around Holmfirth, so it is almost a home race for me.
“At One-Pro, we have stepped up from being a British team racing in Britain to being a British-based team that races all over the world, so a main target for us are the races in Britain – the Tour of Britain and Tour de Yorkshire.”
The fledgling event gives British riders an extra opportunity to compete, in front of big crowds, on home roads.
The first edition, 12 months ago, attracted more than a million spectators and Winston said this adds to the sense of anticipation.
“Our British riders compete a lot on the roads in Europe, so they are excited to come back and race in the UK,” he continued.
“It is where they have grown up and they feel better racing on home roads, you can’t beat it. It’s something we are all looking forward to.”
One-Pro’s line-up for the race has yet to be confirmed, but Winston stressed they will be going all guns blazing.
“We are hoping to field our strongest team,” he added.
“We have got a very busy couple of weeks in terms of racing, we will be flat-out, but as long as we don’t get injuries or illness we will have our strongest team there and we will be going full gas.”
The difficulty of last year’s inaugural edition shocked some of the continental teams.
This year is supposedly slightly easier, but with a nasty twist in the tail on the final day from Middlesbrough to Scarborough.
The race starts in Beverley on Friday, April 29, with a stage to Settle. Day two takes in a route from Otley to Doncaster.
Assessing this year’s course, Winston said: “It is an interesting one. The roads around there are fairly wearing, even on a flat day, with minimal climbing, you feel it in your legs. They will definitely be wearing down days.
“Stage one, people say it is not that hard, but potentially it is.
“It is not a walk in the park. Stage one last year was pretty brutal and it caught a lot of people by surprise.
“This year’s isn’t as brutal, but it could still catch a few out.
“Day two, I would imagine, will be a full-gas bunch sprint, but day three is typical Yorkshire, a really hard day out on the bike,.
“It is going to be a hard three days and it is hard to recover when you are doing three days on the bounce on heavy roads.
“It is going to make for some interesting racing.”
Williams is One-Pro’s best hope to pick intermediate points and get into breakaways, but Winston tipped New Zealander Dion Smith, 22, as someone to watch for in the general classification and the future.
“He is progressing pretty well at the moment,” said Winston.
“He has got a busy schedule coming up, but if he gets through the next couple of weeks okay he will be in Yorkshire and, hopefully, he will be there or thereabouts when the race splits.
“In terms of other British guys, Richard Handley was in the top-10 last year when he was with the JLT Condor team and Chris Opie is our sprinter, so stage two is for him.
“The Tour de Yorkshire is a massive target for us and we are hoping to be fully competitive in the race.”