Scottish Team Make UCI Senior Debut
EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND MARCH 2022 - In May 2022 The Cycling Academy will become the first Scottish development team to compete at senior UCI level in the modern era. The Cycling Academy will take a 6 man squad to the Grand Prix Herning and Tour of Fyn, UCI 1.2 races in Denmark. The team's appearance will mark 28 years since Scottish rider Brian Smith, won the Grand Prix Herning when competing for the Motorola team.
Former Pro Rider, and The Cycling Academy's Director of Sport, James McCallum noted "These races put down an important marker in our road map to develop world-class male road cyclists from Scotland. The last team from Scotland to compete at this level was the Pro-Continental team, Endura, 12 years ago. The Cycling Academy is an amateur development team so this will be a big step up for the boys."
Peter Ellen MD of The Cycling Academy notes "We remain committed to a long term plan to develop an alumni of top-level male road races from Scotland. An important component of that is providing riders experience of European racing. Last year the pandemic scuppered our plans, but in 2022 the Grand Prix Herning will be our European debut. We also have big European races coming up for our Junior squad which we will reveal shortly."
Back in 1994 Brian Smith, Pathway Director of the Cycling Academy, was preparing to ride the Giro, when his team sent him to The Grand Prix Herning.
"One of my main focuses for the year was to ride a grand tour. There are three grand tours in cycling; Tour de France, Giro d’Italia (Italy) and La Vuelta (Spain). I was on the shortlist for the Giro. The main preparation race for the Giro was the Tour of Romandie in Switzerland. I had never gained selection for this race and was worried that my dream of the Giro was disappearing. I was determined not to give up trying. When Romandie was going on, the team organised a race in Denmark for two of us to ride. Motorola was an international company with demands in many countries. Denmark must have been one of those countries as Norman Alvis and I arrived in Copenhagen. Norman was one of the few American riders on the team who had been given an opportunity to race in Europe as part of the team’s strategy. We were collected at the airport by the organisation and were taken to Herning where we would ride the GP Herning in a couple of days’ time. On the drive to Herning across the flat countryside with drizzly rain, the thoughts of that early season race entered my head. The thoughts then came out my mouth and I told the driver that I didn’t know why I was there as I was concentrating on the Giro and I was supposed to be a climber and not suited to the flat lands. The driver was very nice and offered to take us out on the course the following day. The next day we hit the road with our Danish tour guide. I was a wee bit premature when I said hit the ‘road’ as we were riding on gravel tracks. I soon found out that not only was that race completely flat, it had many gravel sections. Both Norman Alvis and our tour guide got excited when we hit each section but I just let them ride off, shaking my head.
On Race day there were a lot of excited riders on the start line. Many professional races start with some sort of control but, when you mix in plenty of amateur riders, it’s chaos. I think this chaos kick-started my adrenaline as I soon got stuck in and didn’t think about the flat roads, wind, rain and gravel.
At one stage I got myself in a small group off the front. We were taken the wrong way and had to chase to get back to the peloton. Wind was strong as always in Denmark, and the only way to stay safe was to ride near the front, so that's what I did. Just before we came back into Herning for a couple of finishing circuits I managed to get in the leading group. I wasn’t too sure about many of the riders. They looked strong but I didn’t take any chances and attacked the group. One other rider went with me. We got a good gap of over 30 seconds but he didn’t help that much. I slowed and tried to encourage him to the front. He went to the front but didn’t push the pace so I went again. This time he said to me…”I’m happy with second. Don’t attack me”. I’m always wary of situations like that but we didn’t have time to mess around. I rode most of the last lap at the front and then manoeuvred him to the front before the finish. With no hesitation he went to the front. With 200 metres to go I launched my sprint. With no reaction from my companion, I soon raised my hands up in victory. That was my first win of that year, my first for Motorola and the first win in Europe for Motorola.
After the presentation we were invited to a race organiser’s reception. We were welcomed at the reception, and our driver and tour guide made a speech in Danish to the attendees. At one stage he pointed at me and everyone looked around and laughed. What had I done? He then spoke in English and told us that he was the race organiser and had just told the room my story about “Why am I here?”, to then go on and win the race. He thought I was joking with him. But we now know the truth…. We were then taken to the local night club where we were treated like royalty. Looking back, I loved this race it was a pleasure to be there…I was just being your typical grumpy Scot, venting about missing Romandie."
One thing we can be sure of is there will be no night clubs for The Cycling Academy as the following day we're racing Tour of Fyn.
ABOUT THE CYCLING ACADEMY
In 2021 The Cycling Academy was founded by James McCallum and Peter Ellen, with the goal of developing an alumina of male World Tour Cyclists who can compete in top races such as the Tour de France. In 2022 England and Wales will field 27 male riders in the World Tour. Scotland's Brian Smith was the last Scottish developed rider at that level retiring 26 years ago.
WIth the help of an increasing group of partners The Cycling Academy has created a team and development program which focuses on training, race-craft, nutrition and high performance psychology. In mid 2021 Brian Smith joined as Pathway Director providing a direct link for riders and an unrivalled network in professional teams. The team's 2022 program has so far included resident camps in Dunoon and central Scotland and weekly training covering skills and fitness. In 2022 The Cycling Academy will take on top British and European races at Junior, Under 23 and Senior level.
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