Following last week’s launch of the 2014 Raleigh squad, Brendan Gallagher caught up with the lady at the helm, Cherie Pridham, to find out the plan for the season ahead for the team of the famous heron.

RUNNING a professional cycling team is hard enough task under any circumstances but when that team carries the iconic name of Raleigh it’s potentially that much more difficult. Then factor in the fact that the individual taking charge in such a macho world is a demure lady and you have an interesting sporting dynamic, to say the least. Cherie Pridham is the lady concerned and having proved herself more than up to the task she is full of hope for the 2014 season.

“It is a man’s world and you have to know how to operate in a man’s world,” concedes Pridham who has been the team manager for three years now. “It’s a challenge but nothing that worries me at all. they are all athletes and athletes in my experience need to be treated in the same way. As a woman manager you definitely have to earn respect in the peloton, to a certain extent its like a young untried rookie rider. But once you earn that respect you are treated as an absolute equal within the peloton.

“I’m loving the general manager role. I’ve always enjoyed working with young riders, I started with amateur teams and it was always an ambition of mine to work on the men’s Pro-Tour because of the challenge that represents. Raleigh have certainly given me that opportunity which I am grateful for and we can definitely take this project into a new phase. My ultimate ambition is to be in the car with this team riding a three week Grand Tour.

 “The role is pretty multi-dimensional. There is a large operational and logistical element dealing with the riders and sponsors and making sure the nitty gritty of race invitations and entry forms and so on is dealt with properly but that’s just the basics really. We are still a relatively small team and there is a hundred and one things to do and I’m still in the car on race day.”

Within the professional cycling peloton the Raleigh name is best know for the powerful TI-Raleigh team (pictured below), essentially a Dutch run out-fit, which made a huge impact for the best part of a decade between 1974 and 1983 during which time the won 56 stages at the Tour de France where they were nigh on unbeatable in Team Time Trials. 

Among the all-star roster of riders included Joop Zoetemelk who won the 1980 Tour de France with the team, one day specialist and former world champion Jan Raas, Hennie Kuiper who finished second in the 1977 and a succession of slightly lesser lights who were super rider in their own right such as Cees Priem, Johan van der Velde, Roy Schuiten, Gerben Karstens, Dietrich Thurau, Frank Hoste, Peter Winnen, Ludo Peeters and Gerrie Knetemann. The frame-building throughout this period was overseen by Jan le Grand at Raleigh’s famous SBDU workshop in Ilkeston, ten miles to the east of Derby where Alan Oakley famously developed the Raleigh Chopper.

 

“The affection many of the fans have for the Raleigh name on the Continent is phenomenal, it still makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck,” continues Pridham. “The name alone is a huge motivator for this team and our retro jerseys narking back to the 80s have gone down a storm. I’ve has so many opposition team mangers drive up to me in the car over the last few weeks to say how much they love our kit. I think it takes them back to their youth when they first started following the sport.

“I’ve had the general public just coming up and wishing us well and one gentleman in France last week was in tears as he recounted his memories of the old Raleigh team. You do sometimes have to take a step back to appreciate just how iconic the Raleigh brand is, you have to pinch yourself.  There is so much good will out there. Stephen Roche dropped in on our recent launch just because he wishes us well really and wanted to show his support for what we are doing.

 

“We want to represent the colours and jersey as well as we can at the highest level and our long term mission is to get back to the glory days. Nobody should doubt that. It’s a process and in many ways we have had to take a sideways step at this juncture to streamline and reduce a little and focus on specific targets to move forward to the next level. Make no mistake though we are aiming to attain Pro Continental status and then beyond.

“I like to think some people are taking note of how serious we are in trying to move the team forward and we have been delighted that Bernard Hinault has come on board as our Patron, it is an absolute honour to have him involved. Obviously he is a busy man with ASO but he will be there to offer direction and advice when we come to making big decisions on our journey and of course he know everybody in the sport which can be a help.

“The Tour de Normandie at the end of March will be a big race for us again this season after Alex [Blain] missed out on GC by three seconds last season when he also took two stage wins. We would love to go one better this time but it is also important that we never forget that we are first and foremost a British team and our priority is to support the British circuit at all times.

“Some of our riders have more than one target this season. Mark Christian must have a good chance of getting selected for the Isle of Man on the road and even the track for the Commonwealth Games and [Evan] Oliphant will want to be riding for Scotland as well. Joe Perrett and George Atkinson could feature as well for England, they are young riders with big ambitions, so we could find ourselves very short on the ground come late July. I won’t mind that all if those concerned are fulfilling personal ambitions.”

As well as Hinault lending his support the persuasive Pridham has managed to enlist the support of Debry County’s progressive CEO John Vicars and throughout the season the club’s emblem – the Derby Ram – will be displayed on the team jersey and on the team cars.

“I am a big cycling fan and get out a couple of times a week but the main link that Derby County are a very community based football club and we like to be involved with the different projects and sports that our supporters are also interested in,” explains Vicars. “Cycling is becoming very big here, our new velodrome is nearly complete and the City Council has given consent for an outdoor cycling track.  With that in the background, I met with Cherie a few months ago and was impressed with her enthusiasm and passion and Raleigh’s plans for the future even though like us they are an old brand. We are celebrating our 130th anniversary and Raleigh are celebrating their 125th anniversary.

“Derby is clearly my priority but I am here to offer and advice and help I can and obviously I have a pretty full contacts book with commercial leads that might prove useful for the team. In the meantime I have had the extraordinary experience of meeting Bernard Hinault and Stephen roche at the launch and am looking forward to a couple of spells in a team car during the season and if we could secure an invite to The Tour of Britain that would be huge for us as well.”

Team Raleigh 2014 Team roster

Yanto Barker (GBR): Experienced Welsh rider who joins from UK Team Youth. Third in 2005 British Nationals and a top ten finish at the 2006 Tour of Britain

Ian Wilkinson (GBR): Very strong rider who won the eary season Rutland-Melton Classic lst year

Morgan Kneisky (FRA): Huge all-round talent and current World Madison champion. His blistering speed looks suited to The Pearl Izumi Tour Series (pictured below in white)

 

Matthieu Boulo (FRA): Finished second in the French National Cyclo-Cross season and now wants to concentrate on the road and becoming a GC rider.

Liam Stones (GBR): Strong results in The Pearl Izumi Tour Series and IG Markets London Nocturne earned this sprinter and criterium specialist a contract with Raleigh.

Joe Perrett (GBR): A former European and British junior time-trial champion as well as winner of the Ryedale Grand Prix round of the 2013 Premier Calendar.

Evan Oliphant (GBR): Starts his third season with Team Raleigh having been ever-present since 2012. Winner of the Tour of the Reservoir in 2013

Mark Christian (GBR): Proud Manxman and product of the GB Olympic Academy. A big talent on the road and track.

Alexandre Blain (FRA): Classic specialist who will also be looking for a GC win at the Tour de Normandie

George Atkins (GBR): Former British Junior Road Champion, GB Academy member, 2013 British Madison Champion. National Criterium series winner

You can read more about Raleigh’s 2014 launch and see more images here.