The Pearl Izumi Tour Series launch last month marked one of the first public appearances for the new Team WIGGINS. Brendan Gallagher caught up with Team Manager Simon Cope at the event to look ahead to the team’s upcoming racing debut.

TEAM WIGGINS will roll into action next week at the demanding Tour of Normandie and a new adventure will get underway proper after a feverish winter getting the project together.

The big difference between Team WIGGINS and most new projects is that we won’t be able to judge its success until August next year, as their Director Sportif Simon Cope explains:

“In one way it’s complicated setting up a team from scratch but in another way it’s been very simple because the priority for this team is Rio 2016, ultimately nothing else matters. The objective is crystal clear.

“The reason we have come into being is simply to provide an environment which helps our riders bring home a Team Pursuit gold medal for Great Britain from the Rio Olympics.  So everything we do really is a matter of working back from that main aim and seeing how it all slots in.

“I will be liaising very closely with Heiko Salzwedel (Head of the GB Track endurance programme) and between us we will decided what the lads’ programme is. We will decide where they are in their preparation and whether they would benefit from a good hard stage race or a short sharp criterium or one of the Tour Series events.

“Team WIGGINS gives us the platform to provide what they need, pretty much when they need it. But we have to be flexible. Heiko might suddenly decide that he wants to take a couple of riders off for a track meeting – there are certainly a few meetings where there are Olympic Omnium qualifying points on offer that might come into play 

“It’s an on-going process and one of the useful parts of that process is that by the end of 2015 we will have a really good idea of exactly what is needed for the lads away from the track in the final run-in to Rio in 2016.” 

The Team WIGGINS roster is small but select and includes the rump of the GB endurance squad from the track with Steven Burke, Mark Christian, Jonathan Dibben, Owain Doull and Andrew Tennant all on board along with Wiggins who officially joins the team from Sky on 1 May.

That quintet is augmented by Scottish mountain biker and cyclo-cross champion Iain Paton, Daniel Patten (pictured left, being interviewed during iceBike*) and GB Olympic Academy member Michael Thompson while there are likely to be further signings.

Jointly funded by Sky and British Cycling, Team WIGGINS is certainly unusual – a road team that will ultimately be judged by its results on the track. The only vague parallel I can offer is the Halfords Bikehut team in in 2008 which was set up to provide a stable racing environment for Nicole Cooke and the rump of the GB women’s team ahead of the 2008 Olympics . But even that was a road racing team preparing one of the favourites for the Olympic road race. There was an obvious connection

A former National Circuit Race champion and twice the British National Derny champion to boot, the experienced Cope would seem the ideal man to serve as DS to Team WIGGINS.  He spent a long career on the road riding domestically with a plethora of tem in the Britain and the USA while after retiring he spent five years working with the GB Olympic Academy programme. He also worked as a DS with Wiggle Honda in their start up year in 2013 and with Madison Genesis last year.

“We are starting with the Tour of Normandie and we are very happy to receive an invitation to race there because it’s a tough quality event which a lot of teams want to race in. It’s a really good hard race, you don’t know whether you are going to get snow or sunshine some years, and its perfect for getting those hard racing miles in your legs. I wouldn’t deny for a minute that the Wiggins connection probably helped a little bit with that and other invitations.

“Brad won’t be riding for us before May 1, for him its Team Sky and Paris-Roubaix all the way until the end of April. He is certainly planning to ride in some domestic races with us in May which could well include a couple of Tour Series races but we haven’t inked any dates in yet. 

“To a certain extent it depends on him coming out of Paris Roubaix fit and healthy. Also of course if he went and won Paris Roubaix that would undoubtedly change his timetable a bit because there would be huge media and commercial demands on him for a few weeks and he would need to clear the decks and get them out of the way.

“I won’t be pestering Brad with phone calls or emails about which rounds of the Tour Series he wants to ride, he will let us known when it suits him. That’s the way it has to work. We are here to give Brad every chance of completing is final Olympic dream next year along with the rest of the lads. We are here at their disposal, facilitators if you like.” 

Team WIGGINS are hoping for a busy year taking in a number of domestic races, the Pearl Izumi Tour Series, the Tour of Yorkshire and Prudential RideLondon and during the course of the season they hope to earn a spot on the Friends Life Tour of Britain where it is not beyond the realms of possibility that Wiggins while ride.

“There is nothing to beat top quality racing in bringing on your condition and without prejudging the issue I would have thought Brad would be interested in riding one or two of those. It will depend a little bit on how his Hour project works out and when exactly he stages his attempt – we as a team are not involved in that, its a private venture by Brad – but after that he has got carte blanche really to race with us when suits.

“The Tour Series is an interesting one for us. It is very demanding and tough on the riders and as a small squad it’s going to be very challenging but with my coaching hat on I look at the demands of an hours racing like and it’s a really good work out for Pursuit riders.

“The power outputs in these races are really big. Let’s say there are an average of five or six corners per lap and you are jumping out of the corners an accelerating every time.  That’s not far off doing five or six standing starts per lap for an hour.  That’s a lot of standing starts and a lot quality work done in a very short time. It’s a demanding four or five weeks on the road and should also be very good for team building which is a big part of Team Pursuiting.” 

Cope straddles both the road and track world and although enjoying hugely the increasing number of British success on the road in recent years warns that as a nation GB must not take their eyes off the ball with their track programme and underestimate the continuing role it plays within the bigger sport in Britain.

“All sorts of very good things have happened in British cycling in the last 10-12 year but the end of the day, in my opinion anyway, we wouldn’t be where we are without the development of the incredible pool of talent that started first on the track. And with an eye to the road that particular means the Team Pursuit squads through the years – Brad, Geraint Thomas, Peter Kennaugh, Ben Swift, Ian Stannard – as well as those guys like Ed Clancy and Steven Burke who have stayed mainly on the track.

“For a starter the gold medals our track cyclist won helped earned the funding that has set so many British cyclists on their way at an elite level. We must not forget where it all started. Also we should never get complacent. We need another successful Games to carry on growing, you have to feed on it. The sporting environment in Britain is so crowded I’d that if you fall off just fall a bit you can lose momentum and public interest can dip. The Team Pursuit squad is always a massive investment for the future as well as the present.”