Former British road and track star Colin Sturgess will return to professional cycling in 2021 as a sports director for the Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling team. Sturgess was part of the Madison Genesis management until 2018, but he spent the last two years flipping between travelling, coaching and occasionally stepping in as a directeur sportif for a Continental team.
However, the move to Ribble, one of the biggest British-based teams in the UK, will see him link up with a talented roster on a full-time basis. Although complete rosters and race programmes have yet to be finalised, Cyclingnews spoke to Sturgess about his time off and his aims for 2021.
Cyclingnews: It’s been a couple of years since we last saw you behind the wheel of a British team. What have you been up to and what’s brought you back to the sport?
Colin Sturgess: I did the 2018 season with Madison Genesis and I was hoping that 2019 might throw something my way. I wasn’t entirely bothered and I’d traveled around Asia for six weeks backpacking, and got my head right, and got a feel for where I wanted to be going. A friend and I set up a small coaching company and the plan was to grow that at the end of 2019 and into this year but for obvious reasons this year has been a bit of a shit-storm.
I did some racing of my own, got back into the enjoyment of the sport because towards the end of Madison I found that I wasn’t enjoying it as much. I wouldn’t say that it became a chore but it wasn’t going in the direction I envisaged. I think it’s fair to say that it lost its appeal. So I went to Spain for two months, rode my bike every day, and just kept my eyes and ears open but nothing permanent came up.
I did a few days for EuroCyclingTrips - CMI Pro Cycling Team and took them to a few races and that jolted some good memories for me. I really enjoy the DS job, looking after the riders, and we went to Paris-Chauny and the Tour of Malopolska. That resonated with me and it made me realize how much I missed being back in the convoy. When I got back one of the lads from Ribble, Jacob Tipper, had heard that I was looking and he mentioned it to Jack Rees and Tom Timothy, who run Ribble. They organized a call, we spoke it through, and I liked what they had in mind, and we’ve taken it from there. They liked my background, knew what I’d done at Madison and it just gelled.
CN: What’s the plan for the team in 2021 and what’s your main objective for the coming weeks as you settle in?
Sturgess: I’m not a dictatorial, old-school DS and I like to engage with riders a bit more and get the best out of them personally. I like to work with the individual because if you can work with the rider as an individual it becomes a lot easier to understand the team dynamic. That’s what I’ll start doing over the next six weeks and leading into next year. I’ll get started on getting to know the lads and see what makes them tick. Once we’ve got the race programme nailed in, and obviously that’s an ongoing thing, then it’s time to look at what we’re going to do and whether we’ll lean more towards the domestic scene or if we’ll look at more races outside of the UK.
For example, now that we know that the Tour de Yorkshire is cancelled, we can look at whether we take the riders to somewhere like the Tour of Morocco or take on a series of one-days. There’s the Holland Cup to look at too and that’s a conversation we’ll have with Jack and Tom this week. Jack is the man who makes that call but then I’ll try and facilitate that and then try and get the best out of the riders on the day. With the riders that we have, and with Harry Tanfield signing, we’re in an extremely strong position and can cover sprints, time trials, and almost all areas of the sport.
CN: How much are you looking forward to getting back behind the wheel of the team car?
Sturgess: Massively. It’s going to be great. I did those two races EuroCyclingTrips - CMI Pro Cycling Team and I loved it, absolutely loved it. It’s not all bright and shiny, there is some stress, but it’s fantastic and there’s a great atmosphere. I really enjoy it.
CN: How much influence have you had in terms of shaping the roster for next season?
Sturgess: To date, none, because I’ve come in so late. Basically, I knew that there were a couple of lads as possible targets and that’s being finalized. I’ve given my advice on those riders and said they’re very good and that I’d back them to the hilt. But I’ve come in late and I’ve left the ultimate decision to Jack and Tom.
CN: With Harry Tanfield, he’s had a couple of difficult years at WorldTour but do you think he can get back to that level, and what are you expecting from him next season?
Sturgess: I think that he can. I think he needs to cement himself with a good season next year, which is going to be difficult because we don’t know what’s going to happen with the whole COVID-19 situation but if he can have a solid year, show well, and do good races, that’s crucial. We need to be able to get him overseas though, and in races where he can show and get results.
That will give him the chance to say ‘I’m back on the market and I’m here again’. As riders like Adam Blythe have shown in the past, it’s possible to drop back and then return. It’s not great, it’s not easy, but it’s doable and if anyone can, then Harry can. He’s quite mercurial but he gets it done and then it’s a case of shepherding him on the day.
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