For the love of it: Andy Lyons
Story posted February 25, 2010; by Larry Hickmott ()
In cycle racing, there are those that compete to earn a living and those that do it because it is their lifeblood and one cyclist that fits into the latter category is Andy Lyons of the Orbea/For Goodness Shakes racing team.
One of my first races I ever saw in this country was the Grand Prix of Essex which is sadly no longer with us but Andy Lyons who has been on the podium for that race, is still riding in anger and for 2010 is helping to guide the younger riders in the Orbea For Goodness Shakes team.
Andy, right, leads the Orbea-For Goodness Shakes team on a training run in Majorca
It is a testament to the experience this Essex rider has that many of the riders he is helping to become better riders were not even born when he started racing. Over the years I have known Andy in many of the smaller racing teams and here he is in 2010, still racing at the highest level in Britain.
Working full time as a surveyor, Andy in the past has won races such as the Tour of the Kingdom and been second in former classic events like the Welwyn-Hatfield and the Grand Prix of Essex. In his younger days, Andy also represented Great Britain in European road races. In short, there are very few riders in the peloton today who were racing when Andy started out all those years ago.
During out chat, Andy mentions a few names that are still out there kicking the legs of their younger rivals. Riders like Rob Hayles and Ben Luckwell to name but two. In 2009, Andy rode for the BMC UK team and the Orbea-For Goodness Shakes men’s line up is very similar for 2010. New to the team is a talented Junior in the form of Kristian Downs, son of former professional Bob Downs.
Andy admits he has known Kristian for a long time. “I’ve known Kristian since he was 1 and raced and trained with his dad Bob. He has the same talent as the likes of Alex Dowsett and Russell Hampton and I think he can get back to the top.”
Andy has been racing at the top long enough to remember racing Star Trophy events before they became Premier Calendar races and like many down south, laments the loss of so many of the old classics and the major races in the south.
“It is shame there are no Premiers down south now and I’m not sure whether it’s because people down south are not willing to put on the races or whether it’s because BC doesn’t mind there not being a geographical spread. There should be some down south though. You used to be able to ride the Essex, the Welwyn Hatfield, the Archer and the Cotswolds. So many good classic races have gone.”
Asked to compare the speed of the races then to those now, Andy says that he doesn’t feel the racing has got harder but that the sport is certainly more popular after the Olympic success as well as the success the Brits like Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish have had in the Tour de France.
The Orbea-For Goodness Shakes team for 2010, bigger and stronger and hoping for a chance to improve on their Tour Series result from 2009.
Working and Playing
In a Premier Calendar race, you will probably find half the field is made up of full time riders who are either employed to race their bikes or are not working and spending their time training and resting. Andy meanwhile has always worked full time during his racing days and says he doesn’t regret having made that choice.
“I wouldn’t do it unless I enjoyed it and being with these boys (in Orbea/For Goodness Shakes) I am certainly enjoying it. It’s like being a young rider again. We go away, have a good time and enjoy the racing but I do feel that if you’re going to race, you have to try to do it to the best of your ability.”
Andy admits that age has little to do with getting results and by way of example, talks about Rob Hayles who he was second to in the GP of Essex and who is still winning races today.
Looking ahead to 2010, the team will be looking to get some early results and earn a place in the Tour Series which will be a big goal for one of the young riders, Lewis Atkins who had a lot of success as a Youth and Junior but has been plagued with injuries ever since. Talking about the younger riders in the team, Andy explains “it is brilliant to see the lads come through to the senior ranks like they have and I get as much out of that as anything.”
“If I see one of the lads win a race, it’s brilliant.”
Tour Series 2009, and Andy is interviewed on stage at Colchester.
“Last year we finished 10th in the Tour Series and that was such a disappointment. We started off well but because we were all working full time, it was a big ask to keep that up.”
“Tuesday and Thursday, Tuesday and Thursday, Exeter, Chester, Blackpool; we were everywhere. Some of the guys were getting home at 2 or 3 in the morning and going to work at 6am, working all day and then taking the next day off to go to Blackpool or wherever”.
“By the time we go to the national road race champs, everyone was nailed”.
“It was difficult, and then we had to fit our training in and race at the weekend. We had a good to start but we got more and more tired towards the back end and didn’t acquit ourselves as well as we could have done.”
“We don’t want that to happen again which is why the team has been strengthened with some crit riders if we get selected. With a bigger team as well, we can swap riders around and say to one of them, you’re riding Tuesday, and to another, you’re riding Thursday and so on.”
Listening to Andy explain how hard it was, I recalled the travelling I had to do as well at the time to report on them and also the way such travelling affected even the full time riders who also came out of June pretty much nailed to the road.
The Tour Series however is such a valuable vehicle for teams for attracting sponsors, that Andy and his team are not the only ones with their fingers crossed they get a place in the event.
The road season of course isn’t just about crits though and Andy wants to see his riders get up there in Premier Calendar races as well as the big races down south like the Jock Wadley and Wally Gimber.
Team Captain on the road
This season will also be notable because race radios have been banned and that’s a subject that has seen interesting debate up and down the country at all levels of the sport. Andy however is happy they are gone and remembers the days before they were even used.
“I have been racing for along time now so I know the score. I know what we have got to do and know who is going well so I’ll make plans of you’re going to watch him, you’re going to go early, and if some one has missed something, kick them up the ass and tell them to get across. It is quite an inexperienced team so I’ll have to be on the ball.”
“We don’t need the radios either as I’ll tell them what to do on the road and that’s how other teams should work. That’s how it used to work. For race tactics, you shouldn’t have to be told what to do. Part of understanding a sport is understanding the tactics involved; like is that (break) going to go, does it (the break) have the right mix and so on. They, the younger riders, need to learn on the road and have no radios will hopefully make the racing a bit more open.”
“The safety aspect is another argument though.”
Andy winning the Dengie Marshes race. Photo Mark Cozens.
While the Premier Calendar series of races are all in the Northern half of the country, there are still a few classic races down South. Races like the Jock Wadley for example, an event Andy has good memories of.
“I have won the Wadley a few times over the years (1995 & 1999)” Andy explains. “One of the years was when the Kodak team were riding and there was Illingworth, Longbottom and so on. I was a lot lot younger then!”
“I would love to see the bigger teams coming down for races like that. There is one in Cambridgeshire later on this season which is a national A and we need more of those type of races down here.”
The Eastern region also has a race that is becoming a local classic in the same way that the East Midland CiCLE race is becoming a national and international classic. “Dengie (Marshes) is a different style of race where it helps to know the roads” says Andy.
“You have know where to be at certain points which again having an old head helps. Some of the youngsters don’t even suss out you need to be at the front at certain parts of the race to avoid being caught out when it flicks left in the cross wind and they find themselves in trouble.”
“If the race is going to blow to pieces in the rough stuff, then you’re going to need to be the first five going into it. It’s all that type of stuff the guys should know going into such a race”.
Like many riders right now, whether they be professionals or amateurs, Andy is with his team in Majorca for a training camp to prepare for his first race of the season, Paris-Evreux in France.
The whole team are in Majorca and Andy is leading the rides each day for 5 hours plus. A key person in the team organisation, James Whatling says “everyone's going well and we're alternating between some hard hilly days and flat, fast days with blocks of intensity in them.”
Looking ahead to the team’s first race in France, Andy says “That should be a good lung opener for the season” Andy said as he smiled. Andy then will aim for the team to do well in his old favourites like the Wally Gimber and the Jock Wadley.
Helping him on the road will be his Orbea bike and Andy explained that “I have ridden them before through Rennie, 2000/2001 and I still have them. They’re an excellent bike and these ones are superb. Bikes now are very much of a muchness but this one is great.”
Good luck to Andy and the team in 2010.