Matt Stephens Interview

Matt Stephens Interview

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Good Start to Season for Sigma Sport Specialized

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Story posted May 6, 2010; by Larry Hickmott

The Sigma Sport Specialized team has been around for many years now and before the start of each season, the line up of riders has been strengthened.  The team was forged by two of cycle sport’s leading and prestigious brands; London's Road and Triathlon retailer Sigmasport and a world leader in innovative bicycle design, Specialized.

A great start to the year with victory in the first Premier Calendar event, the Tour of the Reservoir.

After 2009, the squad was strengthened to a new level as they became a UCI team and signed from Rapha, Simon Richardson along with a number of other riders to make them one of the strongest teams in the country. Look no further than Simon Richardson’s win in the first Premier Calendar event of the year, the Tour of the Reservoir, to see that the team had stepped up a level.

In the recent UCI event, the East Midlands CiCLE Classic, Sigma put no less than three riders into the break and whilst it didn’t pay off with a podium result, it did put out a warning to other teams that they have some serious contenders for the major races in Britain this year.

Prior to the Chas Messenger last weekend, British Cycling spoke to manager Matt Stephens who whilst holding down a full time job with the Police, also looks after the team as well as being one of its most talented riders.

The day before the Chas Messenger, Matt took the team across the pond to a UCI 1.2 race in Holland. Speaking about how the team found that event, he says “it was a tough race over 200 kilometres. There were 200 starters and I have never ridden a race with so many corners in it. There was lots of pave, wind and rain and it was a great event to do.

We missed the early move unfortunately but in the last 70k, we chased and brought the gap right back down with An Post and looked after Wouter (Sybrandy). He got across to the move before a couple of others chinned off and he was 12th in the end. It was a good experience for us to help us raise our game.

Matt Stephens driving the race along in the East Midlands CiCLE Classic.

Asked to talk more about why the team are making these excursions into Europe, Matt explained “I want to try and bring riders through this team and have them look at it as a stepping stone as well as give them the best programme we can within the confines of the domestic programme. So when there is not a big race on, we’ll try and go abroad so we have really good preparation for the Premiers, the RAS, hopefully the Tour of Ireland and the Tour of Britain as well.

On hearing the team had been selected for the local UCI stage race, the Tour of Britain, Matt said that it was fantastic and payback for the extra investment that has been put into the team this year. “We anticipated we’d have a reasonable chance but we also knew it wasn’t a given that we’d get a ride. Knowing so early means we can concentrate on results and then preparing for the race.

Matt says that with a 12 rider squad, that he is by no means picking himself for the race and that there is a long way to go before the race starts. “On my day, I think I would pick myself but the door is open for all the guys. I told them that we’ll race to just after the British Road Race Championships and then have a break before we refocus on the second half of the year. I don’t want the riders to be worrying about the Tour of Britain yet because we have a lot of important races to go, Premiers, National Road Race champs, Tour Series, Crit Series; a lot of racing to do.

Stephen Adams far from a circuit race in the hills of Buckinghamshire at the Chas Messenger.

With a lot of the riders in the team known for their strength on the road, when Matt was asked were they better suited for a race like the Tour of Britain than perhaps the town centre races that the season has so many of, he replied “we’ll see. On paper, we’re probably not the strongest crit team but we have brought in Tom Murray who is very quick and we also have Stephen Adams ably backed up by the rest of the team. Out of the eight Tour Series events that Stephen rode, he got top eight in all of them plus a third and he’s only 21 years of age. So we have some sprint talent coming through.

So whilst we’re more of a road based team, the Tour Series does remain a priority for us where we’re probably going in as the underdogs.

Looking back at the CiCLE Classic where his team put three riders in the break, Matt explained “I said to the guys in the team meeting that we have the form and we have to go with the early moves. The finish didn’t work out well and I have had a chat with the guys about that but that final corner is so crucial and we didn’t quite get it right. I know they tried to break it up and all credit to the Danish guy who won.”

Looking ahead, Matt said that after the Lincoln, the team have the Irish RAS which Simon Richardson has won as has Stephen Gallagher, the Tour Series and also the Premier Calendar events. They will also be going back to Europe in July for a single day race. “There is no need for us to go abroad right now apart from the RAS because there is so much racing and although a lot of it is crit based, there are also a lot of Premiers in between.

The team are also currently one rider down with Dan Duguid.out  after a training crash but Matt says “we have enough resilience that what ever line up we go with in the Tour Series, we’ll do okay.
You can read what Matt has to say about the Lincoln GP here:

Thanks to Matt for his time.