Rapha Condor Sharp 2012 Team Launch and Ride REVIEW
by Mark Tearle
Rapha Condor Sharp do not need an introduction from me. Any cycling fan worth his salt is familiar with Dean Downing, Ed Clancy (newly crowned World Champion as part of Team GB Team Pursuit on track and multiple gold medal winner), James McCallum, Kristian House, Andy Tennant et al…
The team car and sponsors
…but there’s a new breed of lads coming through and Rapha Condor Sharp, looking for that next succession of talent have recruited 8 new riders ready to don that black jersey to perform at the highest level both domestically and internationally.
With the Tour Series and the Tour of Britain in the offing Rapha-Condor Sharp are likely to feature strongly - unmistakable in their distinct stealthy black kit. The cycling calendar is already well under way and in order to introduce the team and for the new recruits and cycling supporters to meet, a weekend was arranged to highlight and communicate the hopes and dreams of riders for the season ahead and for Rapha-Condor Sharp to showcase the team, the Rapha clothing brand, the Condor bikes, Skoda team cars and sponsors including, Sharp, Science in Sport and Fi'zi:k amongst others.
I chatted to Claire Beaumont, the Brand Manager at Condor, to find out why they use the concept of a team day. “The reason we chose to do a team day was because we felt that a team launch in February has been done to death, it’s not very inspirational for people who follow the team or UK racing and it just fades from people’s memories pretty quick. When the Tour Series and Tour of Britain roll around no one knows the names of the riders or their aims, their personalities and why they want to ride a bike.”
The team's Condor Leggero
Invitations were offered to Rapha Condor Club members and the public to attend an exclusive event to ride with the team and mingle in an informal and relaxed manner at the Hotel Du Vin, nestled cosily just off the river in Henley-on-Thames.
Claire Beaumont added: “This is the first time we’ve done a team ride out and it was hugely successful. We capped each ride (Sat and Sun) to 50, to ensure safe riding and to make sure everyone would get a chance to ride with several members of the team. The event was free to attend and we just asked people to RSVP, because it was free to attend quite a few extra people turned up and there were over 100 people on Saturday's ride.”
Drafting behind Ed Clancy
I went out for the ride on the Sunday. From my perspective it was fairly casual and relaxed, the younger riders and their noticeably different approach and energy, perhaps slightly wary, through inexperience, of a bunch of strangers looking on than the more experienced fraternal team mates – the mentors – who were confident and relaxed and happy to engage in conversation.
The ride itself took a loop out of Henley and into the Chiltern Hills – marshalled by the Rapha Condor Sharp team car with riders set off in small groups with several of the Rapha Condor Sharp team riders alongside.
The route was a fairly classic Chilterns loop which was a pleasant turn on the pedals, slightly trimmed for the Sunday as there was another ride taking place on the day, and which was using many of the same roads en route.
After the ride lunch was provided and public and team riders alike were able to mingle and chat casually as well as taking part in a more formal Q&A session. A film of last years Lincoln GP was shown and riders offered a free Science in Sport Nutrition goody pack which included a bidon and a number of energy bars, gels and recovery powders. Science in Sport have just launched their new rebrand so it was good to get some of the new products hot off the production line.
The event also premiered the new Rapha-Condor Sharp short film, “Sella” which is the handy work of the recent Rapha short film competition winner Andrew Telling.
The film, like the event captures the Team in a very open way in a typically stylish Rapha format.
But, this isn’t a film review…it is a great film nonetheless, I don’t mind the music score – I am intrigued by the short shots of birds and tree blossom highlighting a new Spring neatly suggesting a new and exciting start for Rapha Condor Sharp, perhaps?
Dean Downing flies the Union flag
As a cycling fan it is a unique experience to be allowed into the inner sanctum of a very successful professional cycling team, gleaning some understanding in the short time of the dynamics within a team and all the hard work which surrounds the support of training, developing and spring boarding elite athletes to success and what it means to be a domestic professional rider.
I appreciated the opportunity to engage with a professional team in this way – it is so easy to sit on the sofa and watch professional cycling races on the television and not really be engaged with it, other than a vague understanding of the drama taking place during the race.
Kristian House's Condor Leggero
It struck me that Rapha-Condor Sharp have a very strong understanding and appreciation of the support that is shown from the grass roots and the ‘consumers’ of Rapha, Condor, Sharp, Science in Sport et al – I am thinking that ‘consumer’ is the wrong word and I am leaning more towards ‘community’ but even that feels slightly off mark – I will make the assumption that you understand what I am trying to convey.
Dean Downing poses for the camera
The chance to be ‘up close’ to a professional cyclist, their bicycle, the team car, perhaps even to sit behind the wheel in the driver’s seat, to chat with sponsors, test ride bikes and purchase some of the branded products on offer as well as view the extended product ranges available is privilege not lost on me and judging by the smiling faces of everyone else I can see that this was a very successful event.
The Rapha Condor Sharp 2012 Launch
I will watch with close interest during the coming season and wish the team good luck for 2012. Their tactic of choosing younger riders will be an interesting one to follow.
On that subject, Claire Beamount added: “The 2012 season is a new beginning for the established UCI continental squad which has seen them ranked number one over the last three years. The ‘men in black’ had nothing left to prove in UK racing, and so Condor, Rapha and Sharp sat down with John Herety and had a chat. John Herety suggested we look to ensuring a future for young riders and try to lay the foundation to give riders the chance to be the next big thing.”
Thanks to our partners, Science in Sport, for the invite to the Rapha Condor Sharp team day.
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