Words: Ian Cleverly Photos: Geoff Waugh
Extract from Rouleur issue 28, out now.
And so we reach the 2012 model of Endura Racing, another dramatically different incarnation. Jack Bauer’s exploits in Utah did not go unnoticed and the raw Kiwi I first saw at Haut Var two years back – helmet askew, crashing into trees – has developed rapidly into a genuine talent worthy of a contract with Garmin-Cervélo. If there is a tinge of jealousy from Partridge, Wilkinson and Thwaites, it doesn’t show. They are genuinely pleased to see him progress. And, as [team sponsor] Jim McFarlane points out: “It wasn’t good to lose Jack but it is good to see him moving up. And it is good for Endura to be seen as a place where riders can move up.”
Brian Smith, meanwhile, appears to have signed up every available Brit of note, including Jon Tiernan-Locke, winner of the King of the Mountains jersey and 5th overall at the Tour of Britain. Smith expects to see more from the emerging stage race rider. “Jon is not going to do anything in British races. He is a European rider. He showed what he can do in the Tour of Britain. I see his potential and want to give him a chance to shine.”
Just when it seemed the 2012 line-up had been finalised, Smith threw Russell Downing – surplus to requirements at Sky – into the mix. A prolific winner on the domestic scene before spending two seasons with the ProTour team, Downing’s addition to the Endura roster appeared to be a last minute decision, but McFarlane and Smith had been in discussions with the free agent for some months.
I suggested to Smith that his squad now had a top-heavy appearance: too many chiefs, not enough workers. “Julian Winn said the same thing. I said we work on it. Nobody is special. If Russ Downing doesn’t make the break, we make sure somebody else does. We will be represented. We have to take opportunities. We don’t have the money to sign a top sprinter or a top GC contender, so we have a bunch of opportunists.
“The only problem I can see is coming towards the finish, who do we ride for? Julian needs to make that call. I have got two captains on the road I have talked to about it: Alex Blain and Iker Camaño. Alex is a strong sprinter himself, he is knowledgeable and he has the respect of the riders. Now that Russ is involved, he will need to be able to take orders. He was a selfish rider when he was based in the UK, which you need to be. With Sky he learned to do his bit. I think we are getting Russ at his best. I have told him we want him to win, but we also want him to show the other guys how to win.
“Last year we went with a European-based squad and a home, Tour Series squad. The Euros did great, but the home riders never stepped up – the only one was Scott Thwaites. Too many riders out there think they should ride for other people. I don’t want that. And I don’t want to hear the word ‘mistake’ this season.”