Our newest contributor at The British Continental, James McKay – who will rider for Team PB Performance in 2020 – takes a look back at our 2019 domestic riders to watch.
In January this year, The British Continental picked out nine riders on the domestic scene with the potential to thrive in the coming season. How did they get on?
Connor Swift started the year in the white, red and blue national champion’s jersey riding for the Madison Genesis team. The 23-year-old opened his year with a win at The Betty Pharoah Memorial in Wales and a week later put in a strong ride finishing 9th overall at the infamous Tour de Normandie. The Yorkshireman backed that up with another 9th place at the Tour de Yorkshire in May.
His efforts were not unnoticed, and the French Pro-Continental team Arkéa-Samsic completed a mid-season transfer just days later. Whilst announced as a lead-out man for sprinter André Greipel, Swift proved he had the capacity to ride for his own results. 11th on GC at the Tour of Belgium was perhaps his standout result for the team. Whilst Madison Genesis announced that 2019 would be their final year as a team, the future looks bright for Swift with another year secure at Arkéa-Samsic in 2020.
Also riding for Madison Genesis, domestic legend Ian Bibby had a relatively muted year, albeit by his very high standards. Nonetheless, he still picked up three top 10s in the National Road Series, including 7th at the East Cleveland Klondike Grand Prix, 3rd at the Circuit of the Mendips and a win on home roads in the inaugural Lancaster Grand Prix.
Sadly with Madison folding, Bibby announced that this would also be his final year racing. He has been one of the domestic greats over the years. He can count victories at the Velothon Wales and the Lincoln Grand Prix, stage wins at the Tour of Japan and the Ras, and a string of strong GC performances (including 6th at the Tour de Yorkshire) as just some of his major results over the years. He’ll be sorely missed here at The British Continental.
Riding for Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes, Jacob Hennessy kick-started his season with impressive placings in mainland Europe, taking 2nd in the Omloop het Waasland pro kermesse in Belgium behind teammate Alex Richardson, 4th on a stage of Circuit des Ardennes and 7th at the Arno Wallaard Memorial in Holland (also won by Richardson). Hennessy then enjoyed two days in the King of the Mountains jersey at the Tour de Yorkshire before winning the second round of the Tour Series in Motherwell. He proved himself to be a reliable and consistent performer, so it’s no surprise that the 23-year-old is riding for Tim Elverson’s Canyon dhb team again in 2020.
Tom Pidcock was arguably the most outstanding British rider outside of the World Tour ranks – and the best U23 rider in the world – in 2019. He put in impressive rides racing for both Team Wiggins Le Col and the national team on the road. He had a storming Triptyque des Monts et Châteaux where he took a stage win and 3rd overall, helped by never placing lower than 6th on each of the four stages. Pidcock was taken out during a crash in the bunch sprint at the U23 Tour of Flanders. But he bounced back with string off impressive results: 2nd at the Lincoln Grand Prix, a win at the U23 Paris-Roubaix and 7th in the national U23 time trial – a trio of results that illustrate how versatile Pidcock is on the road.
In August, Pidcock then highlighted his climbing prowess when he won a stage and the overall at the Tour of Alsace, before heading to the Tour de l’Avenir – arguably the biggest U23 race in the world. He took four top 10 placings, including a strong GB team time trial performance. His hopes of winning that race were cruelly dashed by a horror crash on stage 6. He recovered to take to the start line in front of home crowds at Yorkshire world championships U23 road race. Uncertain of his form, he impressed to claim the bronze medal.
Moreover, Pidcock found time to ride a solitary mountain bike race this summer: winning the national XC U23 championships. He is currently midway through the cyclocross season with Trinity Racing and has already graced the podium six times, riding a programme of mainly elite men’s races.
Alistair Slater had a consistently strong year with Vitus Pro Cycling p/b Brother UK but was the “nearly man” all season – missing out on the top step of the podium multiple times. He finished with 14 top 10s including 5th at a stage of the Tour de Loir et Cher E Provost, and 5th on GC at Tour of the Reservoir amongst some of the best climbers in the country.
Slater also showed his talent for criterium racing with a strong showing at the Tour Series for Vitus. and subsequently placed 3rd and 4th respectively at Barnsley and Newcastle rounds of the National Circuit Series. He was the local favourite at the inaugural Bourne CiCLE Classic in September but again had to settle for 3rd place to finish the year.
Slater will leave Vitus Pro Cycling at the end of the season, and will instead focus his energies on supporting the new Clancy Briggs Academy. We understand he will continue to race, however, so don’t be surprised to see him in amongst the favourites again at the National Road Series in 2020.
2019 was another big year for Ethan Hayter. On British Cycling’s Podium Programme, but also occasionally representing his boyhood club VC Londres, Hayter was a regular with the GB team this season. Success at the national and world track championships would foreshadow his road season. He placed 6th in the first stage of the Tour de Yorkshire before another 6th place at Lincoln GP. In June he took back-to-back stage wins in the U23 Giro d’Italia, placing in the top 10 on seven stages and winning the points jersey in the process.
At the national championships. he won a silver medal in the U23 time trial before placing 5th in the men’s road race. Then, at the Tour de l’Avenir, he was 2nd on the first stage before taking the win on stage three. He then crashed out of the race the very next day, breaking his collarbone in the process.
Team Ineos recently announced that Hayter would be joining in 2020 on a three-year contract. They will be letting him balance his ambitions on the road and track, which is especially important given Hayter’s Tokyo ambitions. Whilst there is no obvious path to the World Tour from the UK domestic scene, it appears that Team Ineos still have time for the best of the domestic talent.
Like Hayter, Jacob Tipper also started the year on the track, with his track team Huub Wattbike. Thanks to this he came into his road season in good form, coming 2nd in the Coalville Wheelers Road Race, before winning the second of the Oakenclough NWCR Road Races and the first stage of the Tour of the North in the space of five days.
After a busy May riding the Tour de Yorkshire and the Tour Series, Tipper finished 12th at Stockton GP before finishing the road season for Team Ribble with 6th place at Bourne CiCLE classic. As he admits himself, 2019 wasn’t a vintage year for him; balancing the demands of his day job and his coaching business with training and racing was more of a challenge than he’d envisaged. He rides with Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling again in 2020 and will hope to return to the kind of form that won him a stage of the Tour of Qinghai Lake in 2018. Keep a lookout for his 2020 rider journal series.
After the closure of JLT Condor, 2018 Tour de Normandie winner Tom Stewart started his season with a new team, Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes. In the first three months of the year, Stewart raced exclusively at UCI level with the team’s European race programme. After 14th place at Rutland CiCLE Classic, Stewart used the Tour de Yorkshire to set him up for his second Lincoln Grand Prix win a week later. He then finished 14th at the Lancaster GP and 10th at the Circuit of the Mendips.
His talent also shone abroad as he placed 8th in the Circuit de Wallonie (a UCI 1.1 race) and broke on to the podium with 2nd at the KOGA Slag om Norg, another 1.1, in Holland. He finished the season with a relatively quiet Tour of Britain and looks ahead to another year with Canyon dhb p/b Soreen.
Scott Thwaites rejoined the domestic scene after two years with Dimension Data, joining up with Slater at Vitus Pro Cycling p/b Brother UK. With strong results throughout the season, he certainly underlined his World Tour calibre. He started racing in February, placing 8th in the Clayton Spring Classic and 11th in the Eddie Soens Memorial two weeks later. Come April Thwaites was clearly hitting form with 4th place at Danum Trophy, 2nd at Klondike GP and 11th on GC at Tour du Loir et Cher E Provost in France.
Back in the UK, he finished 10th in Rutland CiCLE Classic before 8th overall at the Tour de Yorkshire. In the summer he finished 2nd at the Circuit of the Mendips, 7th at the European Games road race, 10th at the National Championships road race, 11th at Beaumont Trophy and 5th at Stockton GP. Like several others on this list, he finished his season with the Bourne CiCLE Classic, placing 7th.
Thwaites will return to the professional ranks in 2020, joining Belgian Pro Continental team Corendon next season – rumoured to be changing its name to Aplecin-Fenix in 2020 – along with fellow Brits Alex Richardson and Ben Tulett. He could well prove to be an important foil to his new teammate Mathieu Van der Poel in the classics
Stay tuned for our domestic riders to watch in 2020.