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Crimson tide: Matt Hallam interview and 2020 squad reveal

Former Team Sky rider Josh Edmondson is one of several new exciting signings ahead of what could be a breakthrough season for the elite team

With a significantly-bolstered squad, increased sponsorship and a bigger race programme, Crimson Performance Orientation Marketing begin their third season with the not unrealistic ambition of becoming one of the most competitive elite teams in the UK.

We hope that 2020 is the breakthrough year for the team, it feels like we are on the verge of something big

We were first introduced to the team’s rider-manager Matt Hallam almost a year ago today when we interviewed him about the ins and outs of setting up an elite bike racing team from scratch. Back then, he explained how he’d brought in increased sponsorship for the team’s second year and had modest ambitions to slowly growing the team’s reputation and experience. Race results were a “mixed bag”, as Hallam puts it. They were solid enough that races were won but it’s fair to say the team was not yet at a level where it was competing with the best in the National Road Series. Now, a year on, however, it feels like the team could be on the verge of a breakthrough season.

So what’s new? The most eye-catching changes for the team come in the form of some big new signings. The capture of former Team Sky and Great Britain rider Joshua Edmondson is a real coup for the team. If he can get anywhere near to rediscovering his form of old, then top results should follow. Leon Mazzone is another shrewd signing; the Manxman picked up several top 20s in the National Road Series last season whilst riding for Spirit Tifosi and at just 23 still has plenty of room for improvement. And speaking of young talent, 18-year-old Isaac Peatfield is definitely one to watch. Last year, his final year as a junior, he won a stage and finished 4th overall in the Junior Tour of Wales, was 3rd overall in the Junior Tour of Assen where he also took a stage and finished 7th in La Philippe Gilbert Juniors.

It’s perhaps some of the other, less obvious changes, that are just as noteworthy. The team has brought in three new sponsors, whilst also securing increased funding from existing sponsors. Impressive stuff at a time when sponsors have been leaving the support. In fact, the team has 45% more funding this season compared to last. This will allow the team to have a bigger squad (14 men and 6 women), a more ambitious race programme (including races in Belgium and Spain) and better infrastructure to support the riders behind-the-scenes.

With all this going on, we decided it was a good time to catch up with Matt Hallam and quiz him about his team’s new squad, increased sponsorship and growing ambitions…

At the 2019 Lincoln Grand Prix. Photo: Joe Cotterill

First of all, how do you reflect on 2019?

In terms of results, 2019 was a mixed bag for the team. It was the first season that we committed to the National Road Series. We had a squad of riders that were still finding their feet in National A level races, but we can look back on our 2019 campaign with a sense of accomplishment. We had riders creeping into the top 30 on some of the hardest rounds of the National Road Series and by the end of series, we felt at home in that environment.

Success for the team isn’t just measured by results, the image and visibility of the team really flourished in 2019. This was in part down to the quality of the content we put out, but also how professional the team looked. Our sponsors have been quick to recognise the value of a smart, courageous and friendly squad, prepared to mix it with more established teams and extend the hand of friendship to spectators. 

With increased investment comes pressure to perform in the bigger domestic races in the UK

And now increased sponsorship for 2020. What does that mean for you and the team next season? What will be different compared with 2019?

A lot has changed with the team ahead of the 2020 season. The team looks very different from what did it 12 months ago. Alongside a fresh group of riders in the men’s and women’s squads, we have also welcomed new sponsors into the team to boost our resources. We also have another year of experience behind us. This has helped in building a race programme that plays to the teams’ collective strengths. 

The team is growing at an impressive rate. But with increased investment comes pressure to perform in the bigger domestic races in the UK. With only four British Continental teams being registered in 2020, it offers an opportunity for the elite teams to punch through the gaps that are being left with bigger teams folding. We hope that we can be in the thick of the action this season.

New sponsor, new bikes. Photo: Push Cartel

Where does the increased sponsorship come from?

We have welcomed three new sponsors into the team. These are Porsche Kendal, Bishops Chartered Accountants and Cinelli. 90% of our founding sponsors have also committed to a thrid year of support. Orientation Marketing will continue as the title sponsor and we have increased financial support from Brother UK and ANS. We have worked hard to increase the investment levels, with a 45% growth on year 2. It’s no mean feat finding the resources to run an elite race team in the current British racing scene. But we are swimming against the current and proving that a business model focused on content production, marketing resources and social outreach can provide a solid structure for elite teams to flourish.

Do the increased resources and high-profile signings change the team’s ethos or mission at all?

Not really, the race team was founded to provide opportunities for upcoming riders in the north-west to race in the higher-profile races across the UK. Our vision for the team was clear; we wanted to act as a springboard for riders wanting to progress into professional teams. As the team has grown, we have signed riders based outside the north-west but our vision remains the same. Acting as a pillar of support in the north-west racing scene is something we take a lot of pride in. 

Was stepping up to Continental level a consideration, especially with a number of teams at that level disappearing?

We didn’t have the resources to make that step this year. We would only consider taking the team up to Continental level if we had healthy financial backing to do it. Making that jump on a shoestring budget isn’t something we would pursue.

Photo: Joe Cotterill

Talking of signings, you have some very eye-catching riders on the roster. Was there a particular strategy behind your approach to squad-building or was there an element of opportunism there?

We set out with specific goals when recruiting riders for 2020. Having riders who are experienced in the National Road and Circuit Series was important. We have been able to bring talented riders into the team that on paper should be at the pointy end of these races. The men’s squad consists of 14 riders whilst the women’s team has 6 riders. And alongside a lot of fresh faces, we have still retained a core group of riders who were part of the founding squads in 2018. 

I hope that Josh can act as a kingpin in the team this year

The signing of Josh Edmundson is sure to set tongues wagging. How did that signing come about?

I was introduced to Josh through a mutual friend and conversations quickly turned to his ambition to race again. I felt the team was the perfect platform for him to do that. Our emphasis is to have fun racing bikes and he certainly resonated with that outlook. I hope that Josh can act as a kingpin in the team this year. He is currently on a training camp in Australia and his preparations for the 2020 season are going really well. His story is ready to be written this season, I’m confident that he can hit the ground running at the Klondike Grand Prix in April. 

02/05/2015 – Cycling Tour de Yorkshire Stage 2 Selby to York. Josh Edmondson, Great Britain. Photo: Simon Wilkinson/SwPix.com

How competitive do you think the squad can be in 2020?

I’d love to see the team scoring points in National Road Series races this year. I feel that we have a strong enough squad to do that. The first proper test will be the Tour of the North in April. I’m hoping to see standout performances from all my riders this season, especially my three under-23 riders, Jonathan Bridge, Isaac Peatfield and Ed Beecher.

I want to see my riders enjoying racing their bikes – winning races would be the cherry on the top

All the riders have been so committed with their training this winter, which bodes well for a strong start to the 2020 campaign. Being ranked as the top elite team in the UK would be an amazing achievement, but we have a lot of strong competition so we will take each race as it comes. First and foremost, I want to see my riders enjoying racing their bikes – winning races would be the cherry on the top. 

What would success look like for you next year?

Success this season would be consistent top 20 performances in National Road Series races. Of course, I am hoping for more but at the same time, I am realistic in our ambitions. 2020 marks the team’s third year on the road and I hope that we can continue to grow over the coming years. Continuing to grow the team’s image and providing our sponsors with the visibility they need is also a big goal for us. We hope that 2020 is the breakthrough year for the team, it feels like we are on the verge of something big. 

Photo: Ellen Isherwood

Men’s squad

In: Ed Beecher (unattached), Josh Edmondson (unattached), James Hill (Team PB Performance), Leon Mazzone (Spirit Tifosi), Isaac Peatfield (Green Jersey cc RT), Chris Sherriffs (Ribble Pro Cycling), Jude Taylor (Lifting Gear Prod/CyclesInMotion)

Extended: Jonathan Bridge, Matt Hallam, Ben Harrison, Elliot Harrison, Oliver Huszar, Adam MacRae, Alistair Thomas

Women’s squad

In: Sophie Earl (Valley Striders CC), Melissa Greaves (TW1 Racing), Gwenno Hughes (Westland Wil Vooruit), Jo Ryding (JRC-Shutt-Ridley Race Team), Sammie Stuart (Cybelecc)

Extended: Laura Tissiman

The team’s 2020 jersey

Read more

The rough guide to starting a bike team: Matt Hallam interview, part 1

The rough guide to starting a bike team: Matt Hallam interview, part 2

The rough guide to starting a bike team: Matt Hallam interview, part 3