In the fourth in our occasional series showcasing the UK’s elite level teams, James McKay introduces his PB Performance team.
“It’s not all about the performance”
In 2017, the PB Performance team was a small group of riders competing at a regional level. The following year they used a core group of riders from their regional racing team to set up a national squad. They have since seen steady progress. Last year they mixed it with the top domestic riders at the Rutland-Melton CiCLE Classic, the Ryedale Grand Prix and the Welsh road race championships, finishing second in the latter.
The team was started by Paul and Louise Bennett. Paul is a well-established cycling coach and the tactician of the pair. Louise is an ex-headteacher, whose experience undoubtedly becomes useful when dealing with hot-headed young men.
As a member of the 2020 squad myself, I decided to speak to the couple behind the squad to find out more about the team’s journey so far.
“We had the enthusiasm, we had the vision, we had the drive”
On establishing the national team
Louise explains that the decision to race at national level had its origins in the team’s solid early foundations: “In 2017, we had a group of riders that were all developing and were like superglue. They formed a really powerful team unit. We had the enthusiasm, we had the vision, we had the drive. We wanted to create something that was sustainable year-on-year.”
The couple also saw an opportunity to promote their coaching business and create a vehicle to support rider development. “The team is an advertising platform for my coaching business [PB Performance coaching], but we also wanted to create a sustainable platform of development for riders”, Paul explains
They also wanted to do things in the right way for their riders, says Louise. “We focused on supporting the riders as individuals, getting to know them and ensuring the fundamentals were taken care of. We’ve seen at least one high profile team starting eight riders with no one in the feed zone. Knowing that you’re going to get a bottle in a 180km race is quite important!”
On rider development
The team’s development approach is as much about encouraging the riders to enjoy themselves as focusing on numbers. Paul says, “I think the important aspect is that it’s not all about the performance. Some riders are particularly focused on numbers and the performance side of the sport. But we are always careful to balance that with fun.
When riders are 18 or 19 years old it’s important that they are looked after as a person. A rider may step away from the sport in two years, or they may decide to progress. But going through that process in a healthy way.”
The regional team is an equally important part of the Team PB Performance set up. It is from this environment that a number of riders have developed and then gradually moved to racing at national level. Louise suggests, “This platform for progression is a fundamental part of our team culture with riders having moved from beginner to elite and first category racers within this infrastructure. Equally, supporting racing ourselves is a key part of what we do. The team promotes a number of races each year with all members supporting this venture.”
The vision for the future
Having developed steadily since 2017, the couple thinks that the team now has what it takes to compete for results in top national races. “Last year we were scrapping for a top 20 but each year it has built. We firmly believe that we have the capacity now to do much more”, Paul asserts.
Louise adds: “After the team meeting in December  I came away with a really good feeling. We haven’t even been to a race yet but I feel like we have a really good dynamic. I think everyone brings something slightly different and you need that in a team.
And when racing does finally begin at the national level in the UK, Paul and Louise are keen to ensure that the team continues to develop on a sustainable footing.
“Some teams go up for a few years and then they die. We want to be sustainable. We want to develop the team further, to at least stay at the level we have reached now and expand our race programme. But keeping it sustainable is the most important thing,” Paul explains. “We want partners who want to buy into a long-term vision. By developing this loyalty, particularly with our kit supplier, our partners have been able to offer us increased support each year.”
In: Jacques Coates (Team OnForm), James McKay (ASPTT Nancy), Charlie Shields (SixtySix RSN), Chris Walkinshaw (University of Manchester CC)
Renewed: James Bentley, James Chapman, Siôn Harlow, Josh Housley, Toby Jarvis, Matt King
For more about the team, visit their website.