We're in a car-park in a fairly soulless newly built part of London - Wembley Park. The gigantic stadium looming over us below a stormy sky on an evening in late May. The city grey from an from an afternoon of thunderstorms, leaving the course for tonights racing shimmering with water. We're surrounded by team cars, branded motorhomes and awnings sheltering pro riders warming up on turbo trainers. This is round seven of the Ovo Energy Tour series.
One by one the Tekkerz riders gather. Alec Brigg's, Stefan Schäfer, Neil Phillips, Ben and Dan Tulett. The team are guesting riding on three races at the UK Tour Series, A UK series of eight race's renowned as being some of the hardest city criterium's in the world. The race organisers have shortened the course to avoid a large pool of water but its starting to dry out, much to the riders relief. The team are about to test themselves against the best domestic professional riders in the country.
None of the Tekkerz team are full time seasoned professional athletes and have other commitments away from their athletic pursuit. None of them have raced the tour series before. Hours before the race Neil Phillip's was sat in his office doing his thing as a tunnelling engineer. They ride their bikes purely for the love of racing and competing at the highest level they can, with the exception of Ben (aged 17) and Dan Tulett (aged 19), who are starting to pursue a career in the sport. For the brothers, this is an opportunity to test themselves against some of the best in the country, including multi-gold winning Olympic champion Ed Clancy.
There is excitement, anticipation and a few nerves while the lads get changed, pin numbers on and discuss tyre pressure and a few race scenarios. They head off to sign on and then warmup, which consists of the ride to sign on, a few laps of a car park and then a couple of laps of the course along with fellow competitors. The Tekkerz mantra is to ride with an emphasis on skills and to enjoy it. They had no expectations other than to see how it goes and push for as higher finish as possible. There was no technical race tactic's but just to smash it, try and be in the mix and disrupt the pro teams all competing for the overall team classification.
The whole team were using the new Specialized Tarmac.
Correct tire pressure would be crucial on the damp and slippy course.
Neil Phillips – Originally from Cornwall, now lives in London, aged 33. Races for Kibosh Racing, a team he helped set up and run. One of the most committed amateur riders you’ll ever come across and like his team mates competes across a variety of disciplines + the commute to work as a tunnelling engineer. Came second in the 2016 Transcontinental race across Europe.
Alec Briggs – From London, aged 25. Races for the Specialized Rocket Espresso team at events such as Red Hook Crit and a regular at Herne Hill Velodrome where he first started racing. Possesses mad skills on the bike and not afraid to take a risk to get the win. He set up the Tekkerz team this year and has big plans for it. You won’t see him at a race over 1 hour + 5 laps.
Stefan Schafer- Age 32 from Cottbus in Germany. He’s team-mate of Alec’s in the Specialized Rocket Espresso team and competed in the individual pursuit and team pursuit event at the 2012 UCI Track Cycling World Championships. His first time racing on the British racing scene.
Ben Tulett – From Kent, races for Specialized, aged 17. He won the junior world cyclocross championships at the beginning of the year. Hugely talented with a big future ahead of him.
Dan Tulett – The older brother of Ben, aged 19. Also races for Specialized and the British Cycling 100% ME team. Has had numerous top results in national races this year. He's also pretty handy on a XC mountain bike. Also has a big future, these brothers are ones to watch.
As a guest team, the lads started at the back of the grid with the professional teams up front. The race was to be 1 hour long plus 5 laps, on a super technical circuit of one kilometre in length. It includes plenty of tricky sections to test the handling skills and concentration when the inevitable fatigue sets in after a few laps. The team all have unbelievable bike handling skills from riding a variety of disciplines from cyclocross to fixed gear crits. With this in mind, the course favours them hugely and gives them a better shot at competing with the seasoned professionals who can rely more purely on their huge reserves of power. The tight natured course with a lot of braking and accelerating means theres more scope to gain an advantage by holding your nerve through corners with speed.
The flag dropped and the riders rolled out at 7pm, the racing got off to a frenetic start, fragmenting into small groups from the off. The lads all stuck in with the leading groups as they made their way passed lapped riders. With 3 laps to go and sitting in the leading group Alec had a 'fuck it, let give it a nudge' moment, he attacked down the finish straight knowing he could take the corners quicker than the group behind. He went in too hard slid out on the corner, straight back on the bike, finished just behind the main bunch. All the Tekkerz riders crossed in the top 20 to take the overall guest team classification on the night, an incredibly achievement against well established seasoned teams . The race was narrowly won by Tom Pidcock of team Wiggins ahead of Connor Swift of Madison Genesis.
"My new favourite thing is - whilst getting dive bombed by the guy behind because "it's his team mates wheel" in front of me, let him through, then counter dive bombing them both so everybody's happy. Disc brakes are great." - Alec Brigg's
"This racing is crazy" - Stefan Schäfer
At the finish Alec and the team chat to mates who had come to watch and support while the pro's head back to their team buses for a massage and recovery drinks. This spectrum and gulf of difference between set-ups is one element that makes the sport of cycling so interesting. The fact that amateurs can compete against full time, paid professional athletes and on this occasion be well and truly in the mix. It suggests that the difference between top amateurs and the country's best domestic professionals is not as huge as you might expect.
That post race feeling. "I can beat these guys, I want to do it all again tomorrow" - Alec Brigg's
Back in the car-park the adrenalin is still pumping and the guys discuss how the race played out. Neil has a few sips of a celebratory beer then hands it to me "if I have any more I think I'll pass out". The guys go their separate ways and head home to recover ahead of racing the next round of the series in Salisbury in 2 days time. Stay tuned for part two of Tekkerz at the Tour series from Salisbury.
Check out Alec's pre race recce of the course here or in the related posts on the right.
Full photo gallery from the evening