Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Riding with Rapha Condor-Sharp – by Nick van der Leek

Tour of South Africa winner and 2009 British road racing champ Kristian House has high praise for John P Herety, a man who won the British title both as an amateur and in 1982, as a pro-racer. A chef before he tried cycling, and married to an accomplished international cyclist , Herety finished 21st in the the 1980 Olympics, was Team Manager for Percy Bilton [with Bob Downs] and director of racing for British Cycling, before managing Rapha.

Speaking about the Tour of South Africa’s stage 2, through central Johannesburg [called off for safety reasons] Herety said “there have been a couple of teething problems, but overall it’s all good. We had the same problems in the Tour of Britain 3 years ago.  The organizers were right to stop the race.  This is an inconvenience for 20 minutes of your day, if you’re driving.  This is true anywhere in the world.  But you need to warn people in advance. A mailshot to residents and businesses all along the route by regional press is very important to communicate road closures.”

Commenting on the presence of the‘voice of cycling’, Herety said, “Phil likes South Africa, he owns a game farm in the north. He gives your event vital credibility.”

Herety said of South Africa’s Tour ambitions that “it is nice to come out to developing nations, and help to raise the standards of international cycling.  There’s a willingness here, despite the problems, that encourages our involvement.”

“I’ve known John about 10 years now,” said House of his team manager, “and he is probably one of the best managers I’ve ever had. His tactics…and he listens to what you say…so yeah, very very good.”

The tactic on the 175km stage 5 from Ostrich capital Oudtshoorn to Barrydale, for example, was to allow a few riders to get away, so that Rapha’s riders could relax.

The problem was that the roads were straight and wide.  Rapha wanted a group away before the final three climbs, the first of which was at 56 km. 

“In national tours local teams always seem reluctant to commit to a chase.  But so far no South Africans have won a stage,” Herety said at the time. “So we played a dangerous game today, relying on the South African teams to chase each other but it worked out exactly as we planned."

It wasn’t quite as simple as that though, because many riders from various teams were attacking from the gun on every stage.  How did one determine who was safe to go?

After the umpteenth attack House and a number of other riders, presumably following his lead, stopped for a ‘natural break’ which consolidated or ‘authorised’ the break due to the unwritten rule of not attacking the yellow jersey during a puncture, a fall or a break.  Afterwards House approached his team car to determine the lowest time margins of the breakaway riders.  Herety told him it was in the region of “six and a half minutes.”
“Exactly how many seconds,” Kristian insisted, demonstrating his intent.
“Six minutes and twenty six seconds.”

The team Labrador, Graham Briggs was struggling early on both from an upset stomach and tired legs.  Briggs made several visits to the race doctor on stage 5, and asked for coke to jolt his system.  “Briggs doesn’t travel well,” Herety said after instructing the rider that he didn’t have to work, “just get back into the bunch.”
A few minutes later Briggs was out in the front of the peloton with his teammates.

With 45km to go the peloton had the break at a manageable 3’35”.  With about 40km remaining Briggs finally fell out the back, but the work had been done.  The stage eventually came down to a sprint, won by Nippo’s Bernardo Riccio, with Impey, one of House’ main rivals second.  House finished 25th, but conceded no time, and went on to claim the inaugural tour title two days later.

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