New sponsors, new riders, but the same winning feeling awaited Canyon Eisberg at the beginning of their 2018 season.
Tim Elverson clinched a third successive Perfs Pedal crown in February as his team once again claimed victory in the first National B on the calendar.
After initially being outnumbered by two Spirit Tifosi riders, Alex Paton beat Rupert Graham in the sprint finish to make an instant impact following his move from Madison Genesis.
Junior national champion Louis Rose-Davies also made his Canyon Eisberg debut at Perfs before placing seventh in the Clayton Spring Classic a fortnight later.
Paton and Rose-Davies joined Andy Tennant, Charlie Tanfield and Charles Page as new signings for 2018.
Grim conditions awaited riders at the Grand Prix de la Ville de Lillers in March, yet Tennant clung on for 15th place – the same position he had finished in at Clayton.
A highly-decorated rider on the track, the 31-year-old had moved to Canyon Eisberg from Team Wiggins during the close season.
Charlie Tanfield, second only to Chris Boardman in the list of Britain’s fastest individual pursuiters of all time, joined his brother Harry on the team.
A stagiaire with Canyon Eisberg last autumn, Charlie was quick to add the British individual pursuit title to his CV.
He then clinched his first rainbow jersey with team pursuit glory in the colours of Great Britain before, alongside Harry, earning Commonwealth Games selection.
The pair demonstrated why they had been chosen by Team England with a stellar show on the Gold Coast in Australia.
Charlie grabbed silver in the men’s team pursuit before blowing away his competition in the individual pursuit for gold.
Harry also enjoyed success against the clock. In the individual time trial on the road, the 23-year-old was only bettered by Aussie World Tour star Cameron Meyer.
Back on home turf, the Spring Cup Series commenced just a few days later and, once again, the riders were met with miserable weather conditions.
The competition began with the Chorley Grand Prix and the exposed sections of Rivington Pike made for a tough test.
A difficult day out ended with Max Stedman taking sixth place and Matt Nowell sweeping up a raft of KOM points only to be pipped to the prize on countback. Stedman said:
“The Spring Cup was a highlight. It was so rewarding to be consistently up there in all the rounds and show my versatility. It was the consistency I wanted at the start of the year.”
Away from the Spring Cup and on to the mixed-terrain of the midlands, Rutland-Melton always brings a taste of the Belgian Classics to England.
A brutal course, the International CiCLE Classic is truly no mean feat. Taking inspiration from Paris-Roubaix, each sector is graded by difficulty, with the Barleyberg and Somerberg top-rated with five stars.
Crashes, mechanicals and subsequent abandonments made the gruelling 189km contest one to forget for Canyon Eisberg, although Nowell battled on to an impressive 28th.
From success in sunny Australia, to success in a somewhat-sunny Yorkshire, the busy month of May delivered more Tanfield accolades.
Elverson’s squad returned to the Tour de Yorkshire and wasted no time in announcing their arrival.
Despite the race featuring a number of World Tour squads, the breakaway on stage one was an almost exclusively UK Continental affair.
Harry Tanfield represented Canyon Eisberg up the road in a move many expected to be reeled in for a bunch sprint.
However, the group’s strength was underestimated, it never yielded and stayed away until the finish.
A powerful kick to the line on the streets of Doncaster ended with Tanfield taking the stage win, collecting an abundance of jerseys in the process.
Focus was on Canyon Eisberg the following day, with the Cow & Calf summit finish to the liking of climber Stedman, who placed 18th among some of the world’s best.
While Tanfield relinquished the overall lead in the finale, he retained the green points jersey.
Earlier in the stage, Chris Opie had retired and team-mate Paton suffered injuries after a collision with a car.
Sunny Scarborough’s seafront provided a sprint finish – and a win for Sunweb’s Max Walscheid – on stage three.
However, a mechanical had put paid to Stedman’s general classification ambitions just as the peloton put the hammer down.
With the bunch determined to distance Mark Cavendish, the climber failed to regain contact – despite tireless help from Tennant and Dexter Gardias.
James Lowsley-Williams sprinted to 22nd spot, closing the day 1min 23sec down on general classification as he assumed the leadership role.
Stedman, determined to forget the frustration of the previous day, then went on the attack on the fourth and final stage.
A superb exhibition of his climbing prowess saw the 22-year-old ride clear with Stephane Rossetto and take maximum KOM points on the Barden Moor and Goose Eye climbs.
He was eventually distanced by the Frenchman, who produced a phenomenal ride to solo to a remarkable success.
In races such as the Tour de Yorkshire, it is vital for Continental teams to make their presence known.
Usually, this occurs through making breakaways. But in Canyon Eisberg’s case, it was through making breakaways, sweeping up points and winning stages.
As it had been with a podium and two jerseys in 2017, it was another successful Tour de Yorkshire for the squad.
May signalled the beginning of the Tour Series, which quite possibly marked one of Canyon Eisberg’s most impressive team performances to date.
After a Spring Cup marred with punctures and bike changes, the Tour Series took on greater significance.
Lowsley-Williams claimed the team had a point to prove and the 26-year-old led by example in the opening round in Redditch.
He finished fourth and claimed the first Eisberg sprints jersey of the series, while team-mate Opie clocked an average speed of 43.4kph as he won the Brother fastest lap prize.
Harry Tanfield made a decisive three-man breakaway as the team consolidated third place overall in Motherwell.
And then the fireworks began in Aberdeen where, 12 months earlier, the team dominated and Jack Pullar claimed the race victory.
The team topped the podium this time around, too, with the Tanfield brothers, Lowsley-Williams and Tennant all placing within the top 13.
Harry Tanfield led the quartet home with fourth place and maximum points in the sprints competition.
The fourth round was a Durham double-header, comprising of a hill climb before the evening crit race.
Pullar charged to a comprehensive victory in the former, clocking an exceptional time of 52.642sec for the 500m cobbled ascent to beat Madison’s Connor Swift by 1.2sec.
And that set the tone for the crit, with Tennant surging to individual victory and with it clinching the fastest lap award. Stedman said:
“The Tour de Yorkshire had its highs and lows. There was fighting on the Cow & Calf with the GC guys, followed by an untimely mechanical on stage three.
“And then fighting hard on stage four for the KOM jersey on the hardest Tour de Yorkshire stage to date. That was awesome and only bested by an amazing ride.
“From a non-biased point of view, having been cycling for 15 years now, I’ve followed the Tour Series from the outset and that was easily one of the most exciting to date.”
In the middle of the Tour Series – and after an 11th place for Stedman at the East Cleveland Klondike Grand Prix, the finale of the Spring Cup had arrived in the shape of the Lincoln Grand Prix.
Starting the 13-lap circuit on the front foot, Charlie Tanfield made the initial move to break free, delivering heavy blows to the peloton behind as he climbed to the Brian Cossavella Michaelgate Trophy.
While the escapees were eventually reeled in, Canyon Eisberg proved they were the strongest team of the day – with Gardias, Lowsley-Williams, Nowell, Paton, Pullar, Stedman, Tanfield and Tennant frequently seen at the sharp end as the team topped the team classification.
The unattached Alex Richardson rode away for a solo win before one last dig from Tennant saw him drop his fellow pursuers to surge up the Michaelgate alone for second.
An action-packed month also featured the Rás Tailteann – an eight-stage race around Ireland.
The route comprised of 1,168km, with a climb-centric focus, as the peloton scaled 34 categorised ascents.
Gardias made the lasting breakaway of 10 riders on a relatively flat opening day, sprinting to fifth position – with Nowell third in the under-23 category.
A crash-littered 148km second stage didn’t hinder the progress of the Northwich talent, who managed to sprint to 10th as team-mate Stedman rose to fourth in the mountains classification.
Townsend and Rose-Davies were in the mix on the third day as the peloton crossed 140km from Tipperary to Listowel.
The flatter stage favoured the sprinters and while Townsend’s breakaway was reabsorbed with just 5km to go, teenager Rose-Davies sprinted to a superb sixth.
In sharp contrast, the profile for stage four was expected to light up the general classification battle – with seven categorised climbs.
Stedman and Rose-Davies placed ninth and 11th on the line, with the latter becoming Canyon Eisberg’s highest-placed rider overall in 12th (second under-23).
In spite of his injuries from crashes on stages two and four, Nowell made the break and crested the summits of the Gortnabinna and Kildorrey first on the fifth stage.
Townsend then rounded off the day by sprinting to seventh position as he continued his recovery from a broken collarbone suffered in training at the end of April.
Unfortunately for the team, though, Gardias and Nowell were forced to abandon on day six, their progress hindered by illness and injury.
Stedman, Rose-Davies and Townsend battled on, fighting hard on the Queen stage the following day.
Stage seven featured not one – but eight – classified climbs, covering 141km on the run in to Naas.
Stedman was the highest-placed finisher for the team in 25th after a brave dig for glory in the finale.
He had earlier scaled both the category one Drumgoff and category three Slieve Corragh in second place.
The trio became ‘men of the Rás’ after all completing the final stage – a 145km day featuring five climbs. No processional-style final day à la the Grand Tours, here.
Stedman turned from climber to sprinter, finishing ninth on the line. Overall, he placed 23rd on general classification and third in the mountains classification.
Townsend and Rose-Davies finished 39th and 41st overall, respectively. Nowell, who abandoned following a third heavy fall, said:
“My season was going well to the Rás. After the crashes I have been building back up slowly.
“And after a big block of work, I should hopefully be going well come the Tour of the Reservoir.”
Back in England, the Tour Series was reaching its climax with visits to Aberystwyth, Stevenage, Wembley Park and Salisbury.
Picking up where they left off, Canyon Eisberg demonstrated their strength by completing five successive wins.
Following the heroics of Pullar and Tennant in Durham, Harry Tanfield soloed to victory in Aberystwyth – taking the Brother fastest lap prize with him.
The team blew their rivals away in the team time trial at Stevenage – beating JLT Condor by more almost a second as they clocked 2min 19.162sec for two laps of the 1km circuit.
Not satisfied with that triumph, Harry then soloed to his second successive crit victory in the evening.
With all members of the squad finishing inside the top 16 and 19-year-old Page bagging the Brother fastest lap, Canyon Eisberg rose to the top of the series standings.
A minor setback at Wembley, with numerous crashes involving Lowsley-Williams and Charlie Tanfield, Tim Elverson’s squad retained the green leaders’ jerseys.
Their advantage had been trimmed to a single point by Madison – setting up a dramatic showdown in the grand final in Salisbury.
JLT’s Ed Clancy won in the shadow of Salisbury Guildhall, however, the loudest celebrations came from Canyon Eisberg as they clinched their maiden Tour Series crown in dramatic fashion.
With the team in complete control and seemingly cruising towards the title, Lowsley-Williams had crashed and brought down Tennant and Page.
That ultimately brought the race back together before Harry Tanfield led out Opie, who announced his retirement an hour before the race, for third position.
Lowsley-Williams was the fourth team member over the line in 11th, prompting celebrations and ensuring Opie ended his career on a high.
Just two weeks later and it was Lowsley-Williams’ turn to announce his plan to retire at the end of the season.
Alongside Opie, he has signed up as a presenter with the Global Cycling Network (GCN) where this observer has no doubt they will be very successful.
Joe Fry also announced his retirement from the sport at the beginning of June, shortly after puncheur Ryan Christensen had arrived from the Australian UCI Continental team Oliver’s Real Food Racing.
The Kiwi impressed sports director Elverson at the East Cleveland Klondike Grand Prix earlier in the year and penned a deal until the end of the season.
WHO’S BEEN HOT?
New signings Paton, Page, Rose-Davies, Tennant and Charlie Tanfield have all been impressive so far.
Paton came out strong, drawing first blood at the Perfs Pedal in February, while Tanfield made powerful contributions in the Tour Series.
That’s where Page showed his strength, too, clocking the fastest lap at Stevenage while fellow 19-year-old Rose-Davies became a man of the Rás.
For Tennant, the solo win in Durham was probably his shining moment, although his determined chase of Richardson up the Michaelgate at Lincoln is a contender.
That result was even more important when you consider it banked the team maximum points in the Tour of Britain qualification race.
A crash in Dorpenomloop Rucphen and broken collarbone suffered in training hampered the start to the season for 2017 Spring Cup champion Townsend.
But he hit back in style at the Rás – a race which also saw Gardias sprint to fifth place from the breakaway on the opening stage.
Pullar and Lowsley-Williams have been fighting forces for the team so far, most recently at the Tour Series, playing a key part in the team success alongside Opie.
Pullar, who thought his hill climb days were over, powered to victory in this very discipline in Durham – kicking off the team’s winning streak which ultimately climaxed in series glory.
While it’s a shame to see both Hank and Opie retiring from the sport, Continental cycling will never make you rich, so it is understandable the roles at GCN were hard to refuse.
Under-23 riders Stedman and Nowell have experienced praiseworthy seasons so far, each stepping up on last term.
Once again, Stedman has proven his climbing abilities, rubbing shoulders with Greg van Avermaet and Serge Pauwels among many others at the Tour de Yorkshire and finishing third in the Rás mountains classification.
There’s no doubt he will go on to have an even brighter future in the sport, thanks to the guidance of Elverson and assistant sports director Simon Holt.
While Nowell did not technically become a ‘man of the Rás’, you have to admire his resilience. He’ll only get stronger as the season progresses.
The Tanfield brothers quickly became household names in 2018, achieving remarkable feats on the track and road – and it’s only June.
Charlie won gold and silver medals in the velodrome at the Commonwealth Games, with Harry also winning a silver on the road before sprinting to victory at the opening stage of the Tour de Yorkshire.
Overall, Canyon Eisberg have had a monumental first half to their season and I’m very optimistic about how the next few months will unfold.
Hopefully culminating in a place at the Tour of Britain.
TOUR OF BRITAIN QUALIFICATION
So, we’re halfway through the season, and it’s already time to look forward to the Tour of Britain.
As a 2.HC event, the peloton for the eight-day race can feature a maximum of 70-per-cent World Tour teams.
The other portion will include a handful of invited UCI Professional Continental outfits, a Great Britain squad and four of the seven UK’s UCI Contintental teams.
In recent years, Tour of Britain organisers have adopted a qualification competition to decide which of the British-based squads will ride.
Qualification is earned through points collected throughout a variety of races, this season including all three Spring Cup events, the CiCLE Classic, Tour de Yorkshire and Tour Series.
The Tour of the Reservoir, Bristol Grand Prix and Stockton Grand Prix, the first three legs of British Cycling’s Grand Prix Series, are the remaining ranking events.
The qualification system can appear confusing, especially if combined with limited coverage on just how well teams are doing.
The points available for each team at each race are awarded in descending order from seven down to one, with teams ranked by their highest-placed finisher.
For the Tour de Yorkshire and Tour of the Reservoir, which are stage races, the points are awarded on the final general classification standings.
Similarly, the Tour Series points are drawn from the overall finishing positions of each of the seven rival teams.
Each squad is permitted to drop their lowest score, providing a final total – with countback on highest scores used in the event of a tie.
Canyon Eisberg have been going toe-to-toe with JLT Condor, Madison Genesis, One Pro Cycling, Team Wiggins, Vitus Pro Cycling and Holdsworth for one of the four spots at the Tour of Britain.
And going into the Tour of the Reservoir, they were sitting joint-fourth – ahead of Team Wiggins on countback.
In an incredibly tight race, Madison and ONE Pro are a point ahead on 27, while JLT top the standings on 28.
This observer believes the Tour of Britain should prioritise home teams. I’d invite all the UK Continental teams if I could!
It is easy to see the value in inviting World Tour heavyweights, though. They generate crowds, revenue, greater prize money and raise the race’s profile.
But for many of the domestic teams, this is the biggest race on their calendar. And with the lack of money available at Continental level, it can be crucial to their survival.
Seeing how hard these teams work all year, it is unfortunate some will miss out. Competing against one another with the qualification process at the back of their minds is intense.
But this is cycling. And whatever way you look at it, the competition designed by Sweetspot is fair.
Places are earned and will, ultimately, go to the best-performing teams. It is just sad that three UK Continental teams will miss out.