Paul Davy Cycling Photographer - spent three days at the Tour of Britain taking photographs of the Giordana Racing Team in race and behind the scenes. This is his story and photo gallery.
Phil Griffiths’ racing team have gone through numerous incarnations over the past few years, and this year they are known as Giordana Racing Team. Originally this story was to be based around rider Richard Hepworth but unfortunately he came down with a virus and didn’t make the selection.
With Richard out I needed a new angle, and Bill Nickson - former Ti Raleigh rider and Milk Race winner - came to the rescue. Having reached out to some contacts, I got a phone call late one night a week before the ToB was due to start, and it was Bill the team DS asking who I was and what my intentions were. I explained I was a small time photographer looking for a story and a team to cover.
After a long chat, with Bill’s blessing I collected my accreditation and was on the Tour.
Giordana Racing Team is steeped in cycling history from ownership through to management, mechanics, clothing and riders:
Phil Griffiths – Team Director
Many will know him from the days of the ANC-Halfords’ attempt at the Tour de France made famous by the British writer Jeff Connors’ ‘Wide-eyed and Legless’. Those relatively new to cycling may know Phil from the company Yellow Limited, which he set up in 1984, importing top- end cycle clothing from brands such Assos, Giordana, Pinarello, Rudy Project, Corima and D.M.T
Phil has also had a cycling career to match that of some of the top British cyclists today, with yellow jerseys in the peace race, stage wins in the Milk Race and having competed and won medals in both the Olympic and Commonwealth Games.
Bill Nickson – Team Manager
Bill was the manager at this year’s Tour of Britain but there is another manager who I didn’t get to meet. Malcolm Elliot was the team sprinter for ANC- Halfords at the Tour de France with a pro racing career spanning from 1983 – 2011. After retiring he then became manager at Team Motorpoint which was run by Phil Griffiths, and is now the team we have at ToB.
Although ANC-Halfords were the first British based team to race at the Tour de France they certainly weren’t the first British riders. Many have been there and Bill Nickson was one of them. Racing for the Ti Raleigh team based in the Netherlands, Bill has a palmares just as impressive, winning The Milk Race finishing in his home city of Liverpool, racing in the Olympics and winning numerous British races during his time as a pro cyclist.
Then we have team Mechanic - Dudley Heyton who raced for a number of teams between 1978 and 1998 including Holdsworth-Campagnolo, Viking, Linda McCartney Racing Team and ANC winning stages in the Milk Race and coming close in races in Belgium and France.
Now enough of the old guys, this is about 2014. With a strong line-up of Rob Partridge, Steve Lampier, Marcin Bialobolocki, James Moss, Brad Morgan and Nathan Edmondson, each one of the riders have a good chance of finishing high on at least one stage during the Tour of Britain.
However,Giordana are a super low budget team punching way above their weight with just a sprinter van and team car, one mechanic, two soigneurs, Bill as DS and his daughter helping out.
On the day before the Tour began I headed to Liverpool and introduced myself to Bill, who seems like a decent chap with his head screwed on, with the aura of someone who wouldn’t take any messing. Clearly occupied with Team Manager duties, he immediately told me to make myself at home and get acquainted with the riders, and sent me off into the hotel by myself to say hello. Off I went passing Marcel Kittel in the hotel lobby, sweet!
Approaching the team, I could only recognise Rob Partridge at that moment and he was the one who took control of the conversation while the rest of the lads looked on as I tried to explain myself and what I was going to be doing for the next four days.
Rob at that table was the clear leader, but how that would pan out over the next few days I didn’t know. Steve Lampier was out in the car park on his own warming up, I spotted him earlier struggling with his turbo trainer and thought it best to leave him to it.
There wasn’t much going on at the hotel just swannies washing down busses and prepping bikes for the start the morning after. It was time for me to head to the team presentation at Liverpool One but first I wanted a photograph of Steve Lampier warming up, earphones in, sweat on –click: got it.
Liverpool isn’t the easiest place to get around in a car and I eventually found a spot to park which –outrageously - cost me a tenner. Coming from Manchester stories about Liverpool aren’t the kindest but my experience of Liverpudlians is that they are a very welcoming and proud bunch with funny accents (sorry Bill).
The Giordana team’s presentation was underway with Marcin Biaboloki the only non- English speaking rider having his little chat with Hugh and Ned, then a few photos and autographs and back to the hotel. I stuck around and got some shots of the big stars including Mark Cavendish. I’ve never seen anyone work the camera like him, I thought it was Victoria Beckham for a moment. Formalities concluded, it was time to prepare for the race…
Today’s plan for me was to catch the start of the race, if I didn’t get to another start line this week it didn’t matter as long as I got Liverpool. The tension was high you could feel it in the air the riders were trying to look calm but you could see the nerves in both the smaller team’s and the bigger riders like Bradley Wiggins and especially Mark Cavendish.
I had planned to walk the route as it was only 13k and meet up with my good friend Paul Rance from the Manchester Rapha Club, but I decided it was a long way out and as the next couple of days would offer lots of similar opportunities I would stay around the start/finish.
I spotted a flag with Mossy and the Giordana colours emblazoned across it and thought that must be for James Moss of Giordana Racing. It turned out that it was his mum and dad, I had a good chat about how difficult it is to pick an individual rider out to photograph and that they have the same problem even to the extent of travelling all the way to Spain and not seeing their son in the peloton!
There were more than enough accidents and weird happenings in today’s stage, Mark Cavendish stopped to adjust a cleat and I think had a puncture then crashed, Ian Stannard crashed and has a
suspected broken wrist or hand. Both riders finished but not in great shape, but even so Mark
finished third and Kittel took first place. The first of the Giordana riders was Rob Partridge, coming in 44th place which is pretty good considering the competition.
Stage 2 took the team from Knowsley to Llandudno and took me to the feed zone in Mold of all places - must be an in joke with the race organisers. Feed zones are always good spots if you want free stuff and to chat with the soigneurs. The feed zone was in Mold last year for the Tour of Britainand the teams that came last year had the same soigners. I’ve become quite friendly with a few of the lads from Movistar and a bloke from Rapha - I don’t even know his name but he keeps on bumping in to me in dodgy laybys and car parks all over the country.
The Giordana soigneur and Bill’s daughter set up at the bottom of a hill next to Rapha-Condor- JLT the rest of the teams had set up half way up the hill. This way the lads wouldn’t get caught up in thescrum as riders fight for position to grab musettes and water bottles. Rob Partridge came up first with Ian Bibby - both in the breakaway - then half way down the peloton Steve Lampier and the rest of the team collect their musettes.
The Rapha guy said I could follow him up to the finish in Llandudno, I got into my car and both the Giordana and Rapha vans had zipped off. They couldn’t be too far down the road but I didn’t see them again until Llandudno -they had gone the wrong way and so had to make a detour.
I found my spot on a roundabout 100 yards before the flame rouge, hoping as it was suspected to be a bunch sprint that the peloton would split around it and I’d get riders either side but as it materialised it was strung out with Alex Dowsett coming through the roundabout first followed by Sylvain Chavenel with the OPQS team catching fast. The sprint was closely contested with a happy Mark Cavendish clapping Mark Renshaw over the line for the win. I didn’t get to see the Giordana team at the finish as they are usually first off to the hotels but I did get to see another of my good friends Mike and his wife from Popup Bikes in Manchester at the podium. It was Steve Lampier’s turn today to cross the line first out of the Giordana Team, and he came in 56th.
After a fairly eventful day for both me and the team it was time to finish up, on my way back to the car I bumped into a TV moto rider Erick I took a photo of last year at Honister Pass he had a look at my photographs and we went our separate ways. It happens quite a lot, bumping into people. This is my third Tour of Britain and I’m starting to make a lot of friends on the race scene - seems like everybody knows everybody else and it’s nice that in a shitty world people can still be friendly.
Stage 3 was a long way from home for me and a long transfer for the Team. I was debating where to start the day as I could have gone to the start in Newtown, but my shots wouldn’t have been anywhere near as good as those I took in Liverpool, and I could have gone to any one of the KOM’s or sprint points finishes but they are generally pretty bland affairs. I came to the conclusion that The Tumble would be my only spot today and if I missed this I would kick myself. The Tumble was, nearly 200 miles from my home in Manchester so a 400 mile round trip for a handful of shots – some would say I’m crazy, but chasing the race is half the fun.
I got to the hill in Abergavenny early and had no contact with the team since the morning before so wasn’t totally sure how they were getting on. I knew Rob Partridge had got some good telly time in the break but other than that I didn’t really know what kind of form they were in.
The climb was filling fast with spectators from all over, it was hot and bright with shadows everywhere not great for taking photographs, but every problem is an opportunity and all that. I found a gap in a boulevard of trees when the riders passed I would expose for the lighter part and hopefully illuminate the riders from the side and cast some great shadows over the road.
I got my shot with a struggle as the attacking riders were so close to the TV motos I struggled to geta clear shot I managed it though luckily. My next question was how to get to the top 4km up for some final shots of the Giordana Racing Team. Three vans beeped at me, first it was my buddy from Rapha, next it was Darren Top Mod I could see they wanted to give me a lift but the convoy was moving too fast. Then luckily the TV moto guy I had met the day before was driving the van today and he stopped and waved me in the cab. To top it off he had race radio tuned in to his CB. I heard every attack from Nico Roche and counter attack from Edoardo Zardini and Bradley Wiggins moving up slowly, all the while I was taking photographs of the tens of thousands of fans flanking the road and then a Netapp Endura straggler popped a wheelie on his way to the finish.
Edoardo Zardini took the stage win and Steve Lampier came in 12 places behind him in 13th what a result.
Now to get some final shots of the lads then back home job done!