Rapha divide to conquer in Asia and Europe

Following their winning start to the season at the Tour of South Africa, Rapha Condor-Sharp are heading abroad again this week at the Tours of Normandy and Taiwan.

South Africa overall winner Kristian House will lead a team at the eight-stage Tour of Normandy (March 21-27); Dean Downing will be the leader in Taiwan, a ten-day stage race starting tomorrow.

Team manager John Herety cited a stage win in Normandy as arealistic aim, with House confident he can build on his South Africa result.

“We have been coming to the Tour of Normandy for a few years now,” said Herety. “We have seen our results and racing improve here each year and I think it is about time that our stock matured at this race.”

“I¹ve always been there or thereabouts in Normandy, the long, harder days suit me, and I think a stage win is well within my grasp there,” said House.

Great Britain and Endura are also fielding teams in the tough French stage race.

The Tour of Taiwan is more of an unknown quantity. Although last year Downing took the event’s queen stage and finished sixth overall, this year’s event has been extended by two days and incorporates more climbs.

“I had a great race last year, but the course profile has really changed for 2011,” said Downing.

“It looks like a much tougher race, with an extra two days racing. I don’t think I have my climbing legs yet…we’ll see how I go.”

Forme Procycliste San Lamere hits the scene

There’s a new U23 Academy racing onto the British scene, and it goes by the name of Forme Procycliste San Lamere.

“It’s quite unique in that it’s not a normal racing team; we want to give something back to the sport,” brand manager Adam Biggs told CW.

“If you’re a good junior in this country, you either get on the ODP programme or the Rayner Fund; if you’re in between, it’s talent going to waste.”

Biggs knows about this well: a talented junior racer, he went to France as an 18-year-old and spent three years racing at top amateur level.

Don’t be fooled by the team’s continental name either: the five team members are based in Derbyshire. “This is an Academy in the European style; they’ll be living together in the Peak District,” Biggs said.

“It’s a stepping stone: if one of them went to, say, Endura next year, I’d say that’s a job well done,” he explained.

The squad will be racing the Premier Calendar series, alongside some top amateur races and kermesses in France and Belgium.

They’re already on the road too, currently out in Croatia racing the four-day Istrian Spring Trophy, alongside one Michael Rasmussen.

They raced the Porec Trophy one-day race on Sunday; Jack Adams made it into the early break before placing 49th, while guest rider Steven Gallagher was 51st.

“It sounded savage. There was no neutralized zone, it went straight from the gun,” Biggs said.

The team consists of Rob Orr, Jack Adams, Dexter Gardias, Will Fox and Adam Rayner.

Right to Play Ride to France

The Right To Play charity are offering cycling fans the chance to be a part of what they’re describing as the most exciting bike ride of 2011, the Ride to the Tour (June 29 – July 2nd).

Sponsorsed by Specialized, the ride totals 350 miles. It departs from The Stoop, home of Harlequins Rugby Club, and reaches Les Herbiers 4 days later.

Participants will get to see the end of the first stage of the Tour de France, as well as going behind-the-scenes of the HTC-Highroad team .

Right To Play Athlete Ambassador Mark Cavendish said: “It’s the closest you can get to the Tour de France without competing with myself and team HTC- Highroad for the green jersey.”

For more information, visit their website, or see an interview with Cav at here.

East London charity hit by bike thieves

Thieves stole jerseys, shorts and helmets worth £800 during a burglary at a charity’s storage site in East London.

They struck at Cyclists Fighting Cancer’s Stratford lock-up in the early hours of Tuesday, and took equipment and clothing that was due to be used in the charity’s WheelHeroes100 sportive on May 22.

The clothing is distinctly coloured orange, white and blue, and in various sizes.

For more information, see their Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Cyclists-Fighting-Cancer/110228029038844 or email Mike Grisenthwaite on mike@nacer.org.uk



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