How a touch of creativity has seen the region’s premier race team soar

Joe Fry leads the Pedal Heaven train as they control the Perfs Pedal on Sunday. Picture: Eamonn Deane/localriderslocalraces.co.uk
Joe Fry leads the Pedal Heaven train as they control the Perfs Pedal on Sunday. Picture: Eamonn Deane/localriderslocalraces.co.uk
Mike Williams on his way to second place in the veteran 50 race last month. Picture: Neil Marshall (171322-123)

Wheelers prepare for Wessex war

  • Pedal Heaven think outside the box to realise UCI Continental dream
  • Elverson to keep faith with winning formula as team refocus
  • Excel Academy offers route to top tier for region’s budding talents
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Thinking outside the box has propelled Pedal Heaven to a whole new level.

And Tim Elverson is determined to keep faith with his winning formula as the Hampshire outfit embark on their maiden UCI Continental campaign.

Five years ago the directeur sportif joined forces with owner Craig Peter to turn their dream of forming a race team into reality.

Without the budget to immediately start mixing it with their biggest rivals in the domestic peloton, the duo set out a five-year plan to earn promotion.

And with a mixture of smart thinking and careful management, their rise to the top of the British Cycling national rankings in 2015 was capped by the award of a maiden UCI Continental licence in December.

Mission accomplished then. However, celebrations at the team’s Fleet headquarters have quickly made way for a refocusing on new targets.

Pedal Heaven directeur sportif Tim Elverson. Picture: Hugh McManus

Pedal Heaven directeur sportif Tim Elverson. Picture: Hugh McManus

Those fresh goals will be spelled out at the team’s 2016 launch on Wednesday night when the stage will be set for the region’s premier race team to move up a gear.

In the meantime, Elverson insists they will not abandon the blueprint which has worked so impressively to date.

The directeur sportif said: ‘We are massively proud but it is all very well having a plan, making it happen is difficult.

‘In order for us to be competitive, we have had to get out of the box a little bit. Like Alex Paton coming in from cyclocross, like this year bringing Grant Ferguson in from mountain-biking.

For me, that is the enjoyment – making it happen with the hand we’re dealt. It makes the success all the more sweet

Tim Elverson

‘Stevie Williams was a massive hit last year. He was a first-year senior. He is now at JLT and has just finished third on GC at the New Zealand Cycle Classic.

‘He is clearly a massive talent but I found him to put him into our squad because that is what we have to do.

‘I have another one this year in Joe Fry, who I believe is going to have a big season. But we have to do our homework because we can’t just write cheques.

‘There is attention to detail in getting the best out of everyone in the current squad and there is attention to detail moving forward when recruiting new riders.

‘We have worked really hard to get to where we are, so we are proud. But in effect, we have completed this journey.

‘Now we have got to try to become a stable, southern-based Conti team.’

Life as a UCI Continental outfit has started impressively, with Rory Townsend soloing to success in the Perfs Pedal on Sunday.

It was the team’s first triumph in the traditional curtain-raiser for the British road racing season, which features multiple ascents of Portsdown Hill.

Townsend’s team-mates Mitch Webber and Lloyd Chapman were second and fourth respectively as Tom Mazzone snatched third in the sprint.

Mazzone is a member of the first intake of the Pedal Heaven Excel Academy, making it a memorable day for the club.

Waterlooville’s George Stainton-Ellis, who unfortunately crashed in the Perfs Pedal, is also part of the newly-formed development squad.

And Elverson hopes the academy will become something the best young talents from Portsmouth and across the south will aspire to become involved in.

‘Hopefully, as the years go by, it will mean we have a few less riders in the Conti side,’ added the directeur sportif.

‘We can then take first-year seniors, who we feel could make it into the Conti side but need a little help, and create a good, solid platform. That is what we are trying to achieve now.

‘Across the years I have always taken juniors and put them in the senior squad. I had Rory first, then Max Steadman and now Harrison Jones.

‘Now my intention is not to have juniors, as such, but have academy guys and put them into the senior squad.

‘I have already spoken to three current juniors for 2017. They are potential Conti riders in 2018. We have to plan ahead because we don’t have the budget not to.

‘And for me, that is the enjoyment – making it happen with the hand we’re dealt. It makes the success all the more sweet.’