Boardman bikes swooped in to sponsor Podium Ambition Pro Cycling in February this year, kitting the riders out with their top end Elite range. The team – headed up by decorated Paralympian Dame Sarah Storey and husband Barney Storey – took on professional status this year and are unique in creating and linking themselves to the sister cycling club ‘Boot Out Breast Cancer (BOBC) CC’. The aim of BOBC is to inspire and support riders of all levels, offering a scholarship programme for talented individuals.
We caught up with the man behind the supporting bike brand, Chris Boardman to discuss the team, women’s cycling and its development, and briefly (just briefly) how Brexit affects life on two wheels.
A very different team vibe
Spending the day with Podium Ambition at a launch event for their new ‘Base Camp’ HQ at Cafe Ventoux in Leicester, it’s clear that the familyesque bond within the organisation has a pronounced effect on the way everyone interacts and behaves around one another.
The Cafe / Bike shop will act as a base for the riders, as well as becoming a hub of activity for Boardman bikes. They do nice coffee, too. Over the few hours that I’m there, I see Dame Sarah take on a multitude of roles: Team Manager, as she ensures all of the sponsors are happy with the event; Director Sportif whilst she and the girls watch the highlights of the National Championships they rode the previous day; Coach, whilst discussing appropriate wattage for a lead out train front rider; and something of a maternal figure waving the peloton across a busy road as we made our way out to the country lanes surrounding Leicester.
“I’ve known Sarah [Storey] for 10 to 15 years, and I admire her tenacity and balance.” – Chris Boardman
The positive characters and relationships within the team aren’t just something I’ve noted. Olympic Gold Medallist and the man behind the sponsoring bike brand Chris Boardman was instrumental in the relationship with the team and told me: “You’ve got to admire it really, they [Dame Sarah and Barney] just get stuck in, regardless of the business it’s quite nice to be involved with people who are passionate and just get on with it. They decide they’re going to make it happen, and then they find a way. Barney is always there working quietly in the background, their garage is full of team kit. I’ve known Sarah for 10 to 15 years, and I admire her tenacity and balance. She’s an ambassador for the sport – it might sound a bit cheesy but she is. To do something with her is brilliant.”
Discussing Dame Sarah’s ability to keep so many plates spinning simultaneously, he explains: “She’s one of life’s organisers – if she wasn’t doing this, she’d have been a CEO or something. As an athlete you’re trained to be driven, but you’re also trained to be selfish. [Sarah is different] she’s thinking larger, not just thinking ‘this is what I need to eat’, ‘this is what I need to do for training’, she’s thinking about everybody else. And that’s not usual. It’s quite A-typical.”
Boardman has moved from the life of a pro cyclist to that of an industry bod, seemingly fairly smoothly. His name ‘The Professor’, gained through his meticulous attention to detail with his own racing gear, has graduated to a desire to make great bikes and whilst we’re there he spends a good half hour chatting about handlebar set up with Barney.
Describing the attributes needed to be a pro cyclist, and those required to perform in other careers, he tells me: “You need the drive and courage and the ability to deal with failure. So there’s things you could take from a career [in cycling and apply elsewhere] but there’s lots of things you bring from a career [in cycling] that you need to change – and selfishness is one of them.”