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PEZ Talk: Kingsnorth Wheelers
If you're a young racer with dreams of racing in cycling's heartland you couldn't do much better than joining up with the Kingsnorth Wheelers, the amateur team set up in Ghent that has helped riders such as Garmin's Jack Bauer on to great success. We recently caught up with Peter Murphy, one of the key men behind the Wheelers to find out more.

The Vuelta looms. The World Tour, the pinnacle; but unless you're a super talent nurtured from your junior years a la Taylor Phinney or Bradley Wiggins, how do you take the first step up the mountain where only the Super Teams can breathe the rarefied air ?

Well, you could do a lot worse than speak to a certain Peter Murphy - Jack Bauer did and the rest is history.

Peter is one of the men behind Kingsnorth Wheelers - the Flandrian team with the English name. Peter has worked for Belgian pro cycle clothing manufacturer, Nico Sport for 37 years and has the T-shirt and the DVD when it comes to pro cycling.

Inspired by Jack Bauer's recent Commonwealth Games road race silver medal he took time to talk 'grass roots' with PEZ.

Kingsnorth's most famous recent graduate, Jack Bauer

PEZ: Why and when did you found the team, Peter?
The Kingsnorth Wheelers was founded about twenty years ago to give British and Commonwealth riders a chance to race as a team in key events in Belgium and Europe.

Staf Boone, a Ghent cycling stalwart and well known helper of overseas riders along with Paul West of the then BCF (British Cycling Federation) based the club in Ghent and since then there's been a long line of great riders hoping to secure a Pro Contract.

The main man, Staf Boone

We have had many great names in The Kingsnorth - Kiwi's Jack Bauer, Gordon McCauley, Chris Macic - who won a lot of races but decided to return home and start a business - and Darren Medhurst, son of the 70's six day man, the late Paul Medhurst. Aussies, Nathan Clarke, Doug Repacholi - who should have gone so much further. (Douglas had a 'party animal' rep. ed.) US Guest riders Alex Candelario and Kirk O'Bee.

Optum's Alex Candelario - just one name in a long list of quality cyclists that have worn the Kingsnorth colors

British riders who went on the good contracts in Britain include Steve Lampier, Dean Downing, Peter Williams, Tom Murray, and Tobyn Horton to name just a few.

PEZ: Is the team still based at 'the farm'?
The riders live at a great location, a heritage farm dwelling very close to Ghent centre and the Flemish countryside. Naglis, a past top East European rider also lives there to maintain the upkeep. Naglis raced with Bobrik, Ekimov and the riders of that generation before the break-up of the Soviet Union.

PEZ: The guys are well looked after, aren't they?
The riders may be transported to races that are far from Ghent or evening crits but often prefer to ride to the races to ensure a good warm-up. The clothing is provided and there is a 200€ per win bonus system in place.

Mario Willems is a guest Belgian rider and has won seven races this year and had numerous places in the top five. (Willems was one of the Kermis Kings not so long ago, along with Guy Smet, winning races by the dozen, ed.) He would help Jack with his tactics telling him when to go in the last few kilometres.

Jack Bauer winning in the Kingsnorth colors back in 2009. To read our interview with Jack back when he was just an up and coming amateur with Kingsnorth click here

PEZ: Is Jack your biggest result?
Yes, Jack must be the greatest success story - winning 10 races in a few months and then going to Endura and from there to the World Tour and Garmin. He was known for his strength on the bike and his gentlemanly demeanour off it.

It must be noted that before the club started Staf had also assisted Alan Peiper (you'll see reference to Staf in Allan's book, A Peiper's Tale) and the Classic-winning Kiwi Eric MacKenzie.

Allan Peiper in his Panasonic days

My humble opinion is that Doug Repacholi could also have been a great racer if he was a little more serious with his training and preparation.

PEZ: And is Belgium still the place?
Flanders is the place to be for young riders wishing to break into big time. If you do well you get a contract. It's that easy but it is up to the rider to show what he is worth. The national Latvian and Lithuanian teams base themselves in the Ghent area.

Ghent has been known since the early fifties as the place to base yourself if you're an 'Anglo.' Dave Ricketts the English pioneer who rode for the Plume Vainquer bike shop team in the 50's along with the famous Aussie six day riders, Alf Strom and Reg Arnold - riding road and track - and then the late, great Englishman, Tom Simpson in the sixties who won San Remo, Flanders, Lombardy and the Worlds, they all came to Ghent.

Other English riders include Barry Hoban who won Ghent-Wevelgem and eight Tour de France stages, Vin Denson who won a Giro stage and the Tour of Luxembourg and Alan Ramsbottom who won stages in races like the Midi Libere.

'Fat Albert' Beurick was the head of Simpson's fan club and ran the Cafe de Engel; he and the famous Mrs Deene both put riders up for minimal fees to give them their start.

PEZ: What about the ladies?
The Kingsnorth International Wheelers have two ladies at this time in the club and Jessica Stoddart placed well last week in Oostkamp in an Elite Dames Koers.

PEZ: Can 'cross riders stay in winter?
The farm is an ideal place for cross riders; Jo Atkins the great John Atkins (multiple British champion and top ten finisher in the 'cross Worlds, ed.) grandson is in attendance at the moment preparing for the coming cross season which starts early September in Belgium.

PEZ: As a man who's seen it all, what's your take on Mondialisation?
I believe that The Mondialisation of the sport can only be of good bringing in previously untried countries such as China and for the commercial side of course. More people purchasing bikes can only be of benefit.

It's the same with Sportivs or "reliability trials" as I knew them in the UK, back in the day. But I wish the good "Winners" of these events would treat themselves to a license to see how they fare against bone fide competitors. It's easy to win the club run and get false ideas of ones ability.

PEZ: What's the biggest change you've seen in the sport?
I believe that the greatest change in the past half century in cycling is that now it's a white collar hobby whereas before peasants and factory workers raced to win money to help to pay for the family's food bill. It has in fact become the new golf.

PEZ: And in conclusion, if you want to make it - head for Ghent?
I would strongly advise any rider to come to Google Staf Boone's Farm. Whether they be contract seekers or holiday makers; Staf will welcome you and you can see first hand how racing is in the land of the kermis. Please call 00 32 9 2250096 and ask for Staf.

The class of 2014 at Kingsnorth

It was November 2005 when Ed Hood first penned a piece for PEZ, on US legend Mike Neel. Since then he's covered all of the Grand Tours and Monuments for PEZ and has an article count in excess of 1,100 in the archive. He was a Scottish champion cyclist himself - many years and kilograms ago - and still owns a Klein Attitude, Dura Ace carbon Giant and a Fixie. He and fellow Scot and PEZ contributor Martin Williamson run the Scottish site where more of his musings on our sport can be found.


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