Taking a closer look at the UK’s ever evolving scene, we see a few things…Endura’s recruitment of strong riders continues – former British road race and Tour of Ireland winner, Russell Downing may have been released by Sky, but Endura know a good thing when they see one and have snapped him up. Meanwhile, Rapha Condor Sharp has lost Aussie strongman Zak Dempster and Tour of Britain climbing revelation Jonathan Tiernan-Locke; they also go to Endura. However, Phil Griffiths’ Motorpoint squad doesn’t look like it will continue into 2012 and their strongmen Jonny McEvoy and Ian Bibby have gone to – Endura, where else?
Let’s see where young Liam Holohan fits into all of this…
PEZ: You were only 19 when you turned pro, Liam?
Liam Holohan: Yes, I turned pro in 2009; John Herety of the Rapha team made me an offer half way through 2008 – it was the best British team around at the time and I couldn’t really say ‘no.’
PEZ: You were Rapha for just the one year?
LH: I felt the pressure moving up from the amateur to the pro ranks and I struggled a bit.
I’m a rider who needs a lot of racing rather than training all the time – there were 12 really good lads in that team and it was hard to get selected for the races.
The team was really strong, that was the year Kristian House won the British elite championship.
PEZ: How did the Raleigh contract come about?
LH: My friend Tom Barras made the connection for me with Chris Truett who managed the team at that time.
PEZ: Do you feel a responsibility, racing for such a famous name?
LH: The heyday of Raleigh was before my time, I first became interested in cycling during the Pantani era.
But when you’re out training or at a cafe stop you’ll meet older guys who have a great interest in the marque and will chat to you about the team’s glory days back in the 70’s and 80’s.
PEZ: How would you categorise yourself as a rider?
LH: I wouldn’t say I was a specific type of rider; rather there are a lot of things I can do pretty well.
I can climb, sprint and get round a criterium – I also find that I get stronger as stage races go on.
PEZ: Is stage racing your favourite type of event?
LH: Definitely, I really enjoyed the stage racing we did this year – Majorca, Beauce in Canada and of course the Tour of Britain.
But I did enjoy the Tour Series televised crits in the UK – any type of race where there’s a big crowd and a good atmosphere, really.
PEZ: Did you ever consider going down the continental route to a pro career?
LH: Yes and no, I received David Rayner Fund support and raced in Belgium for half of a season as a junior – that gave me a taste for it.
The team I raced for invited me back to be part of their U23 squad for the following season but I received a good offer to race for the Merlin Development Team in the UK and accepted that – I rode for them until I turned pro with Rapha.
PEZ: Give us some palmares, please.
LH: I rode well in the Tour Series crits this year, I had the yellow jersey twice – and I had some good placings in the Premier Calendar races, I tend to go best in the hillier ones.
The Lincoln Grand Prix was good for me, that’s probably Britain’s biggest one day race – I took fifth in that.
PEZ: Big changes at Raleigh for 2012.
LH: We’ll be so much more competitive next season – Graham Briggs, the reigning British criterium champion is joining us and so are Daniel Holloway and Bernie Sulzberger; they were respectively former US and Australian criterium champions.
I think that shows that the team is serious about getting a result in the Tour Series crits.
The last few seasons the series has been dominated by Rapha, Endura and Motorpoint but I think that’s set to change.
Evan Oliphant joins us too, he’ll be an asset in the hillier races and I hope to shine in those races with him.
PEZ: Endura has become even stronger.
LH: I don’t think their focus is so much on the British scene as the European UCi races – I don’t think I saw Bauer, Blain or Camano compete in the UK, this season.
But you never know!
PEZ: But along with Rapha, Endura set the trend for riding continental stage races to be more competitive in the UK?
LH: Absolutely, it ups your game and when you recover you’re in so much better shape.
Raleigh plans to ride more continental stage races in 2012 and also to do more races in the US, it’s a global band and the team wants to show in countries where the bikes are sold.
PEZ: What would you like to see change about the UK race scene?
LH: I’d like to see more closed roads; the Premier Calendar races are great, they go from strength to strength – but below that level it’s not great to race on roads which are open to traffic.
I’d also take the racing to the public – a lot of races are still held in the middle of nowhere.
The Lincoln Gran Prix is on closed roads and goes right up the city’s main street – it’s fantastic with all the people on the circuit.
PEZ: You’ve just started your training regime for 2012?
LH: Yes, just this week, I’ve received an invite to be ‘guest pro’ at the traininspain.net camp for a week in January.
It’s down on the Costa Blanca, so the weather should be nice – it’ll probably be snowing here at that time!
I was down there last year and it was great – we met up with riders from Katusha, QuickStep and Vacansoleil.
I met John Fegan who organises the camps and he asked me to come down and guest.
But I won’t be smashing it – it’s only January after all, I’m looking forward to a good week of conditioning riding.
PEZ: Did you ever go to training camps when you were young?
LH: No, but I wish I had – when I look back at how I used to train I wish I could go back and have a word with my young self!
I used to train too much, too often – rest is so important but you still see riders, even at pro level who do too much, too hard.
PEZ: And what do you want from season 2012?
LH: I’m looking to be more competitive in UCi races and I think with our more international programme next year, I’ll be able to achieve that.
And if you fancy joining Liam on the Costa Blanca, check out www.traininspain.net