PezCycling News - What's Cool In Road Cycling : JLT-Condor’s Tom Stewart Gets PEZ’d!

JLT-Condor’s Tom Stewart Gets PEZ’d!
Rider Interview: Next on Ed Hood's list of young riders to interview is already a winner on the international stage with the overall victory in the prestigious Tour of Normandie. Ed caught up with Tom Stewart after his French win and before he jetted off to represent England in the Commonwealth Games Road Race in Australia.

Whilst the WorldTour riders are hogging the TV screens with the GP E3 Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem, further south in Western Europe there’s a race taking place at the same time where many of the big names cut their teeth – Baptiste Planckaert (Katusha-Alpecin & Belgium), ex-World Pursuit Champion, Stefan Kung (BMC & Switzerland) and Giro stage winner, Silvan Dillier (Switzerland & AG2R-La Mondiale) have all won the Tour of Normandie.

Always a hard fought battle with a parcours which criss-crosses this famous cycling heartland; notorious for cross winds, short, sharp climbs, rain and frantic, uncontrolled racing. This year’s edition saw 28 year-old Englishman, Tom Stewart (JLT-Condor) take the final GC after seven stages against some of the best continental teams in Europe.

PEZ needed a word with the Doncaster man who now lives in Sheffield, home town to British cycling legends Malcolm Elliott and Paul Watson.

PEZ: Congratulations, Tom – a race noted for bad weather and tough parcours.
Tom Stewart:
The weather was cold to start with but for the latter stages wasn’t too bad. But the parcours is tough, you have descents into river valleys, then steep climbs back out – and then the cross winds hit you on the plateaus over the top.

PEZ: But you knew what to expect, you’ve been 11th and 14th in Normandie in the past?
I was really pleased with that 11th place at the time – if you’d told me I’d come back and win one day, I’d have laughed at you!

PEZ: Stage Five where you were third was your platform for the win, wasn’t it?
Yeah, that was the GC day where the break went all the way to the line. It’s a race where there’s never control; the rider who wins the first stage rarely tries to hold on to the jersey – it’s too difficult. It’s a UCI 2.2 race bit carries a lot of weight and if you’re a U23 and win it then you’re pretty much guaranteed a contract. On Stage Five there were moves going all day, everyone was really tired and when our move went the elastic snapped. I could feel it coming and said to the lads that we had to go with everything – I was lucky that it’s the move that I was in that stuck.

PEZ: The last stage must have been tough with a lot of teams attacking the jersey?
The final two days were tough, I was defending a lead of one second! And we lost a couple of lads so we were down to four of us. When we managed to get through Saturday’s stage we began to dare to dream but there were nine or 10 guys within a dozen seconds of me. Normandie is often decided on bonuses so we had to be careful; there were two sprint time bonuses on the parcours as well as at the finish – that makes it hard to control. We knew our chances were slim but we were all motivated and decided to go out and enjoy it.

PEZ: There was some heavyweight opposition – the Leopard, Joker, SEG and Riwal teams.
The ideal scenario for us was that breaks went and scooped the bonuses, it looked impossible but that’s what happened and none of the big teams took control. On the last stage we asked for a bit of help from some of the sprinters’ teams to bring it back together; we didn’t get a lot – but we got enough. It was tough though because the big teams tried to split it a few times in the cross winds. It’s a cool race to win, it’s not that well known to the folks who follow the big results but to those in cycling who know their races it’s a big win to have on your palmarés.

PEZ: You started the year well with strong results in the New Zealand Cycle Classic; 8th on GC - and three top five stage placings in the Herald Sun Tour in Australia.
When I moved to JLT Condor last year I knew what my early season programme was going to be with dates set in stone so it was pretty straightforward to get into condition for those races.

PEZ: Then you carried that form into the races in the Balkans; 9th in the one day Trofeo Porec and 19th in the Istrian Spring Trophy stage race.
I actually wanted to do better in those races but the weather was horrible and both races became a bit of a lottery. They weren’t huge races but they allowed us to try things for when the more important races come along – like working as a team in support of a leader and sprint lead outs.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - : Mens 2018 Herald Sun Jayco Tour Prologue, 1.6km Individual Time Trial, on January 31, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Con Chronis/Getty Images)

PEZ: What’s next?
I have a local race at the weekend in Doncaster then I’m off to Australia to ride the Commonwealth Games Road Race for England. I’ll have a little break when I get back – which is good because I’ve been racing pretty much nonstop since the start of the season – then it’ll be the Tour of Yorkshire.

PEZ: You turned pro with Raleigh in 2013?
TS: I finished my university degree mid-season and was grateful to Raleigh for giving me the opportunity to ride with them for the second part of the season. I had a good relationship with management and enjoyed the experience.

PEZ: Then three seasons with Madison Genesis.
I wanted to step up and had my first proper full season with them; ex-British professional cyclo-cross and road race champion, Roger Hammond was our DS and I enjoyed working with him. I had some good results with them but wanted to move up again.

PEZ: That’s when you joined One Pro Cycling for 2017?
Yes, they were originally going to be riding at pro continental level last year - as they had in 2016 - again but that didn’t happen and they dropped to continental level. It was disappointing but these things happen and it was too late to change teams by then but I had a good year. When I found out that they weren’t going back pro continental this year I decided to go with JLT Condor. I’m enjoying the experience, I always curious about what it would be like working with their DS, John Herety [former Mercier professional, British professional champion and long term Condor manager. editor] and it’s proved to be a good move.

PEZ: What’s still on the Tom Stewart ‘to do’ list?
I want to step up, I’ve had five seasons as a pro in the United Kingdom but I’m not comfortable to still be at continental level. If I’d won Normandie as a U23 I’d be in line for a pro conti or World Tour ride but at 28 years-of-age it’s a different story. . .

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 1,600 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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