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JLT-Condor looks for quartet to spark success come British road nationals

John Herety feels confident his young squad can overcome a rough start to the season and contend for British national title he won in 1982

SYDNEY — Few people in Great Britain know as much about cycling as John Herety. The 57-year-old from Cheshire has accomplished a lot over his career, including winning the 1982 British national road race championship and eventually serving as the director of racing for British Cycling.

Riders like Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish (Etixx-Quick-Step) caught the early attention of Herety’s watchful eye during their formative years. Now considered one of the UK’s most prolific team managers, Herety hopes to rebound after a rough start that has essentially rendered his JLT-Condor squad flightless for the first half of the 2015 season.

However, on Sunday, June 28, Herety will be looking for his winless UCI Continental team, which picked up 10 victories the year before, to lift itself off the ground when 11 JLT-Condor riders all vie for a shot at his former crown, including 2014 under-23 winner Ed Laverack, 2013 U23 bronze medalist Thomas Moses, 2012 U23 winner Michael Cuming, and 2012 Rás Tailteann best young rider, Richard Handley.

“There’s no question that we’ve not had the same level of success this season as we have the past,” said Herety of his team that started under the name Rapha-Condor in 2008. “But nationals will be big for our guys to find some confidence, and our recent trip to Tour of Korea was a good race to build form on because it was that hard in terms of terrain, it has been a good eight days racing without it being too taxing.”

Handley finished as the team’s top-placed rider after a sensational 90-kilometer solo break on stage 6 to pick up three bonus seconds propelled him to fifth overall in the final general classification. The 24-year-old had won a stage and wore the leader’s jersey in 2014 before a mid-race puncture cost him the overall, which was later picked up by then-teammate Hugh Carthy, now of Caja Rural-Seguros RGA, for the win.

This year’s sprint-heavy race, won by 20-year-old Australian sprinting sensation Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEdge), did not suit Herety’s team which was without a sprinter due to the team’s commitment to the five-week ‘Tour Series’ criteriums being run simultaneously in the UK.

“It was bit frustrating coming to the race without a sprinter,” Herety said. “But we are pleased with our efforts. Both Rich and Tom did a great job of animating the race under difficult circumstances, and I look for them both to take some momentum and confidence into the nationals and beyond.”

Handley agrees with Herety, and believes things are looking up for JLT-Condor.

“Last year everything just felt right from the start,” said Handley, 24. “This year, nothing really has changed, as we have most of the same talent, same kind of camps and training — we are maybe even better this year. But you have to remember, it’s a long year, and things always work out at some point.

“I do think that we have a chance for things to work out in the second half of the season and perhaps our finish to fight back into the top-five in Korea, a race that clearly did not suit us, can help us get the ball rolling — it’s a snowball effect really.”

The 23-year-old Moses, older brother to teammate Joseph, 21, welcomes the challenge of turning the season around on Sunday — especially over the Lincolnshire course.

“This is a race I would really love to win in my career,” said Moses, who won the Rutland-Melton International CiCLE Classic last year. “I’m excited to have a go — I know we all are.”

For Cuming, son of retired British pro cyclist David Cuming, the three-time Tour of Korea stage winner and 2013 champion has not had a good year with three DNFs in seven races, including An Post Rás — a race he led twice two years earlier.

“I just have not quite been going that well this year,” admitted Cuming. “There’s no particular reason, such as ailment or injury, but I’ve been asking myself what is wrong all season — John too.”

Herety agrees, but he’s also confident that the 24-year-old can bounce back to race-winning form.

“I don’t either,” said Herety. “I’ve spoken to him at length about it. He’s changed his coach after the bad form, and he’s looking at everything really.

“I think he may be at point in his life where he thinks he’s missed the window to get to that next level, but from my point of view, I think he still has the desire and the physical attributes to get where he wants. His fortunes could change [on Sunday] as he has all the tools.”

Cuming is in the fourth and final year of his contract, but claims he would like to stay on and find the former form that had his name on the lips of several Pro Continental teams in Europe.

“I’m getting on a bit now,” said Cuming. “I’d love to move up a level, but I need to find some results and nationals is always a good start. If I can string a few good results together, maybe someone will take notice.”

On Thursday, former hour-record holder Alex Dowsett (Movistar) set a scorching time of 1:00.11 over the 44.8-kilometer course to equal Sydney-based Stuart Dangerfield’s record of four national time trial titles, while Hayley Simmonds (Velosport) and Scott Davies (100%ME) took the women’s and under-23 men’s crowns. (Dangerfield later claimed that British Cycling did not count all of his TT titles, of which he says he has six. -Ed.)

In the elite men’s road race, defending champion Peter Kennaugh (Team Sky), who is fresh off an opening-stage win at the Critérium du Dauphiné in early June, will attempt to make it two in a row.

“This season has not started out for us in a manner in which we are accustomed, but riders like Handley, Moses and Cuming can all help lead the charge, and young Ed Laverack [20 years old] is still on the rise and doing everything right under his coach Tim Kennaugh,” said Herety, who managed Kennaugh, younger brother to Peter, in 2012. “We have the talent, staff, and support to turn things around.”

Aaron S. Lee is a cycling and triathlon columnist for Eurosport and a guest contributor to VeloNews.