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Inside a British Elite Development Team

Team PB Performance; a rider perspective

In total, eight domestic UK teams have been awarded the title of ‘Elite Development Team’ by British Cycling. These teams are essential in bridging the gap from regional racing, to national level events and beyond, and they are required by British Cycling to “demonstrate a high level of support for their riders, providing them with a platform to develop, a comprehensive race programme and race day support”. It’s hard to know how much thought British Cycling devoted to the phrase ‘Elite Development Team’, possibly not that much, however the title is astonishingly apt and each word describes a key aspect of teams at this level.

It’s in this space that LEM partnered Team PB Performance races. The phrase Elite Development Team exists at the heart of everything Team PB Performance does and through each of these three, simple words you get a detailed portrayal of what life is like for those involved in the team.

noun: elite; plural noun: elites
a select group that is superior in terms of ability or qualities to the rest of a group or society.

Gathered in a gazebo, sheltered from the wind, it’s not exactly the stereotypical image of an ‘Elite’ cycling team. But that’s the game Team PB Performance plays.

The British Cycling National Series is a collection of races, previously referred to as the Premier Calendar, which is the top echelon of domestic racing in the UK and the main focus for any Elite Development Team. These races are longer, harder, and have stronger fields than your usual weekend ‘Nat B’ and it’s a candid opportunity to test yourself against the best riders in the UK, many from UCI Continental teams, in a gruelling 160km+ battle.

To get a better mental picture of these races, a few simple steps need to be followed:
1. Pick your favourite Northern town, 2. Locate some nasty 3-5 minute climbs, and 3. Buckle in for one of the more unpleasant Sunday afternoons of your life. For riders on any Elite Development Team, this whole experience usually pummels back to reality with a rush to work on Monday morning – I said it wasn’t glamorous.

It can be easy to lose perspective, as Continental riders ride you off their wheel week after week, but the definition of ‘elite’ still stands true. Few in society are ever able to reach this level, and to even finish a National Series race is an achievement to be proud of, however the overarching goal of any EDT is to develop race on race, season on season, and to strive for improvement no matter what.

the process of developing or being developed.

The clue’s in the name – PB. It’s not Team ‘Winning the Tour de France’, but rather the focus is on achieving a personal best and performing better than before (albeit combined with a fun pun on team manager and coach Paul Bennett’s initials!). A key aspect of the team is development – not necessarily achieving a world-beating result on the day, but doing better than last time, taking opportunities to learn, and improving yourself as a rider.

Team PB Performance’s commitment to rider development is unparalleled and, despite inevitable setbacks, every rider who joins the team is a long-term investment. Although, perhaps blockchain fine wine would be a more fruitful endeavour going forward – you would need to ask the WiV SunGod riders for details on that!

A favourite phrase of team soigneur Louise Bennett is from little acorns mighty oaks grow. This simple metaphor embodies the key values which Team PB Performance is rooted in, for a primary focus of which is development from the inside. Through its regional ‘Team’, Team PB Performance develops local talent from the East Midlands to allow them to join the Elite Development Team, bringing them onto a national stage. Most importantly, these riders already have links to those in the EDT, as they race alongside them in smaller events, growing a friendship which is essential to progression.

noun: team; plural noun: teams
a group of players forming one side in a competitive game or sport.

With a team spread over the length and breadth of the UK, it can often prove difficult to build a strong relationship with other riders, a relationship fundamental to excelling in races.

As previously mentioned, most races tend to take place in the North of England. With this in mind, special mention has to be given to team ‘spranter’ (a very long drawn out sprint in excess of 1km!), Jacques Coates, who drove the circa 500 kilometre journey from Scotland back to the South West of England immediately after racing the 200 kilometre National Championships in typical Scottish rain.

Having a helmet partner enables this team spirit, drawing us together in the bunch and unifying our group of individuals into one combined unit.

This word ‘unit’ comes up often in pre-race discussions and post-race debriefs. Standing on the start line of a National Series race, I don’t think anybody hasn’t got that voice in their head telling them that they could win – a whisper of hope is unavoidable. This leads to chaotic starts, as every rider tries to squeeze, push, and barge their way to the front of the bunch. Racing as a unit makes everything ten times easier in these opening laps. All it takes is to look ahead, spot another LEM helmet and stick to that teammate’s wheel as together you navigate the mayhem and wait for proceedings to settle.

All in all, the title ‘Elite Development Team’ holds more than may meet the eye. Through these three simple words, a striking picture can be drawn of the key values any EDT should strive for. And these are the values which Team PB Performance holds at its core, as a developing team of riders aiming to progress at the elite level of British domestic cycling.

Words: George Peden

Images: Courtesy of PB Performance team

Location: UK, 20 October 2022