Driving Team Vitus – Day One

Driving the lead car on open roads for a UCI team on a Tour de Yorkshire recce is certainly interesting; so when my good friend and team DS for Vitus Pro Cycling, Cherie Pridham asked me to help out, I was delighted and excited. After all, at heart I’m just a cycling fan like the rest of us.

After what seemed like Noah’s flood of 40 days continual rain, the sun was shining back and the skies were blue as we all got ready at Beverley, finished coffees, and DS Cherie passed over the necessary instructions. Time to hit the road to Doncaster, but at least I’d be driving, hoping to keep these guys protected a little from the vagaries of British motoring.

The first section loops around Hornsea and back to Beverley, so as we hit a traffic jam near the loop, it was time for quick thinking. One thing is certain, and it’s that a traffic jam won’t stop a small group of pro cyclists, and we knew that we needed to be there when they came out of the lane after the loop. A quick chat between Chez and I, u-turn the cars and head to the lane where the guys should hopefully pop out soon.

Of course, plans are never that easy, and as we were quietly sitting waiting, noticing the ‘road closed’ signs, we’d been confident that 5 cyclists would still get through – and they had – on the very next lane! After some time had passed, and we became convinced that we should have been reunited with the guys, we decided to head down the lane, saw the detour signs and realised that the guys had taken this; rally mode was entered as Chez and I took to the normally quiet lanes of East Yorkshire, with road grit and small stones being thrown like the RAC rally, until we located our erstwhile bunch of riders, happily cranking it out and oblivious to our route detour.

Beverley came and went easily and we headed into the Wolds countryside, with a few more unplanned detours, trying to read a race map and drive, before Middleton on the Wolds and the twisting lanes and tight turns tested keeping cars and bikers in unison. Traffic on the lanes was generally quiet, as they’d all decided to sit and wait at complex junctions for us, doing their utmost to separate us and send the riders the wrong way, which they did near Pocklington. I joked to Chez that we’d just tell the guys that we’d decided Pocklington wasn’t worth a visit today, but unfortunately race radios had ensured they’d already twigged on to our navigation error! Damn … hahaha!

Keeping the guys safe as the larger towns of South Yorkshire came into play was tricky, requiring constant inter-talk between Chez and I, as we set and reset sat nav’s whilst driving – only to realise that Sat nav’s like to take motorways. Realising that although we were on race route, our sat nav was about to take the lads onto the M62, we quickly stopped and changed the settings, before we became the evening news!! We turn the team around and follow a flat and busy route into Doncaster, along roads surrounded by urbanisation. Thankfully, tomorrow we have the hills and scenery of North Yprkshire and the area to the north Leeds in West Yorkshire to look forward too- steep hills all day, but sublime riding countryside.

Stopping by the racecourse in Doncaster, it’s time to head to the nearby hotel, where Chez has all the rooms sorted.

A quick coffee and a shower and chill out, before we all head to a nearby Italian restaurant, worrying about leaving our smart cars in the car park and joking about the historic crime reputation of this South Yorkshire city.
Mick, the team Swamy has joined us and entertains the lads with his years of experience and cycling knowledge. Back to the hotel, it’s time for more team building in the bar, led by Chez and Mick, and a mini pool competition takes place, whilst Mick and I try to keep up with the boss in the wine stakes – no chance!

We learn the theory of ‘synchronized swimming’ as a motivational tactic, and my head tells me it’s time for bed, with a light head and a floating feeling. These guys have a hard ride tomorrow, and I’ve got to make sure I don’t get us lost again! Thankfully Chez was suitably impressed with the rallying skills earlier in the day, so I fall asleep excited at the prospect of day two. What can go wrong after all …