Words by Hannah Tapping
An inclusive sporting endeavour that is supporting cycling in Cornwall from grassroots to elite level.
If you have anything to do with cycling in Cornwall you’ll know Richard Pascoe, or Ricci as he has become affectionately known in cycling circles. I first met Ricci in my early days as a journalist. His cycling shop, Bike Chain in Mount Ambrose, was a pioneer amongst the few. Taking full page adverts in Cycling Weekly, Ricci majored on mail order at a time when that really wasn’t even a thing. His stock of Italian bikes and kit bucked the trend of the more traditional offerings elsewhere and it was this early-days vision that set him up for success. He also had the foresight to take on premises at Bissoe, the start of Cornwall’s coast to coast cycling route. It’s now a thriving cycling hub, offering bike hire and a place to rest and refuel.
Ricci Pascoe, by Colin Bradbury
Not one to rest on his laurels, 2016 saw Ricci create a unique professional team, Saint Piran. Saint Piran is formed on a very different basis to other UK domestic cycling teams. Yes, there is an elite level squad, now headed up by Cornish rider Steve Lampier, but its foundation lies in its supporters and grassroots cyclists. Based on what they refer to as the Saint Piran pyramid, as Team Principal Ricci is keen that they support riders at all levels.
The base of the pyramid is aimed at the keen amateur cyclist – those who enjoy a local sportive or a Sunday social ride. You still have to apply to be a Saint Piran member, but once accepted your membership fee goes towards an inclusive calendar of events, both on and off the bike, as well as feeding up the pyramid in support of the women’s, development and elite teams.
The next tier of the pyramid is the newly launched women’s team followed by a male development team of aspiring elite riders. I’m keen to learn more and so, a very wet October day finds me at Bike Chain Bissoe. It’s some 25 years since my first encounter with Ricci (yes, we are that old!) and he is no less enthusiastic today then he was then. “It’s all about bringing people in to develop them, and making them feel valued. Even if we have a development rider or a female rider that gets a to a level that they’re happy with and they don’t want to progress any further, then that’s fine, we’ll still support them. Most pro teams take a very different approach and drop all but the elite, it can be brutal. What we want to do is retain people within the organisation.
“I work on what I call my ‘event horizon’. So, what is the best thing that could happen to you in your cycling career? If it was say, top six in a race then we would want to give that to you. Because then you get rider loyalty and so that’s our focus from a management point of view.”
All images by Colin Bradbury
Ricci never was one to sit still and today’s no exception. Before he has to dash off to a meeting he introduces me to the women’s team manager, Jenny Bolsom to explain more. “Most teams are set up with a single cash sponsor and they might fund that team for one, two or three years. But once that deal is over the team is left in a vulnerable position and without further funding wouldn’t be able to afford to continue. The Saint Piran tier system has turned this on its head and all our income, whether that be from membership, sponsorship or sales of products via our brand partners goes back to the team, giving a much more sustainable model.”
Top left by Colin Bradbury, top right and bottom by Tour of Britain.
With regard to the women’s team, Jenny sees this as a unique platform for talented female riders. Her team of six will compete in 2021 in high level races such as the Tour Series and the National Road series and it’s a real opportunity to offer a platform for aspiring females within the race scene. For Jenny, one of the key aspects of the women’s team is to have the ability to train and race with likeminded teammates, and this is something she is keen to promote.
Bottom right by Tour Series, all other images by Colin Bradbury
Saint Piran provides a support network of riders at all different levels. All the squads can access help and knowledge across the tiers. For some riders that might be help with a bike, for others it’s tapping into the pro rider’s knowledge and expertise, for others it’s the need to be part of a well-established team and brand that allows them to compete at the highest level. “We encourage everyone within the pyramid to help one another,” continues Jenny. “For example, there will be races where the women’s team will be racing in the morning and the men will be racing in the afternoon. So it would be down to us to support the men with things like handing out bottles and we would expect them to do the same in return. And we all understand the need to work together.”
“We also spend time training together; both with our team mates, so we can understand how each other rides and know what to expect in a race, but also across the teams. This inter-mixing support allows new riders to train and get involved with more experienced riders.”
The Saint Piran goal has always been to create a team based on a sound, sustainable model. Its three pillars of sponsorship, brand and grassroots support is a combination that will take them successfully into the new cycling season. And as for next season, what are the plans? Well, pandemic permitting, Saint Piran plans continue to compete at the same intensity as 2019, when the team was represented at more than 30 races across the UK. In terms of the new team line-up, Saint Piran has retained a core group of key riders while securing some exciting new signings, including a selection of young Cornish talent.
And as for Ricci, this year has seen the start of another new chapter. Jenny and Ricci have got engaged and their nine month old son, Lowen is keeping them on their toes, ensuring a new generation of cycling talent for the future!