Talking to Tom Stewart of Madison Genesis, who helped make the 2015 edition of the Tour of Britain the exciting race it was
Tour of Britain – Tom Stewart (Madison Genesis)
In 2014, Tom Stewart (Madison Genesis) memorably came third on stage 6 after a race long break with Alex Dowsett and Matthias Brandle (both former hour record holders).
The South Yorkshire rider came into the 2015 edition with a lot of pressure on his young shoulders from himself and perhaps his team as well and walked away from the race head held high and wanting to do even better in future years.
As Tom explained, the team had high hopes for the 2015 edition. “We wanted to get in breaks and have it go all the way and win a stage and we wanted to get a jersey. I have learnt in past editions of the race that we can come to these races with the big teams and we’re able to animate the race”.
“We (Tom) nearly got to the finish on the first stage (caught in the closing kilometres) and Matt Cronshaw (teammate) also nearly went all the way when he was away in a break”.
“Overall though, it was quite a difficult race with long stages and because I got in the break on the first day, it meant I was up there in the King of the Mountains and every day was having to try and get in a break and if that didn’t happen, I had to think about how I was going to pick up points so there was always something to do.”
“It was stressful in that sense but in a good way.”
“I think I work quite well having a focus. The guys will tell you that before the race I am always quite nervous and quiet, sitting in the back on my own and that works for me. I focus and get into the right mood because it’s nice to be here in a race like this trying to achieve something rather than making up the numbers.”
Tom on the left, the self confessed quiet (but polite) one – others in the Madison Genesis lineup are L-R, Matt Holmes, Matt Cronshaw, Tom Scully and Mark McNally
Tom’s race saw him get into a break on stage 1 and afterwards there was huge disappointment that not only did the break go so close to staying away to the end, but worse, after 175-kilometres at the front of the race, Tom walked away from the stage without a jersey which he wanted.
So, the next day, Tom Stewart went from heartbreak on stage one of the Tour to elation on stage two as he took an unexpected lead in the competition for the best climber in the race. Starting the day in second place in the standings, Stewart was one point behind overnight leader Kristian House (JLT-Condor), who had edged Tom on the opening day.
Stage two started with a first category climb of Nick O’Pendle and Madison Genesis were to the fore – Mark McNally taking second at the summit. More importantly, Stewart took seventh and with it the lead in the King of the Mountains standings.
The following stage, the third one, a break went clear with his teammate Matt Cronshaw, a break that stayed clear until there were only four kilometres left and for Tom, the good news was he had defended his lead in the KoM competition as he did on stage 4.
However, stage 5 saw Tom lose the jersey and end the day in second along with teammate Mark McNally equal on points. Stage 6 saw the riders fighting for the mountains jersey take a back seat as the GC contenders put the hammer down in the Peak District
So day seven was the final one that riders wanting that jersey would have the opportunity of scoring points and what a memorable day it was. Tom elevated himself into joint first position with Peter Williams (One Pro Cycling) after the first ‘climb’ of the day which was nothing more than a rise in the road and played into the hands of rival team One Pro Cycling and their very fast sprinter Chris Opie who took maximum points (photo below).
The break Tom was part of however was reeled in by the One Pro Cycling led peloton 50 kilometres in to the 227-kilometre penultimate stage before another group escaped; Gabriel Cullaigh (Great Britain Cycling Team), Alex Dowsett (Movistar) and Graham Briggs (JLT Condor) gaining a maximum of eight minutes.
On the first of the two remaining climbs, Stewart went in search of a single point but was denied the outright lead in the classification. With the final climb fast approaching and the breakaway’s lead at two minutes, team manager Roger Hammond made the decision to put the whole team onto the front of the peloton.
Aiming to bring back the break and expose the maximum possible points available for both Stewart and McNally (both Madison Genesis), the gap was quickly reduced and at the foot of the final climb, the leaders were taken back into the bunch.
Tom racing on the 2016 Genesis Zero carbon bike which was launched on the first day of the Tour of Britain
A frantic climb followed, with Stewart searching for maximum points, but his efforts were thwarted and he would be destined to finish second in a competition that had raged since the opening day of the Tour.
Talking about the team work, Tom explained to VeloUK “I have never been in a position where people have been riding flat out for me. This is a Hors category stage race and we changed the way the race went on stage 7”.
“I got goose bumps watching the team riding. Matt and Tom Scully then had mechanicals and Lotto saw we were two men down and they came up and said quietly, we’ll help a little and put a guy on the front and that was for me and Greipel – now that was special!”
Tom is a winner as we have seen over the last few years and when he doesn’t win, it fuels the hunger to do better next time
“I was devastated not to be able to finish it off though (Tom was third in the final KoM swamped by the One Pro Cycling team.) Ultimately, I failed to do what we planned to do so that will just pour fuel on the flames over the winter and I won’t let that happen again”.
Finally, asked about highlights from the race, he says “getting in the break (stage 1) was pretty special and it was a privilege going on the podium for a few days and experiencing that which has just made me hungry for it.”
“It was a shame however on Friday (stage 6) that there was the crash that split the peloton. They were my local roads in the Peak District and it’s a shame we didn’t get to race those.”
Thanks to Tom for the chat in London and look forward to seeing him race again in 2016.