Slimmed-down Metaltek Kuota Racing are in better shape than ever going into the Rutland-Melton CICLE Classic this weekend, according to team director Andy Swain.
A turbulent winter saw Swain retake the reins just months after deciding to step aside from the Melton-based pro cycle team to concentrate on his business and spend more time with his family.
In the months following his decision last September, several riders left the tight-knit team, and from a 14-strong outfit, they now have a squad of six.
Swain returned with a new philosophy and scaled-down ambitions, as well as new local sponsors Witham Garage, of Melton, and Upper Broughton-based Carrier Landscapes.
The aim was to remove much of the stresses and pressure, and bring back the fun.
“I came back in and salvaged a team of six lads,” he said. “It was all a bit last-minute.
“We aren’t going to do the Tour Series this year; we’re just hitting the tough road races.
“We are smaller and more manageable, and it’s enjoyable again. We just want to ride bikes.
“I want to concentrate on my business and home life rather than running around chasing bike races all over the country.”
So far the shift seems to be working. Their new Kuota Khan race bikes and team clothing arrived just days before the first big test of the season, the Manx International, but the team performed superbly.
Taking on the big budget British teams, as well as Team Sky duo Ben Swift and national champion Peter Kennaugh, Metaltek’s assortment of students and part-time riders were more than a match.
“Sunday’s result in the Isle of Man was probably the best-ever for this team,” Swain added.
“There were only three riders in the top 25 who weren’t with UCI teams and they were ours.”
Even before the budget was drastically reduced, the team were running on £75,000 a year, around 10 times lower than that of their top domestic rivals.
But Metaltek are used to punching above their financial weight when the rough farm tracks of the CiCLE Classic hove into view.
Last year they had two riders in the top 20, including an eighth-place finish for Will Bjergfelt, while in 2014 Metaltek finished an impressive sixth in the team standings. And Swain expects no let-up in standards this weekend.
This year’s six-man team is made up of captain Adam Kenway, Thomas Travis-Pollard, Ryan Perry, Zach May, Tommy Bustard and Dan Fleeman who has two top 10 CiCLE Classic finishes on his CV.
“Because we are being more specific now, we are doing fewer races which allows us to target the races we are doing a little more intensively,” he explained.
“The lads there are capable of anything that we’ve done before, if not more, so we will still be in the mix. We will be going there as strong as ever.
“We have a headstart. Being a home race it’s special to me - I’m probably one of a handful of people who knows every mile of this course.”