Lambeke

In 2016, Mansfield’s Ross Lamb was the first-season icing on a very pleasing cake for Bryan Steel’s fledgling youth development squad, the Godfrey Bikewear Race Team sponsored by Vision Express. Relatively new to cycling after coming to the sport as part of a rehab program after a footballing injury with Notts County FC, Ross stormed through the squad’s race program with a host of domestic scene wins and podiums. Ross seamlessly translated these UK performances into foreign prize money with more of the same when the team ventured across the Channel to the cycling heartlands of France and Belgium. The boy was turning heads. The result was a contract with United Cycling Team for the 2017 campaign, Dave Rayner funding and a degree of head-scratching for Mr Steel when it came to how he was going to tackle that second-season difficult second album – minus Ross.
Ciclissimo! caught up with Ross ahead of the Ronde Van Oost Vlaanderen stage race to talk about how things are panning out over in Flanders. Many have made the trip and many have seen hopes and dreams mercilessly dashed against the grey granite walls of the village churches the Flemish love to Kermesse around: Not so Ross. Whilst collating his palmares-to-date in order to get this article together he was having to send weekly updates of further placings and podiums. This has been far from a case of a Lamb to the slaughter…
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Photo Credits: Roland Pipeleers courtesy of Ross Lamb

Ciclissimo! You were the dream start to the Bryan Steel development team project – he stated from day-one that the aim was to see a rider get over to Europe and embark on a career: That rider turned out to be you in the squad’s first season!

Ross Lamb It was a great year and I pay a lot of thanks to Bryan Steel and Mick Padley who helped put it all together. Before last season had begun I’d sat down with Mick and we both basically looked at each other and said I need to get over to Belgium again because that was, and still is, the only chance I’d have really of making cycling my life. We had seen what other people of my age were doing and realised that I needed to get over there and give myself a chance. It all happened pretty rapido when I was in Belgium – from one day winning a race to the next being asked if I wanted to join the team I’m riding for now. Undoubtedly, the results I got made people ask who am I sort of thing, 1st through to 5th I think I managed, which made a couple of teams ask what I was doing contract-wise. Ingrid Sels (Soigneur for Norwegian National squad on many occasions – Ed), one of the kind ladies we met, basically sorted the ride out for me. She mentioned my name and results to Team Manager Johan Remels and it was as easy as that.

C! The team being…?

RL I’ll be riding for United Cycling Team. They’re a Topcompetition level team based out of Sint Truiden

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C! So, the deal is sorted, you’re moving from North Notts over to Flanders to race in one of, if not the, most fabled school of bike racing hard-knocks – was there a moment when you sat there and thought “Shit Just Got Real…”

RL  I wouldn’t say there was a particular moment that made me think ‘shit just got real’ but training all winter with Sam Smith made sure I never forgot of how hard it was going to be! The guy never stops talking! (laughs!) No, I mean from my previous trips to Belgium I’d only ever experienced the highs of summer and 35 degrees so I guess my first team race was a bit of an eye opener – though not unexpected. It was my first ever race in the wet, I eventually got taken out on a cobbled climb… My time in Belgium opened up my eyes to what I can see myself doing for a long time not only because of the riding but also the place where I stay too, Cafe sur Place, there’s a little community that I’d never even thought existed.

C! How was it settling in to a new country?

RL First feelings where like I’d not really left from my previous time here the season before – properly excited though, I’d been waiting since the end of last season to come back. Plus my new Ridley Fenix SL & Bioracer kit was waiting! I knew before that this was exactly where I should be and I couldn’t have found a better place to be staying. There wasn’t much time to bed in though: After arriving late in Flanders on the 18th there was a race the very next day so I was quickly into it again with no time to think. I guess I just got on with it. I attacked literally off the line ‘cos my mate Adam Lewis was like “Quick, Ross – attack as a joke!” – little did he know that he wouldn’t see the front group again, good laugh! First race, 4th; I was thinking “Yeah this ain’t too bad…” Took time after that one to get it right again though…

C! And there is the other side of settling in – what about the household chores when bicycle practice is done for the day? Can you even cook?

RL With the cooking its pretty good, there’s five of us living here from the Dave Rayner fund and we have a rota going so whoever cooks and then everyone else cleans up after. Regarding everyday cleaning it’s just a free for all – whoever is in the mood I guess!

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C! You’ve swapped the grippy old roads of Nottinghamshire for the concrete slabs and cobbles of Flanders – what are the favourite routes?

RL I’m living in a town called Veerle-Laakdaal, not too far away from Aarschot which hosts the start of Dwars Door Het Hageland, and I’ve just used most of the roads around there – mostly without knowing! Since I’ve been here I’ve not really had to train that much, it’s been more a case of filling in the gaps between races. Oh, and the odd visit to the old Albert Kanaal as and when it’s needed…

C! Albert Kanaal – I’m not sure if that’s some coarse-handed, gravely, Gauloise-voiced old Flemish Swanny or a towpath…

RL Yeah, it’s a canal path – like whenever Van Aert goes on the TT rig he’s there, you always see a few pros knocking about, Van Bilsen and the others. My favorite rides, although they will never suit me, have been the ones in the Ardennes at the beginning of the year. It reminds me so much of being at home in the Peak District. Incredibly hilly. I did the Triptyque Ardennais earlier in the year and Wow! The team only sent me looking for form because I was never going to do anything! (Laughs!) It’s on the border of Germany and Luxembourg, wicked scenery… Actually, that was probably my hardest moment so far for me, the Triptyque Ardennais. My team manager wanted to send me there to ‘finish off my form’ – add that little extra – and for sure it did but the pain during the race on some of the climbs was just… yeh something else.

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C! How about we contrast that with your best moment?

RL My best moment so far for sure has been the 3rd place at the Memorial Van Coningsloo, a UCI 1.2 Europe Tour event dedicated to the memory of a local amateur cyclist, Philippe Van Coningsloo, who suffered a heart attack and died during a cycling race back in 1992. I was agonizingly close to winning. It just felt mega being involved throughout a race like that.

C! How does the racing over in Belgium compare so far to the stuff you were doing in the UK?

RL That’s a difficult one that – because, after all, its just riding your bike as hard as you can when you need to and saving your energy when you can. But I’d say, in terms of tactics in the kermesses over here, it’s just being vigilant and waiting for the right guys otherwise it’ll never go. Back home, depending on the level, its more organised – or at least the Prems are – and teams will chase and stuff: Kermesses are just every man for themselves, teammates after each other all the time! I change gear and five others do too straight away sort of thing!

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C! That’ll probably be why that Lotto-Soudal guy in the pics here is watching you like a hawk! Have you seen him in? That one in the pics there?

RL The guy without glasses on? Gerban Thijssen – won Sint-Niklaas the other month, next Andre Greipel: You heard it here first!

Ross Lamb Palmares

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2016 – Godfrey Bikewear Race Team sponsored by Vision Express

1st Haasdonk
1st Fenland Clarion rr
1st Peterborough CC  rr
1st Bole Hill rr
2nd East Midlads Championship rr
2nd Danum Trophy rr
2nd De Klinge
3rd Zutendaal
4th Puurs
4th Coalville Wheelers rr
5th Hoeleden
6th GA Bennett
7th Darley Moor
2017 – United Cycling Team
1st Denderwindeke
2nd Zandhoven
2nd Booischot
2nd Huldenberg
2nd Linden-Lubeek
3rd Halen
3rd Memorial Philippe Van Coningsloo UCI 1.2
4th Heusden-Zolder
8th Betekom
9th Herne
10th Geel
11th Circuit de Wallonie UCI 1.2
13th GP Stad Sint-Niklaas UCI 1.2
Series/ Stage Races
7th Overall Topcompetitie
10 Overall GC Vlaams Brabant (7th St.1, 5th st.3)