Global Cycling Network is a real surprise for cycling fan this year. We all love GCN, but we hardly know who they are. As we love the channel so much, we decided to ask GCN team for a not-so-brief interview. Hope you enjoy!
For those new to the site, DuckingTiger.com is a Thai cycling blog, covering all aspect of international and local bike racing. Interviews, gears, features we got it all, but they are in Thai language of course!
DT: How did the GCN channel come about? What’s the motivation behind the project? I know you guys are part of SHIFT media (perhaps you could elaborate what SHIFT does as well?) but what are your goals for GCN? To be the best Youtube Cycling channel?
GCN: GCN was launched on 1 January 2013. We are a YouTube original content channel. The motivation behind our project is provide a high quality, free cycling content ranging from How Tos aimed at beginners to Behind The Scenes features at the Tour de France.
You’re right, we’re part of SHIFT Active Media (http://www.shiftactivemedia.com). SHIFT was founded by Simon Wear in 2010. SHIFT is a cycling-specific media agency providing a range of services to our clients who include Colnago, GARMIN and Swift Carbon.
At GCN we’re aiming to be the go-to source for cycling. We have already become the largest cycling channel by subscribers on YouTube and we are aiming to become as big as we can be.
DT: How big is the GCN team? We saw a few of you in Videos: Dan, Tom, Matt, Simon and occasionally a few other guys. Are you all ex-pro or have been involved in Pro Cycling?
GCN: We have a fairly small team here. As you’ve mentioned, Dan and Matt work as our presenters but also do a lot of work behind the scenes researching and arranging videos.
Our video creating team is 4 strong. Phil Golston has been with us from the start, filming and editing. As you might imagine he has had a very busy year, filming at races such as the Giro and the Tour and then staying up until the early hours editing. Tom Grundy joined as video creator in MARCH. Tom has covered all the Grand Tours this year and even travelled out to China for the Tour of Beijing. Mike Rees joined as Channel Editor in June. Mike has barely had a day off, having filmed at all the races as well as deciding which videos we should shoot and when. John Beavan joined in May/June. You may have heard John’s voice in several of the recent voiceovers… He also scripts many of our Top 10s alongside keeping the team organised and constantly churning out great ideas for new videos.
Tom works with GCN’s social media as well as being brought in occasionally for presenting duties. James is GCN’s digital genius.
We are not all ex-pros but all of us love to ride our bikes. Dan’s career took him to the Tour de France via stints racing in Italy, Belgium and Asia. Matt was a stalwart of the British pro racing scene for years. He raced the Barcelona Olympics, the World Championships in Duitama, Colombia in 1995, where he placed 7th, and the 2000 Giro d’Italia. Matt was British road Race Champion in 1998 and was still racing (and competitive) at the 2010 Tour of Britain. Tom Last rode the Tour of Britain twice and was professional for three years.
Mike raced BMX as a kid and now brings his road bike in for a service whenever we film a Maintenance Monday video.
Tom G is a keen mountain biker, having grown up riding with some of the best downhillers in the world and Phil used to race Downhill at a very high level here in Britain. James and John are both keen cyclists, getting out at weekends and riding to work when the British weather permits.
DT: How does GCN make money? I don’t see any ads at all. I am sure following races for weeks could not be cheap, plus all the video editing and such. Are you guys in Youtube’s partnership program?
GCN: GCN is an original content channel, and funded initially by YouTube to help bring high quality content to the platform. There are ads on the channel to fund it.
DT: GCN have many interesting videos, we really enjoy pro’s knowledge and insider info. What are you plans for the next few seasons? Or would you rather surprise us!?
GCN: We’d rather surprise you!
But, seriously, we’re hoping to do more of the same, but better…! We’ve learnt a hell of a lot this year as we’ve grown and we’re looking forward to revisiting the races and catching up with our friends. We’ll still focus on our How To, News and Top 10 content. On that note, we love to receive any audience suggestions, so if there’s something that we haven’t done that you’d like to see, drop us a message (on YouTube, Google+, Facebook or Twitter) and we’ll see what we can do!
DT: Could you tell us (from youtube stats) which country is your biggest follower? Do you get lots of views from Asia and Africa?
GCN: Our biggest followers are the English speaking countries. However, we also have lots of followers from places like Thailand and other Asian and South American countries. We are the GLOBAL Cycling Network after all, so it’s great that so many different people from all over the world watch our content and get in touch regularly via our social media.
DT: Will we see any GCN goods soon? T-Shirts, Team jerseys, bottles, caps…
GCN: Yep! We’re hoping to have cycling kit, casual wear and bottles on sale as soon as possible. Now that the racing season is over, we have more time to look at this stuff, so look out for it in the New Year!
DT: What’s your favourite moment(s) in professional cycling career?
Tom L.: My favourite moments were at the Tour of Britain. I finished the race twice and my teammates were some of my best friends in cycling.
Dan: My favourite moment in cycling is the 2009 Tour of Flanders. I’d spent years trying to get to the top level of the sport, and Cervelo finally gave me my opportunity that year. I had always watched the Ronde van Vlaanderen in awe and dreamt of riding it, so simply to be on the start line gave me goose bumps, I really couldn’t believe it.
In the race itself, our team contained a couple of the favourites, Thor and Heino, so I had a job to do. My legs were fantastic from the start, and after about 180km, the race kicked off over the Oude Kwaremont, and all 8 of us were at the front. Up the next climb, the Paterberg, I was in the first 10 with guys like Boonen and Pozzato and really having to pinch myself.
After the descent, Andreas Klier noticed I was there and said that if I had the legs to attack, I should……..so I did…….and I ended up in a group of 5 or 6 with riders like Leif Hoste, Manuel Quinziato and Sylvain Chavanel. I lasted off the front until the Berendries, where Chavanel attacked and I didn’t have the legs to go with him.
It’s a day I will always remember, as you can probably tell.
DT: The most important advice you would give to aspiring DS & race coaches out there. There are a lot of new cycling teams emerging in Thailand and we would like to be more organized and professional. Your advice would be kindly appreciated.
Dan: My advice would be to always give ALL of your riders a job to do, every stage of every race. If you simply set out with the ambition of ‘getting around’, it makes each day mundane, and the pain even harder to bear. If you are given a job, something specific to do, either for yourself, or for others in your team, then your day will go by a lot quicker and you’ll feel a lot more satisfied with yourself once your day is over.
DT: What’s your favourite bike? Which bike would you ride if you are not bound by sponsor contract?
Tom L.: My favourite bike… I always liked the bikes that I got for free. At the moment I just have one bike (an old Specialized Crux) and that is just fine for the mix of commuting and riding that I do. If money was no object, I’d have something really light and expensive.
Dan: Hmmm, that’s a good question. My favourite bike as a pro was my Cervelo S3, and a lot of the guys who were older and more experienced than me always said how good it felt to ride. I’d still be tempted to say a Cervelo even now, but given that I’m no longer under UCI restrictions when it comes to weight and shape, I think I’d like to try something different like those new Factor bikes.
DT: [For Tom] If I understand correctly, you are studying (in the university) while you are racing professionally. Is it difficult balancing between the two? Do you want to go big in Europe riding for Pro Tour level team?
Tom L.: I studied at university between 2010 and June 2013. Since I finished my studies I came to work here at GCN. I really enjoyed my cycling career but I no longer have any aspirations to turn pro in Europe. I actually found it easier to balance studying and racing than just racing and training all the time. The British racing calendar was never too busy, so I was always able to combine the two, and I found that with my studying schedule I had to be really focussed with my training. I’d say I went much better when I was studying as I had to go out on my bike rather than spend all day thinking about going out.
DT: What is your personal max speed on a bike?
Tom L.: Probably about 100kph.
Dan: 126kph, at the 2009 Giro. Once I got over 100kph, I started to fear equipment failure!
DT: Your secret cycling technique!?
Tom L.: I’m not sure that I had any secrets, or I would have gone much faster. I think always going out with a clear plan of what type of training ride you are going to do is probably the best advice I can give.
Dan: Hmmm, my secret racing technique was to use my Garmin to know when climbs or changes of direction were coming up in the race, even if I didn’t know the roads at all.
DT: I noticed you have won a stage in Tour of Siam in 2006. You were in Giant Asia Racing team, did you race mostly in Asia, and most importantly how do you like Thailand?
Dan: Yes, I’ve got great memories from Thailand, and particularly the stage that I was there in 2006, which I hadn’t expected. I remember the stages being long, especially so early in the season, and very hot too. The people were fantastic and very excited that this colourful race was there for them to watch.
We raced almost the whole time in Asia – Siam, Thailand, Langkawi, Korea, Japan, Chong Ming Island, Qinghai, Indonesia, and also the Herald Sun Tour. It was a great year.
DT: Who’s your favourite pro riders? (one retired, and one in the current peloton please!)
Tom L.: Marco Pantani was my favourite cyclist – I got into cycling after watching him win the Tour de France. Cycling was a small sport in Britain back then and I remember being glued to the daily highlights. Of current cyclists, it’s probably Bart Wellens. I got to meet Bart and ride with him the other week. He was a great guy!
Dan: My favourite retired rider is Frank Vandenbrouck, although I’m sure I’ll come into criticism for that. At the end of the day, it seems like the majority of riders around the time I was growing up were doping, and it’s impossible to know who wasn’t – but Frank was an inspiration, I wanted to be like him on the bike, he was so graceful to watch.
My favourite current rider is Nairo Quintana. In an age where science rules, he really looks like a rider who can upset the applecart – make attacks that really put a whole team in trouble. I can’t wait to see how he progresses over the next few years – it would be great to see a pure climber like him win the Tour de France.
DT: What’s the connection between cyclists, roadies in particular, and espresso? Lots of them seem to be coffee aficionados. Or is it just a coincidence?
Dan: Do you know what? I have absolutely no idea why that connection is there! The two seem to go hand in hand, and it’s rare that a cyclist doesn’t like coffee. Magnus Backstedt and Fast Feddie have both had their own coffee brands, and pro riders at training camps can’t wait for their DS’ to let them stop for a quick espresso. I think it must just be a coincidence, but I may well be wrong.
DT: How does a racing day looks like from dusk till dawn for pro cyclists. Especially the recovery part, many of us enthusiasts don’t quite understand how Pro can recover so fast and keep riding for 3 weeks straight in grand tour. How do you feel in the third week of hard Tour?
Dan: I always found that recovery interesting as well. In training, even when you’ve been riding for years, it’s still very hard to string more than three back to back quality days in before you need a day off to recover. However, I think the difference in racing is that you literally don’t have anything to do apart from ride your bike, you get great food, massage etc, and I think that all really speeds the recovery process up.
By the time you are half way through, I think you are about as fatigued as you are going to get. I only did three grand tours, but I never felt too bad in the last week. You often feel very tired at the start of a stage, but after thirty minutes you rider yourself in and can feel very strong.
DT: Everyone wants to be at the Tour. What are pro-cyclist’s feeling and priority towards the Giro and Vuelta? Do you feel, given the chance, you’d ride the Tour instead? I see many team sent out young guns to the Vuelta, surely to gain experience racing big race, but this feels a bit like they are an after thought.. (Difficulty notwithstanding). Would you rather have all 3 GTs having equal prestige?
Dan: I think it very much depends on how good you are as a rider. If you’ve never done a Grand Tour before, then the Giro or Vuelta are fantastic. If you’re Italian or Spanish, likewise. If, however, you are a supremely talented rider, then a good ride overall or in a stage of the Tour is going to mean that much more, so you’d rather go there.
Should they all be on equal footing? I’m not sure. I don’t think it’s possible for the teams, riders, journalists and public to be that excited and motivated three times a year for three weeks. To me, the Giro has it good – it’s got beautiful scenery, mountains, fans, food(!) and importantly, it’s the first grand tour of the year, so people are always looking forward to it.
DT: How important are fans and supporters at the race. Do they make you feel stronger and more motivated?
Dan: To me they made a difference – there is nothing quite like the experience of riding through a wall of noise.
DT: How do Pros manage their family affairs? It seems rather difficult being away from home for the good part of the year.
Dan: I think for most riders, they were already into cycling before they met their partners, so it was basically part of the package. Of course, you are away more than the average person, but at the same time, when you are home you aren’t out from 9 till 5.
DT: What do you guys usually talk about with fellow racers during the race?
Dan: All sorts! There are a lot of dull hours in racing where you aren’t going particularly hard. If it’s a friend you’ve known for a long time then you can talk for ages about life in general. If it’s someone you don’t really know you might simply talk about something which happened earlier in the race.
DT: Do top bikes used in pro racing differs much? In your experience, have you ever felt you’d rather ride this particular brand instead of your sponsored one just because the other rides a lot better?
Dan: Not so much these days. I was always quite lucky in that I never felt I was at a particular disadvantage on any of the bikes that I had to ride, and with Cervelo, it was quite the opposite. I know in the past that riders have wanted to use other equipment, but I think that these days most top end bikes and groupsets are of a good standard. The minimum weight limit imposed by the UCI, also makes things quite level, whatever you think about that rule.
DT: How do domestiques recover from effort like going back to the car and fetching bottles/ clothing, especially during mountainous stage?
Dan: I don’t know how you do it, but you just have to! Of course you measure your efforts so that you always feel like you can get to the finish line. Some riders find it easier than others, though. There would be times on a climb when I’d feel almost on my limit, only to see some Euskaltel rider come past me with 9 bottles in his jersey, or somebody stopping for a pee. That sort of thing can crack you!
DT: What do you guys do during the off-season, having only few (Cyclocross races) to cover. And what do pro’s do apart from staying at home? Do they train? I read Sky’s book and they said they already started going to training camp in late November!
Dan: These days, you don’t see riders taking a lot of time off, and I was one of those. I never had more than three weeks off the bike at the end of the season, but you used to hear stories of riders not touching their bikes before December 1st, or even January.
Those days are long gone, although I’ve seen David Millar still do it, and still be going well by March. That said, I think he could have been a better rider than he was, so it wasn’t necessarily the best thing for him to do, he was just so talented that he still won plenty.