Olympic cycling medallist Bryan Steel is being backed by Vision Express to launch a new racing team hoping to find the next Mark Cavendish or Bradley Wiggins.
The unique initiative is being supported by the optical retailer as well as the all-British cycling apparel manufacturer Godfrey Bikewear, both headquartered in Nottingham.
Four of the East Midlands’ hottest young riding prospects have been selected as the first recruits to join the Bryan Steel Academy, which will compete as the Godfrey Bikewear Race Team with Vision Express.
Road captain is Ross Lamb, aged 20, from Mansfield – a former Notts County and Mansfield Town apprentice who switched from football to cycling on doctor’s advice following injury, then won his first ever race.
Riding alongside him are Nottingham racer Corey Ashley (20), and Beeston cycling club duo David Ogg (22) and Pierre Vernié(20).
They face a gruelling summer schedule of around 85 road races including The Milk Race, National Championships and National Series events. Then in August the team will go to Belgium to take part in kermesse races, exposing the quartet to international competition.
With top-level coaching from cycling legend Bryan Steel and team director Mick Padley, riders will be set a target to finish in the British Top 50, with the team overall aiming to break into the top 30.
Bryan competed in four Olympic Games, winning Bronze at Sydney 2000 and Silver at Athens 2004, along with five World Championship medals for cycling.
Since retirement Bryan has coached, sharing his wealth of experience with riders of all levels to bring regional, national and international honours. But his passion is to work with young, talented riders.
“No other team is doing this and our aim is absolutely to find the world champions of the future,” says Bryan. “There is a gulf between the best club riders and those taking part in national and international competition, and we aim to give riders a pathway to the highest level.
“Working together with sponsors, partners and people with the same passion, we have developed a team where young riders are given the best opportunity to make the most of their talent and go to the next levels.
“Ultimately, the goal is to provide the riders who come through the team with a route to national, international and professional riding.”
Team road captain Ross Lamb has praised Vision Express for its involvement in supporting British cycling.
Ross says: “A winning rider needs attributes like physical strength and mental determination, so great eyesight and the right eyewear are a crucial part of that package. As a British athlete, it’s heartening to know that Vision Express are right behind the team and playing a part in making us the best we can be.”
Vision Express optometrists carried out eye tests for all the riders as part of their preparation. As a result, David Ogg was prescribed glasses. He says: “When Vision Express did my eye test it turned out I needed glasses … I had no idea my vision was so bad. That’s made a huge difference to my riding ability and potential.”
Jonathan Lawson, chief executive of Vision Express, says: “We are delighted to be the main sponsor of the Bryan Steel Academy, and be able to show our support for the best up-and-coming young cyclists.
“As a company with our headquarters in Nottingham, we are very much part of the East Midlands community and we wish Ross, Corey, David and Pierre every success in the coming season.”
The Godfrey Bikewear Vision Express Race Team launch took place at the showpiece Derby Arena velodrome, where Bryan Steel coaches track cyclists.
Future plans include doubling the size of the team in 2017, and launching a women’s team.
Photo caption: L to R: Corey Ashley, Ross Lamb, Mick Padley, Jenny Wye, Bryan Steel, David Ogg and Pierre Vernie at the Derby Arena