Tour de Yorkshire: Graham Briggs has glory in Doncaster at top of his radar
With the February frost biting outside, it was hard not to be ever so slightly envious of Graham Briggs' winter schedule.
“I’ve been to Lanzarote, Girona and Majorca so far this year,” said Briggs, quite obviously grinning down the phone at me.
“I’m off to Tenerife next. I can’t complain too much!”
For one of the riders of last year, though, his search for sunnier climes is anything but a jolly.
It is part of a concerted and considered effort to hit the ground running when he launches his new season in Croatia next week, with considerably bigger events on the horizon for the 32-year-old. Much bigger.
For Briggs will have more reason than most of the riders in this year’s Tour de Yorkshire to make a positive impression, after race organisers mapped out the climax to Stage Two in his hometown of Doncaster.
After taking in the sights of Sprotbrough, Conisbrough Castle, Tickhill and Bawtry, the peloton will virtually travel within touching distance of Briggs’ Rossington home before a sprint finish on South Parade.
So little wonder, then, that the JLT Condor rider has been putting in the pre-season graft. Suddenly I feel far less envious.
“I’ve been putting in some long miles in the sunshine, trying to avoid the cold weather,” said Briggs, whose 2015 campaign peaked with an outstanding performance in last year’s Tour of Britain, finishing 31st in the general classification and leaving some world class competition in his wake.
“It’s all about doing the hard work now, and laying the foundations.
“We tend to go out to these places and do four or five days of hard riding.
“The whole team gets their power recorded and all the data is then downloaded and analysed - so there’s no hiding place at all.
“My aim is to get some good training under my belt and really hit the ground running. It’d be nice to get some good results early in the season.
“I’m targeting the Premier Calendar Series which starts in Chorley in late March. Croatia will be good preparation.”
Briggs’ superb display in the Tour of Britain was made all the more impressive considering his build-up was hampered by illness. And those issues have been at the forefront of his mind during his preparations for 2016.
“I don’t know if I overcooked it last winter but the illness just lingered on a bit,” he said.
“So I want to make sure I get things right this time around.
“I didn’t get last season off to the best of starts but for the Tour of Britain to go the way it did, and to get a few wins in the Criteriums, it was really nice to finish the year on a high.
“That’s important because it puts you in the right sort of mindset for winter training, because otherwise it can be something of a slog.
“It has been nice to get away for a few weeks but it’s also been nice to come home and spend some time with the family.
“Life’s changed for me a little bit over the last couple of years with the little one coming along,” added Briggs, who 19 months ago welcomed his son Reuben into the world with his partner Sam.
“I’m not getting as much sleep as I used to and it has probably had an affect on my recovery times.
“There has been a lot more waking up in the middle of the night, now there’s three of us. It feels like four at times!”
With a reputation for fast finishes and unwavering stamina, Briggs has the potential to make his Doncaster homecoming on April 30 a memorable one.
But whatever the outcome on a personal level, Briggs, a big supporter of cycling in the town, is just thrilled to see Doncaster on the Tour map.
“I obviously rode it last year but to have a finish in Doncaster this time around is brilliant,” said Briggs.
“And the route passes about 500 metres from where I live too. I would definitely like to put a bit of a show on.
“It’s a massive event.
“For people to have the opportunity to see riders from the Tour de France up close is fantastic for the people of Yorkshire.
“My aim first and foremost is to do the right training, get in the squad and take it from there. It’s definitely given me extra motivation.
“To get to race on your own training roads is the stuff of dreams really.
“Cycling in Doncaster has gone from strength to strength over the last few years.
“The Doncaster Cycle Festival and Tickhill Grand Prix are really good events and they’ve put the town on the cycling map.
“I’m good friends with Martin Maltby, at Don Valley Cycles, and he’s someone who has done some really good work with the council over the last few years.
“I’m in the Don Valley shop quite a bit and the Doncaster cycling community genuinely can’t wait for the Tour to arrive.”