‘We didn’t just turn up to take part’ - the UK team that refused to give up against WorldTour competition

Continental team Saint Piran rewarded with sixth place overall at the Tour of Britain after week of attacking racing

Zeb Kyffin
(Image credit: SWPix.com)

When Cornwall's Saint Piran cycling team embarked upon the Tour of Britain, they did so as one of a minority of Continental outfits, amid a peloton of UCI WorldTour and UCI Pro teams.

Yet, after eight days of racing, the team came away with sixth place in the general classification, via Zeb Kyffin, who finished just 23 seconds down on three-time Cyclocross World Champion and multiple Tour de France stage winner Wout van Aert. 

"If you look around and just see 20 guys, who all have WorldTour jerseys on, and you're effectively scared of, it's very easy just to give up," 25-year-old Kyffin told Cycling Weekly. "[You could just think] I've done well enough to get here, everyone that knows me is really proud I can stop racing now with 50 kilometres to go."

Kyffin, however, did no such thing - riding into seventh place on both stages seven (Tewkesbury to Gloucester) and stage eight (Margam Country Park to Caerphilly).

"Confidence, I think, is a massive key in those situations," Kyffin said when asked what it’s like to face Van Aert in a race situation.

He also said that focusing on his own abilities, and not comparing yourself with others, was key.

"I think if there's a message we sent out with our performance, it would be not to worry about someone else's journey, not to look at all the WorldTour teams and all the reasons as to why you can't do it. Just focus on what you're doing, tick the process off every day and eventually, if you're committed enough, you'll get to wherever you want to be," he said, still elated from his top-10 GC finish as the race drew to a close. 

Discussing the final gruelling stage in Wales, Kyffin explained: "I just mentally went to such a deep and dark place to not get dropped on Sunday.

"I know not everything about cycling is power but I look back at the numbers and think how on earth have I replicated that eight days into a stage race? Four hours into the stage? I never thought that was possible. I just wanted it so badly that I refused to stop."

Saint Piran

(Image credit: SWPix.com)

Teamwork was key to enabling Kyffin to feature so highly in the race General Classification, he said.

"One thing Ricci [Pascoe], the team owner, is massive on is that we were there as a team," he explained. "We're a family in a lot of ways and we've all become very good friends. We race as a key contingent a lot. We were not just there to race for ourselves, we were there to race as a team and believe in each other and that morale was carried throughout the week.

"We had a plan, I think pretty much every day. We didn't just kind of turn up to take part, which we think is really important. We take every race on the same, and kind of treat it equally and have a plan.

"We really took it to them [the WorldTour teams present] and just kind of got our name out there."

Jack Rootkin-Gray

(Image credit: SWPix.com)

The final weekend of racing was pivotal for the team, who placed Alex Richardson in the day’s breakaway come the Cotswold hills on stage seven. In the end Kyffin took seventh at the finish in Gloucester as the stage was won by Rasmus Tiller (Uno-X).

After finding himself well placed in the GC on Saturday evening, Kyffin said he went to bed full of confidence ahead of the decisive final stage on Sunday.

"It really kicked off on Saturday," he said. "Alex [Richardson] got in the breakaway... which was fantastic. It meant we could relax a bit like maybe if that stays away, he gets a top result and Alex has kind of played that card. Then we just had to follow behind them.

"There were some really savage climbs and me, Finn [Crockett] and Jack were in the final, like 30 on Saturday, and then it split again with 10k to go. I was the last man across that move and really had to dig deep to get across to Wout [van Aert] and Stevie [Williams].

"I found myself in that top 10 sprinting for the win, although I didn't get very close to winning. But it was still seventh, which was a huge result for me and the team and a really good confidence boost, I think for the following day too. Like if you can do it today, why can't you do it tomorrow too."

Alex Richardson

(Image credit: SWPix.com)

Twenty-four hours later, when the finale arrived in South Wales, Kyffin said he was far from afraid to find himself up against Nils Politt (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Mark Donovan (Q36.5) in the battle for a top ten finish - he simply rode his own race.

"I just thought all I can do is push the pedals and see what happens and somehow, that resulted in me not getting dropped the first time we rode up Caerphilly mountain," he explained. "Then the second time, I just lost contact over the top and then going down the other side of the mountain was like a free for all.

"I was like, I have nothing to lose, I'll just open up with 500 metres to go and the guys in my group didn't come around me. So I rolled seventh on the stage and that wrapped up sixth overall.

"And that was quite something,” he concluded. Up against five UCI WorldTour teams and six UCI Pro Teams, we can only agree.

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