After nine years, Rapha Condor JLT has raced its last race in their current colours. John Herety built a squad that has taken national titles on the road and track, dominated UK racing and achieved considerable success abroad – and seen a number of young racers use these results to move up to bigger teams. As the year draws to a close and Rapha steps down as co-owner and sponsor of the team, we take a timely look back at three moments from the season that encapsulate the team and their ambitions.
A small number of special edition Rapha Condor JLT jersey and t-shirts remain available. With specially commissioned graphics and embroidery to celebrate the riders, sponsors and staff that played a part in the team’s successes in the last nine years.
Le Tour du Loir et Cher E Provost, April
The not-succinctly named Tour du Loir et Cher E Provost is part of the Europe Tour and, in words of one former pro, one of the hardest races that no one ever hears about. The race is ripped apart by winds and small rollers, punishing any naivety or lack of race craft – but it’s rarely televised, and this spectacle of European road racing remains largely unknown. If you ever get the chance to watch a stage, on the start line you’ll spot skinny neo-pros wanting to prove they’re the next big thing standing shoulder-to-shoulder with battle scarred veterans out to show they can still cut it.
Graham Briggs took the victory with a mixture of brute force and cunning, becoming its first British winner. Briggs attacked early on the third of the six stages, driving the break to the line to take the stage and the leader’s jersey. Briggs and the squad defended the jersey to the end of the week, fending off attacks from the well-drilled French and Dutch teams.
Tour de Korea and Tour of Japan, May
With their distinctive kit and undeniable style, Rapha Condor JLT are sometimes referred to as the men in black – this nickname flatters some of the development squad, who are barely out of their teens.
Much of the squad that travelled with Tom Southam to race in Japan and Korea fit into this bracket, including 20-year-olds Tom Moses and Hugh Carthy, and the relatively aged Richard Handley, 23. Despite their youth and being thousands of miles from home, Rapha Condor JLT cleaned up.
Handley won the second stage and wore the leader’s jersey in Japan, while Carthy took the King of the Mountains and Young Rider jerseys, followed by the overall title in Korea. These results helped deal Carthy’s move to Caja Rural, the Spanish Pro Continental team.
Three Wins, Two Days, May
For the past few seasons, Rapha Condor JLT has been operating as essentially two squads. The powerfully built riders – some of whom moonlight for GB and Ireland on the track – work as a criterium and circuit race squad, while the leaner types find themselves with a schedule of international stage races and hilly one-day races. Of course, the squad is small and the riders multi-talented, so they have the chance to both focus on their strengths and occasionally dabble with a new type of riding.
The criterium riders get to experience the bread and butter of UK riding – tight-corner crits, rowdy circuit races, and the Tour Series – racing against a peloton stacked with specialists. Over two days in late May, Rapha Condor JLT managed to win three races – Felix English, Elliot Porter and Graham Briggs all out-sprinted their competitors, showing the damage that can be done with a powerful turn of speed.