Derby cycling team HUUB Wattbike on the bid for world records
- Credit: Archant
Nigel Powlson talks to Derby cycling team HUUB Wattbike which is using local innovation and technology to have a crack at three world records
If a Derby cycling team sets a world record this spring it will be like ‘Mickleover Sports beating Brazil’ says the man who is backing them to achieve their dream.
Dean Jackson’s company, leading triathlon kit designers HUUB, loves to be at the cutting edge and in an innovative Derby-based track cycling team has found the perfect athletes to back.
HUUB Wattbike Team started life as Team TGF and have always punched above their weight. Drawn to Derby because of the velodrome at Derby Arena they have a passion for the engineering and science behind elite performance sport.
Dan Bigham, Charlie Tanfield, Jacob Tipper and Jonny Wale didn’t have the money of the elite teams but they have still made their mark in national and international competitions, posting times that were the envy of the world’s foremost team and individual pursuit riders.
After a string of podium places, including gold at the national championships in Manchester – beating the British Cycling team pursuit riders – they went on to win gold in the UCI World Cup in Belarus in 3:56 – just five seconds off the world record.
This UCI track season the newly re-named Team HUUB Wattbike have a new line-up of Dan and Jonny joined by John Archibald, Harry Tanfield and, more recently, Ashton Lambie.
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They are in the midst of a six-month international season which will see them competing against some of the world’s top national teams such as Australia, New Zealand and British Cycling, as well as feeder teams who have the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in their sights.
This season, the team will have the added benefit of drag-reducing cycling kit which has been produced specifically for them by HUUB using a patented performance-enhancing design developed in partnership with computational fluid design experts TotalSim.
Now, if all goes to plan, Dan is hoping to bring a world record back to Derby in the spring.
The team is targeting winning the World Cup despite not being able financially to travel to the Hong Kong and New Zealand rounds but also have their sights set on making history.
Dan says: ‘We know the World Record is achievable. There is a place in Mexico at 2,000 metres above sea level. That altitude is worth a huge amount in distance and we would go about six to eight seconds faster than at sea level. It would not just be the team pursuit, we would have a go at the individual pursuit and Bradley Wiggins’ hour record as well. We have run it through our performance models and it’s all achievable.
‘That would put us in the history books and even if we don’t get to the Olympics our names are going to be out there and that would be pretty cool.
‘But you can’t just go to Mexico on a free weekend, there’s a lot of planning and working out how each rider adapts to altitude. We will go into altitude chambers and analyse each rider and then tailor our training and head to Mexico in March/April. We finish the season in January and will have a bit of down time and then build back up to it. There are a lot of logistics – you have to have World Anti-Doping there to do drug testing, the governing body has to be there and there’s track hire and marshalling. It’s not just about riding your bike quickly.’
Then there’s the not small matter of money.
Dan says: ‘I’m sure through Derby we can find the support to help us break three world records in a week. That would put us right up there with Chris Boardman, Bradley Wiggins and the biggest names in cycling.’
For Dan it has not been a straightforward journey into cycling. The sport has found him as much as he has found it.
‘I started in triathlon at university after injuries prevented me playing rugby. I won my first triathlon and had three years going for it. I was a good cyclist but not a great swimmer and an average runner and when I got a foot injury in 2015 it put paid to that really, so it seemed sensible to go down the cycling route.
‘I had a couple of years on the road and that led into the track stuff. Two years ago I decided to have a crack at the team pursuit and after four weeks in training we went to the nationals and got gold and silver in the individual pursuit, and we beat the senior national team to the gold medal in the team pursuit and broke their competition record – so that’s where it all started.
‘I asked the question then “How far can we take this?” That time would have got us ninth place in the Rio Olympics but times have accelerated on the world stage and we knew we needed to improve by living together, training together and doing things properly.
‘Basing ourselves in Derby was a no brainer as the support at the velodrome is second to none. Dean wanted to move HUUB into the track cycling world and he was helping us with stuff like bags and T-shirts and now he’s the title sponsor. He has connected us up with the Derbyshire Institute of Sport who help us with our strength and conditioning, physiotherapy and the general managing of our lives.
‘Derbyshire in general has come to help us in so many different ways. Last season we achieved our objectives in terms of times and getting a World Cup win and then most of us went to the Commonwealth Games in Australia with Charlie winning the individual pursuit.’
Charlie got signed up for the national team on the back of that and Dan was disappointed not to follow him.
‘There was never really any explanation,’ says Dan. ‘But that means I’m pretty motivated to take on these national teams and show them they aren’t doing everything right and there’s so much more to improve on. I want to show these teams that £35-million budgets aren’t the be-all and end-all.
‘We are big on the technology side and there are lots of really cool things we do. We are working on a project that effectively means we have live data transmission. When we are riding we generate speed, power and heart rate data which is sent in real time to track centre and when we finish we can immediately look at it. That’s what you get at the top level. Great Britain and Denmark have it but the mid-level teams like France and Belgium don’t so we are trying to step up to that top shelf.
‘Small margins make a massive difference in this sport. We might not be the strongest, most technically drilled athletes, but we look after our tyres, our clothing, nutrition, recovery and all that. All of those things give you a bit extra and before you know it you are knocking on the door of the world record.’
HUUB founder and owner Dean Jackson says that his support for the team is another example of Derby businesses and organisations coming together to make great things happen.
‘Derby as a whole should be very proud of this team. They epitomise the city’s credentials in innovation, technology and sheer determination and are definitely one to watch.
‘These guys are the Cool Runnings of the cycling world. Having been originally ignored by the cycling establishment, they have taken the sport by storm by taking a fresh approach to team and individual pursuit and time trial.
‘They have already achieved a great deal with the support of a number of businesses and organisations, including Derby City Council, with access to the velodrome, Derbyshire Institute of Sport, the University of Derby, Derby College, Bowmer & Kirkland, Century Mobile and Invictus Communications.
‘Our support includes making the patented cycling suits that they helped to design and are scientifically-proven to help in their quest.
‘We have also recently been joined by co-sponsors Wattbike, based in Nottingham, and are delighted to be working with the guys to help them achieve their goal of being the fastest in the world.’
Dean says his interest started when a friend of his wanted to make the fastest bike in the world not conforming to UCI rules.
‘The only way to do that was to put it into triathlon where the rules are more relaxed,’ says Dean. ‘He asked me to help with the branding and when I met the guy behind the aerodynamics it was Dan.
‘I had wanted to get into the world of aerodynamic clothing and Dan seemed the perfect person to work with. In working with him on the triathlon side I learned more about the cycling team and wanted to help and support them.
‘It’s also a lovely vehicle for us to move into the cycling side as well. And I would only move into a market bringing benefits and innovations, taking something apart and putting it back together very differently.
‘The team’s story resonates with me massively. When I set the business up seven years ago it was on my kitchen table with just an idea. From that I know you can take big businesses on by being smart and innovative and what Dan was doing was punching so far above his weight it’s almost incomprehensible. It’s four lads from Derby taking on the world.
‘I’m born and bred in Derby. I’m passionate about the city which is why we brought the Jenson Button triathlon here. The velodrome is bringing people into the sport and it’s created a groundswell. When you see people locally doing well interest keeps growing. That’s why Dan is here and with the city behind the team they can go a long way.
‘They could win gold at the Olympics, but they aren’t part of the GB programme. If you have seen the social media we are talking about ‘Derbados’ – that makes us the fifth fastest nation in track cycling team pursuit but I believe we can get them to number one. The fastest suits in the world are made in Belper. We have a research partner from Nottingham Trent University. We have it all here. We call it the Fellowship of Speed and we can help them become the best in the world.’
Dan says: ‘With Dean we have started to join up a lot of dots. Over the last six months of the skin suit development we had been through so many fits and seam positions that by the time we put it on Jonny found an extra 31 watts – when you are riding around a velodrome at 64 km per hour you are producing 600 watts of power through the pedals. About 450 of that is your body. Changing to the new skin suit allows you to do that same speed with 31 watts less power... or you can go faster with the same power. That’s astronomical and it’s unheard of in the world of cycling to make that level of gain.
‘It helps us take on these teams with scary budgets. Cash doesn’t automatically buy you speed, you can be smart about it. If you spend £30 million then people just say it’s because you had the money. If you have £50,000 for the whole season people know you have to be pretty smart to make it work.
‘We have gone from already world class times to being the equivalent of the fifth fastest nation. It’s nice being like Cool Runnings. We are taking on the big guys and beating them.’