A Privateer Life In Lourdes

May 5, 2017 at 8:30
by Morvelo Bicycle Apparel  
Of the eighty final qualifiers in an elite men's World Cup, there is a rather obvious divide; the majority are factory or team riders, but then there is a small pocket of 'working class hero' privateers. Whilst racing is a full-time career for the team riders, the privateers are, on the whole, juggling their racing with work to chase the dream of World Cup glory.

A Privateer Life In Lourdes

A Privateer Life In Lourdes

A Privateer Life In Lourdes


Privateers have to be resourceful both at home and at the races, utilizing their time and energy wisely as they split their resources between working and training. They are their own team manager, trainer, and mechanic—sorting travel and accommodation in the preseason and footing the bill themselves. Then at the races, the factory riders have other people taking care of logistics, travel, food, kit, and bikes whilst they focus solely on the racing, meanwhile, the privateers are tackling all of this by their selves, making the task of racing or even qualifying a tough one.



A Privateer Life In Lourdes

A Privateer Life In Lourdes

A Privateer Life In Lourdes

A Privateer Life In Lourdes


Our 'case study' for the Lourdes weekend was young Scottish pinner Lachlan Blair, who after spending 2016 UCI points chasing in Europe landed himself a 69th finish in Andorra which set him up points wise coming into this season. After a few frustrating years of having the pace but perhaps lacking in consistency Lachlan is fired up for a successful 2017.



A Privateer Life In Lourdes

A Privateer Life In Lourdes

A Privateer Life In Lourdes

A Privateer Life In Lourdes


“So basically it's really hard to do World Cups if you're from GB as there are so many quick racers. To do a World Cup you need to have points or a national jersey, it used to be six jerseys but it's been cut to three now so it's super hard to get one of those. The other way is going points chasing in UCI categorized races, and again, the amount of points has gone up this year to forty now. In the UK there are no UCI races so you have to travel to places like Slovenia to try and get them. Unfortunately, those races are usually packed with really fast boys so you never get as many points as you are hoping for…”



A Privateer Life In Lourdes

A Privateer Life In Lourdes

A Privateer Life In Lourdes

A Privateer Life In Lourdes


“The easiest way of getting points is at a World Cup but it's also the hardest. At the end of last year, I had enough points to race Andorra and I knew it would be important to qualify and get a good haul of points. I qualified but crashed in my race run so only got twelve points for sixty-ninth position. The dream position…”



A Privateer Life In Lourdes

A Privateer Life In Lourdes


“Being a privateer you're very limited on budget so I've been working at Nevis Range in Fort William over the winter working the ski lifts but there was very little snow this year, which meant there was very little work, and now very little money! So I'll be doing the races as cheap as possible and just slapping the credit card down!”



A Privateer Life In Lourdes

A Privateer Life In Lourdes

“When there is work you've got to fit your training around that, so I'd work eight until five and then have to prioritize my time, whether that be going to the gym or heading out on the bike straight after work and then getting home late for dinner.”

A Privateer Life In Lourdes

A Privateer Life In Lourdes


“At the start of the year, you write down a rough calendar of all the dates of various races across Europe and jot out a plan for the year. I like to avoid flying as its costly business, no one wants to fly when you can drive on the cheap and live out the van. Depending on the schedule of where and when the races are, changes the travel plans. With the first race in Lourdes and with no other races around it, I decided to fly out. So I flew from Edinburgh to Bordeaux on the cheap with Ryan Air, find the sketchiest hire car company with the biggest excess and therefore the cheapest price, and then the finest two-star hotel in Lourdes. The weekend in total cost around £600, that's travel, food, and entry. World Cup entry is €80.”



A Privateer Life In Lourdes

A Privateer Life In Lourdes

“Airports are the worst things ever. Travelling with a bike can be a nightmare, dragging them about along with your other bags, and it costs a fortune.”

A Privateer Life In Lourdes

A Privateer Life In Lourdes


“I usually arrive on the Tuesday or Wednesday so will get the bike built up and make sure she's working fine by doing some wheelies and cutties. Usually, for spares I'll take a set of tires, I don't own any spare wheels so can't take them, which is good as it saves weight… I'll have a little rummage around the shed and if I have an old mech which isn't too bent that will get shoved in too. To maximize the efficiency of flying to a World Cup the dream is to fly with only a bike and hand luggage to avoid paying for the hold luggage. That means you need to pack the hand luggage with as much heavy stuff as possible, as long as it's not tools as they'll get taken off you. Then shove all your clothes in your bike bag along with any spares that you can get in without going over the weight limit.”



A Privateer Life In Lourdes

A Privateer Life In Lourdes


“With no mechanic or pit space in Lourdes, I had to ride to the track from the hotel which is a pretty good warm up to not having a turbo trainer... At the other Euro World Cups, I normally have my van which I live out of and can keep my tools and spares in, going back to it between runs. It's taken me a while to work out how to qualify for a World Cup. Turns out you can't have a casual run down the mountain into a nice seventy-ninth place qualifier… You have to go flat out to stand any chance of going near the top eighty. I had about four years of not bothering getting in the top eighty, I've been quite consistent in being top eighty-five though!”



A Privateer Life In Lourdes


“In Lourdes, I had the best qualifying run I've ever had, it was a super sketchy run. I thought I had a front flat all the way down after getting wild in the top rocks. Nursed her down, after years of not qualifying and automatically looking over your shoulder when you cross the line, praying that it's a sub-eighty number. So I was pretty shocked to see that I'd come down into thirty-fourth. The best qualifying I've ever done.”



A Privateer Life In Lourdes
Photo © Phunkt


“Then for the race, it's a bit weird after coming from the Group B practice first thing in the morning, you suddenly get to sleep later with the elite qualifying happening later on the Sunday and not being on the greasy track first thing in the morning like on Friday and Saturday. For the race run, you basically see how fast you can go without ruining yourself. My race run in Lourdes was slower than my qualifying as I came to a stand still on two occasions but steamed down the bottom section and salvaged some time, ended up in forty-forth, two seconds slower than my qualifier which was a bit of a bummer. But stoked to be going into Fort William with number board forty-seven as that's got me more UCI points, and now I'm in Group A practice and get longer practice sessions and timed training which is such an advantage over the early morning Group B practice with the limited time on the hill.”



A Privateer Life In Lourdes

A Privateer Life In Lourdes


“The hardest part of being a privateer is money. Trying to afford to do anything. Everything is expensive and you don't have much money anyway, so you've just got to find a bank that'll give you a nice big credit card, drop the load on that, interest-free is the dream… This year I've budgeted, quite ambitiously, £600 per World Cup… Seven World Cups—that's some serious cash. About £4k on World Cups…”

"Well worth it though and can't wait for the next round!"


Words & Photography: Ross Bell
Rider: Lachlan Blair
World Cup: Lourdes



MENTIONS: @morvelo




43 Comments

  • + 60
 £4000 to compete a full season at the highest level of your sport seems pretty damn good. (I know, plus the bike, etc.)
Top effort though fella - and shave a few seconds and somebody else might start paying for you...
  • + 36
 With coverage like this on Pinkbike you might find yourself on a team pretty soon. Good luck Lachlan!
  • + 26
 Lots of props for guys like this!
  • + 14
 Great insight and fair play to you doing what you do on a tight budget. It's nice to hear guys need the credit card too just to get through the season! Juggling work commitments, family and training is very hard, I race a fair bit myself (obviously not at your level ) and it's a costly commitment for your passion. I hope you have a great season, good luck!
  • + 12
 I'm gonna say it..... controversial but probably the most stylish rider on both "British pie" videos. tyres on the ground can look sick if you can move like a ninja on your bike.

It's not going to be long before he's on a full team, or full enduro with the dudes?
  • + 7
 I agree wholeheartedly. His style and the way he smacks turns is unreal. Won't be long until he's pinning the top steps I doubt.
  • + 15
 I'd contribute a tenner if there were a means to.
  • + 1
 Not rich, but ready to help with a few € ...
  • + 6
 Well good to see you doing well, it is such a downer spending the money to get to races and do not qualify When I was racing you could just show up and race but not anymore Remeber riding first world Champs in Coloado in1990 I just phoned up to get a entry representing Scotland then just show up Funny thing was when had opening of event got to cycle round runnning track carrying scottish flag was riding a better bike than competed on
  • + 7
 Great article Pinkbike. Hope you plan to follow Lachlan for the rest of the season. I know I will! Chuffed that you can enter Fort Bill, it will be amazing for you. Good luck!
  • + 7
 €80 entrance for a WC.. An BDS is......
  • + 2
 Quite a lot of sponsorship for WC racing, maybe that brings it down? BDS is crazy expensive though.
  • + 2
 @sicmoto: I guess it's low cos dude doesn't have a team, pitts mechs etc....
  • + 1
 @nojzilla: I thought BDS was £70 a round but you have to enter them all in advance
  • + 1
 @jaame: £95 last i heard an that was a couple years ago
  • + 1
 @jaame: £100 this year
  • + 1
 @sicmoto: wow. That's not cheap. And they're not paying the uci €1,000,000 per round.

I wonder how much money is being made by landowners, organisers or insurance companies.
  • + 2
 Quality artical PB and a great insight to the commitment and dedication of Lachlan - sounds like an absolute govnor and hope his 2017 season brings lots of coverage and decent results! DH is such a class sport and dudes like Lachlan reiterate how grass roots and 'real' it is. Top man ????
  • + 4
 Congrats. You represent almost 90% of every rider who races, even on national...
Keep it up!
  • + 3
 Please 10 PRO WC Riders, read this and see what it's like to be a champion! Thanks PB
  • + 3
 We get a whip round going ? Seems like a nice dude.
Go fund me or just a PayPal addy?
  • + 2
 One of the most honest and devoted guys I have had the pleasure to know. Good luck in 2017 Lachlan both at the World Cups and at the Bank.
  • + 2
 Great feature pb, huge respect to you Lachlan. Hope you do well throughout the season, be great to see a follow up on how it goes. Keep living your dream dude!
  • + 2
 I believe in this guy. And he deserves his efforts to be rewarded. Go on dude
  • + 2
 Good luck, lad. You deserve a sponsor.
  • + 3
 Legend!
  • + 1
 He should set up a funding page or paypal address and we can all help out Smile
  • + 1
 I would live to help out but unfortunately I've got a fat mortgage, two kids to clothe and feed, car payments, income tax, national insurance tax, road tax, fuel tax, etc. In another life buddy, I'd chip in!
  • + 2
 Good luck with the season Lachlan! Great start
  • + 2
 Awesome insight - good luck dude!
  • + 1
 No.47 we now know who to cheer for at Fort Bill. Best of Luck on your home course.
  • + 1
 Great article, and major effort by this guy. Crack on!
  • + 1
 best of luck from germany from privateer to privateer 3
  • + 1
 True hero of the sport, excellent work and the best of luck!
  • + 1
 all the best for you Lachlan! you´re progressing and this will pay out!
  • + 1
 Lots of props to you, good luck Lachlan!
  • + 2
 Kudos!
  • + 1
 Congratulations on your achievements so far. Keep it up!
  • + 1
 Awesome. Good luck Lachlan.
  • + 1
 Great article and kudos to you Lachlan.
  • + 1
 Everything that is great about this sport.
  • + 1
 What a guy!
  • + 1
 Brave!

Post a Comment



You must login to Pinkbike.
Don't have an account? Sign up

Join Pinkbike  Login
Copyright © 2000 - 2017. Pinkbike.com. All rights reserved.
dv56 0.059378
Mobile Version of Website