Twenty two months after their last major race, team SwiftCarbon Pro Cycling will line up at the Volta a Portugal. It’s been a bumpy journey for the UCI Continental teams. While the UCI WorldTeams and ProTeams went back to an albeit delayed 2020 racing schedule and continuing almost as before the Covid-19 pandemic, the third tier teams’ calendar was ravaged as the world prioritises health and the economy.

As a British team, there are two highlights on the racing scene each year. But the 2021 Tour de Yorkshire was cancelled, leaving the Tour of Britain as the main focus for SwiftCarbon Pro Cycling. Team founder Paul Lamb then designed a program to prepare the riders accordingly, ensuring they’re in top shape for September start in Penzance. The timing of the Volta a Portugal is ideal. There’s also another good fit: SwiftCarbon’s global headquarters, as well as our finishing, painting and assembly plant, are situated in Porto, and in 2019 we set up our R&D and sales offices in the UK. “In conversation, I asked what the guys at SwiftCarbon thought about the team racing in Portugal as a build-up to Tour of Britain, and they liked the idea – that it would be great to connect the two together,” says Lamb. “They did warn me that it would be hard though – I think the clash of cycling cultures will be an interesting one!” SwiftCarbon’s history is also connected to the event – founder Mark Blewett was a former professional on a Portuguese team, and raced in the Volta.

Regarded by many as one of the most challenging stage races of the season, the Volta a Portugal is held over 10 days and poses a very different style of racing and terrain to what the riders on Britain’s newest UCI Continental team are accustomed to. When it comes to the field, it’s the local riders’ home tour – the peak of their season. With everyone on form, they’ll have their work cut out for them. Looking at the route, stage 3 features a Hors Categorie 25km climb, ascending 1500m, as the finale. Stage 8 will also be a tough day out, heading up to Montalegre (Serra Do Larouco) on a 1st category climb. But it all culminates in the final 20.3km time trial in Viseu where the winner will be decided. See more info on the stages here.

No doubt the team have been studying the route and the start list. With that in mind, they’ve been approaching the build-up races on the local circuit with their crib notes on the course profiles and their rivals imprinted in their minds. SwiftCarbon Pro Cycling’s line up for the Volta a Portugal is: Alex Peters (a former Team Sky rider with climbing talents), Andy Turner (good on a TT bike), Darragh O'Mahony (up-and-coming Irish star), Ollie Peckover (a fresh talent looking to convert), Ross Lamb (rouleur who raced on a French team before returning to the UK), Will Bjergfelt (Olympian and the engine room of the team) and Chris Latham (a former GB pursuiter who’ll also look for TT opportunities, plus he’s a good morale builder). “It’s a privilege to be invited and we hope we can animate the race in different ways, both on and off the bike,” says Lamb.

For us at SwiftCarbon, it will be the first time in our history that we have two teams riding our bikes in a major race. Portugal’s top team W52 – FC Porto will also be on a combination of Ultravox, Hypervox and Neurogen bikes, depending on the terrain and the riders’ preference (the balance of the Ultravox / the aerodynamics and rigidity of the Hypervox / the speed and control of the Neurogen). SwiftCarbon bikes have won at the Volta a Portugal twice. We hope it’ll be a third in 2021, no matter which team. Stay tuned.