When Bob Varney explained his Drops Cycling Team project back in October 2015, we jumped aboard almost immediately. We have been immensely proud of the way the team has developed throughout 2016 and we thoroughly enjoyed the involvement. The team punched way above their weight consistently and achieved numerous great results.
The team had a good balance and even more so when former Prendas supported riders Alice Barnes and Annie Simpson joined the team in late Spring. Alice deciding to focus on a road programme and "Little Simmo" resurrecting her road career which had been on hold since 2012. (An excellent interview with Annie detailing the transition from off road to the road has recently published on VeloUK)
There were so many highlights during the year that it's difficult to choose which was the greatest thrill. Initially, just taking part and finishing riders in monuments like the Tour of Flanders was really gratifying. Jen George getting 7th in the Women's Tour de Yorkshire saw the team make their mark on the World Tour while Alice Barnes (4th) & Ellie Dickinson (13th) were on GB duty. Big step up for the talented Ellie as she was just 17 at the time.
The support that you have given us this year has been phenomenal, beyond what I ever anticipated thank you.
The team were invited to many big time international races that were previously considered only possible years into the future, so it was a baptism of fire and the girls acquitted themselves well. An ever presence was the team's hard-working mechanic Mike Jenner who worked endless hours to ensure those Miami Green Trek bikes were spotless!
Domestically, the Lincoln Gran Prix 1-2-3 for Alice, Rebecca Durrell and Laura Massey was exceptional and Ellie's 8th secured her the National Junior Championship. London Nocturne was fully televised and Alice Barnes gave a master class, riding away solo and lapping half the field. Lucy Shaw showed well and finished in an excellent 4th. National Champs saw Alice get 2nd behind her sister Hannah but that won her the under 23 National Championship. Drops finished 7 riders in the Top 20, a remarkable performance for a first year team. Selection for a really testing Aviva Women's Tour was a highlight and the team finished ALL riders and a creditable 10th on team GC in a star studded field.
The only hiccup was losing the Tour Series title at the very last event in Portsmouth. Sod's law decreed that it was the one and only time we managed to actually see them race. After leading the competition from start to finish, a couple of unfortunate crashes and the double points on offer in the last event, saw the victory elude our team.
I would just like to say a huge massive thank-you to Prendas for sponsoring the team this year! I have never worked with such awesome sponsors, I would recommend Prendas to anybody and the service has been ace.
Ultimately, all the team members made a great contribution to the overall success of the Drops' inaugural season and we could not have been more pleased. We are also extremely satisfied with what we brought to the team and like to think we were more than "clothing sponsors". However, Bob's inevitable (and completely justifiable) quest to step up a league means that we have to step down for 2017.
Brexit and the consequential fall in the value of the pound means that we will have to pay more for virtually all our products as 95% of our stock is purchased from manufacturers who charge in Euros. We have no wish to hike our prices to cover the shortfall as we are a great believers in "real world" pricing. This is possible due to our lean supply chain and although we may have to increase some prices, we would like to remain committed to value for money. Hence, the money which we previously committed to Drops will go some way to plug the hole created by a weak pound.
I promise you it was the best kit i have ever worn! So comfortable, quality was second to none, and any team who have you as a supplier are going to be very lucky indeed. In every race, i was incredibly proud to be branded by your name. I valued all your support and encouragement you gave me. I was incredibly grateful for all that you supplied to me, the kit, additional surprise extras, like the sunglasses - the best glasses i have ever worn.
The team have a first class new clothing sponsor for 2017 who have a long history working with pro teams so we are 100% confident that the team will lack for nothing in the new season. We will continue to follow the team's progress with interest and would like to take this opportunity to thank ALL the riders, the many back room staff, the management, the other sponsors and the VW Passatt for all their endeavours throughout 2016.
Special mention in dispatches also to Fergus Niland, Monica Santini, Tom Oldham, Larry Hickmott (VeloUK) JoJo Harper, Ian Taylor (Ten Eighty), Bruce Sandell & Andy Hill (Rouleur Magazine) Tim John (Simpson Magazine), Casquette CC,
Orla Chennaoui & Richard Moore (The Cycling Podcast Féminin), Alasdair Cresswell (InCycle), Grace Metcalf (PR & Marketing Manager-Women's Tour & Tour Series) and the indefatigable Mick Bennett.
Huge thanks also to all the team fans and supporters who made such an important contribution to the success of a very special team. The team also wrote a heartfelt thanks to us for our encouragement, support and passion during the 2016 season.
If you would like to buy yourself or a friend some of the Drops Team Clothing, we now have some fabulous reductions. The team continue to use their 2016 race kit and will do until the end of the season.
In 1961 Tom Simpson won the Tour of Flanders, something so far no other British male rider has ever done. That may change this weekend, of course, but this is how Simpson did it.
Chris Sidwells looks back at when the world’s best professionals raced on British roads for the very first time.