FEATURE: Rossington star Briggs shines in a golden era for British cycling

Graham Briggs of Doncaster wins the Claremont Sheffield city centre road race
Graham Briggs of Doncaster wins the Claremont Sheffield city centre road race

British cycling is at an all time high. The magic of Bradley Wiggins, the tears of Chris Hoy and no fewer than eight Olympic gold medals have put cycling at the top of the podium when it comes to elite national performance. Doncaster can lay claim to its very own cycling superstar too.

National champion Graham Briggs might not be a household name - but sports writer PAUL GOODWIN discovers that the Rossington rider is every bit as inspiring as his more famous colleagues.

Graham Briggs (centre) celebrates coming first with second place Dean Downing (right) and third place Matt Cronshaw (left).

Graham Briggs (centre) celebrates coming first with second place Dean Downing (right) and third place Matt Cronshaw (left).

TAKING a rare breather from his packed schedule, Graham Briggs might have sat back and watched a golden Olympics for British cycling with a certain amount of envy.

A late developer, 29-year-old Briggs took very much his own route into a sport currently riding high on the back of a quite brilliant London 2012.

But those diversions and idiosyncrasies have given the Rossington racer extra incentive to reach the highest level possible.

And far from wondering what might have been, Briggs is firmly focused on the future; focused on cementing his newfound place at the top of the 2012 national track and road rankings.

The passion, hard work and commitment of Team GB’s Olympic athletes struck a chord with the entire nation.

Doncaster’s Briggs is no different in his dedication to cycling.

After surging up the elite rankings almost under the radar, having only joined the professional ranks in 2009, Briggs is driven on by his humble and slightly unusual upbringing in the sport.

And his message to youngsters eager to take up cycling is a one that was perpetuated by the London Games; hard work gets results.

“Just keep on working hard,” advises Briggs, who rides for crack British outfit Team Raleigh-GAC.

“I’m not the most talented of riders.

“But through sheer hard work I’ve got to where I am now and I’ve managed to achieve some great things in cycling.

“The Olympics have been great for all sports in this country and cycling is no different.

“When I’ve been out on my bike over the last couple of weeks I’ve seen a lot more people out cycling. That’s great for the sport.

“Guys like Ed Clancy [Olympic bronze medallist in track cycling] are a huge inspiration.

“I know Ed really well. He’s a good friend of mine and he’s just a normal human being - he’s just a little bit faster than me!

“Riding at Olympic level is probably beyond me now. I’m just focused on my duties with Team Raleigh.

“But there are great opportunities there now for young people who want to get into cycling.

“And if you work hard, you’ve seen at the Olympics what you can achieve.”

Briggs, who is still a member of Rossington Wheelers Cycling Club, is currently enjoying his best season on record.

He might have lost the National Circuit Race Championship title he won last year, but he has since coasted to victory in the recent Elite Circuit Race Series.

Crowned champion in front of 10,000 spectators in Sheffield last month, Briggs is now enjoying the rewards that hard work brings.

He flies to Spain and then Belgium this week to train alongside several Tour De France riders in preparation for next month’s Tour of Britain.

“I trained well over the winter and put a lot into it,” said Briggs.

“Wearing the National Criterium jersey helped as well, that gives you an extra incentive to go out there and ride well.

“It was disappointing to lose that title but I guess it gave me a bit of a push in the Elite Series.

“I just wanted to show people that I’m still a good rider.

“I’ve been riding since I was 17,” he added, reflecting on a career that began on the streets of Rossington.

“I was always interested in bikes when I was younger, always playing around on the streets.

“And then I started working at the local bike shop, Hudson Cycles in Rossington.

“People in there would be talking about racing and I ended up getting involved in cyclo-cross.

“I got my first serious mountain bike when I was at Hudsons and then I got a Raleigh bike.

“I never dreamed I’d end up riding for them!

“I didn’t come into the sport via the usual British Cycling route,” he added.

“I ended up living in France for a few years to focus on road racing.

“So I don’t have the track background that the guys at the Olympics have.

“The aim for me over the next few years is to keep on riding at a high level for as long as possible.

“As long as I’m still enjoying it, I’ll carry on.”

Briggs won the Sheffield, Brighouse, Stafford and Wales legs of the Elite Circuit Race Series, while also finishing second in Stockton and Colne.

The Tour of Britain starts in Ipswich on September 9 and includes eight stages covering a total distance of 1,349km.