Author: Tom Copeland
Location: United Kingdom
Occupation: Communications Agent - PaceUp Media Director
Former rider, turned cycling Communications agency director Tom Copeland recounts the people who have influenced his journey from a greener than green junior mixing it up amongst the best in the country, before cutting his teeth in France riding for the Dave Rayner Fund, and then, later, the John Ibbotson Fund.
It’s rare I go a full day without having a conversation about bikes, a brand, rider, team or something cycling industry related. Cycling has become a huge part of my life, but is a world apart from where it all first started. Having got into the race scene quite late compared to my peers at the time, my life on a bike began in my early to mid teens and a whirlwind of racing, school exams and travel to races ensued.
The whole journey can be punctuated by certain persons who had an influential sway on my cycling career - or now career in cycling - and to them I am forever grateful as they have helped define where I am today.
I wonder how many cycling careers began with Dad. I borrowed my old man’s Orbea Orca in my early teens and was hooked from the off. Just a year later, at the age of 15, we were in Mourenx, southern France, lining up for the Étape du Tour having had to use my height and feign a lost form of identity to pick up my race number which were not allowed for U16s at the time. He still reminds me of the moment I asked him if I could crack on when riding up the lower slopes of the Col d’Aubisque - mid way through the longest day on a bike I’d ever ridden, over 220km at the time. He spent endless mornings and evenings driving me round the country to junior races where, looking back, I had no idea how to race or to win, but managed to finish on a few National series podiums against names more akin to the Tour de France nowadays. This helped forge a step across to Europe to join a Composite GB Junior Team that regularly made the journey from Kent to Calais to race in Belgium with a selfless legend by the name of John Barclay.
The who’s who of modern British pro riders have all been through the John Barclay school of racing - trips spent going to and from Belgium in the white Mercedes Benz estate (don’t slam the boot!) to race one day or stage races with a composite GB team. Cav, Millar, Stannard were all names bandied around casually when I first started joining the team on regular trips over to race junior versions of the senior one day classics, alongside peers who did so much to unbeknowingly teach me the skills of how to race - Adam Blythe, Luke Rowe, Pete Kennaugh, Andy Fenn were names I’d regularly be quietly pinning on numbers next to before doing my bit to help them win, learning bucket loads each time we took to the start line.
There’s always a local bike shop in any cyclist’s life. Mine started off at In Gear, Uckfield, owned at the time by Pete. Sorting me out with everything and so much more than I could have imagined to be able to take racing seriously, plus an intro to my coach who opened my eyes to what training was all about, in so many painful ways.
I’ve spent a lot of hours of my life in bike shops, and alongside InGear I owe a lot to Lawrence and Simon at The Tristore for work, motivation and more insight into what the whole game was about - even if there were plenty of suggestions of adding two other disciplines to my time on the bike. Yet another huge thanks to everyone who have worked at and been influenced by Lawrence - you know who you are!
A lot of the time spent on the bike I’d have cursed his name for the brutal 40/20 x 10 repetitive sessions up and down the hills of Ashdown Forest. But as my first real coach, Sean had a huge impact on not only bringing me on physically but also mentally to take a step forward to racing seriously.
Google the name if you’ll know it. Sean introduced me to Tony to help get set up with an Amateur French team in Brittany before things started to get serious. At the time it was a deferral from a medicine degree, much to mum’s displeasure. But Tony helped me (and several others) with a footing in France.
After one season racing locally in Quimper, Yvon gave me the opportunity to race for a leading first division amateur team in France - still a level that regularly feeds rider after rider into the WorldTour and illustrious careers at the highest level.
Most people know Matt from YouTube and Eurosport, but when in my third season in France Matt was leading Sigma Sports Specialized and gave me the chance to race for one of the leading teams in the UK at the time alongside a group of friends many of whom I now cross paths with in much more formal circumstances.
For anyone who’s been through the broadcast sports teams at Sky TV, you’ll know the name. Trisha gave me the opportunity to join the broadcast team across all cycling shows; supporting and developing live broadcasts for a number of the world’s biggest races and giving me a huge insight into the world of broadcast media.
The big boss. Working with Iwan for 3 years at what is now Team Sunweb gave me so much insight and education as to how the big world of pro cycling worked from the inside.
I had a dream of building a Communications agency in the sport I have spent so many years working across - covering all angles from media to brand and agency too. The wife-to-be pushed me to launch PaceUp Media, the most time consuming yet rewarding piece of the puzzle so far.
Life With Bikes
Life on a bike has come a long way from the Etape du Tour all those years ago, not knowing anything about the legends of the sport or the greatest races in the calendar, and so has the sport in the UK too. Today’s outlook on cycling is a very different one - a longer term view on having an impact on a change in the way our sport markets itself in the elite ranks, while working with leading riders, brands and events in the industry week in week out to reach new audiences, customers and sales. But doing so still with a shared passion - for bikes and bike racing.
At PaceUp Media we work with names I followed in a much different light 15 years ago, from WorldTour teams and riders, races including the Tour de France and the Tour of Flanders, and iconic brands from around the world. It’s been a rollercoaster journey since first the first pedal strokes on Dad’s Orbea but they set me on the path I’m still on today, and the future only looks more and more exciting.