The Endura Racing team has existed for some years, but they recently landed something of a coup in securing the services of Rob Hayles as both rider and team manager. The veteran English rider – three times an Olympic medallist and also British Road Racing champion in 2008 – has made it clear he wants the outfit to become the No.1 professional racing team in the UK. And with some of the best riders in Britain – some 50% of them Scottish – and promising recruits from New Zealand in Jack Bauer and Jason Christie all on board, he clearly stands a chance.

“There hasn’t really been a top team this year,” Hayles told The Herald from his home in the Peak District. “Russell Downing [of Pinarello] was the top rider and Kristian House [of Rapha Condor] was the British champion.

“The team I was riding for, Halfords, were the strongest team in the criteriums, and with the Tour Series being televised now that’s where we’re going to be hedging our bets with Endura and I think most of the other teams will be as well. The Premier Calendar races are also nice to aim for, but any rider who can get up there in the Tour Series should be able to do well in Premier Calendar races as well.”

The squad includes former mountain bike rider and current Scottish Road Race champion, 21-year-old Ross Creber, Evan Oliphant, who was the winner of that race in both 2007 and 2008, and James McCallum, a bronze medallist for Scotland at the Commonwealth Games in 2006 and British Circuit Race champion in 2007. Hayles, who has been prominent on the British cycling scene for the last 16 years, mixing success on the track with road racing at the highest level – he rode for Cofidis, mainly in Belgium, from 2001 to 2003 – says he now wants to impart his expertise to a new generation of riders.

“One of the reasons I jumped at the deal with Endura was because it wasn’t just that they wanted me to race,” he said. “I don’t think I could have faced just another season racing Premier Calendar races for the sake of it at my age. It’s a case of being team captain and performing a managerial role. I had a mentoring role at Halfords with Andy Tennant and Ed Clancy and I enjoyed it; and there’s an added responsibility that I’m looking forward to over the next couple of years.”

Hayles believes that, in certain regards, he has been ahead of the trends in cycling. Any Endura riders who are good enough to be selected for their national track teams at next year’s Commonwealth Games will be given every encouragement, but it wasn’t ever thus.

“Definitely James McCallum is going to be looking at the Commonwealths and possibly Evan Oliphant,” says Hayles. “The Games aren’t until October so it won’t affect the summer calendar, but they have my blessing. When I rode for Cofidis there was a bit of a tug-of-war with the British track team. Cofidis weren’t exactly thrilled that I was going away for a month, and the national squad weren’t really happy that I was away racing on the continent – they wanted to keep me back and focus on the track, but it was something I wanted to do, and I made it to Athens in 2004 all the same.

“They didn’t think I could go away and race on the road for that length of time and come back and step back on to the track, but I can remember doing my first team pursuit session when I came back a year before Athens and I was better than anyone.

“Lo and behold a year later they were trying to get riders places on squads. 
I remember being told that if I wasn’t in a road squad there was no chance of making it to the Olympics in Beijing.”

In the event, he didn’t make it to Beijing. In March of last year he was suddenly withdrawn from the GB team competing at the world championships in Manchester and had his racing licence suspended for 14 days after giving an irregular pre-race blood sample with an elevated haematocrit level of 50.3%, 0.3% over the level considered normal and healthy.

Following two weeks of intensive testing he was cleared of any wrongdoing and had his licence restored. Three months later he won that road race title in North Yorkshire, but having missed the world championships there was no real chance of being selected for the track in China.

“For the amount of grief it caused me I’m still quite bitter about it,” says Hayles, who believes the permissible level of haematocrit should be raised. “It’s very easy to get knocked over the limit depending on your training; it even fluctuates throughout the day depending on what you’re doing. When you get into serious preparation for track events, you find everyone’s levels start going up. But I think you’ll find in a year or two the regulations will have changed.

“I was happy to do the four weeks of testing with the UCI and it all came back fine. The most annoying thing was I was never actually given a certificate, as has happened with other riders who have naturally high haematocrit levels, because they said mine wasn’t high enough. It was high enough to fail a health check and high enough for my whole life to be disrupted but it wasn’t high enough to be certified when they found I had done nothing wrong.”

Hayles’ time with Cofidis, however, will stand him in good stead when he and the rest of the Endura team – including 18-year-old Yorkshireman Scott Thwaites, whom Hayles believes will be riding Grand Tours some day – decamp for warmer climes early 
next year.

“We’re hoping to do some continental racing then because the season doesn’t really kick off in the UK until the end of March and it’s pretty lean up until the Girvan race at Easter time,” he says. “We’re looking at organising a training camp we can use as a base to race from, possibly in South Africa, but more likely in the south of France or in Spain.

“One of the options is Mallorca and we’d hope to race the Tour of Mallorca, which is a five-day stage race, or we might look at the Tour du Vaucluse, or the Tour of Murcia. Bigger teams get start money for these races whereas we have to be self-funding, so it would have to be a case of having a training camp and killing two birds with one stone.”

The new Team Sky may be talking 
of creating the first British winner of 
the Tour de France within five years. Endura may have more modest aims, but the Livingston-headquartered team have as much right to feel buoyant.