Bob Lyons has never been someone who lacks ambition. 

Just under two years ago, Lyons was the driving force behind the formation of Scotland’s first-ever women’s professional road cycling set-up; the Alba Road Team. 

And after a hugely successful first two seasons in the sport, Lyons is now looking to move things on further, breaking more ground in the process. 

In recent weeks, it’s been revealed that next season, Alba Road Team will become Scotland’s first-ever female UCI Continental team. 

It’s a significant development for an outfit that remains in its infancy but additionally, it’s confirmation that Lyons is doing more than a few things right. 

Lyons, who hails from south of the border but is an adopted Scot having lived here since the 1980s, has a background which includes three decades in elite coaching and sports science. When he formed Alba Road Team, his vision was clear; to create a team that was focused entirely on the development of riders, and which put riders first. 

That’s an ethos that was, he believed, sadly lacking in too many teams and so he aimed to ensure the riders would be the sole priority, with a view to developing them to a point where they were ready to move on to bigger and better things. 

Despite becoming a UCI Continental team next season, he’s quick to point out that Alba’s goal remains unchanged, all the while garnering a number of benefits from becoming a higher-classified team. 

“Our reason for setting up the team in the first place was that we recognised this gap in the pathway in women’s cycling. Often, riders, are pushed to one side when the driving forces behind a team are things like purely results or an ego trip for a team owner and the riders were becoming the forgotten people,” he says. 

“Our drive came from putting the riders front and centre and so everything would be built around them.  

“It’s easy to talk about things, it’s a different thing actually doing it but we had a clear plan and objective and we’ve achieved that, and beyond.  

To move up to a UCI Continental team wasn’t a straightforward choice. 

There is, as expected, higher costs associated with being a higher-level team. 

But the increased racing opportunities were just too good to turn down, explains Lyons. 

“The decision to go to UCI Continental this year was for a number of reasons,” he says. 

“The UK domestic calendar is somewhat lacking and that means the number of racing opportunities just aren’t there. 

“We raced quite a lot in Europe this year and we’d planned to do more again next year. 

“So the benefit of being a UCI team means we can get into bigger races, and it’s also easier to get in to races.  

“The down side is that it costs more money. Our goal is to spend as much as possible on the riders and when you have costs, that takes money away from the racing budget. But the discussions we’ve had with sponsors indicated they liked the idea of being a UCI team so we took the decision that the benefits of being UCI outweighed the negatives.” 

Team Alba is entirely funded by private sponsorship and with a six-figure budget, as well as considerable amounts of equipment donated in kind, Lyons is doing an impressive job in attracting support. 

He’s well aware that while development is the focus – and that’s made crystal clear to those who consider investing in the team – results do, at some point, start to matter. 

Alba’s biggest success story on an individual basis, so far at least, has been Kate Richardson, who joined the squad as a teenager, emerging as a prodigious talent in 2022, with her performances on the road earning her numerous plaudits, as well as a GB vest on the track. 

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Richardson has now moved on – an inevitable consequence of her success – and as disappointing as it was for Lyons to see one of his best riders depart the team there is, he is confident, a formidable squad assembled as the team prepares to make its debut as a UCI Continental team in early 2024. 

There is, says Lyons, an important mix of youth and experience in the current squad, with one of the notable names being Eilidh Shaw, the recently-crowned Scottish road race champion, who has re-signed for Alba and will spearhead a 12-strong squad for the coming season. 

And so Lyons is confident that his riders are capable of some strong performances both abroad and within the UK next season which will, he is confident, vindicate further his methods. 

“It’s really exciting looking ahead to next year,” he says. 

“While we’re not focused entirely on results, we do need to get results to make this project work. 

“Results-wise, on the national level, we should be at the front-end of races and winning races. 

“And in Europe, we want to be in races where we’re really competitive. In the Class 1 races, it’ll be a learning experience but we are looking to get some UCI points and so we’ll be looking for results in Europe as well as at home.” 

While Lyons is focused on the specifics of his team, he’s also conscious of the impact such a ground-breaking move by Alba can have on Scottish sport as a whole. 

In a country where men’s football remains king, Lyons is hopeful he’s showing there’s more ways to success and profile than just kicking a ball. 

“I think it’s a great thing for Scottish sport and women’s sport having a team doing this,” he says. 

“It’s not necessarily about cycling, either. A lot of what we do is applicable to other sports and it will hopefully make other sports think about what they could potentially do. 

“Unless you push the boundaries, you’re not going to achieve anything. It is hard to get visibility – in Scotland, football is everything and so it’s very hard to get coverage. 

“But we’re working hard in getting the popular press to take a look at teams like us.  

“There’s more to sport in Scotland than football and there’s a lot more to women’s sport and we’re hoping we can show that.”