Rebels with a cause

Ribble Rebellion is one of the most exciting prospects in the UK domestic race scene. With a mission to disrupt the global criterium circuit and bring some fun back into bike racing, the team has been ripping up US crits already this season. Now, they’re ready to bring what they’ve learnt Stateside back home

This article was produced in association with Ribble 

“We’re not just another British bike team.” It only takes one look at the Ribble Rebellion squad as they arrive at the biggest criterium races in the world to see that they aren't afraid to stand out from the crowd. The patchwork multi-coloured kit is one thing, then there are the striking Ribble Ultra SL R aero road bikes covered, naturally, in bright paintwork to match the jerseys. It’s not just in their physical appearance that Ribble Rebellion is doing things differently, either: in the high-stress environment of a bike race, this is the team that you’ll find laughing and joking on the start line. Because the aim, above all, is trying to breathe some fun back into cycling.

“We recently did a block in America, and it was like going on a holiday with some mates and racing bikes,” Joe Laverick, Ribble Rebellion’s team captain, explains. “Everyone wants to help everyone, there’s no ego. It’s gelled straight away. I think it’s because we're not trying to be super professional and organised. Everyone knows what they’ve got and what they’re good at. What you see is what you get and we’ve banded together.”

Ribble Rebellion might place enjoyment at the forefront of what they do, but their recent results in America speak for the team’s ability to perform at the highest level, too. Keeping the pressure off and the good vibes high translated into six victories, five podium finishes and many top-10 places Stateside for the British team in just 14 race days. At one of the most prestigious criteriums in the US, Speed Week, Ribble Rebellion won half of the races in the series.

These palmarès are undeniably impressive and those who are well acquainted with the criterium scene might have expected them given the team’s stacked roster for 2024. Alongside Laverick, who formerly rode for the prestigious development team Hagens Berman Axeon as well as the old AG2R U23 squad, Ribble Rebellion includes former British National Criterium Champion Matt Bostock, and Jim Brown, who finished in second place at the inaugural CRIT Championship in Florida last year (an event founded by pioneering criterium racer, Justin Williams of L39ION of LA).

“I’ve never really done a crit with these guys and thought that we couldn’t win,” Brown says. “Even before we went to America, I knew that we would be competitive just because of the people we had. I wasn’t surprised. To win so much was still impressive though, because there were teams with more organisation than we had, so we were doing it off the cuff a little bit, but we still managed it.”

Although the team has been founded by a British brand, Ribble Rebellion certainly has an international flavour with riders from a range of countries: Ruben Apers of Belgium (a former professional for ProConti-level Team Flanders-Baloise), the Canadian duo of Cam Fitzmaurice and Al Murison as well as Cole Davis of the USA. Max Rushby and Tom Couzens, both from the UK, complete the Ribble Rebellion line-up.

The team points to the camaraderie and friendship within the squad as key to their success. Throughout the US campaign, the team rode unsupported (without any staff members), which meant that logistics and planning were entirely down to the riders. Although this came with its challenges, it ultimately brought the riders closer together than ever.

“The everyday life of going to the shops together, cooking together, organising the way to the races, working out who’s going to sign us on, all these little things end up being bonding because you're relying on each other,” Bostock explains. “We’ve gelled, I think, way faster than if we were just in hotels and going to a buffet, not seeing each other that much.”

“We all come from pro backgrounds where you get back to the hotel and there’s food waiting,” Laverick laughs. “We stood at Walmart at nine o’clock at night doing food shops, but that sort of adds to the experience.”

Described by some as ‘chess on wheels’, criterium racing is a complex discipline, with teamwork, leadouts and tactics forming an integral part of the discipline. This means that knowing one’s team-mates and being prepared to sacrifice personal results is imperative, something that is helped by a mutual respect and understanding for each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

“In one of the crits I punctured and Jim just stopped and gave me his wheel to get me back in the race,” Bostock recalls. “I ended up doing pretty rubbish but I thought it was a really nice moment where he sacrificed his own chances for me. That’s what we’re all about. And I think that’s what we’d all do for each other.”

Each rider’s experience in the international professional peloton also gives Ribble Rebellion a fresh approach to the usual tactics of criterium racing. The team’s ability to come to the US and dominate the races is a testament to their plucky con- fidence: no rider was afraid to rewrite the script and disrupt the status quo, something that bred success, but admittedly had mixed responses from the local criterium racers in the US.

“There are quite a few guys that we raced who are used to the traditional crit when it comes into a field sprint,” Davis explains. “They were sitting there, like, why are you guys racing so aggressively when you have good sprinters? We built up this reputation of the attacking team, that’s the way that the other teams are looking at us.

“In general the reception from the fans and the people who aren’t in the race has been incredible, though. Being American, nobody seems to actually know what a Ribble is so people were constantly coming up to us and asking questions. I think we’ve opened a lot of eyes and have spread the brand name really well.”

Sharing the impact that they were having on the American crit scene in an authentic and unscripted way was also a big part of Ribble Rebellion’s mission while they were in the US. Mounting cameras to their bikes to capture on-board footage and documenting life away from racing led to the team creating social media content which reached a huge audience – two of the team’s videos amassed over half a million views on Instagram.

“I think with content creation, we sometimes just have to have a bit of a mindset change. One example I can think of is when we were riding on the beach in Santa Monica and Max skidded his back wheel on the sand. We were like, that was cool, so he did it again and we filmed it, now it’s got around 600k views. Previously we would just carry on our efforts but now we’re thinking about that stuff more. It’s just a guessing game, really. But we are enjoying that side of it as well, because it’s something we’ve not really done before and we’re learning on the job.”

Bostock adds: “Ribble is a great brand to work with because you’re not trying to represent, like, a central heating company or something and make a link to cycling, it’s all about bikes. There’s no difficulty trying to do a plug for something random, we’re just showing that the bikes are good. Winning on them is the best way we can do that.”

Bringing the energy and momentum that Ribble Rebellion found in the US criterium scene back to the UK is next on the team’s agenda. There’s plenty that they learned from the racing environment Stateside which the riders believe could be translated into racing at home to help raise the profile of some of the UK’s biggest cycling events.

“When we raced in Athens it was basically a party every night, the bike race was just there as well,” Laverick explains. “They’re very good at branding in the US which is ingrained in the culture of America, races are pushed on social media and the word is out there well in advance.”

“They tend to have courses of around 900 metres that go past streets with loads of bars on them” Bostock says. “Even if they’re not cycling fans, people are going to stop and look even if it’s just for one lap. In the UK, a lot of the courses are on back streets which can be a bit dead. I think that’s why it works so well there.”

The wider social impact that crit races in the US have on the community is a key pillar of the success model, too. Before many of the events, riders go to visit local primary schools to tell children about racing, which is something that Ribble Rebellion thinks could be carried over to the UK. In addition, criterium races in the US, such as the Armed Forces Cycling Classic, often raise money for charitable causes. Ribble has plans to get involved in this by creating special-edition bikes for these races which will then be auctioned off afterwards, with the proceeds going to veterans in the US. For Ribble Rebellion, the team’s project is always going to be bigger than solely race results.

“I won a lot of races during the trip, but the highlight for me was still off the bike,” Davis explains. “After Athens Twilight, we all got to just be normal people and live normal lives together. All of these Brits had come over to America where I’m from and we’d done what we set out to do. We were so successful and we spoke about how we’d got to that point. It was almost like a dream.”

It’s now about the team continuing that success through the rest of the season. Ribble Rebellion has more trips to America planned for big crit races, but making their mark on the UK scene is also a big goal for the year. All of the success so far this season has created a confident and relaxed culture within the team, but they aim to get results without losing sight of what makes Ribble Rebellion unique: being unafraid to do things differently and making sure that fun comes before everything.

“We’re going to be on our A-game now we’re racing back in the UK,” Bostock says. “We know that we’re going to be looked at because of the talent in the guys we’ve got. It’s on us to win, and we’ll win everything if we can.”

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