England cricketer, Matt Prior, has co-founded the ONE Pro Cycling team. The wicketkeeper, an enthusiastic cyclist himself – and one who has previously ridden with Team Sky in Mallorca – has helped put together a 12-rider squad which will compete at UCI Continental level.
Prior says the project is a dream come true and describes it as being “a big challenge but one I'm thoroughly looking forward to.”
Known within cricket for being the archetypal team man, Prior was quick to express similar sentiments about ONE Pro Cycling.
“The group of riders we have is an exceptional one – not only because of the team's ability on the bike but also the spirit we have off it.”
The team will be led by Yanto Barker, while British Cycling Olympic Development Coach, Matt Winston, will join in January as directeur sportif. It will also feature a number of riders who came through the British Cycling set-up, including Jonny Bellis, Jon Mould and George Atkins.
Prior’s love of bikes is well-known in cricket circles and he is frequently the target of Lycra-based jibes. Unable to do long distance running due to a persistent Achilles injury, he turned to cycling to improve his fitness and quickly got the bug.
While riding in the South Downs during a televised interview on Sky Sports, he explained that much of the appeal lay in the escapism. “Having spent 12 years in a horrible gym, beating out the treadmill or doing power cleans or whatever it is – well I’d rather be here now.”
Ahead of the 2013-14 Ashes series, Prior rode 40-60 miles, four or five times a week – sometimes using his Wattbike – and lost 9kg. He told The Mirror that this training regime is what allowed him to record his best-ever scores in fitness testing before the tour began.
“I know people say that it doesn’t get you runs, wickets or catches, but it gives you the best opportunity to stay fit and the best opportunity to stay away from fatigue.”
There are more specific benefits as well. Until he lost his place to Jos Buttler this summer, Prior was England’s wicketkeeper and he says that squatting down behind the stumps for up to six hours a day requires similar muscles to those used when cycling.
Prior did however come in for criticism from former team-mate Kevin Pietersen in the latter’s autobiography for taking his bike on a Test tour of New Zealand: "You don't need to take your bike with you. They have bikes in New Zealand. Who the hell takes a bike?”
However, Prior argues that it is no different to other players taking their golf clubs with them and also points out that his bike is a good deal lighter than a set of clubs.
“When you are on these long tours you do need your form of escapism whatever it may be. I used to play golf, and cycling is that for me now.”
In 2011, Prior got to train with Team Sky in Mallorca (“They all weigh about 65kg – I think one of my legs weighs about 65kg”) and in 2013 he returned to ride Sa Calobra with this father. He has since offered cycling holidays which allow people to ride the island alongside him. Clearly, with ONE Pro Cycling, he is now taking his involvement in the sport a pedal stroke further.