Introducing Acier Race Team

Introducing Acier Race Team

17 May, 2024

Cover Photo: Lucas Becker. Photo credit, Charlotte Gamus (@charlottegamus).

Acier Race Team represents a new concept in the ultra distance cycling fraternity. As team founder, Samuel Thompson describes it as a collective of like-minded individuals promoting healthy, fair & sustainable competition in the sport of ultra-distance, self-supported cycling. It raises the question: why are teams so uncommon in this niche of cycling? Traditionally speaking teamwork is often portrayed as the bedrock of cycling; it is an intrinsic part of success, regardless of whether the winning individual in question has raced solo or within a team. On the flip side, ultra racing is celebrated as an unsupported effort. To win an ultra race is to earn the quiet respect of that win being purely solo with no external help required. It seems that Acier Race Team is seeking a balance of these two polarising worlds.

The team's key values are focused on five areas: Community, Equality, Commitment, Integrity and Responsibility. Debuting for 2024, the team brings together a diverse group of people with a shared passion, regardless of background and location. It's worth noting that the focus of the team is on these values, and doesn't have the support of any external sponsors. Read on as we delve into the makings of the team along with their core objectives and values.

Sam - What was the motivation behind creating Acier Race Team?

The world of self-supported ultra-distance racing has such a strong, inclusive community despite this being an individual endeavour. For a few years now I have wondered why team structures were yet to develop in this area, despite being relatively common in other cycling disciplines where the performance is still down to the individual. Having a sense of belonging to a wider collective and access to a support structure is something I believe would add value both to the team members concerned and the self-supported ultra-distance sphere as a whole.

I would also like to demonstrate through actions and conduct that healthy competition and wanting to race should not have negative or elitist connotations. In our events, racing and wanting to do one’s best should not be to the detriment of other competitors, quite the opposite. Belonging to a team offers a shared sense of achievement and encouragement in supporting fellow team members to attain ambitious personal goals.

Leading through action should also be a priority. This extends to highlighting and celebrating personal achievements, as well as demonstrating that we can participate in this sport in a sustainable and responsible manner. To this end, showing that participation does not require extensive use of carbon-heavy means of transport is important and the team will share and illustrate the creative alternative to flying they employ.

Finally, the coaching service I have created with Acier has provided me with the platform to explore and develop this concept further. On reaching out to others, it turns out I wasn’t the only one to have a similar idea!

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Above: Samuel Thompson during GBDuro 2022. Photo credit, Kitty Dennis (@bluberrysmoothie_photos).

Is there a long term plan? How do you envision the team to develop over time?

We do indeed have plans for how the team can develop, both in terms of its activities and membership. There is however a balance to be retained between expansion and retaining a tight-knit community of like-minded athletes. Some of the activities planned include training camps, regular discussion forums and the organisation of innovative event formats. Alongside all, we do not want to lose sight of the key principles we share of celebrating healthy competition and letting race results and achievements speak for themselves. We aim to celebrate the diversity of the participants of this sport and retain no barriers to entry. Regardless of background, location or profile, the only requirement is to share the team’s key values (community, equality, commitment, integrity & responsibility).

As this is a novel and relatively unexplored concept within the self-supported, ultra-distance space we are all excited to see where this could lead. We are also interested to see whether the launch of Acier Race Team could inspire the creation of other teams to add an additional element of mutually beneficial competition to the sport!

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Above: Thomas Jacquelinet. Photo credit, Will Armitage (@willarmitage).

One of the unwritten rules of ultra distance bike racing is that racers are unsupported. Are there any strategies that the team members might have to adopt in order to respect this, whilst still maintaining support for one another during races?

All of the members of Acier Race Team participate in unsupported ultra-distance races with the sole intention of performing to the best of our abilities with full integrity and in accordance with the rules set by the race organiser. This aspect of being solo and unsupported during the events is a huge element of the challenge and provides great rewards. To us, there is no satisfaction to be had by bending the rules just to achieve a ‘result’, Integrity is a reward in itself.

This said, we appreciate that representing a team may raise questions about how far the support offered extends when participating in events. To answer this, I would suggest that whether part of a team or not, adhering to self-supported principles is something that necessitates a high degree of integrity and self-policing from each participant. I would even argue that it is even more important to be able to demonstrate this clearly when representing a team who place such an emphasis on these values.

The support offered by the team is outside of events only. A strict line is drawn during events to not relay any information or support which would contravene the unsupported principles or event rules. We will always be open and transparent if required to adopt specific measures or demonstrate compliance with race organisers. Anyway, the majority of our group chat to date has concentrated on baked goods so if receiving a picture of a croissant mid-race is a sin, then we are all very guilty…

Please could you introduce the Acier Race Team members - who should we be looking out for!?

Acier Race Team for 2024 is composed of 6 athletes who, along with sharing the team’s key values, also coincidentally have a slightly unhinged passion for bakery/boulangerie/bäckerei products when riding their bicycle a very long way (proper ride nutrition is vital!):

Lucas Becker: 1st finisher TPRNo3 & MittelgebirgeClassique 2022/23. A Breton by adoption so a fiend for a Kouign-Amann.

Ana Orenz: 10th TransIberica 2023 & Two Volcano Sprint 2020, 8th Transpyrenees 2019 (1st female on each occasion). Rather fond of a Napolit-ana from the Spanish Panaderías.


Ede Harrison: 1st female finisher TCRNo6 and TPRNo1. Never happier than when in possession of a chocolate croissant.

Estelle Gerbier: 1st female finisher PBP 2023 and leading member of the 2022 Donnons des Elles au Velo J-1 team. Give her a flan and she is flying.

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Thomas Jacquelinet: 1st finisher TPRNo1. Might betray the holy croissanthood for éclairs au chocolat during race time (easier to stomach in his profane opinion).

Samuel Thompson: 2nd finisher GBDURO22 and TPRNo1. Current course record holder for Pure Peak Grit. Better known for his croissant content than anything bicycle-related.

I couldn’t possibly pick out one team member to particularly look out for, we all have exciting plans for the year and intend for the team structure to help support each other achieve these ambitious personal goals. What you should be looking out for is the distinctive team kit that we have in the pipeline and that the members will be sporting during the events that they will be representing Acier Race Team this year.

Team members - What do you hope to get out of the team dynamic, and how might it benefit your own race craft?

Ede Harrison - The shared knowledge is a big thing. There’s a lot of experience between us and we all come at things in different ways so picking up tips will be great.

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Lucas Becker - The feeling of being part of something. For the team I want to create tighter bonds inside the ultra-distance community, get inspiration to try new things and be able to create events together. There are already a few interesting ideas in our heads.

Ana Orenz - Very few will really care about your results, unless they have been there themselves. The bond of this team through same values and direction feels to me like being part of a positive impact on the community as a whole.

What races or adventures do you have planned for 2024 and how do you plan to represent the Acier Race Team as an ambassador?

Ede Harrison - For solo races, TransEngland (that’s already been, in fact), TransWales, and All Points North. I’ve also been riding a tandem recently and in September - with my friend, Hannah - we’re hoping to set a women’s tandem record for Land’s End to John o’ Groats.

As for representing Acier Race Team as an ambassador, all of my rides this year are UK-based, which ties in nicely with our aim to travel (or more specifically, fly) less. I’m keen to do that, and the UK has great riding, after all.

Ana Orenz - This year I will ride three Transiberica events, all pretty local and each a special adventure. As Ede already stated, it's not necessary to venture far to find beauty if you are on a bike. The first is the 24h Challenge in Lemoiz/ Basque Country, the second Transpyrenees and then the same as usual but different: The 2024 Transiberica from Italy to Bilbao.

As an ambassador I would like to represent, that it's possible to work in a regular job, be a parent and still live your best life on two wheels whilst considering common goals and your impact on the environment.

Lucas Becker - I already raced the Unknown Race (ST - & finished 2nd!), next up is the Race Across France and VIA as the cherry on top. I would like to engage with the community. Create a healthy competitive environment where competitors can become friends. Another goal is to get visibility for the team to find some support for the coming season.

Thank you to Sam and the team for introducing Acier Race Team. We're excited to see the conversations this might initiate regarding the place of teams in the ultra distance cycling realm. You can follow the development of the team via the following links.