A New Member's Tale

A New Member's Tale.

The Beginning

This journey begins on August Bank Holiday Monday 2002 and as of today knows no end. The Gaskell family went off to Castle Howard; which would be myself, my wife Ginnene, and our daughter Chloe. I was feeling pretty good about life, the sun was shining, Castle Howard was looking resplendent and Chloe started kicking the football around. I started running round after her and after about 2 minutes of running I nearly collapsed. "This is odd, am I that unfit?" But I thought nothing of it until the next morning when I was sat in our garage having my first cigarette of the day and from nowhere I stubbed the cigarette out, walked into the kitchen and said to Ginnene, "That's it no more cigs ever". The usual look of 'Yeah whatever' appeared on her face as she heard this many times before over the past 10 years. But deep down I knew I had to change, our second daughter was about to be born, I was 33 and I lost my father to smoking related cancer when I was 17 and he was 42. I was also being outrun by a five year old!

1 month previous to this Ginnene had treated me to a spanking new mountain bike for my birthday. I'd had a bike for many years and enjoyed nothing more than a weekly 10-13 mile 'training ride' followed by a nice cup of sweet black coffee and two Marlboro lights. This more than welcome birthday present had upped the training rides to twice per week and of course paradoxically upped the coffee and Marlboros!

One week after stopping smoking I did one of my 'training rides' and would you believe it, I was five minutes quicker over 13 miles than I'd ever been! This was a Eureka moment this was how I would change my life. Everything made sense; I now had a goal and something to focus on in helping me quit. I upped my riding frequency and put an extra 3 miles on the distance, which really felt good! Over the next few months I was able to develop (with breaks) ,20 mph on my mountain bike and I started logging every ride.

I scanned the web for everything I could find out about cycling, my smoking time was now replaced with everything bike. It was during these web searches that I stumbled across the Clifton Cycling Club. Having lived in York for 15 years, it had a familiar ring to it and I spotted a contact name somewhere in the web pages of a chap called Arthur Clune. I was thinking about buying a bike and I'd also stumbled across this discipline of 10 mile Time Trialling. Perfect, I thought I could easy ride 10 miles!! So I mailed Arthur about some ideas about bikes and every time I got a more than helpful reply. Great, this is the sport and the club for me, and what a web-site!!

The First Group Ride.

I carried on with my training rides during the winter and in February of 2003 my new racing bike arrived. By this point my training rides were up to 16-20 miles, things were going well and I reckoned it was about time to show my cycling talents to the rest of the world by joining a club training ride. I'd read that they were about 30-40 miles, but I could do 20 easy, what's the fuss?

That Saturday morning I set off like a dog not knowing he was going for the snip. I got to Exhibition Square and was greeted by Tom and Chris and a very muscular looking chap on a carbon fibre bike with his own name on it! (Swiss Martin (ed.)) This was when I first realized it was going to be an interesting day. It was, Chris took us up to Crayke and down again. I was off the pace after about 3 miles into the ride - you can imagine the rest. But this was a milestone day for me.

First Race.

The big day: May 3rd, my first 10 mile Thursday league 10 mile TT. For weeks I'd been ready for this moment. It was like being 8 years old again. I turned up at the social club car park in Taddy and could not believe my eyes. There were guys here with carbon fibre wheels, aero helmets, turbo trainers! I was sure I'd read somewhere that this league was "An ideal introduction to time trialling". It was like going on a first date as a teenager, I didn't know what to do where to go or anything, I was lost, but I was there and I had to see it through. There was also a hill! What's this all about I've seen pictures of time trialling and it's always flat, I hadn't trained for hills.

Anyway I got to the start, physically shaking when it was my turn to be pushed off. Hang on that guy's about 10 stone and I'm about 15, "Are you sure you can hold me?" He held me and he pushed me off and on the second pedal stroke my foot slipped out of the pedal, ouch. I didn't look behind, set off and came back in 28.55! All I wanted to do was break 30 minutes, I shattered it!


It was on this evening when Chris said, in passing, "We're having a ride round Sheriff Hutton on Tuesday evening, do you want to come down?", "Why not it would be good to meet a few of the guys". I turned up at Sheriff on the Tuesday night all relaxed after a nice big barbecue the previous night, looking forward to meeting fellow 'cyclists'. Oh, dear it's a TT, not only that it was a SPOCO up Bulmer Bank and round Ganton. Now I had cycled up Bulmer Bank once before on my way to watch the April Open TT and my chain came off halfway up and I fell off. On three occasions round that course I nearly threw up and I really can't remember the time, it was one lap and I was happy just to get round. Was this what I wanted? Did I really want to push myself like this? Did I want to put my overweight frame into Lycra twice a week to finish last and feel ill? Of course I did.

In the Comic.

The next milestone day came mid-summer at a particularly windy Thursday league 10. It was also a night, by coincidence, when quite a few of the top runners were missing. My times had been improving and I was familiar with the routine of it all so I was ready and for some strange reason I was ready for the very strong outward-bound headwind. Like every week, this week's time was faster than the last, the results sheet showing 27.00, I started looking up the sheet from the slowest time up and, hang on, I'm near the top. I'm 7th, wow, a top 10 finish, straight on the phone to Ginnene. So I got home and waited for the results to come on the Internet, I waited and waited and at 10.30 there they were, but I wasn't 7th I was 6th. "Ginnene, I wasn't 7th I was 6th". Hang on, the top 6 get in cycling weekly, hang on I'm going to be in print, "Ginnene!!!!". That next week the comic was a week behind with the results, so I had to wait 2 weeks for that issue, but it came out and there I was, I'd made it into the comic!!!!! Everyone at work saw that issue. I may have well just won the national 10, my name was in print!! I felt good. Next week it was back to normal when the wind died down and a few of the faster guys turned up. It didn't matter to me, for 1 week I was top 6!

My times got better during the summer and I even got the confidence to do an open 10, of course my distance never got greater than 10 miles, except for the odd 13 miles. Overall I was very proud of my performances over the summer and proud that in the last SPOCO I finished mid-field just a few minutes off the top pace, compared to the first one where I came in the following day. I'd done enough to warrant a more refined winter training plan and off I shot to the solitude of winter training. I somehow wanted to get fitter by myself, something which I later came to regret.

The Reliability.

The Annual club dinner came round and Arthur and a few others mentioned something about a reliability ride, in early February. Apparently it's a 'fun' 100k event where you can meet with a few other cyclists and get sharp for the new season, it sounds perfect, "Count me in". In the cold light of day 60 miles was 20 further than I'd ever done, but a quick 50 the week before should see me right, after all I was getting pretty good at going up hills now. I was doing them every week, well I was doing 1.

I knew I was doomed for the reliability when I turned up at the square bang on 9 o'clock sweating like a pig after racing to make it on time from my mums house in wheldrake. Rob and Arthur guided me into the pack at a nice steady 23 mph, I think it was 23, but my speedo sensor fell off, but like someone later said "That's the least of your worries". This really got me thinking, this was when 100k started to sound like a long way, it sounded even longer when half way up Crayke my chain did a Bulmer Bank on me and fell off.

The reliability ride for me was awe inspiring, it is a book in itself to relive those memories and feelings and even 3 days after bits are still coming back to me. To have fallen onto a grass verge, with cramp for the umpteenth time, at the foot of Birdsall looking at the last group going down the road, looking up at the sky, looking at the hill still left to climb, legs totally locked up. To see the club captain coming back down the road to offer support and to take you through that last climb.

It was on this day that I found out a litlle bit more of what our sport is all about. Chasing fast TT's can be fun, training hard by yourself can be fun, wanting to get your name in cycling weekly can make you proud. But like my recent hero Lance Armstrong says, "It's not about the bike". Near the top of Birdsall I really was close to tears, not just with physical pain, but I guess with the emotion of it all. There I was plumb last over 4 hours into the ride and by my side was a guy (who must have rode close to 100 miles chasing everybody up) encouraging me every step of the way.

Never before in my life have I experienced such a physical pain and such wide-ranging emotions, but I guess I have never rode such a course with such a group of guys before. My journey now continues and I can only hope the next 12 months is as good as the last. One thing is for sure it wont be quite so 'solo'.