I’M A RIDER ALIS­TAIR MCGOWAN

He made his name mim­ick­ing oth­ers in the early naugh­ties but it’s cy­cling that’s left a big im­pres­sion on him

Cycling Plus - - THE HUB -

Peo­ple say I look like Bradley Wig­gins. With the right wig and side­burns...

I’m what you’d call a Fa­mous Five cy­clist. I read the [Enid Bly­ton] books when I was grow­ing up in the ’70s. They’d head off on their bikes in white linen shirts, baggy shorts and with bot­tles of ginger beer - that’s the sort of cy­cling I do. I’ve no Ly­cra, nor am I a mem­ber of a club, but I do love be­ing out on a bike. I don’t drive. It’s 80 per cent to do with the en­vi­ron­ment and 20 per cent sim­ply be­cause I loathed do­ing it. When it came to learn to drive I re­sisted, I’d no de­sire at all and was very happy on my bike. I only got my li­cence be­cause I was go­ing to drama school and they in­sist you have driv­ing on your CV to make you more em­ploy­able to TV com­pa­nies. I think I drove once af­ter my test, to watch Coventry City. That was an ex­pen­sive trip to foot­ball, all those lessons for one game! I didn’t need to drive when I moved to Lon­don, and noth­ing’s changed. Fam­ily and friends in Worces­ter­shire, where I grew up, are hor­ri­fied I ride in Lon­don. It’s all, ‘I wouldn’t wanna cy­cle down there in all that traf­fic.’ I tell them it’s eas­ier and safer in Lon­don than the coun­try­side. Driv­ers in the coun­try aren’t used to bikes and you have peo­ple ca­reer­ing down the mid­dle of the road, in those wretched, ubiq­ui­tous 4x4s. In Lon­don you have cy­cle lanes and I do think driv­ers look out for you a bit more. I hit peak cy­cling a decade ago. I was do­ing a cou­ple of shows, one in the West End, an­other in Wim­ble­don. I found it the most beau­ti­ful thing to come off stage into the heat of sum­mer and cy­cle home. I find it harder to cy­cle in Lon­don now than back then. While the pro­vi­sion for cy­clists is so much bet­ter than it was then, as a Fa­mous Five-type I ac­tu­ally feel more in dan­ger from cy­clists than mo­torists. The more ‘head down’ cy­clists out there come by so fast and seem to get more an­noyed with me than driv­ers. My new­est bike cost me 20 quid. I picked it up at a car boot sale and keep it at my in-laws’ house, who re­cently moved to Suf­folk - the most beau­ti­ful place to ride any time of year. I can’t say I’ve seen much road rac­ing. That’s prob­a­bly very un­fash­ion­able of me. Though I do re­mem­ber in 2012, on the first day of the Olympics, re­al­is­ing the road race was com­ing right by my house about 10 min­utes be­fore it hap­pened.

Hugh Porter, the com­men­ta­tor, is my one cy­clist im­pres­sion. He had this won­der­ful Black Coun­try ac­cent and... [dis­ap­pears into pitch per­fect Porter]. Then I started do­ing gigs with Jasper Car­rott and had to drop it from my act be­cause he’s from the area and it sounded wrong do­ing it be­fore he came on. It also re­ally hurt my throat! Bradley Wig­gins would be a good one to try. I’m do­ing fewer im­pres­sions, for var­i­ous rea­sons, but in 2012 when he came to the fore so many peo­ple were say­ing I had to do him be­cause I looked just like him. I don’t think I do but in terms of the old TV pro­gramme I did 15 years ago [ The Big Im­pres­sion] he’s ex­actly the sort of per­son I’d have tried to do. With the right wig and side­burns... I’d like to ride a penny-far­thing. When I was bet­ter known, they come to you, the TV peo­ple, and ask what doc­u­men­taries you’d like to make, and I said I’d like to do one about bikes. I think Clare Bald­ing did it in the end... I love cy­cling, but my pas­sion now is the piano. I’ve re­ally thrown my­self into it over the past two years, to the ex­tent I re­leased an al­bum on 29 Septem­ber [ Alis­tair McGowan: The Piano Al­bum]. I’ve al­ways fid­dled around with it with­out ded­i­cat­ing my­self to it enough. But the chance to make this al­bum changed that. My teacher, Anthony He­witt, is a re­ally keen cy­clist, ac­tu­ally.

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