For rid­ing chal­lenges, the for­mer Wham! star’s your man, tak­ing on Lawrence Dal­laglio’s Cy­cle Slam for the fourth time...

Cycling Plus - - FIRST RIDE -

Within six months of buy­ing a road bike I was climb­ing the Dolomites. It was the begin­ning of 2014 and I was spend­ing time in Lon­don. Squash was my sport but my reg­u­lar part­ners weren’t in town, so I’d been on the cy­cling ma­chines in the gym. It didn’t take long to re­alise I’d be bet­ter off buy­ing an ac­tual bike and get­ting out on the road. Not long af­ter­wards I met some of the fel­las who’d taken part in the 2012 Dal­laglio Flintoff Cy­cle Slam [from Athens to Lon­don in time for the Olympics]. On one of the Rich­mond Park rides I’d joined them on they roped me into rid­ing the 2014 edi­tion that sum­mer.

It was a bap­tism of fire. I rode the bulk of the 2320km - and cer­tainly the most test­ing parts through the Dolomites, Swiss and French Alps. On the sec­ond day of the first week I came a real crop­per on the Passo Giau. I’d not eaten or drunk enough and was in­tro­duced to bonk­ing. It has quite a de­rang­ing effect and I knew I was in trou­ble when I started won­der­ing if my cat was miss­ing me. I sat down and pretty much fell asleep on the road­side. But it’s amaz­ing how quickly you re­cover once you get a bit of food in­side you.

My home in Cornwall proved good prepa­ra­tion for Euro­pean moun­tains. It’s tough rid­ing - and of­ten tough conditions - and there’s rarely a stretch of flat road. When I signed up to the Cy­cle Slam I was assured there’d be lots of flat rid­ing but a friend, who is an ex­pe­ri­enced rider, said to me, ‘Are you sure you’ve had a good look at the route?’ Well, ac­tu­ally, I hadn’t had a good look and the enor­mity of the task soon dawned. Af­ter the open­ing day was rerouted and took us up a 30 per cent climb, I was ques­tion­ing what I’d got my­self into.

I did fin­ish, and in the in­ter­ven­ing pe­riod I’ve got much stronger. I did the whole of the 2016 Cy­cle Slam and by the time you read this I’ll have hope­fully fin­ished 2018’s. I’m 55 now and there will come a point when di­min­ish­ing re­turns kick in but for the time be­ing I’m still on the up. Be­ing 65kg helps con­sid­er­ably. Climb­ing moun­tains is hard for every­one, es­pe­cially when the gra­di­ent hits dou­ble fig­ures, but I can’t imag­ine what it’s like for big guys like Lawrence. Still, I’ll be fit­ting a 32-tooth sprocket for the Slam. It comes into its

own on the fi­nal climb of the day.

One of the big­gest rea­sons for my im­prove­ment is my smart trainer. It’s a Wa­hoo Kickr and linked up to Zwift makes a fan­tas­tic train­ing tool, be­ing able to con­nect with friends repli­cates the rid­ing ex­pe­ri­ence as much as pos­si­ble. The weather in Cornwall, like the rest of the UK, was ap­palling through the win­ter and it’s ac­tu­ally quite dan­ger­ous out on the lanes. So be­ing able to train ef­fec­tively in­doors - some­thing I strug­gled with on my old turbo - is fan­tas­tic. I went to Ma­jorca in March for a train­ing camp and it was the first time I’d rid­den out­doors since the au­tumn, but I felt great.

I pre­fer Daily Pol­i­tics to lis­ten­ing to mu­sic when I’m on the turbo. But what­ever is on the TV I find I will tune out and fo­cus on rid­ing and try­ing to keep my watts per kilo re­spectable. Mu­sic doesn’t help me train and be­sides, I like to put time aside and re­ally lis­ten to mu­sic. It should be a true au­ral and sen­sory ex­pe­ri­ence. I re­sent mu­sic be­ing used as back­ground, it’s not what it was com­posed or writ­ten for. When I was a kid I wanted it to trans­port me to a dif­fer­ent place. The turbo and Zwift I find ab­sorb­ing in it­self.

What keeps bring­ing me back to the Cy­cle Slam? The char­ity the event sup­ports, Dal­laglio Rug­byWorks, which helps kids ful­fil their true po­ten­tial, res­onates with me. Ge­orge [Michael] and I were for­tu­nate to have men­tors to guide us through times when the ben­e­fit of ex­pe­ri­ence was im­por­tant. The Cy­cle Slam is an in­spir­ing event - se­vere but great fun - and one I’d highly rec­om­mend to any­one.

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