I’M A RIDER ANDREW RIDGELEY
For riding challenges, the former Wham! star’s your man, taking on Lawrence Dallaglio’s Cycle Slam for the fourth time...
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.