We ride with Brighton Ex­cel­sior

James West rides with a friendly club keen to en­cour­age young riders

Cycling Weekly - - Contents -

We used to be con­sid­ered a bit of a rab­ble, but we are much more struc­tured these days.” Martin Nay­lor, com­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­tor for Brighton Ex­cel­sior CC (BECC), says be­fore we set off on the Sun­day club run. “Rides used to be 130-mile af­fairs, on and off roads, with a pub stop at lunch and in the evening,” Bob Har­ber, club chair­man, con­firms.

De­spite that glimpse into the past, I could be for­given for ex­pect­ing a fairly gen­tle ride out when Alan Red­man ar­rives for the Red Run on his Moul­ton Speed, which Nay­lor jok­ingly de­scribes as a “suped-up shop­ping bike”. How­ever, it be­comes clear that wheel size is no im­ped­i­ment to Red­man’s speed: it turns out he has com­pleted a num­ber of tough events on that bike.

“I only joined the club six months ago, as I of­ten thought clubs could look a bit men­ac­ing when they are rac­ing along, but I’m re­ally glad I joined, as they are such a bril­liant bunch of peo­ple,” he ex­plains. The A27 blocks the coastal meet­ing point from the South Downs, but a wooden foot­bridge across the River Adur and a cross­ing con­trolled by traf­fic lights, with im­me­di­ate ac­cess to the leafy Coombes Road, means there’s no need for rid­ing along by­passes here.

That re­laxed at­mos­phere con­tin­ues through­out the ride, and the aim of in­clu­siv­ity is of­ten ap­par­ent. Many of the club mem­bers fo­cus on triathlon, and have joined the club to im­prove the cy­cling dis­ci­pline. The first three riders I speak to on the day, Mark Pot­ter, Ly­dia Jor­dan and Claire Buck­ley, are all triath­letes who wel­come the chal­lenge of a 50-mile ride at a good speed and the ben­e­fit it brings to their cy­cling.

When Jor­dan, who hasn’t been out on the bike for a few weeks, gets dropped on a rise just out­side Barns Green, 25 miles in, ev­ery­one hap­pily stops to wait for her. As Nay­lor says, “Brighton Ex­cel­sior is a friendly cy­cling club. Peo­ple are wel­come to join our rides and they won’t get dropped. Our ethos is to try and help ev­ery­one to be­come a bet­ter cy­clist and get more from their cy­cling, com­pet­i­tive or oth­er­wise.”

At the end-of-ride cafe stop, I meet 17-year-old Jack Churchill, who orig­i­nally joined BECC’S youth sec­tion, VC Ju­bilee. Jack had just got back from the Black Run, a 60-plus mile route with an av­er­age speed of over 30kph — the first one of the win­ter. About 12 peo­ple joined

the run on this oc­ca­sion as a num­ber of other riders were tak­ing part in the cy­clo-cross at Herne Hill.

Dur­ing the sum­mer Churchill is more reg­u­larly found rac­ing the ju­nior cir­cuit. “I raced Tom Pid­cock and was close to him on the fi­nal climb on one race, but he just kept go­ing when we got to the top, while I blew. The club is great for young riders.”

Chris Hodge, youth coach and a club mem­ber for 10 years, is keen to high­light the ben­e­fits of the youth sec­tion. “A few years ago, num­bers on the club run were low, some­times as few as six on the Sun­days. But we had some ini­tia­tives aimed at young riders, and that side of the club has bloomed. A num­ber of par­ents have also joined the club as a re­sult of their chil­dren be­ing in­volved. We’re in a good place now.”

One of those par­ents is Ros Greene, mother of 2015 ju­nior Madi­son cham­pion, Amy Smith, who I ride with while a dig­ger looms on the 15 per cent ramp of Coombes Road. It’s lit­tle sur­prise to see Ros strug­gling — she’s also a swim­ming teacher and has done an hour of lessons be­fore the club run this morn­ing!

As mem­bers at­tack the un­du­lat­ing three miles of Coombes Road in a good-na­tured charge to the fin­ish, the ca­ma­raderie of the club shine though once again: Claire Buck­ley, one of the triath­letes, has a loose rear wheel, so a num­ber of mem­bers help to at­tach it, de­spite know­ing they won’t be first back to the cafe. In­clu­siv­ity has won the day, and it feels like it’s stan­dard pro­ce­dure at BECC.

Smiles for miles at one of the pit­stops

Brighton’s finest set off in re­laxed style

Who’s for a pint? The Red Lion serves up some stel­lar ales

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