Friday, 6 September 2013

Eltham John: Being Caught Out by Quality

I may have mentioned it before - as you get older you get caught more often when out on your bike.

A couple of weeks ago during my usual wander round the local Kentish lanes I was passed by a father and son who were obviously doing a spot of training. The father was the 1976 British Professional Road Race Champion Geoff Wiles. For a couple of miles I sat behind them to remind myself what it's like to ride at training speed and for a short time it was really enjoyable. Having then completed their speed work they both eased back and as all cyclists do we had a chat about local racing scene. I took the opportunity to ask Geoff about the current form of his San Fairy Ann team mates who I've had the pleasure of riding with over the years. 

Quite soon Geoff and his son were ready to resume their next fast interval so I excused myself by saying that I wanted to go off and climb a few hills.

Gianni Bugno.

Despite having bottled out of the opportunity to do a bit of real riding it occurred to me that if I've now reached the stage that I am always going to be caught it will be some consolation if the person doing the catching is of genuine quality. This thought and the fact that I had just been hearing how well Dick Naylor was now riding reminded me of the time when Dick and myself were overtaken by real quality in the form of the whole of the Italian National Road Team. We were in San Sebastian to see the Worlds in 1997 and the day before the race we decided to take a ride round the championship course, which seemed like a great idea at the time. After we had completed about half the distance the Italian team which included Gianni Bugno, Fondriest, Castagrande came ambling by. I quickly accepted that I was completely out of my depth but Dick stayed on the back of the group for a couple of laps.

I must be easily pleased as I was content just to know that I had been overtaken by one of the greatest group of riders I ever shared the road with.