I got a secret weapon for this season. A new TT bike? No, although the white Shiv TT frame is pretty cool. A new helmet? No, although I am looking around for something bright and comfortable with my LEJOG record attempt in mind. A motor? No way! My alias may be duracellbunnyonabike, but I don’t need a motor. I got my parents to thank for some good endurance genes. So what is my secret weapon for 2016? Keep reading to find out…
I’ll give you one hint: aged 52 my new secret weapon is actually not that ‘new’ … although I wouldn’t dare to say ‘old’ either! It’s not a weapon in the sense of something that I am unleashing at my fellow competitors either. That said, my secret weapon is giving quite a few of them a bit of a surprise. Some are surprised because they expected a man (with organisers listing her so wrongly) and others because they just never heard of her before and are baffled with how blistering fast she is at her age.
My secret weapon is Chris Melia: my former colleague who sadly now works for a rival firm.
Chris first rode with me back in September 2010 when we raised £10,000 for Cancer Research UK with a 100 mile ride from Penrith to Warrington. The ride was organised by Phil Reddy, a former client who had just recovered from cancer of the oesophagus. Phil had used cycling to cheer himself up and help him get fitter and stronger again. Back then I had only just started cycling. I was still on my old ALAN with downtube shifters, and as you can see in the picture, I didn’t even know how to put a helmet on 😉 I was very nervous about the clip-in pedals and certainly had never cycled 100 miles in one go before. Phil Reddy was amazing and it was great to be part of his challenge. Sadly, he passed away just three months later as the cancer returned.
Back then Chris was definitely a far stronger and faster cyclist than me. I was baffled by how she could just steam ahead to those further up the road to warn them about us stragglers at the back and whiz forward and back so effortlessly.
Fast forward to mid-2015 and suddenly the roles were reversed. Chris just discovered the world of timetrialling and got properly hooked. My mobile phone was buzzing regularly with questions about training, equipment etc. Eventually the easiest solution was to simply refer her to my coach as what works for me might not be applicable to her at all. He is usually pretty full up with athletes, but I told him that he simply had to make way for Chris as she just got so much bloody potential. A good referral it seems as she has been flying ever since.
Now, let me get back to the reference to Chris as my secret weapon. Why? Well, it’s simple. There is just nobody else who understands as well as she does how challenging exactly it is to fit my cycling training around my demanding full-time job. We are lucky to be working in this wonderful niche of ‘destination consulting’, which consists of providing strategic and business planning advice to clients in the tourism, leisure and cultural sectors. The job gives me a great buzz, but (at times) is also responsible for my sleep deprivation training. Chris knows like no other the challenging nature of the job and has witnessed my passion and work ethic first-hand. She also juggles a significant number of hours on the bike each week in between client meetings, report deadlines etc. I hesitated when my coach asked whether I wanted him to make Chris as fast as I am, but honestly… if I can only be half the consultant you are Chris, I would happily take a beating in a TT (as long as I get to beat you to a consultancy project that is… 😉 So, now the secret is out and I am pretty sure that those who didn’t know Chris yet will be blown away by her results (and great personality) soon.
Having Chris join my new team Born to Bike is just the best. In fact, upon joining Born to Bike it almost felt like I gained a whole armoury. Most of them may be based around the Midlands, but our daily WhatsApp messages have really made me feel part of something great. I feel connected, supported and my mind is in a happy place. Given that timetrialling, and certainly the longer distances, are as much a mental as physical challenge, that’s a pretty good thing.