Rather than write a blog about bigging myself up and, almost bragging about my achievements, I wanted to write a blog about my youth and, growing up so sorry Mum, sorry Dad if I write something that offends you.
This is probably a risky blog to write but, hopefully it will explain some of my flaws and, why I’m so driven to succeed today….
On the 20th February 1974, I was born at Musgrove Park hospital in Taunton, Somerset.
The first couple of years of my life I grew up in a caravan because, my father used to drive big earth moving machines when many of the UK’s motorway network was constructed.
The tales that my father has told me over the years are mind boggling….
Did anybody loose a car about 47 years ago?
The chances are it’s now buried under a motorway somewhere.
I’m now going to skip a few years to when I was just 4 years old, a lot obviously happened over those 4 years but, I won’t bore you with the details, including me being savaged by a dog.
My parents bought our first house, paying just £400 for it: –
No. 9 back 782
The house was ideally situated between two pubs, The Waggon & Horses and, The Border Rose. Number 782 was right next door to an excellent fish and chip shop called Trevor’s Fish & Chips, our house was at the Wagon & Horses end of a row of houses with a corner shop 4 doors down opposite the Border Rose.
At the other side of the Border Rose there was a paper shop run by somebody called Malcom Rigg where, from the age of about 10 I had a paper round and I was paid a measly £6 a week that was immediately spent on sweets.
At the opposite side of Rochdale Road there was and, probably still is a garden centre run by his brother Gordon Rigg (neither of them will be alive today) therefore, his son Peter Rigg is probably running the business. Every year until I was about 9 years old, I’d go to the garden centre, Riggies we used to call it, my brother and I would go and see who we had assumed was Father Christmas.
Every year we was given a cheap toy from some random fat guy in a cheap Santa outfit, the cheap toy probably never made Christmas Day because, invariably it broke.
Growing up we had a rabbit called Snoopy and, a Border Colly called Ben, how the rabbit ended up being called Snoopy is completely beyond me. The rabbit was grey and white and, not black and white for a start. We had a back yard where Ben would spend hours rounding up Snoopy.
We had never been a well to do family, my father had his own ground work business and my mother used to be a cleaner.
Therefore, when other kids were being spoilt with the best of everything we was always second best…..
A few things have really stuck in my mind over the years, the first was related to bikes, learning to ride a bike for a start. Now you would have thought that learning to ride a bike was like putting a duck to water given my cycling heritage but, no I must of fallen off a hundred times before I finally got the hang of it.
When I got my first what I’d call big boys bike, when all the other kids in school was getting a Grifter or, a BMX or, a Chopper, I was lumbered with a second hand Commando bought from a shop called Harry Inghams at a place called Todmorden which, kind of resembled a Chopper but, it was like a tank in comparison.
As for a computer, when all the other kids were getting a Commadore 64 or, an Amstrad, we got a Commadore 16 the black and white version of the Commadore 64. The graphics were appalling and, the selection of games was pitiful, we had a bat and ball game and that was about it.
We’d regularly find ourselves building a den from bits of old timber that my dad had lying around or, we’d build a go-kart from a set of pram wheels and, again some old timber.
In reality the go-kart was more like a death trap but, god it was fast and kept us out of trouble.
Do you know something though…?
I wouldn’t change our upbringing, not for anything.
When other kids were sat at home watching mindless crap on the television or, sat at home playing on their computer, instead my brother and I was out enjoying the great outdoors, just like kids should be doing.
We were taught respect and, how to appreciate things.
From about 5 years old I stated horse riding, when a neighbour called Louise Simpson had 4 horses….
He had a beautiful white horse called Sham, Louise always maintained that Sham was an Arab Stallion but, I’m not convinced.
Louise also had three chestnuts called Splash, Frolic and Martel.
I mainly used to ride Sham…..
When I was just nine years old, I swam breaststroke and butterfly for Calderdale County, representing a club called Calder Valley School of Swimming where twice a week I’d go to Shade baths just outside Todmorden. I also swam for a much more competitive club called Rochdale Aquabears but, I soon got fed up with swimming.
From the age of 10 years I took up fishing following a holiday to Alcaufar in Menorca. Alcaufar is a beautiful cove resort which, makes it ideal for fishing.
I remember like it was yesterday, we met a young lad called Owen and, Owen my brother and I bought three fishing rods which, essentially each rod was two pieces of bamboo cane that slot together with a piece of fishing line with a hook attached to an eyelet at one end.
On one of the days we’d caught about 10 Mackerel which, we subsequently look back to the shaley where we’d been staying for my mum and dad to gut and cook the following day.
Imagine how gutted we was when we discovered the following morning, that my supposed to be responsible parents had just left the fish in a shallow filled sink of water in the kitchen, then went and got steaming drunk.
Anyway we went through for breakfast the following morning to be faced with a sink that was teaming with ants….
That same fishing rod when we returned back to the UK, I rather resourcefully converted the bamboo pieces into a proper fishing rod by strapping a fishing reel to the thicker end of the bamboo rod using insulation tape then, I made eyes for the fishing line to thread through using copper wire, again strapped onto the bamboo with insulation tape.
I later bought some second hand fishing tackle from a friend from school….
When I was 11 years old I finally took up cycling, riding for a club called Todmorden C C or, should I say Todmorden Cycling Club. When I was just 12 years old I rode my first ever 10 mile time trial, an event run by Whalley C C on the Clitherow bye pass recording a time of 27:04, twenty seven minutes and four seconds.
Cycling is the one sport that I’ve always excelled at….
Also when I was 12, I cycled for East Lancs Road Club which, it transpired was more of a touring club, at the same time I also joined the CTC, Cyclist Touring Club.
A friend of mine at the time and, he also rode for East Lancs we went on a five day touring holiday round North Yorkshire, passing through some beautiful and, historic places such as Rippon, York, Beverly, Scarborough and, Harrogate to name a few.
At the age of 13 we went on a family touring holiday cycling all the way from Brighton down to Lynton then, back up to Bridgewater before heading round to our final destination in my home town of Taunton.
When I turned 14 we decided to sell up, leaving the house that I’d had fond childhood memories of growing up in to go and live in Taunton.
My parents subsequently bought : –
120 Lambrook Road
Hear we lived up until I finished school at Heathfield Comprehensive….
My GCSE results were absolutely shocking only having passed three GCSE’s, two of those were practical: –
- A in Physical Education;
- B in CDT (Craft Design and Technology);
- C in English Language and Literature;
The rest were only D’s, E’s and F’s so, I obviously never went to college or university.
During my time in Taunton my cycling went from strength to strength.
I joined a local cycling club called Somerset Road Club where because, I’d reached the age of 14, so a juvenile in British Cycling’s categorisation system, I could ride in closed circuit races.
I’d regularly go to Hengrove Park in Bristol where I’d cycle in a 10 to 15 lap criterium against 20 – 30 other juvenile riders, to say that it was complete carnage is an understatement.
On the road I was untouchable especially on hills or, sprinting for a sign….
Whenever the road went up I’d attack of the front leaving everybody behind.
On the run in to any village, town or, city we’d have a mad dash for the places name, (sprinting for a sign) which, invariably I’d win.
I got to know and, I started training with the Sandy’s.
There was Brian Sandy, his son Greg Sandy, then there was Brian’s brother Peter. Brian always maintained the he’d been an Olympic cyclist.
His story was quite plausible, especially as he had lots of photographs of him competing in what looked like an Olympic stadium for a start.
Brian’s son Greg, he was always quite a handy first category road rider although, he wasn’t really very committed, he was more focussed on water skiing or, surfing or, his car. Peter was also a handy rider but, was never in the same league as Greg and Brian.
After training with riders of this pedigree, it come as no surprise that as a junior, so from the age of 18 years I to became an exceptionally good road cyclist, competing to a very high standard making the British National Squad.