Designer, why designer? Part 5 – The Racing Cycling Years

‘Designer’ why designer? a story with lots of twists and turns, with some what might seem completely random career choices. But no I had a plan, and it’s just coming together!

What do the following things have in common; our new boss pissing on our garden wall, Chipper eating filthy ecto-rag, a brick shit house Kazak strutting around in his Y-fronts, living in an old abandoned train station, blowing up toilets, chasing graffiti vandals in the middle of the night, laughing to tears on several occasions, getting lost most weekends, someone committing suicide in our pond, being roughed up by the mafia, eating crow’s feet and downing expensive champagne in coffee mugs? No ideas? Well those were just a few highlights of my racing career in central France, obviously.

Now a lot of you are going to be asking the question ‘what on earth is the connection between the 3 years I spent racing in France (after having finished uni) and my design career?’ Well, it may seem that on face value they probably don’t have a great deal in common, but, in fact it was a very influential period, where I had the time to do a lot of soul searching and many hours to fill with sketching and drawing. The images of speed, excitement, danger, being recorded and stored, waiting for the right moment to use them one day in a constructive way.

The whole wild adventure started on a dark, icy morning in early February 2001 with my great friend Chipper. Thanks to Chipper and the British cycling federation we had been promised two places in a very solid looking team in Clermont-Ferrand, France for the upcoming cycling season. I should have guessed that we were embarking on a trail of mishaps and crazy moments as we pulled out of his driveway, en route for the ferry at Dover. His old Golf was rammed to the max with bikes and kit, we only just managed to avoid the bmx paperboy but still sent him crashing to the floor in a heap. Of course we would have stopped to help him up if we hadn’t already been running late.

I have never been on a channel ferry which hasn’t been packed with screaming, smoking, tear-arse running around kids, so when the ferry pulled away with just 3 cars on it I really believed that we had passed into a parallel dimension. Was I dreaming?, well if I had been I was woken with a nasty shock when old Chipper decided to drive away under the barrier for low cars forgetting that we had the bikes on the roof. Fortunately the bikes were just tickled by the swinging metal bar, minimal damage a few harsh words and we were on our way again. As we were extremely poor we had had the extremely good idea of saving money by avoiding the toll motorways. This on paper was a great plan, but in reality we probably spent more on petrol driving around villages in the dark getting completely lost. The 650 kilometres to Clermont-Ferrand took us over 12 hours; we finally arrived well past our optimistic ETA of tea time, cold, tired, hungry and Chipper buzzing from having downed an unhealthily huge quantity of red bull.

Chipper headed home in September after a truly eventful year spent together of crashes, bike wrecking, ragging Frenchies food and a few minor victories. So, I needed a new wingman for 2002, a replacement would be hard to find, up stepped ‘I’ve got your six’ Rutherford. A down to earth sharp shooter form Sheffield. We stayed together in the same team for the next 2 years getting up to mostly harmless mischief. Racing week in week out, travelling around France and Corsica in an old Renault Traffic with the legendary Jean-Claude Rochette at the wheel. Experiencing surreal moments like playing American football with a rolled up sock at sunset on a beach in Corsica during a big stage race, with the Beast from the East and Geek boy the French midget, whilst the other team’s riders watched in disbelief with their feet up from the comfort of that evenings beach-side restaurant.

May be one day when I have the time I will write a book about this period in my life, simply because so many wild and wonderful things happened, meeting some extraordinary people, just one page in a blog cannot justify it all. I have not even touched on my first, full time cycling year, at the age of 19 in Provence, France with Mr Tayler (in my year out between Bucks Uni and Bath Uni). For now, it will have to wait, so keep pedalling everyone the finish line is never too far away!


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