Dreamers - Part Two

The pressure cooker of manically trying to beat each other in every training and racing scenario possible over the past three years finally boiled over last winter. We had a huge fall out and didn’t talk for a few months. A clichéd scenario, but true all the same. We were possibly 'too similar', our ambitions clashing too much to make it impossible for us to just get on. However during our first race of the season we made up. No words were exchanged, yet in the joint frustration of trying to bridge across to the race winning move, soaked and freezing cold, we instantly became friends again. It was ironic that it took us being competitors for the first time in nearly twelve months to make up. However it is also possibly the best description of the mental struggles that can come hand in hand with the winter. The sheer pressure athletes put on themselves in winter months, worries of how you will fare and your fitness compared to others, giving even the best friendships on the bike a hard test.

One post school training session stands out, I was fourteen at the time. Alex had given me a ten second head start up Highgate Hill and was subsequently smashing down on the pedals to try and reach the top first, taking the 'win'. Alex is a year and one day older than me and like a younger brother I have always been on the catch up. On this ascent, one of many times up the hill that afternoon, I was so engaged in the bout, in beating my arch rival / training partner / friend, that I rode straight into the back of a parked car. Alex and I would train together day after day, dreaming we were climbing Alpine cols and racing each other in the Tour de France. This memory provides me with a vivid image for which I can forever associate competitiveness as well as my friendship with Alex. We were, and still are, constantly trying to beat each other.

Luckily times do change and whilst we can still happily go out for five hours to kick each others heads in, we can also sit back and enjoy each others’ company. You could most definitely say we have grown up together over the past four years. It is a paradox of this shared companionship, that whilst being fierce competitors, I will greatly miss racing with him this year.

It was amazing lining up together at the Worlds Championships, two guys from a small five year old cycling club in east London, against the world. As my great friend, the late Alan Rosner once said, 'maybe there is something in the water!’ (Incidentally he also grew up in Hackney).  Alex and I won four out of the five British national series that we competed in last season and despite our differing teams and sponsors, we often raced, unofficially, together. Alex has far bigger fish to fry from now on, racing up against some of the worlds best elites, the days of beating his school boy mate over, for now. And in the meantime I will have to find a new companion to bridge across to 'the move' with.

Seeing Alex move on up in the world, racing and gathering stories against riders of the calibre of, for example, the first ever British tour winner, gives me great pleasure. I know exactly the hard work Al puts in and has done for years and it is thanks to our ups and downs that we can now be so open with each other, sharing our experiences along the way.  On a personal level, if I am going to upkeep my side of the smashing each other for training (and fun) bargain, I will have to improve massively over the coming months, just as I know Alex will. I am the ‘little brother’ of the now pro rider all over again and it is still amazing training together every single ride.

Alex and I have been dreaming as we pedal for years and I hope when I catch up once more, entering the senior ranks next year, that we can continue to race upward together long in to the future.