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Meet The Riders: Tom W

How did you get into cycling? I've cycled all my life in one form or another. I grew up on the outskirts of a tiny village in Essex and as a kid getting anywhere we had to cycle. I remember my first BMX. White frame, blue tyres, I loved that bike. To get anywhere into the village or to see our friends, my brothers and I had to cycle.

We, along with some kids down our lane, used to build bikes and go-karts out of scavenged parts. We built a downhill bike called the Silver Shadow. Looking back, it was nuts. The bike had no crank or pedals and no brakes, and we used to hurtle down a hill with a blind corner to see who could go the quickest! As I got older, I got into mountain biking around Epping Forest. It's not very hilly but lots of trails to muck about in. Mountain biking is a great way to learn how to handle a bike. I put a lot of my bike handling ability down to those years of riding around in the mud and muck. When I came back from university and hung up my rugby boots, I got back into cycling properly. Living and working in central London meant mountain biking wasn’t really a viable option. So I bought a cheap road bike and I was away. The rest is history.

What's your favourite place to cycle?

I find it really difficult to separate amazing rides and places and being with good friends. For me, the two often go hand in hand and my favourite places to ride have a story shared with friends.

Before I was a Waldy Wheeler me and some friends used to hit the Surrey hills every weekend often with a pork and leak slice and a mug of coffee at the village stores in Peaslake. We were at one point on first name terms with the lady who ran the village shop.

The Surrey hills is where I did all my training for Paris-Roubaix and Liege-Bastogne-Liege, and the hills hold a special but place in my heart mainly for just being brutal. Those events were epic and the combination of training with friends in Surrey and the event itself has made those trips special which we still joke about today. We are all still in touch on a regular basis, even though our lives have changed dramatically since those days, which in retrospect were free and easy and some of the best days on the bike. I often feel we could have done more.

I've cycled across France a number of times and south of France is just stunning and Majorca is THE best.

My favourite Waldy ride is actually a series of rides and was the Lake Como tour. It was an amazing experience being on my first club tour, I had the best time and really fell in love with the club at that point. I was lucky at the time that Steve Sharrocks and Tim Stephen took me under their wings and showed me the ropes.

When I just need to unwind and put the week or day behind me, a Richmond Park 'three lap smash' or a Maidenhead 100k at full whack is a go to ride. For me, they are always a good indicator of where I am at with my cycling.

Have you got any cycling goals this year ?

If I am honest, just trying to get out on the bike is feeling like a bit of an achievement at the moment. Life is busy with work and two young kids.

I'm hoping to get some racing done this year with some Time Trialing. I have no idea where I am speed wise. I've spent a lot of time on my turbo through the winter trying to get fit post a foot operation in October but haven't yet had enough consistent time on the bike outdoors to see if I am where I need to be. I've managed to hang onto the back of the race team sessions and hoping that's a reasonable sign of returning to form. What's your go-to ride with the Waldy Wheelers ?

In the winter it’s always a quick Windsor run with a cinnamon bun, in the summer nothing beats a Staple, Crocknorth, Box Hill loop for some fun in the sun.

What would you say to someone thinking of joining the Waldy Wheelers ? The club is a place of warmth and love of cycling. Everyone is very welcoming and inclusive. There is a place for all riders in the club, whether you're a novice or ex-pro rider. Like most groups, the club is a sum of its parts and the main part of the club is the members and all the people in the club are just lovely, lovely people. What I really like is that it is relaxed. Everyone is busy and if you're not there for a few months, no one minds or hassles you, but when you are back on the bike you slot straight back in.

Why did you become a cycling coach for the Waldys ?

As I've said above, I'm a little bit restless and I always have something going on in the background. I've never been coached as a cyclist, and I was keen to learn more in general, so I had been reading lots around the subject. At the time I had also been thinking a lot about the future and work and what I might do as a second career or something else. I don't plan to still be working in construction much past 50 so when the club mentioned that it was thinking of funding someone through the British Cycling Level 1 training, I jumped at the chance. I'm really keen on cycling to be accessible and not full of jargon as I think that relates to the normal everyday cyclists, so I've really enjoyed putting sessions on for the club which are hopefully fun, easy to follow and a full on work out. It's really satisfying to see riders improve and push themselves further than they thought they could go. Unfortunately I can't devote as much time to it as I would like. Although there are changes coming up this year from David and I that will be exciting for all Waldys. My best coaching tip I could give anyone is to be stronger and fitter on the bike, you've got to make at least one session a week as hard as you can manage.

Finally, what do you do when you're not cycling?

I am one of those people who thinks they don’t fill their time with anything in particular but the reality is I always have something on the go ! Work and family is always busy for me and often there is no me time. When I actually get time to myself, then I'm normally shattered and if I don't just drag myself into bed for a snooze then I'll quite happily spend some time playing video games - it's a generational thing - I know most people will read this will think WTF ?! 👾

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