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Chris Sidwells

Welcome to my new website. I’ve been a full time writer since 2003, and I’ll be sharing some news and views, as well as magazine articles I’ve written, on all aspects of the wonderful glorious and absolutely brilliant world called cycling.
There are links to books I’ve written, and a link to buying the books we’ve published as The Pedal Press in the section marked ‘Book Shop’.
There are pictures too. Lots of pictures, old ones and new ones, some borrowed but no blue ones.

arrows Chris Sidwells 17th August 2016

Best British Rides
The West Pennine Moors
With Jason Kenny

“Inevitably I do a lot of training on the track and in the gym, but sprinters are cyclists, it’s about pedalling, and I really enjoy this ride in the hills. I’ve done it for years.” Jason Kenny

Jason KennyThis is the story of the first training ride Jason Kenny did in preparation for the Rio Olympics, which I was lucky enough to witness when doing one of the Best British Rides series for Cycling Weekly magazine, where the original feature appeared. I hope you enjoy reading it, and I hope it gives a little insight into Kenny and how he approaches his sport.

It’s Wednesday morning, September 12th 2012 and I’m in Bolton, and the rain is pouring down. It’s not the best day to ask a newly crowned Olympic sprint champion if he wants to go for a bike ride. Or so I thought. 

“Yes, I’m fine doing it,” Jason Kenny says, answering front door while eyeing the grey skies impassively. “I’ve got to get a good ride in today. I started back in the gym yesterday after my break, and I’m a bit stiff today. I need to ride, and anyway, I’ll be glad to get started again.”

Kenny likes the discipline of training. He certainly likes it better than the glitz and glamour that followed London, like getting photographed in the nationals with girlfriend (now fiancé and four-time gold medallist) Laura Trott, with the cameras focussed on their kiss and blurring out the likes of David Beckham. “We spent a month going up and down to London, but we’re just back from a holiday in Dubai. I didn’t feel tired, but when we got there we couldn’t even be bothered to change the scenery, so we stayed in the resort. I must have needed the rest.” he says.

Jason Kenny1Kenny is a quiet champion, one of the let the legs do the talking school. Sprinters are supposed to be highly-strung and volatile, at least they used to be. But highly strung and volatile doesn’t cut it in modern sports, Kenny is a fantastic example of how you concentrate on the process and the result looks after itself. Emotion has no place, it can only surface afterwards.

For example, I ask him if being selected for the individual sprint over Sir Chris Hoy put extra pressure on him; “No, I just left it in the team management’s hands. They know all the numbers, they go on what they see in training, on form and on trends. In some respect who is selected is still someone’s opinion, but we all want the fastest person or team; the team do, the management do, everybody does.

“I didn’t feel any extra pressure. I was there to do a job, we all were, and you just get your head down and do it. You don’t feel the atmosphere, you just focus on what you are doing, every step of it. Everybody; the soigneurs, the mechanics are doing the same and you are in this bubble of the team and too busy to take anything else in,” Kenny explains.

One of the remarkable things about the men’s sprint was the reaction of silver medallist and current world champion Grégory Baugé. With seven world titles behind him the Frenchman reacted quite bitterly to the way Kenny beat him.  

“How did you prepare?” Baugé asked Kenny in the press conference, later saying that he had prepared in his own way so he was curious to know how Kenny prepared; whatever that meant. Some of Baugé’s other post-race comments were confusing too. What did Kenny make of them?

“I just think it was a bit of a surprise to him. The worlds are important to us but this was the Olympics in London, and we turned up with everything we had. He wanted to win and he didn’t win. He was caught out I think. He’ll be back at the worlds though,” he says.

It’s only been a month since his gold medal double in the team and individual sprint, but Kenny has looked forward getting back in the saddle. “I enjoy the training. I’m looking forward to the Glasgow World Cup, which will give me a real hit out without too much expectation. Then I’ll build for the worlds,” he says.

He didn’t need today’s rain though, which is torrential by the time he’s changed and ready to go, but he quietly asks “how cold is it?” and returns wearing a GB rain top. He’s off. “Like most cyclists I get the miles in first. At the same time I begin doing gym work. Then we build in the speed, specific sessions on the track and start upping the weights,” he says explaining the process of training.

But unlike most cyclists, Kenny loses weight when he’s not riding. “I’ve not got a massive appetite, so if I’m not training I don’t eat much. I noticed the other day that it had dropped from my usual 80kg. But like all sprinters when I’m training my appetite goes through the roof. If I don’t eat on a ride like this, which is only two hours, I go pop. In fact I often stop for a bacon barm (barm is Lancashire for sandwich) on the way round. We haven’t got the most efficient muscles. It’s one of the big differences between us and endurance riders, they will eat next to nothing on a two hour ride,” he explains.

That’s his inner sprinter showing through. It shows through again when I ask Kenny if he’d considered doing a Theo Boss and swapping to the road. “No, I like riding my bike but the idea of doing four hour training rides as a standard effort; well,” he replies with a shrug and a wry smile.

Kenny usually rides this route clockwise, saving the hardest hills for last, but he sportingly agrees to do it anti-clockwise because we see some breaks in the clouds to the west and I want to get some photos done while they’re there. In the end the clouds flattered to deceive, it rains as he climbs over Belmont then gets worse on the descent to Rivington.

Water is gushing down the road, and some wag has put a ‘Twinned with the North Pole’ sticker on the Chorley sign. These roads are used to cyclists; Bradley Wiggins is another Olympic gold medallist who rides up here. It’s tough country, but Kenny makes short work of it, muscling rather than dancing up the climbs strung along the western edge of Anglezarke Moor.

Despite reckoning he nearly drowned when riding through a dip on one part of the circuit, Kenny enjoyed his wet return to training. His double Olympic gold success hasn’t changed him one bit. “We do some specialised training, like weights and other stuff, but sprinters are cyclists and it takes lots of pedalling to be competitive. Nothing’s changed; I’ll build up the momentum now, on the road and track and in the gym, trying to become as powerful as possible. It feels really good to be training again,” he says.

The training ride route

Ride north-west from Bolton on the A675 to Belmont. Turn left in Belmont and climb the long hill that takes its name from the village. Descend to Rivington and turn left in the village to Rivington Country Park and The Hall Barn Cafe, if you want sample the bacon barms. Retrace to Rivington, turn right then left down a steep winding descent to Yarrow Reservoir. Turn right up a steep climb and follow this road until the right to White Coppice. Turn left, cross the A674 and turn left to Low Copthurst. Turn right just before the M61 bridge and ride to Brindle. Turn right onto the B5256 then right onto the A675 and follow it back to Bolton.

Ride distance: 50 kilometres

Total climbing: 800 metres