“He’ll go soft in Monaco. You watch. It’s not the same as round here. He needs these roads to keep him strong. He’ll lose top-end speed riding down there, you watch.”
I’m standing in a lay-by halfway up the famous Cow and Calf climb with Tom’s training partners, Gavin and Will. Tom has disappeared into the nearby rocks with Benedict, the Rouleur photographer, and I’m getting the lowdown from Gavin on the famous Yorkshire grit. I suspect anyone with a London accent gets the same speech, but having had the pleasure and pain of riding in Yorkshire a few times, I understand how this landscape can shape young cyclists.
By way of evidence of Yorkshire’s superiority over Monaco, Gavin and Will tell me about the Buckden run, a Saturday group ride that takes place during January and February with a mix of elite men, women and juniors. From Tom’s house in Leeds, it’s a round trip of 110 miles, the last 30 of which are done at race pace. To follow it, on Sundays there’s a ‘café’ run of 85 miles with plenty of hills and sprints thrown in. “And do you still go out if it’s raining?” I ask.
“Of course we do,” comes the reply I fully expected.
In the manner of teenagers, Gavin and Will are more than happy to throw good-humoured insults at Tom, and he takes them with good grace. They try to perpetuate the image of Tom as big-headed and a show-off, but we all know it’s not really true. I get the impression they’re going to miss riding out into the hills with Tom once he moves to Monaco.
Benedict and I follow Tom and his friends on their Monday recovery ride. It’s probably a rather erratic session for them, with our car sometimes pacing them, sometimes following them, and frequent stops for photographs. Whenever we stop, Tom is focused on helping Benedict find the shots he wants. He moves around quickly, occasionally chivvying his friends along. When we stop at a café in Ilkley, Tom immediately knows what lunch he wants and how he’d like it cooked. I order for us all, and when the café owner gives me a receipt, it says Tom’s nickname, Pidders, at the top. Around here, the rainbow jersey commands respect.
Extract from Rouleur issue 17.7, on sale soon