Once in Italy, racing for the Porcari-Fanini-Berti team, Dave began to excel. The selective racing was well suited to his talents as a climber, and by the time his parents John and Barbara went to watch him at the 1985 junior Worlds in Stuttgart, ‘Davide’ was a genuine star.
“I had a conversation with Mario Cipollini’s dad at the junior Worlds,” John recalls. “I couldn’t speak Italian and he couldn’t speak English, but the gist of it was, when the race went shoooooot [flat hand] Mario won, and when the race went shoooooot [gesturing up] ‘Davide’ won.”
Charmingly amongst the pile of old photos we find one from that race with a banner that reads:
CIPOLLINI E RAYNER CAMPIONE DEL MONDO 1985
Dave ended up spending three full seasons in Italy: two as a junior and then one as a senior before a new ruling forced all foreign riders in Italian clubs to race in plain white jerseys, in a bid to stop the stranieri overrunning the Italian amateur system.
It seems unfortunate for a rider of Dave’s talents (“a brilliant climber with a fast finish,” according to Walker) that he couldn’t have stayed in Italy for longer. However, in the late ‘80s, the path to the professional ranks was simply non-existent for British riders. There was no BC academy, no network of contacts, and there were no rider scouts looking to the UK for the next Tour winner. There were just individuals whose talent was enough to get them through.
For Dave this proved to be exactly the case. Within a year of returning to the UK he was snapped up by Raleigh-Banana, easily the best British team of the time, and after three seasons he duly stepped up to the major leagues, with Jan Raas’s Buckler team.
As one of the youngest guys at Raleigh-Banana, you could imagine that Dave was looked after by his team-mates, as the young talented guys always are. But it was clear that no one ever had an issue warming to the youngster who, as Barbara explained, was quite the talker from an early age.
“Even when he was really little he’d talk anyone’s ear off. If a plumber or a builder came round he’d just go right up to them and chat away. He’d talk to them all day if they let him.”
There is an abundance of Dave stories from his team-mates, telling of the fun-loving team joker, whose continual high spirits and excitable nature kept morale high. But there was more to people liking Dave than that. Perhaps the nicest example of his character comes from Linda Barras.
“Our son Tom went out to ride an evening time trial on his tenth birthday. To his total surprise, Dave rode out there with a Raleigh-Banana jersey in his back pocket, and he gave it to Tom for his birthday. Tom was so delighted, he couldn’t believe it, but that was just like Dave.”
This is an edited extract from issue 48 of Rouleur, published in July 2014.
Support the Dave Rayner Fund here: www.daveraynerfund.co.uk