Over the past few weeks I’ve seen plenty of people posting their nine best or favourite photos of 2017 on social media. It’s always great to have a quick look back over the year you’ve had, and maybe surprise yourself remembering some the things you have done or achieved. Normally this happens before we make a load of New Year’s resolutions that last a few weeks before we slip back into the routine of life for yet another year.
While I enjoy seeing what people are posting, I can’t help think it’s kind of showing off to the world about what a great year they have had, which is fine, I guess - that’s what social media has become. A platform to share the best bits of your life to make all your followers jealous of the ‘life you have’ (although you are pretty naive if you think what you see on social media is how peoples’ lives really are). So, to be a bit different, and slightly more helpful I hope, below are 9 of the things that inspired my year in 2017. A mix of people and things that have had an impact on me to change what I did for the better. I’m not trying to preach “oh look at me aren’t I great!” - I want to do this as hopefully it will give you an insight as to what are the kind of things that are going to motivate me in 2018. Also, it will be more interesting than 9 photos of my Sonder fat bike! So here goes in no particular order:
For those of you who are mountain bike freaks, you may not know the name, but you will probably have read hundreds of Guy’s reviews in a number of different mags. I got to meet the man in December 2016, having no clue who he was. He was just the fella who was going to be the pilot for my first ever tandem Cyclecross race, which happened to be on the 1st January 2017. A cold, muddy, wild way to start 2017, battling around a muddy course in Yorkshire, slipping and sliding all over the place. We didn’t win, but I won that day. I was super-inspired by Guy’s amazing attitude to life, the way he rides, his enthusiasm, and the positive vibes he projects through his northern smile. Someone I hope I’ll continue to ride with in 2018.
2. The Queen
I’ve never been much of a royalist, in fact I wasn’t too bothered when I got the chance to go to the Palace after the games in 2016. But I’m glad I did. Boy am I glad. Meeting the Queen, aged 92, blew my mind, not in the sense of ‘oh, wow it’s the Queen!’ But the lady herself. As I stood there in the Palace, dressed in a suit with medals hanging around my neck, waiting for Her Majesty to enter the room to talk to us, I looked over my shoulder to see this tiny lady heading in our direction. I bowed, shook her hand, and the first words she said to me I will never forget: “I’m surprised your head is still on your shoulders, with all that weight around your neck.” Her lovely nature and kindness was inspiring, let alone the fact she’s 90 whatever and still as sharp as a razor. When I pull on my GB kit, I’m racing for Queen and country.
3. Ibrahim Park and Rovaniemi 150
Ibrahim was my best man, so you’d expect him to inspire me, and he does. We have had many an adventure together, some going perfectly well and some going very wrong, but he’s when things go wrong, he’s the guy you want to be next to you. Calm, well calm enough, and level-headed - when serious calls need to be made, we are pretty good at putting egos aside and getting out of what we have gotten ourselves into. That’s why when I decided to get involved with a fat bike race in the Artic Circle, way out of my depth, I thought he’d be the ideal guy to take along for the ride. The race is next month, and we have been talking, training and being a bit obsessed by this up-coming race for the last year, so fingers crossed we have one hell of an adventure, to add to a growing list of many.
4. Sonder Vir Fortis (fat bike)
From March last year, I have been lucky enough to have had the support of Alpkit. They have a bike range called Sonder, and I have a couple of them. Alpkit is a small British company with a big character, unlike their fat bike, the Vir Fortis, which is a big bike with a bigger character. A fat bike is one of those bikes with ridiculously wide tyres, originally designed for riding in the snow and sand, the fat tyres giving flotation in that terrain. However because they are so much fun to ride, people, like myself, are riding them everywhere. It’s by far the most fun I’ve ever had riding a bike in my life, you can’t help but want to ride it all the time and the minute you start rolling on the monster you can’t help but smile. People smile back at you, yell comments and generally love seeing these bikes out and about. If you are buying a new bike this year, buy a fat bike, you won’t regret it.
Adam is my pilot, the guy I race the tandem with for GB. He’s the fella on the front that does everything, including guiding me up to the top step of the podium, when we get it right. Last year we had an easier year with Adam focusing on his solo career, while I was playing on my fat bike. Adam’s year was amazing, but the highlight has to be his 100 mile time trial record, for me anyway. Adam rode 100 miles in 3 hours and 16 minutes, averaging 30mph, a remarkable effort, one which broke the national record. It’s always tough work climbing on the bike with Adam: his expectations of what we can achieve are always extremely high, which constantly drives us on to achieve everything we can.
In September last year I was invited to ride the Deloitte Ride Across Britain as an ambassador for the charity Sense. My role was to cycle the 960 miles from Lands End to John O’Groats to support the cyclists who were riding for the Sense charity. I think it’s the best event I have ever taken part in, brilliantly-organised and surrounded by an incredible amount of inspiring people. Each day we rode at least 100 miles on some of the country’s most amazing and scenic roads, slowly weaving our way up the UK. I rode with a bunch of guys who made my trip. Each day we shared the hardships on the roads, battling some of the worst weather the event has seen in its history, and laughing about it late into the evenings, eating LuLu’s freshly baked cakes! To Matt,
Nick H, James, Nick, Peter and Tom - thanks for inspiring me through a fantastic journey.
Keith is my strength and conditioning coach at British Cycling. I’ve never been that inspired to go into the gym at British Cycling and get ‘hench’, as most of the time I go to the gym, there are sprinters or BMX dudes in there lifting massive weights, and making me feel extremely weak. However, mid-way through last year, I was introduced to Keith, who was taking over as S & C coach for the Para team. He is a calm, switched-on character who really has helped my performance on the bike this year, through listening to me and working with my support team. Keith is one of those guys who works hard behind the scenes to make sure that when you are in the gym you have a great experience. I’m still a long way off hench, but I’ve got good form, thanks to Keith.
I’d heard about Alek through social media some time ago while he was running the length of Europe barefoot, in winter. I thought the guy was clearly nuts, and after hearing him speak at the Alpkit Big Shake Out, he clearly is, but I like that. It’s always nice to meet people and hear their story, to understand that they are just people, driven in the same way that many of us are, and Alek’s story is worth hearing. The way he has chosen to live his life in pursuit of adventure and to follow his his values is massively inspiring. Anyone who sacks off a job to live in their van, making their life as simple as possible, gets top marks in my book. We could all learn from Alek’s attitude to life: look him up and you’ll see what I mean.
9.Caroline and Murphy
Last, but far from least, is my wife Caroline, who listens to my hair-brained ideas, smiles and rolls her eyes, and then supports me to push myself beyond breaking-point time and time again. When I fall down, she stands me back up and watches me do it to myself all over again. Caroline never complains about the fact that I walk around like a zombie from training most of the time, or that we sacrifice holidays together and can’t do the things we used to do, in order to support me. I’m in a very privileged position and most of it is down to Caroline - she’s the most inspiring person I’ve ever met. And this year we added Murphy (our Romanian rescue dog) into the mix. He’s a troubled little fella that needs a lot of help, but he’s learning fast, and he’s brilliant to be around. He’s got a funny little nature and is going to be amazing when he’s brave enough to be himself.
So as we are now well into January, I’m sure some of you are battling to hang onto your dry Januarys or other New Year’s resolutions. I guess in the big scheme of things, none of this really matters - what matters is living a life off meaning and richness, and by richness I’m not talking about money. Please enjoy a safe and healthy 2018 wherever you are - I really hope you have a good one.