Interview by Andrew Kennedy | 3 March 2012 |
The Eddie Soens Race is probably the only road race on the British Cycling calendar that gives the typical club rider an opportunity to ride with the big boys. This year's edition had a starting grid of 250 riders, a quick scan of the race programme shows 41 elite riders, telling you 209 club riders were lined up at Aintree hoping and believing their day would finish on the podium with flowers and champagne!
British Cycling's Andrew Kennedy spoke to one of those hopefuls and asked him why he was racing at Aintree, what he expected, and what the reality of racing with the professionals meant to him.
Giles Pidcock is a good club rider, a veteran with a wife, family and financial services business to run. A regular on the Leeds chain gang, prolific winner of local road events, with impressive results in National Vet races. Not forgetting his hobby as lead organiser of the Otley Town Centre races. This is Giles's story of his day at Aintree.
I raced as a first cat in the late 80's, won some races, rode for GB a few times (circuit Franco Belge, GP D'Isburges etc) then after I'd graduated from university rode for a French team in Brittany for a few glorious months.
I then got a proper job and packed in cycling, coming back to it as thousands of others do in my late 30's. My kids were growing up and I'd become established as a business owner, I found that my enthusiasm for cycling was even stronger than it had been as a youngster.
Now in my forties I manage to win about 10 races a year at local level and I was 2011 Vets National Series Champion (the Percy Stallard series). I commit 11-12 hours a week to my sport, but absolutely love the cut and thrust of racing.
My Eddie Soens
I especially love the Soens. It's a proper bike race and one of the few opportunities to be on level terms with the top teams at the beginning of the season before they all get too fit. The best Soens result for me was 5th in 2007.
Racing with the pros is very different tactically to normal 2,3,4 or vets races. The speed is higher of course, but tactically it's all about the pros wanting to get a break up the road with the right faces in it. Lots of times I've almost killed myself to get up to a move to find that they're not driving because there's no Rapha rider present or the perhaps the Raleigh guy that's there can't sprint. If you want to do well you need to try and go with the right move which contains the right riders and which goes away at the right time. Which obviously is far easier said than done.
Giles Pidcock (Team Chevin Cycles) at the front of the Soens peloton in the final few laps.
Today ended in a bunch sprint. I've found the trick in that situation is for riders like me to always try and ride in the top 20. This way you keep largely out of the maelstrom of chaos that is the back half of these races. Today there were 250 riders all trying to be at the front so you use a lot of nervous energy watching and moving up all the time. You have to move up every single chance you get as the bunch is a living, seething mass of racers.
Today, two laps to go there was a crash in front of me. It always occurs in slow motion so there is usually time to brake, steer and not ride over the guys neck! Then it’s the chase back on and fighting back to the front. This morning I managed to get to the front of the peloton with about half a lap to go. Elbowed my way on to the back of the 100% ME train and was there with 400m to go on the shoulder of the Endura and Rapha lead outs. All looking good until my legs folded and I went backwards through the bunch to finish about 40th. On checking the results I found I wasn't even mentioned, number obscured?, one of the judges had a grudge against me?, all sorts of conspiracy theories going through my head.
But that's racing and there’s always next year....