Documentary Photography
I have been busy designing the first two editions of Pig House Pictures magazine. Please have a gander.

Pig House Pictures: Edition IIWe interview Doug Allan, the cameraman behind BBC Blue Planet and Life. We also catch up with James Allen, a graduate of BA(Hons) Press & Editorial Photography at Falmouth University.
I have been busy designing the first two editions of Pig House Pictures magazine. Please have a gander.

Pig House Pictures: Edition II
We interview Doug Allan, the cameraman behind BBC Blue Planet and Life. We also catch up with James Allen, a graduate of BA(Hons) Press & Editorial Photography at Falmouth University.

I have been busy designing the first two editions of Pig House Pictures magazine. Please have a gander.

Pig House Pictures: Edition 1Pig House Pictures is a platform for contemporary images with purpose produced by emerging photographers from the Falmouth University Institute of Photography. This is Edition 1.
I have been busy designing the first two editions of Pig House Pictures magazine. Please have a gander.

Pig House Pictures: Edition 1
Pig House Pictures is a platform for contemporary images with purpose produced by emerging photographers from the Falmouth University Institute of Photography. This is Edition 1.

The Tranquil Storm.

Landscape tests for future work.
Mullion, Cornwall. 24/01/14

SWCX | Joel Hewitt

To the average road cyclist, whose sport is epitomised by clean-shaven legs and French idioms, cyclocross can seem like a strange undertaking. The abundance of mud, steeples and repeated falling over seems counter- intuitive, but for the winter- bound road racer in 1940s Europe it became an essential training tool. The Belgians and Dutch - as one would expect - have always had a keen hand in popularising the sport and to this day hold it on par with road cycling.

The etymology can be traced back still, with records from the early 1900s describing French army private Daniel Gousseau riding his bicycle with horse-mounted friends through woodland terrain. This is a sport for the tough - for those who are prepared to get their hands, and bikes, dirty.

South West Cyclocross is a non-profit, voluntary organisation who host numerous races across the South West of England during the winter season. Competitors do not need to hold a British Cycling racing license to take part and as such it is the most accessible of competitive cycling events.
This reportage investigates the mud-lusting myths surrounding the sport and what attracts the riders. Indeed, upon arriving at a field full of such hardy people on a wind- and rain-lashed November afternoon, the promise of mud did not disappoint. 

Portraits of riders after the Truro Cyclocross race in Cornwall for Rolya Magazine |

Portraits of riders after the Truro Cyclocross race in Cornwall for Rolya Magazine |

SUM BOYS | words Samuel Moore photographs Joel Hewitt

Between family saloons, estates and 4x4s in one of Cornwall’s innumerable National Trust-designated car parks sits a custom-decaled Seat sports hatchback. Chris Opie – Professional Cyclist reads the not-so-subtle typeface splashed across the side panels. Just moment ago a hushed phone call from Tom Southam, press officer for Rapha-Condor- JLT, preceded a lengthy private conversation via said car’s Bluetooth. Eventually Chris steps out of the vehicle and crosses the graveled car park, his expression as subtle as the car he is driving: “I’ve just signed for Rapha.”

We are at Godrevy Café, a log-clad chalet that wouldn’t look out of place in the Swiss Alps, but is instead nestled amongst Gwithian Beach’s west-coast dunes – a fitting location to interview Chris Opie and Steve Lampier, Cornwall’s most successful domestic professional cyclists. For both of these riders 2013 has, in one way or another, been a milestone year: Steve’s astounding top-20 finish in the Tour of Britain; Chris’ blistering performances during the Pearl Izumi Tour Series. It has also been one of their most trying years, a year riddled with rumour, doubt and worries of which could only come from – or be understood by – a professional racing cyclist. The sudden dissipation of the highly-successful Team UK Youth, Chris’ first big break, and with doubt lying over which way Steve is going to head next, it would be an understatement to say that things are never straight forward in the world of professional bike racing.

Nonetheless, the two old friends shooting the breeze on this beautiful – and indeed breezy – October afternoon in West Cornwall perfectly parenthesised their relationship shared since they were just boys racing bicycles up hills. Sipping coffee and appreciating the sun-dashed vista of St. Ives Bay, it would appear that not a lot has changed:

“I was 12 when I first met Steve.” “No you weren’t. You were older than that because I was sixteen, I had a maths GCSE.” 
“How old are you now?”
“I’m 29.”
“I’m 26, I could have been older then.” “You were 13. Because I was doing my maths GCSE the next day, but I decided to go out for a long ride anyway, and you were there with a Marco Pantani bandanna.”

The bickering is a recurring theme and a little direction is needed: So what year was that? “2000,” says Steve without hesitation, “we were doing a randonneur – those long-distance rides before sportives were a ‘thing’ – and part of it went on the Camel Trail, either from Wadebridge to Padstow or Padstow to Wadebridge. I remember we just went through-and-off around there the whole route, just scattering people out of our way.”

He recalls the fateful meeting with a lop- sided grin – the same grin that no doubt accompanied their day causing havoc amongst those unfortunate randonneur riders.

Chris and Steve did not attend the same schools, with Steve “being a Helston boy” and Chris “being a Truro boy”. Their friendship was not about to be marred by trivial matters of geography however, that was what their bikes were for:

“We went mountain biking pretty much every weekend,” Chris recalls, followed reverently by Steve saying: “One of my funniest crashes was when I went mountain biking with you at Poldice Valley.”

“Yeah I remember. There was this one time when there was this hidden puddle under all the mud, and I just went straight over the bars. And then there was this other time, when the puddle was frozen, I thought it would be a good idea to go over a jump on to it, and the bike just stayed still. I ended up in an icy puddle…”

“No, no, no,” Steve interjects, “before all that we went to Calshot…”

After much ping-pong rhetoric – and a highly entertaining anecdote of Steve’s virginal and ultimately doomed foray in to track cycling at Calshot velodrome – we finally reach the subject of road cycling. For Chris, the bug bit him when he was just ten and watching the Tour de France on television. He thought it looked like “fun”, a description which, from his experience of stage racing, he now knows to be quite inaccurate. Nonetheless it was all he needed to get himself a bike and join his first club – Truro CC – quickly realising that bike racing, “and nothing else,” was all he wanted.

Things were not quite so set in tarmac for Steve, however:

“I started with mountain bike racing in 1996. I was 12, I was shit, and I loved
it. And then I got quite good and met
some guys who really influenced my
life, particularly this guy called James Williams from Helston. He was one of the best mountain bikers ever to come from Cornwall. He used to take me out training, he used to take me out drinking, he used to take me out doing all sorts of stupid shit; riding home in the twilight zone back to Helston when I was 17, pissed, with nothing but a flashing rear light for visibility.

“But he was also into road cycling, so he suggested I get a road bike, so I got a road bike. I started training in about 2000, and
I thought: ‘yeah I could do this, this seems like fun’. Then the mountain biking stopped and I bought a race bike. I joined a Helston- based team to start with – Cyclelogic – and then I joined Penzance Wheelers. But club- runs came second to me: I wanted to race before any of that.”

- M&Ms and Waffles -

It was only a matter of time before the then- teenage riders were picked up by the cycling establishment. For Chris it happened through the British Schools Cycling Association. Along with other young riders his age they would travel to Holland to race for a week at a time. It was all part of a ‘youth tour’ arrangement, which consisted of bike racing in the mornings, and then ‘fun’ activities like trampolining, bouncy castles, and walking through pits of eels in the afternoon.

“That last one was really weird. But that all came to us from Tom and Matt Southam, who at that time was the only person old enough to take racing more seriously, and generally you look to people who have been there and done it, and take their advice. Year on year we would go back, and it kind of rolled from there.”

Whatever friendship was sparked during their school days was certainly taken in to their callow years of adolescence, years defined by bitter-sweet memories of ‘epic crashes’ and stumbling upon future loved- ones:

“Through the Southams we got in contact with a Dutch family that we stayed with whilst we were racing. And it all escalated from there -” A subtle gesture highlights the presence of Chris’ fiancée, Meike Bos, and their toddler Boaz, who has spent the majority of the interview so far attempting to take food from his father’s plate. He jokingly adds: “- I met some Dutch girl called Meike… she turned out to be my wife. So I went back to stay with her family in 2003, did some races with a Dutch club, and then Steve came over that summer as well.”

“I was racing for a French team. I moved there on the premise that they were going to have everything sorted for me. Well, I stayed on this guy’s sofa for 2 months and then ended up moving in to a flat with another English lad. The problem was that I had never cooked for myself or anything like that, so this lad was cooking for me and doing everything. He thought he was good, but it turned out he was rubbish and I ended up beating him all the time, so then he got ‘ill’ and went home.

“Then I came back [to England]. I thought: ‘I can’t go back because he’s not going back’. I didn’t know what to do, so I went to Holland. I was 19 and Chris was 15.” “We spent time in Holland together, we would eat M&Ms together -”

“And those massive street waffles from the market.”
“That was the summer of 2003.”

The transition from amateur to professional competition is probably the most trying time for any progressing athlete. For both Chris and Steve it was a baptism of fire of which, in the gladiatorial pantheon of continental cycling, is probably the most incendiary there is:

“There was this race in France – my first ever senior race – and all the continental teams like Rabobank were there. They were just kicking our heads in. I just remember there being these guys with muscles upon muscles with veins poking out everywhere. I thought: ‘fucking hell how can they go so fast’. That was my first encounter racing against professionals.”

It was a similar story for Chris too, who, suitably humble, described his early results as “not too favourable”. But, to quote that ubiquitous cycling quote: it never gets any easier, you just go faster. Crashes were marked as experiences and losses in to victories, the greatest of which came on the days when Steve and Chris were approached by their first domestic professional teams, Sigma Sports and Team UK Youth respectively: 

“I was with Sigma for 2 seasons. Good team. In their first year they were an amazing team because it was Matt Stevens, who is a legendary ex-British National Champion, who used to work full-time as race programmer. He was a really nice guy and we had a good race programme, we rode great races. Everything was sorted: cars, money, bikes. It was brilliant. But then the year after that – 2012 – I got really ill mid-season, so they semi-flicked me and didn’t let me race purely because the [Pearl Izumi] Tour Series means so much to the British teams. Then between August and September I was flying, but they said: ‘no, no, you weren’t going well in June so you can’t race the Tour of Britain’ etcetera. After that I just thought: ‘right I’m going to have to leave this team.’”

“I was approached by Magnus Backstedt at one of the Tour Series rounds in 2011, back when I still worked, and he said: ‘How would you like to not have to work, be paid to ride your bike, and join us next year?’ I pretty much wet myself on the spot.”

- Cups Half Full -

Their peerless performance during this year’s Pearl Izumi Tour Series, Britain’s most prestigious professional criterium racing event, saw Team UK Youth win nine of the 12-round series (including the team time-trial) with three of their riders, including Chris, finishing first across five of those stages.

Plates of wholesome-looking food arrive for the interview party, served by a waitress who looks quizzically at the dictaphone standing sentry amongst stacks of empty coffee cups and saucers. Reinvigorated
by the freshly-delivered sustenance, Steve animatedly recalls watching his best friend win the Canary Wharf stage on television:

“All of a sudden I see this figure in blue attack, and I thought: ‘what the fuck is he doing?’ I knew he could win this race, so I found myself texting him, even though he’s obviously not going to get the message. I’m shouting at the TV like: ‘just sit up, relax and you can win this race’ and he did, in the sprint. It’s bizarre, because there is a rivalry between us, but I reckon I must have been as happy for Chris for winning as he was. It was my best cycling mate winning a great race.”

Chris answers in his usual understated manner: “Sometimes you don’t mean to go off on the front, but you think: ‘if I sit up now I’m going to look a bit of a fool.’ So I thought I would ease along and see what happened. Then everyone else seemed to sit up a bit, so I ended up making quite a big gap, so I was going to look a complete idiot if I sat up then. I knew I was going to have to ride it out a little bit at least, but I didn’t want to go too hard; I was pacing myself and getting directions from the pits, making sure I didn’t go too deep.

“I won a sprint section and then got caught, and then placed in the next intermediate sprint, then won the last one quite easily. So then I thought ‘well it would be fun to go for this. I could get the sprinter’s jersey on the night if not anything else’. As it came to the finish the last two corners floated by perfectly. I got on to Ed Clancy’s wheel, and because I had raced the course before, I knew where the best place to start sprinting was. But it took me forever to get past Ed. I remember looking over to him and thinking: ‘Ed is really aero, why am I so high?’ So I put my head down and I think that’s when I edged past him, in the last 20 metres. Canary Wharf was more of a relief, but Ayulshum was sheer enjoyment.”

A plaintive look confirms the fond memories and prosperous times Chris shared with the now-defunct Team UK Youth, a team which gave him his first real shot at pro-racing and took its sponsor’s proclamation of ‘positive about youth’ to its fullest and most colourful potential in 2013.

“I’ve learned a lot about how to become a competitor with that team. I’ve finally learnt how to win, and that’s how it’s felt all year. I am genuinely grateful for the two years that I was able to grow at UK Youth, it’s just a shame that it’s come to an end and that’s why I said I didn’t want to talk about it. It’s just a great shame, and there are a lot of people on that team without jobs now because of it. Having said that it obviously provided well for all of us at the time.”

We have moved indoors to escape the October chill as the sun begins its ascent, taking refuge upon two comfortable sofas in the café’s front room. Chris answers the question ‘do you still wish you could race together?’ first:

“I think it would be great, especially now that we’ve actually grown up -” “Grown-up is a strong term,” Steve interjects, once again leaning forward with a wry smile, “we have this stupid rivalry right. We will ride next to each other up a hill and it’s all: ‘what’s your heart rate Chris?’”

“This is the good thing about being friends, because we don’t exactly talk to each other every day and we have differences in opinion, but we’ve got all these memories, and when we speak to each other it’s like we only saw each other yesterday.” “Before we’d just be trying to constantly measure ourselves against each other, but it’s different now with the likes of power- meters and our respective coaches. But then you’ve got to remember we are totally different riders: it’s like comparing a giraffe to an elephant.”

“I’m not the elephant by the way,” adds Chris.

- Potholes at Five O’clock -

The biggest week of the racing calendar for any and all domestic professional riders is the Tour of Britain. The home tour,
the home turf; the time to prove to the prospective continental teams and sponsors what they are made of. The country is gripped once again in the clutches of cycling-fever for the first time since the 2012 Olympics, and in the middle of it all are two best friends from Cornwall, making history as the first time two riders from the county have started – “and finished” – the race.

“When I first did it in 2011 I was overwhelmed,” reflects Steve, “I remember being on the start-line next to Thor Hushovd, just looking at him in his world champ’s jersey like: ‘how cool is that?!’You know, last week I was out riding with Fred Bloggs in a Chipenham Wheelers jersey. I couldn’t quite get my head around it. As I said that year I had been quite ill so wasn’t riding that well, so this year I was out to prove myself.

“The day on Caerphilly Mountain was the coolest. I knew I had mucked up on the second day: I’d lost 40 seconds or something, which if I hadn’t of done I would have placed eleventh overall. I said to Chris that I wanted to go for the Caerphilly stage, as that night we stayed in the same hotel. So we were climbing Caerphilly Mountain, and I was there with the likes of Quintana and Dan Martin, and I couldn’t go any harder. That night driving to Devon Malcolm Elliot said to me: ‘Now you know what it’s all about.’” Then there was Haytor, the hulking bastion of the Devonshire stage which cemented Steve’s seventeenth place in the General Classification:

“I knew I was going to do a good ride, but I obviously didn’t quite know how it was all going to go. I was pretty nervous and my mum had come to watch, with it being as close to home roads as we were going to get. It just kind of clicked. However I got dropped with two KMs to go. But it just got me thinking: ‘what if I was racing at that level all the time?’ You know, I was riding with a previous Tour de France winner and this year’s 2nd place. I remember looking at them and thinking how I had just had a diet of UK racing, so it gave me a hell of a lot of confidence.”

It is a deservedly heroic reflection on what was billed as the toughest ever Tour of Britain; the riders were not only faced with the challenging parcours but also the tail- end of a typically wet British summer. Steve recalls how, during the race’s second stage, the adverse weather – and road quality – nearly got the better of even the best riders:

“It was really dark – like 5 o’clock in winter – and we went through this tunnel of trees. It was horrible, there were potholes in the road but you couldn’t see them because of the amount of water. I remember seeing Wiggins trying to put his rain cape on, and all of a sudden he goes off the side of the road, then back on again, still with no hands on the bars. Then the next thing I know there are riders going down everywhere in front of me. I just closed my eyes and hoped for the best. I have no idea how I didn’t fall off.”

Whilst Steve tells the stories he will no doubt one day tell his grandchildren, Chris remains stolid, summing-up his thoughts with: “Steve was aiming for a top 20, but I was just aiming to get through some of the stages just because of how hard they were.”

He has a point. As the Tour’s popularity and prestige has grown, as has its competition. More and more world- tour-calibre continental teams join the roster each year, keen to test their legs a week before the World Road Race Championships. Race Director of the Tour of Britain Mike Bennett, along with the primary race organiser SweetSpot, spoke at length this year of how they were intending to boost the race’s stature. In a pre-race press conference Bennett admitted that they were “proud to have the best field ever assembled for the tenth anniversary of The Tour of Britain,” and that it had grown both in rider and team attendance. Glorious statements to the press aside, Britain is still struggling to make its home race comparable to the grand tours of the continent, something which has been brought stridently to light with the recent refusal from the UCI to upgrade the race’s status to World Tour level. ‘A good thing too’ some small-scale domestic teams might say, and understandably so given how challenging the race is already becoming, or indeed has become. But for these two domestic riders this is not, and never will be, the case. In particular for Steve, who was recently wrongly quoted in an issue of Cycling Weekly on the subject:

“They wrote that I had said that I didn’t want it to be upgraded. I didn’t say that - I said how it stands on the calendar is perfect because it’s the week before the World Champs, so the best riders are involved.”

- Maybe Tomorrow - 

The last question has been asked and all the coffee has been drunk; the sun is dwindling and baby Boaz is getting tired. Disclosure comes in forthright summaries from both riders:

“I don’t even know what I’m going to do next year yet, but I’ve sat back and gone over where I need to improve and what I need to do to achieve that. There have been times when I’ve banged my head against the wall thinking: ‘why am I bothering?’ Most guys my age have got a house, kids, wife, and good careers. And as a cyclist you’re basically putting your life on hold for it. But actually you’re in a better position because you get to travel the world for free. Yeah it’s difficult because you’re constantly training, but the time after that is yours, and it’s yours to do whatever you want with.”

“It’s been stressful, because it’s been so full- on since the Tour of Britain – from finding out that my team is not continuing, and then singing to Rapha-Condor-JLT – I’ve not had time to look back at all. Which is a shame because you want to look back and see what you’ve learnt and think about that, then work out what you’re going to do moving forwards. But there’s just been no chance… maybe tomorrow.” 

Professional cyclists Chris Opie and Steve Lampier at Godrevy Cafe for a Rolya feature |

TURBO | words Samuel Moore photographs Joel Hewitt

Gears clunk, chains clink, and heads sink. Wheels spin, coaches grin and fans make a din. Cranks turn, faces gurn and thighs burn. It’s winter, and it’s time for turbo.

Every Tuesday night, at 6.30pm sharp, members of One and All Cycling’s Youth Academy gather to spin the night away in Crofthandy Village Hall. The locals might have a thing or two to say about the gallons of perspiration that befalls their machine- buffed floorboards, but it would take more than a few disgruntled members of the village committee to deter these young riders. They are here to make use of the invaluable coaching made available from a handful of dedicated adults as winter 82 encroaches on precious daylight.

“I’ve been riding and racing all my life,” says Simon Peters, the man - some might say sadist - responsible for the structured sessions: “I don’t race so much anymore but I have two boys who do – they’re only 11 and 13 but they’re quite high-up in terms of skill level and they race regularly most weekends. So although it sounds a little self-centered, my passion with what I am doing right now lies with them. But if I’m here looking after my two boys I may as well spread my knowledge on to the other youngsters in the Academy.

“The Academy I think is very good for the kids – it brings structure to their lives. I get said structure from my son’s coach, so really I’m just bringing along what I’ve learnt to share with whoever wants to listen.”

It may not be Sky Pro Cycling, but to those who depend on such congregations for their winter training regime, it is as good as:

“At the minute we’re doing pretty low-key work, focusing mostly on cadence with a bit of power work thrown in, and certainly no flat-out intervals just yet. It’s too early to do all that sort of thing because nobody’s going to be racing until either late February or certainly early March. So this time of year is just very low-key, building base fitness and leg speed. Then when it comes to the hard work later on you can really ramp-up the power.”

On a good night the modestly-sized village hall is packed wall-to-wall with turbo trainers, bikes, and of course the riders. Relentlessly spinning and gurning all night long, the programme currently being delivered is designed to make the most of the short time-slot available:

“It can be pretty tough to organise because, you know, some of them are turning up with dirty bikes or without their two pounds and this that and the other. They need to learn to not be mollycoddled, especially the younger ones. Of course fitness is important and that’s part of what we’re working on, but at the same time we’re really just trying to get them organised. That is so important. You know, if you turn up for a race and you’ve forgotten your shoes, you’ve wasted everybody’s time. So much of it is about simple grounding – to be really honest, they’re not going to get fit with just one turbo session a week, it’s mainly about the actual riding they’re doing as well. They’re all learning to get themselves organised essentially.”

It is believed by some that the turbo trainer was originally a rudimentary torture
device dating back to the middle ages,
with Flemish sheriffs using them to punish unruly townsfolk. Historical accuracy notwithstanding, nobody during this one hour on a Tuesday night would put it past the Flemish to invent something so blatantly cruel. The tell-tale gurns of fatigue and silent prayers to some God above eventually appear as shouts of encouragement and boisterous turbo fans reach fever pitch. 

The turbo sessions have always happened ever since the Academy formed in 2011, but a suitable venue has always been an issue. Originally starting life in the cramped after- hours dining area of Bike Chain Bissoe Bike Hire and later migrating to the meat-locker- cold garage complex at Dales valeting service, Redruth, it would seem that the One and All Cycling Youth Academy has at last found it’s place of suffering for many winters to come. Simon smiles at the thought of the previous venues, and revels in the new-found partnership with Crofthandy:

“Across the road here there is an old corrugated iron hut which used to be the village hall. I live between here and Bissoe and so drove past this place on my way to work every day whilst it was being built.

I saw it rising from the ground-up, and I suppose it’s been up and running for about a year now. It’s a fantastic facility with lots of space. There’s a kitchen where we can make tea and coffee for the adults.
It’s relatively cheap to book and whatever money we do make from the subs and things goes straight in to the Academy pot. It’s ideal, as long as we look after it and keep it clean that is…”

Turbo training at Crofthandy Village Hall in Cornwall. A shoot for Rolya Magazine |

TIMELESS | words Samuel Moore photographs Joel Hewitt

disembodied hand passes three visitor passes from behind a one-way tinted booth and raises a steel barrier, granting access to Goonhilly Earth Station. Once a major satellite communications teleport built by the UK Post Office in 1962, Goonhilly

famously received the first ever trans- Atlantic satellite TV images. Now owned by BT, the sentinel-like array of dishes simply process reams of business internet data, and the once-bustling visitors’ centre is closed for ‘on-going’ refurbishment in pursuit of a grander ‘Space Science Center’. It is difficult to envisage: Moss, rust and over-grown shrubbery now holds the

majority stake in the expansive and eerily- quiet complex which dominates the Lizard Peninsula skyline. The only sign of activity is from local time-trial veteran Tony Farnell unloading his bike from a red Volkswagen van under the monolithic shadow of Arthur, Goonhilly’s resident superstar whose 26-metre dish was the receiver of the historic TV images.

Tony’s son runs a small Segway hire and café business which from inside the Earth Station and so has priority access. Like the enduring structures around him, ever- defiant in the face of salty air and entropic disorder, Tony is as timeless as they get:

a well-worn tester who, at the age of 67, is still one of the top time-trialists in Cornwall, and he makes no apologies for it: 

“My first time-trial was in 1992. I turned up there on this old second hand bike
that I had bought from Clive Mitchell’s in Truro: it was just a standard road bike and I turned up wearing just a pair of running shorts and a vest. That caused quite a lot of amusement amongst the cyclists there, who had all these aero TT bikes and everything. Anyway I beat most of them, which shut them up.”

The Goonhilly Downs are a regular training haunt for many local strongmen, including Tony, thanks to its flat segments of (relatively) smooth tarmac and, luck- prevailing, roaring tailwinds. Although Tony’s initial foray in to time-trials was
a success, it wasn’t his first choice of discipline. It wasn’t until later on in life,

after having dabbled in competitive running and triathlons, did his testing abilities shine:

“I started in my mid-40s after I gave up the competitive running that I used to do; after I moved down to Cornwall it was just too far to travel. Plus, your performance starts to go downhill pretty quickly after the age of 40. So I bought a second-hand bike and started riding to work to keep fit. One time my son came home from university and said: ‘do you fancy doing a bit of swimming as well?’ So I started going swimming with him, and whilst I was doing that I met

a triathlete who suggested that I tried a triathlon, and I really enjoyed it. Of course you do time-trials as part of your training for it, but the other training I got very fed up with. You have to be doing three different sports, so I always seemed to be trying to squeeze in another training session somewhere. My results of the time-trialling were quite good so I decided to concentrate on just cycling and that was it: I’ve been doing it ever since.”

Tony is somewhat of a local legend whose time-trialling reputation precedes him, with younger competitors clamoring to beat the old dude with the legs carved from Cornish granite. When it comes to performance and training however, he likes to keep things simple – some might even say old school.

“Just get out there and do it,” he says, gesticulating with a coffee in-hand inside the Segway hire café, “You don’t need really expensive gear to do time-trialling, because a lot of these guys with the most flashy and expensive equipment are often the worst riders. In my experience a lot of cyclists are miles behind other sports when it comes to training. There seems to be this obsession of going out and getting the miles in, and not enough, in my opinion, specific training for what they want to do. What I would say – and what I have noticed over the years, not only in cycling – is that you get new-comers who start training for it and make a big initial improvement but then plateau off, then after about a year they give up. What they don’t realise is, like any endurance sport, it’s a long-term thing. It takes several years of proper training to keep improving and reach your full potential.” 

Time-trialling started as a rebel sport to thwart the National Cyclists’ Union’s ban on racing on the road in the 1890s. Men like Frederick Thomas Bidlake helped craft ‘the race of truth’ as we now know it. Not one for idolising however, Tony eschews the idea of TT poster boys and childhood heroes: 

“I’ve never been a big one for spectating really; I’d rather be doing it myself than watching other people. If I had a chance to ride in a race or go and watch some Olympic cycling or something, I would choose to race. It’s very much a personal thing - it’s quite difficult in cycling because back then a lot of the top performers were on drugs… if anyone I admire the more amateur cyclists, people like Michael Hutchinson who’s been a very good time-trialist, but does it as more of a hobby than a profession.”

Tony is a steadfast member of his local cycling club, One and All Cycling, and has organised their time-trial races since its inception – not just a competitor, Tony has always been keen to give something back to the cycling community at large:

“I suppose those instincts relate to my very dim and distant past when I trained as a PE teacher – I am used to organising sport as well as doing it, so whatever sport I’ve taken part in I’ve always tried to do a bit of organisation as well.”

Admirably modest he fails to mention the fact that he is the chairman of the South West Time Trial Association, the discipline’s governing body in Cornwall and Devon responsible for drawing up the annual fixture list, measuring courses, risk-assessing, and sending representatives to national meetings to decide on rule and competition changes. On the subject of “developing the sport along the right lines” Tony is particularly opinionated, pausing with a wry grin before saying: 

“One thing you’ve probably noticed is that there are hardly any youngsters doing TTs, it’s become very much the sport that people graduate to once they’re done with road racing. The Vets scene is undeniably the strong, and I think that’s partly due to the fact that most of the races are at the crack of dawn on a Sunday morning – 6am starts in some parts of the country. And because most time-trialists are obsessed with speed, all the fastest and therefore most popular courses are on dual-carriageways, which obviously have a lot of fast-moving traffic. Most parents don’t want to be getting up at 4am on a Sunday in order to drive their kids to a traffic-filled TT course. I think the way that time-trialling should be going is on circuit courses on B roads with a few hills thrown in, but that’s not going to happen because most of the riders are too obsessed with going for fast times all of the time.”

When questioned on the prospect of road closures, he is even more astute:

“It aint gonna happen, not in this country. I mean they do it for things like the Tour of Britan, but on a local level it won’t happen. We’re too densely populated and there’s too much traffic.

“I’ve been living in Cornwall for about 25 years now. When I first came down here in 1989 the summer holiday roads were jammed, but for the rest of the year they were really quiet. Even the A30 going right up through Cornwall; in fact we used to have time-trials that went across Chiverton roundabout – it’s a massive roundabout with about four lanes. You could never do that now because the traffic is just too much. That’s the reason why most of these races are early on a Sunday morning because that’s the time when there is the least traffic on the roads.”

He makes a good point: For a discipline that is seemingly obsessed with marginal gains and innovation, its growth at club level to be mitigated by matters of traffic and unwillingness to close roads is a great shame. Indeed for the sport to grow in the junior ranks especially, the wisdom of this respected veteran of the road should not be lost in time. 

Tony Farnell, 67 for a Rolya Magazine shoot about Time Trialling. Photographed at Goonhilly Earth Station in Cornwall. |

Polaroids from the South West Cyclocross series in Redruth, Cornwall.

All shot for Rolya Magazine. |