Mark Walsham was born in Dronfield, his first cycling club was Chesterfield Spire. He turned professional in 1985 for the Raleigh Weinnman team and rode as a pro until 1998, riding for the Percy-Bilton team amongst others. Finally he finished his career with the Linda McCartney Racing Team.
During his career Mark won over 200 races including many stages in the classic and now defunct Milk Race.
As a racing cyclist, which results are you most proud of and why?
Grand Prix of Wales 1987 – 138miles, won alone by almost 3 minutes. Manx International 1984. Around 200 race wins; everybody remembers me as a sprinter, but I always tried to win alone, always more satisfying.
Which are your favourite stretches of road to ride on locally and what is it that you like about them?
We really are spoilt with the Peak District on our doorstep. The climb up from just outside Hathersage to the Gliding club at Abney is one that stands out for me, hardly any traffic, proper mini Alpine climb. Ann, my wife loves the back lanes and although they are invariably tougher roads, they’re quieter and take us back to our early cycling days when we just rode all day for fun as teenagers, before racing took over.
The same question for roads anywhere in the world?
Would have to be in South Africa, the road around the Cape, troops of Baboons around Simons Town and spectacular views on the road back to Camps Bay & Cape Town, great memories.
What is your most memorable moment on the bike or involved with cycling?
Lots of great moments, but probably travelling, meeting and making friends with people all over the world.
Has racing affected your relationship with the bike? If so, how?
Had some good times racing all over the World, with some great teammates. I stopped at the end of 1998 when a verbal agreement to manage the LindaMcCartney team the following year was ignored. That was one flick too many. I’ve met some great characters through cycling, but also a few bull-shitters/dreamers with their false promises and we all know what happened to the LM team. So, for 13 years from then I walked away from cycling. Only started riding again 2 years ago, for pleasure and fitness. I’m just like a kid again, loving it, it’s back to being ‘all about the bike’.
Do you agree with Mickey Goldmill's advice to Rocky that 'women weaken legs'?
He must have batted for the other side, what a load of bull! A good woman gives your life stability and happiness, the foundations for success.
We are in the midst of a well publicised boom in cycling in the UK at the moment. Has it affected you? Do you have any thoughts about why it has happened and whether it will continue? Do you see any negatives to the increase in popularity?
More race coverage on the TV, more bikes on the road! – it’s got to be a good thing. Lots of the new breed seem to have missed learning cycling etiquette through club riding, seeming to have none of the camaraderie with other cyclists – ‘all the gear & no idea’ But is that their fault? And does it matter that cycling is attracting a different kind of rider? More people on bikes has to be a good thing.
All cyclists, whether they race or not, seem to obsess over the weight of their bikes. Why do you think this is?
People sometimes look for easy answers, it’s easier to buy a light bike than ride harder for longer, eat less and lose body weight to improve performance.
Do you approach riding, or ride your bike, differently now to when you first got into cycling?
I’ve regressed back to my youth in my riding, enjoying riding in the lanes. Ann & our son, Sam both ride, so it’s great to ride together. Still like to have a blast now and again though.
Who has been your favourite pro riders over the years and why?
‘Big Ted’ has to be my no 1 hero, what an insatiable beast he was, super aggressive on the bike and a modest man off it.
What was your favourite era of professional bike racing?
Do you think Bradley Wiggins looks cool despite his long socks or because of them?
Mudguards, mudguards and mudflaps or racing bike with clip on guards through winter?
Depends how many bikes you have. Mudguards and mudflaps work best, especially if you ride with others. But if you only have 1 bike, clip on guards are fine, at least an effort’s been made.
Do you enjoy a cafe stop or do you prefer to ride straight round?
Both; if its a steady Sunday ride with the family or old friends a cafe stop’s great. If it’s a tempo ride, then straight round, a lot of people have to get back for family duties nowadays.
Assos, Rapha or neither?
Largely depends on the size of your wallet. Never used Rapha, Assos is great quality, but loads of good kit out there nowadays. Some of the stuff direct from China is good and great prices – no need to be a label snob.
Do you, or have you, got/had a favourite piece of cycling kit?
I do like a gillet, great for keeping out the chill, without overheating. My Garmin Edge is great as well, always used to keep a training diary, but the Garmin makes it so easy to upload and analyse your rides.
Do you prefer to get your head down on the A6, keep a good tempo going on the B roads or get onto the back wacks? What about the rough stuff on your road bike?
The latter two would be my choice, A6 only preferable when it’s icy. ‘Back wacks’ are great for scenery and getting away from traffic, B roads are great for upping the tempo and getting the average (speed) up.
What do you think about Strava?
Strava’s good as long as it doesn’t become the objective and remains a means to record/anylyse your rides, as an encouragement to try different roads and as a motivation tool to get out there and ride.
What do you think about Sportive rides?
Great for attracting newcomers to the sport, but I can’t help thinking they’re a money making thing, in this country at least; but saying that, anything that gets ‘bums on seats’ has to be good.
Do you have any cycling pet hates?
Ignorant car drivers – very rare that any of them acknowledge you for singling out or sometimes that you even exist! Still, that’s what road rage was invented for, although these mini pumps are nowhere near as effective against the tin boxes as the longer, heavier ones we used to have ;-)
Are there any cycling traditions that you think have been, or are being, lost as a result of changing attitudes and behaviour? And are we better off or worse off as a consequence?
Most of the big races that were the staples of the British road racing calendar seem to have disappeared; seems odd that there is so little racing for Elites during this current boom. I’ve been out of it for a long time, but suspect it may be road closures that’s the big issue – correct me if i’m wrong.
Cottoncap or helmet?
Speaking as someone who’s had multiple fractures of the skull and cheekbone, obviously i’m a cotton cap man – old school i’m afraid, freedom of choice, although i’m pleased my son wears a helmet. Yes a helmet may reduce the damage caused in an accident, but If the aim is to reduce accidents, educating drivers is the priority, not legislation targeting the cyclist.
The benefits of spinning a low gear compared to mashing a high gear is often discussed. Putting aside the serious, physiological and mechanical aspects, what cadence you think looks right?
The tendency now seems to be more towards increased cadence as a more efficient technique and a fluid pedalling action always looks better, classier than the brute force approach of bigger gears, heaving out the saddle. ‘Froomey’ takes it to extremes though, very effective, but can’t help thinking he looks a right ‘Fred’ with his little gear attacks. Just goes to show there’s more than one way to get the job done.
White, black or coloured socks?
Contrast’s the key, white socks with any colour cycling shoes, black looks ok with white shoes – not keen on these long socks though.
Frame pump or mini pump?
A frame pump will do more damage in a ‘ruck’, but mini pumps are convenient and lighter for cycling
What do you like to talk about when you are on a ride with friends/team/club mates? Do you prefer to keep the subjects lightweight or get your teeth into something contentious or controversial?
Varies, depending on who you’re with and what the mood is. That’s why it’s good to ride with different people, to get different opinions, views.
Who would be/is your perfect tandem partner? Would you ride captain or stoker?
Always threatened to do a tandem TT with Ian Sanders – me on the front of course as Sandy’s ‘mince pies’ are not so good – not sure he’d trust me though; he has been in a high speed car accident with me driving and was never a relaxed passenger after that!