Local Riders Q&A - Malcolm Elliott

Malcolm Elliott is the most well known local pro rider around these
parts and is the 3rd most successful British male professional cyclist
of all time (based on the number of wins in top international races;
ranking above Bradley Wiggins and Tom Simpson). Malc's professional
career lasted from 1984 to 1997 and then from 2003 to 2011 when he
made a comeback to domestic racing.

Born in Sheffield and an honorary member of Rutland Cycling Club, Malc
was the winner of the green points jersey (and three stages) at the
Vuelta de Espana, 1989. Other major wins include the Milk Race,
Kellogg's Tour of Britain, National Champion and 3rd at the Amstel
Gold Race (1987). Malc still holds the record for the local Monsal
Head hill climb - a record he set in 1981.

As a racing cyclist, which results are you most proud of and why? 

Winning Vuelta points jersey, the first ever Englishman to win a Grand Tour jersey. Tour of Britain and Milk Race victories, Double gold medallist Commonwealth Games. Amstel Gold Race 3rd, Winning Rutland Melton at 46yrs of age, Tour series winners 2010, etc...

Which are your favourite stretches of road to ride on locally and what is it that you like about them? 

The road up Derwent to Kings Tree is a favourite, super scenic and nearly always deserted, and very close to home.

The same question for roads anywhere in the world? 

The back country roads of Santa Barbara County. Also Mallorca and Spain, epic climbs, great climate. I just enjoy going for a big day out there, with nothing else to do and nowhere else to be.

What is your most memorable moment on the bike or involved with cycling?

Hmm, no one particular moment. There’s been so many, and over such a long time.

Has racing affected your relationship with the bike? If so, how? 

That’s hard to know, as its been a part of my life for so long now (40+yrs). I really can’t imagine what my life would be like had I not discovered cycling.

Do you agree with Mickey Goldmill's advice to Rocky that 'women weaken legs'? 

Somewhat. That, and all that goes with it (ie late nights) was definitely a distraction for me as a youth!  If you really want to give yourself the best opportunity, early nights before the big one gives the confidence you’ve done everything right.

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? 

I think we’re all affected to some degree. We are now part of a sport that has much increased coverage and respect. This came about due to a number of factors coming together in an age of health consciousness, environmental awareness, and austerity, along with unprecedented success at the top of the sport, andnow politicians are starting to take more notice. I hope this will continue to snowball, and and negatives, I believe, are outweighed by the positives.

All cyclists, whether they race or not, seem to obsess over the weight of their bikes. Why do you think this is?

Actually, I don’t find cyclists are quite as obsessive now as they used to be about bike weight. Perhaps they’re finally catching onto the idea that exercising a bit of discipline when at the fridge door has way more benefit to their performance than sweating about a few grams difference on their bikes weight.

Do you approach riding, or ride your bike, differently now to when you first got into cycling? 

Well, nowadays I don’t get to ride anywhere near as much as I’d like, and I’m not into going out in the cold and wet when I don’t need to. That’s about the only things that has changed. Regardless of fitness, I still try and batter myself when I’m out alone, always have, I can’t help it.

Who has been your favourite pro riders over the years and why? 

Eddy, and Freddy Maertens, so stylish. Also for the reasons outlined in the next question...

What was you favourite era of professional bike racing?

I suppose the era of my formative years, the seventies and eighties, hold the most interest for me, when I was first starting. Back then, I could rattle off all the winners of pretty much every classic and World Champions of the previous 20 years. 

Do you think Bradley Wiggins looks cool despite his longsocks or because of them? 

For all his merits, I wouldn’t hold Bradley up as any paragon of style. However, I do find it difficult to imagine him wearing anything else.. he’s made them all his own!


Mudguards, mudguards and mudflaps or racing bike with clip on guards through winter? 

Full mudguards, plus front and rear mudflaps, out of consideration for others in the group. Nothing says clearer “ I don’t give a **** about anyone else” than showing up on a group ride in winter without mudguards. 

Do you enjoy a cafe stop or do you prefer to ride straight round? 

Usually straight round. If its good weather, maybe a stop. Otherwise I just get cold and don’t really enjoy it.

Assos, Rapha or neither? 

Obviously Assos, followed by Giordana, which isn’t far off Assos quality....and don’t get me started on Rapha!!

Do you, or have you, got/had a favorite piece of cycling kit? 

A Lycra skull cap, to wear beneath the helmet. The only thing to wear there, racing caps etc are just wrong.  

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?

I always try to keep a good tempo, I always want to make good progress and don’t see the point in dawdling around...keeps you from getting cold too. I do enjoy going on the trails on a road bike, always makes a refreshing change. Preferably in summer though as it beats the crap out of road bikes riding them in mud and sand. Thats probably why I’ve never ridden Cyclo Cross.

What do you think about Strava? 

Great idea. I haven’t personally got into it yet, but may start this year. I did download the app a while back, but I always forget to start it, and only remember when I’m almost done! 

What do you think about Sportive rides? 

They’ve been a huge help in fuelling the current upswing in popularity of cycling, and satisfy a certain demand. For some longtime established riders, their view can be rather different, preferring to ride alone or very small groups. I’m going to be riding many of the Cycling Weekly Sportives this year, so watch this space.  

Do you have any cycling pet hates? 

When its pouring down before the start of a long race, having to brave it and get soaked and cold right from the off. Its never so bad it it rains during, but hated those wet starts.

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? 

I’m sure there are, although I can’t put my finger on any one right now. I think we need to take these things in our stride, and move on. 

Cotton cap or helmet? 

For 95% of the time, Helmet. The other 5% I’ll go without, if its very hot, which usually means I’m in Spain or Mallorca. I feel a little safer there due to better attitudes towards cyclists. I’m always aware I’m more vulnerable when not wearing, the same feeling you get in a car without a seatbelt, and take extra care. 

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? 

Always better spinning, but not ridiculously so. Some newcomers do take spinning too literally. On the flat, I think 95-105rpm looks right. However, uphill, lower, say 80-85rpm. 

White, black or coloured socks? 

Invariably white, unless there’s a VERY good reason for anything else.

Frame pump or mini pump? 

Mini pump, but frame mounted. I don’t like my pockets too full.

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? 

A bit of everything, if you train a lot with the same people the conversation wanders all over the place, from serious, right through to silly.

Who would be/is your perfect tandem partner? Would you ride captain or stoker?

I couldn’t stand riding a tandem, tried it once, didn’t get it. Not for me.

Comments on this post (4)

  • Jan 25, 2019

    I still do not know why it is not SIR Malcom ellot. In Majorca I sked in the cyclists’s cafe ut of three Bradley Malcom and Froomy who had class and every one said Malcolm I think it is because he has respect for our sport respect for riders and did what very few riders can do uses his brain-he is always well turned out has a great sense of humour and took my advice once. no one ever made a come back like Malcolm I always call him Mr Elliot. I see no reason to listen to BC coaches just listen to Malcolm. The greates cricketer ever was len Hutton and he used very few words to explain what to do=that is Malcom may he live to at least my age I am now 82

    — norman bright

  • Sep 27, 2015

    Living legend.
    Never mind the guy got busted for nandrolone back in the 90s.

    — Eric

  • Jul 17, 2014

    Remember getting caught and passed by Malc on a ten mile TT from Hathersage to Castleton when we were both 14 and I started 3 minutes in front!

    Nice summer evening no wind, he did a sub 21 minute ride and I did my pb, at the time I knew I was going well and he came past like a missile. No tri bars, no aero helmet just his standard Raleigh road bike…. and that ride up Monsal Dale was awesome! I think Chris Boardman tried and failed to beat that time years later?

    — Mike Richardson

  • Mar 26, 2014

    Great interview. I’ve met Malc a couple of times at La Squadra get-togethers and as living legends go he’s pretty laid back!

    — Tony O'Donnell

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