Local Riders - Chris Walker
The latest rider to take on our Mamnick Local Riders 'Quiz' is an absolute hitter!
Chris Walker was born in Sheffield. His first club was Beighton Wheelers. He was the winner of numerous crits and twice British Crit Champion, the winner of the 1991 Milk Race and a load of other single-day races! I'd like to give a big thanks to Chris for taking the time to answer the questions and also for providing me with a load of great photography from his racing career.
As a racing cyclist, which results are you most proud of and why?
I'd probably have to say my 4 stage wins and points jersey in the '91 Settimana Bergamasca that Armstrong won overall because I remembered watching it on TV when I lived in Italy as an 18 year old so it was great to be racing it and winning in it. I always loved racing on Italian roads anyway.
Which are your favourite stretches of road to ride on locally and what is it that you like about them?
I'm sure if I checked back they'd be a few Yorkshire riders that you've interviewed saying the same route but my favourite has to be the ride from home through to Holmfirth, over the Moss then either left and over Snake and return home via The Strines or straight at Glossop and over Chunal to Chapel en le Frith then back over Rushup Edge dropping down MamNick and through Hope Valley to get back home. I've done this with a number of different training partners over the years including Adrian Timmis, Rob Holden, Steve Sefton, Paul Watson the late Stuart Coles and in my later pro years Russ and Dean Downing and more recently with my kids and also Gabz Cullaigh and Grace Garner. They'll all tell you they love it eh Grace?
The same question for roads anywhere in the world?
This is a hard one because I've ridden on so many awesome roads throughout the world but as I said before I loved the Italian roads where I lived in Tuscany. We normally head out to CapeTown for the whole of December as thats the only quiet period at work and I love riding out towards Cape Point and the hills around there that they use in http://www.cycletour.co.za The views are breathtaking and the light down there seems totally different to any other place I've been to. The roads and mountains in Mallorca take some beating too. Shall I go on, there's more.....?
What is your most memorable moment on the bike or involved with cycling?
I'm not sure if its because I'm getting old and I'm losing my memory or not but the things that stick out in my mind are all the great times I've spent with our youth team both in training and enjoying their success over the last couple of years and also seeing how much enjoyment my kids are getting from cycling.
Has racing affected your relationship with the bike? If so, how?
I've mentioned this a few times in interviews but I was unlucky because my professional career coincided with a bad period for doping and the worse thing for me was that I felt like I had to keep quiet about the things that I saw because the guys that did speak out got a hammering. It still pisses me off when I see the cheats coming out of the woodwork and saying they're sorry when I don't think they really give a shit, they've still got their stolen money in the bank! I became disillusioned with my chosen career because of the problem and just thought of it as a better way of earning money than a normal job because I thought my dreams were unachievable but my manager at the time, and good friend Keith Lambert, pulled me round and I started to enjoy my racing again albeit at a much lower level than I'd planned for myself.
Do you agree with Mickey Goldmill's advice to Rocky that 'women weaken legs'?
Depends on the woman you end up with, if they aren't totally behind you and interfere with your racing or training then thats bad but if they support you and keep you happy then without doubt its going to make you stronger.
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?
Cycling's the new Golf isn't it and I've always hated Golf so its all good. Without doubt it's a massive positive that we've got the boom in cycling because there are now lots more professionally run events like SKY rides and sportives but on the negative side of that there are some riders who treat these events as Tour De France stages and ride irresponsibly on open roads. I've even seen it first hand on our local Saturday run when guys jump red lights to try and stay with the bunch. Another positive is that we are getting more facilities likethe new Derby velodrome that opens next year. We are still waiting for our own in the biggest and best county in Britain though! Another point is that because its mainstream a lot of parents are getting their kids into cycling as they want them to be the next Wiggo or Cav so we are getting an ever increasing pool of young riders into the sport. I've seen it at youth races where there are 60 odd U14 girls lining up to race each other whereas my wife had to ride against the boys when she raced at that age and there would only be a couple of other girls to race against.
All cyclists, whether they race or not, seem to obsess over the weight of their bikes. Why do you think this is?
Its called 'The arms race' according to British Cycling youth coach Tim Buckle and I see that first hand too. I'd have a stiff non flexy frame over an uber light one any day of the week. The great thing about our sport is the fact that someone could go to Halfords and get an entry level bike and go out training and if they have the talent they'll be able to keep up with guys on £5K and probably give them a kicking. Even most lower end bikes are good enough to race on these days.
Do you approach riding, or ride your bike, differently now to when you first got into cycling?
Absolutely, I've got way less time to ride my bike these days but I love it just as much. I still hate getting a kicking as much as before though.
Who has been your favourite pro riders over the years and why?
I always mention Kelly because I loved the way he raced. In the modern era its Gilbert, Cancellara and Dan Martin for the same reason as with Kelly.
What was you favourite era of professional bike racing?
Now for the reasons mentioned in one of your earlier questions.
Do you think Bradley Wiggins looks cool despite his long socks or because of them?
Despite his socks because I'm old school and don't rate his sock or shorts length although my sock length has increased this year, have you seen him in his whistle?
Mudguards, mudguards and mudflaps or racing bike with clip on guards through winter?
I used to be full mudguards and flaps at the rear as long as possible and use a real heavy winter bike so you thought you were making yourself stronger but things have changed. Winter bikes that most ride these days are better and lighter than our old race bikes and clearances dont allow proper mudguards. I could go against the grain and have an old fashioned shed of a winter bike but I get a big enough kicking as it is without giving myself a weight disadvantage.
Do you enjoy a cafe stop or do you prefer to ride straight round?
Most of my weekend riding is in winter as I'm at races with the kids in summer so we normally skip the cafes.
Assos, Rapha or neither?
I like them both, nice quality kit but I've only got a short paper round so its too pricey for me, so I stick to great value for money quality with RST.
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?
Always been a back-wacks man but they're harder to find as there are more car drivers finding our quiet roads and using them as rat runs to shave a few minutes off of their journeys. Before mountain bike we always used to head into Clumber Park/Sherwood Forest on our Dinnington RC club runs and I used to love it but as I mentioned before the bikes we rode were a lot different so I save the rough stuff for my mountain bike rides in Sherwood Pines or Cannock Chase.
What do you think about Strava?
Not a big fan, I used it when it first came out but then saw times compared to mine on certain climbs that Dan Martin couldn't do. It made me want to contact these guys and say lets meet up, I want to see you drop me by 30 seconds on that 2 minute climb where you are KOM. I suppose its still a great tool to see where you are on a personal level but you can do that with a Garmin without having to tell the world.
What do you think about Sportive rides?
I covered this in an earlier question but its mainly positive.
Do you have any cycling pet hates?
Sticking tubs on, thats why I get someone else to do it. Oops that reminds me I owe Dan Storey £20, I always flick him!
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 think the big change from when i started is the grass roots club scene and the great old school advice that you'd receive from the older members whether you asked for it or not!
Cotton cap or helmet?
Come on Thom, don't go there!
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?
I prefer to see cadence and save the big gears for the sprint or attack at the end of the race or training ride. There's nothing better than seeing a rider with a sweet pedalling action flicking over the pedals when moving through the bunch. I can always remember being in awe of Adril Van Der Poel when I rode against him in pro races. Its funny because I can remember seeing Tom Stewart for the first time on our Saturday run. I'd asked Russ earlier in the ride if he could recommend anyone locally when we were setting up RST Racing Team and he said 'mountain bike Tom, he's out today' and when I saw him the first thing that I noticed was his classy pedalling action. When it comes to time trailing my wife and I are divided on this one because she's always telling our kids to push bigger gears and I tell them to use more cadence.
White, black or coloured socks?
White with some colour for me, Black when mountain-biking.
Frame pump or mini pump?
Can you still buy frame pumps?
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?
Depends what mood I'm in or how stressed I've been at work, sometimes its just nice to chat and clear your head without going too deep.
Who would be/is your perfect tandem partner? Would you ride captain or stoker?
It'd have to be Russ Downing because he finds gaps that aren't there, I'd be stoker going flat, stick with my eyes shut.
Photo credit : Chris Walker @ Monsal HIll climb - Andy Jones.
Comments on this post (2)
Sound words from a quality rider. Well balanced response to an excellent set of questions.
— Prendas Ciclismo
Great interview, totally agree with Chris about the grass roots cycling especially up here in the North East. Sportives are great but too many havent ridden in clubs or raced and Chris says can be dangerous not knowing how to sit wheels etc. Chris was was one of the great British riders
— Mark Bradley