Talking to VCC Member John Harley about his love for cycling
Where did it all begin?
I got into cycling in March 2015 after my wife passed away in December 2014. I had just completed the fifth (New York) of the Six Marathon majors but at 63 years old I did not think that my legs would last out!
I started cycling as a move into Triathlon, however at the time I could not swim more than a length of front crawl and had never been on a road bike. I was terrified the first few times that I got on the bike and did not go very far as I was concerned about not being able to fix a puncture.
I went on a course to resolve the puncture issue and then quickly fell in love with cycling, including the speed, the exhilaration, and the closeness to nature.
In the end, I completed the Tokyo Marathon, the last of the six, in February 2016 and won my age group (60-64). I was also benefitting from my triathlon training becoming stronger and arguably fitter – cycling played a big part in this.
How did you come across Velusso?
I came across Velusso as I loved riding to Ditchling from where I live. The Velusso Café was the better option to others as one could leave your bike with safety outside the Café and the coffee and cakes were better! I started riding more when I retired fully in September 2018 and have now recently registered with Velusso and I am really looking forward to riding with the community.
What events have you ticked off since getting the bug?
My cycling challenges generally involve bad weather so fellow Velusso members be warned! In 2017, I tried to cycle the Cape Argus event but it was blown away by gale force winds. I rode it properly in 2018, completing it in 4 hours – it is probably the most beautiful road ride in the world, and a huge event supported from all over. I then rode Ride London46 in 2017 and then RideLondon100 in July 2018. I completed the ride in just under six hours in torrential rain (I thought – but see comment on the Kentish Killer 2019). It was very hard as we had all been expecting hot and dry conditions and we experienced wet, very windy and cool conditions!
In 2018, I entered the Kent Killer but this was called off because of the severe cold! The route was considered to be too dangerous. I did complete the route in 2019. I felt like a “drowned rat” at the first “Pit Stop” in Groombridge. We rode into Storm Freya, and more torrential rain, with no protection as we made our way down to the Ashdown Forest. The North Downs were not much fun either!
Tell us about the Tour of Cambridgeshire …
The recent Tour of Cambridgeshire was a fascinating experience, with some excellent riders there – some in teams, some individual. Some young, some old, some middle aged. Being on closed roads and a flattish course were positives for me, but the wind always seemed to be against you. Regardless, it was a great event and it is also the largest UCI qualifying event for the Amateur World Championships.
Although I won my Age Group, the TOC100 is only a qualifying event for 19-59 year olds. At 67 I went too far and should have entered the TOC 67! Self inflicted pain or what? I shall be entering the shorter event next year and will attempt to qualify for the 2020 Amateur Worlds. Training on the South and North Downs and in the Ashdown Forest should position me well for that.
What else have you got planned his year?
I am just sorting out my programme for the rest of 2019. I have had an amazing first half including a significant Sprint Triathlon win and a National Road relay medal. I shall definitely include more cycling events and try to step up from Sprint to Olympic or Standard distance Tri so that my bike and running skills are enhanced. I am hoping to ride with Velusso in Belgium and The Netherlands in some of the classics in 2020, and I shall also be entering the Beast of Ashdown.
Most importantly, what bike do you ride?
I’ve got a Cannondale which I use it for most of my training – it’s the “workhorse” and has been quite outstanding. I then use a faster VO2 bike for my events which generally increases my speed by 3-4km/h. I managed 29km/h on the TOC100.
To sign off, tell us why you love cycling…
Overall, I love being on the bike (in all but freezing conditions!). The joy of riding with freedom in beautiful countryside whilst keeping fit is wonderful. The coffees and cake along the way are also a bonus!