After 11 months of chamois time, the cyclist’s off-season presents itself as a welcome break from pedal practice. To recuperate and reflect, to take stock and move on, to eat kebabs and drink beer, and to live outside of the racing bubble for just a little while.
No one knows that better than the Dave Rayner Fund, and their fundraising dinner took pride of off-season place on Saturday (November 9), to gather their fundees, in all their dwindling November fitness, and raise a charitable penny or two.
I’ve had the fortuitous pleasure of being a funded rider for the past two seasons, and so along with the rest of my shaven-legged compadrés, made the trip up to Bradford on Saturday to join the masses at the fundraising jamboree.
Surprisingly enough, it turned out that from the south coast, Bradford was a fair distance, and it wasn’t until starters were being served that fellow southerner and funded rider Conor Dunne and myself were able to slip in and take a pew on the riders’ table. Looking around were riders that had spent the year in Belgium, in France, the USA, riding for amateur teams and continental teams alike, in races far and wide, but all in pursuit of one day turning professional.
Beyond our rabble though was the real pedigree, sitting centre stage on the special guests’ table; Ian Stannard, Ben Swift, the Downing brothers, as well as Alistair Brownlee, to name a few. After meeting Alistair a couple of nights previously and noticing what a thoroughly down-to-earth chap he is, it was surprising to see him equally adept in the limelight role here, cracking genuinely amusing one-liners with fellow Leeds man and Team Sky rider Josh Edmondson. Josh was in fact a funded rider last year too, and along with guest of honour Dan Martin and Orica GreenEdge-bound Adam Yates, a tangible testament to the sort of impact The Fund can have for riders during their career infancy.
Now, anyone in possession of the modest talents of Yours Truly needn’t have worried about an on-the-spot interview during the rider presentation, but that didn’t stop the palms moistening as master of ceremonies Anthony McCrossan tried desperately to make eye contact with one of us. As it was, Conor’s talents on the bike helped him hold up a metaphoric hand as much as his 6’8″ frame, and after he and Stannard came to a definitive height-off conclusion, proceeded to address the crowd while I breathed a sigh of relief.
Adam Yates was rather more succinct when accepting his ‘Lewis Barry’ award for rider of the year, but after the season he’s had you can safely say the legs clearly do the talking. It was nice to finally speak to him in relative comfort at the bar though, as the only other time we’d done so was in the bunch at a stage race in The Alps back in June; conversation which on my part had an extremely poor gasping-to-speech ratio, I can tell you.
After the food was all gone and the stable had become tipsy, it was time for the charity auction. Between bartering the price of signed Andy Fenn jerseys from my adopted position behind ‘Jos and Tim’s market stall’, I was able to keep half an eye on proceedings. The final prices escaped me, but signed Chris Froome yellow jerseys, Bradley Wiggins paintings and Dan Martin T-shirts would have contributed to the 2014 funding pot no end, I’m sure.
As a rider, it really is humbling to see the generosity that so many people bestow to The Fund, not just on the night of the fundraising dinner, but throughout the whole year. Unlike a lot of things that night, it’s something that won’t be forgotten, and regardless of whether it’s as a rider, my future with the Dave Rayner Fund is most definitely not over. I’d encourage anyone else to try and get involved next year too, be it as a rider or benefactor, in a truly commendable cause, and a thoroughly enjoyable night.
The 2013 Rayner funded riders
Josh Edmondson (left) and Alistair Brownlee (right) engage in some banter
Abby Mae Parkinson assists with the auction
Dan Martin signs a number board, one of the evening’s numerous auction items
Tommy Bustard and Josh Edmondson
Adam Yates wins the Lewis Barry award