We take a spin out with the Shrewsbury-based Rhino Velo Cycling Club that only formed in 2015, but has already attracted a healthy number of cyclists
- Words: Sean Lacey / Photos: Andy Jones

Based: Shrewsbury, Shropshire
Members: 70
Formed: 2015
Meets: Sundays at 9.30am, club run with speed and distance groups as required; Wednesdays at 9.30am, same set-up as Sunday, both meeting at the Stop Cafe in Shrewsbury town centre. Longer distances and specific training rides in the summer months.
Website: rhinovelopyrenees.com | Twitter: @rhinovelo | Facebook: facebook.com/groups/1591065617867115

Considering the Arctic conditions that Shropshire had endured just days before, the turnout for today’s ride is great, with a hardy bunch of riders keen to get some winter miles in. Rhino Velo CC are a relatively new club on the scene and it’s good to see a collective mentality already in evidence, with everything done and decided as a group, including today’s ride.

Three of the guys volunteer as group leaders, with founder and ex-pro Mike Jones taking the fast boys. I am rolling with the medium group so take the opportunity for a quick word with Jones before they leave.

“After moving to the Pyrenees, spending time riding with the club when I’m back is always a priority,” he says. “I helped to form the club but being a part of it as a rider is the real reward.”

We chat about life in the Pyrenees, and how a good portion of the club here today have been out to stay with him and wife Wendy.

Picking up the pace
Heading away from town into the countryside the weather turns, our leisurely pace picking up a little as we head south on the first of two loops, the route designed to allow those who want a shorter ride to drop out at the cafe stop back in town.

Nic Fisher, our medium group leader, is an integral part of the club, taking care of some of the day-to-day running in the UK. “We started as a Facebook group of friends, with mutual connections to Mike,” he says. “We grew from there into the club we are now, and have a good range of riders all out for a sociable and friendly riding experience.”

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Shropshire is a great place to ride a bike, with endless quiet lanes and a varied mix of terrain. Fisher tells me: “With flat routes like today’s that are ideal in the winter, we also have some real hills, and being close to Wales, mountains when we want.”

The general feeling is that we are glad it’s pretty flat today; scenic as it is, the wind is biting and the rain is showing no signs of letting up. It doesn’t dampen our spirits much though as the chatter is evident as we press on, the rolling roads giving up some great views.

One of our group, Beccy Neale, previously worked in the cycling industry as a sales rep for some of the leading cycle brands, recently changing jobs to spend more time at home: “The travel kept me away from home and ironically made getting out for a ride harder. Now I can get out with the club a lot more, which is great for the social aspect and my fitness.”

Back to the cafe
After a quick stop to sort out a bike issue, the group is whittled down as a couple of riders need to press on, leaving a compact unit to sweep back along the old Roman road from Westbury heading back towards town, the warm and dry of the cafe most welcoming.

As the groups arrive the cafe fills with cold and hungry riders keen to eat and chat, mostly about how tough it is today. A sense of camaraderie is evident among club members; despite the miserable conditions the groups have looked out for each other.



Bacon sandwiches have been pre-ordered and are ready in an instant, and good coffee to go with it. Conditions outside are still looking grim, so many of us decide to miss out the usual second loop of the full ride, and have another drink.

One couple we talk to had only joined a week previously: Stephen and Jayne Powell both state that they want a friendly and inclusive club offering a mix of rides and something to do midweek too, and Rhino Velo fit the bill perfectly — the ethos of this club is sure to attract many more in the future.


History

Rhino Velo CC was formed in late 2016 as a natural extension of the Rhino Velo Race Team that was put together in 2015 following a need for like-minded riders in the Shrewsbury area to be able to race and progress together as a group. The Rhino Velo name originated from the co-founder and ex elite rider Mike Jones, whose nickname when racing is Rhino.

The other founder, Chris Pook, who runs and sponsors the race team, managed to pull in the best of the talent in the area culminating in very successful seasons of racing including winning the West Midlands Road Race League and numerous other races both nationally and regionally. Interest formed from local riders wanting to get involved but not especially with racing, so the idea came to also offer a club aimed at sportive and endurance riders.

The club has grown organically and quickly in its first year, offering regular weekly group rides to a broad base of individuals. The emphasis of the rides is very much to encourage and involve people in sociably active groups for different levels of ability.

Along with running the club, Jones now lives and works most of the year in France running his business Rhino Velo Pyrenees, a cycling-specific bed and breakfast with his wife Wendy. Back in the UK the club benefits from the help of Nic Fisher and Mary Edwards who help to coordinate the rides, social events and club kit on a day-to-day basis.

Achievements

  • Nic Fisher competed in a host of tough European events in 2017 including L’Ariégeoise, Etape du Tour, the Marmotte and the seven day Haute Route Pyrenees.
  • Matt Garthwaite had numerous results through the year, with a win at the Worcester St John’s Trophy road race and he placed third in the Vuelta Majorca Masters (Foreign National category).
  • Chris Pook won the Shrewsbury GP among a host of road race wins and top placings around the UK and Europe.
  • Matt Davies placed second overall on the Haute Route Rockies and fourth overall on the Tour of Malta.

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Rhino Velo club run

Ride highlights

1 Minsterley
Having passed through the small town of Minsterley, the undulating road sweeps along with fine views of the Stiperstones hills to the left, open countryside to the right and the Welsh hills ahead.

2 Pentre to Edgerley
Shropshire is known as the ‘lost county’, and the miles between Pentre and Edgerley show why: void of traffic and the old houses resplendent with perfectly manicured gardens, lost in time.

3 Into Wales
It’s not on every ride that you can say you rode in two countries, but as you approach the River Severn and cross a small and unassuming bridge, you are now in Wales, albeit briefly.

Favourite cafe
There are a few cafes the club likes to frequent, but top of the list is the Orchard Cafe at the foot of Shrewsbury Cathedral. With a recent refurbishment there is plenty of space for bikes and riders with indoor and outdoor seating, and a great selection of good value hot food, cakes and drinks. Orchard Cafe, Town Walls, Belmont, Shrewsbury SY1 1TE