YOUR GUIDE: Grant and Phil Bayton
DISTANCE: 27 miles (43km)
MAIN CLIMB: Out of Withington
TOTAL CLIMB: 259 metres
ACHTUNG! Little dogs
Father and son, it can be a prickly relationship, but you only have to spend 10 minutes in the Baytons’ company to realise that cycling is their bond. Sure there’s rivalry, they both relish giving each other a hard time, but a well of mutual admiration and respect exists between them.
Grant has had a good cycling career. He’s been in an Italian pro team, he’s been an elite rider for a long time. He is still an elite rider. Even with a demanding job and a young family Grant races at a high level and he had a good win on the Sunday before we met. But Grant would be the first to admit that his father is a cycling legend.
Phil Bayton was one of a group of pros that raced in this country when, for a number of reasons, the profile of road racing was high and there was enough interest to support a band of fairly well paid pro riders.
“We were lucky back then. There were some very good riders, we had the city centre races on TV, and we had some strong characters. We had good crowds at road races, but the crowds at the city centre races were huge,” says Phil.
It’s not easy to follow your father into a sport, especially when he was very good at it, but Phil admires Grant for doing it. “And,” Phil says, “Grant sells himself short when he talks about his own racing. He is a lot better rider than he makes out.”
The ride starts in Cirencester, a fine old market town in the Cotswolds that was christened Corinium by the Romans, who made it their second biggest city in Britain. “The best bit of the ride is from here,” says Grant. “Our team train regularly on a 60-mile circuit that starts in Swindon and uses these roads.”
The route takes you north out of Cirencester on a Roman road known as the White Way. It’s dead straight, but it also climbs steadily for about six miles over open countryside, before tipping down a series of twists and turns through some beautiful woodland to the village of Withington.
This village sits in a part of the countryside that is designated as an area of outstanding natural beauty, but it also sits on the sites of many Roman villas, homes to the rich and famous among our ancient invaders. Withington was the location for a BBC Time Team programme in January 2006.
A stiff climb takes the Baytons out of the village, and they are clearly enjoying the good weather and the opportunity for a relaxed day in the saddle together. “It’s not normally like this,” says Phil. “I train all winter for our ride on the second Sunday in January, so I can give Grant a good kicking and get him back for all the ones he gives me through the year.
Start the season in style
“We always meet up for an 85-mile ride on the second Sunday of January. It’s only the start of serious training for Grant, but I make sure I’m flying for it. One time he was so shattered that he stopped at a garage, just one mile from where I live, and wouldn’t move until I bought him a king-size Mars bar. Mind you, for the rest of the year I’m hanging on and he’s had to push me home before now,” Phil says.
The team they both ride for is sponsored by a number of Wiltshire-based businesses, including the local radio station, and was put together after the Baytons and a few of their cycling friends decided that they may as well race together.
“It was Dan Smith who put the sponsorship package together. It was just talk, then the next thing he’s got sponsors and organised the whole lot,” says Grant.
“I really enjoy racing with them. I haven’t got any specific racing ambitions now, I’ve done everything I wanted to on a bike, but I really enjoy riding a decent road race with the team and helping where I can. Also, when they ride something bigger, I try and take my bike out and watch,” says Phil.
The Baytons ride side by side, chatting away as they follow the valley of the river Coln, the wealth of the Cotswolds glimpsed in views of some spectacular houses nestling in the tree-lined valley. But the idyll is shattered near Yanworth, when the world’s angriest dog runs out of a blinged-up farmhouse on a bite-a-Bayton mission. Small in size but big in attitude, the little beast’s only saving grace was that although its legs are fast, they don’t eat up much ground per stride.
Over the Foss Way, another Roman route that they made to link Exeter with Lincoln, and the two riders pass through a series of Cotswold stone villages, ending up at Bibury, which, with the babbling Coln running right through its middle, is very pretty.
From Bibury the route switches east on a lightly trafficked B-road through Barnsley and back to Cirencester, where there are a number of cafes that welcome cyclists. The parking attendants aren’t too friendly though. I was five minutes over and got a ticket. I bet the warden had something to do with training that dog.
PHIL BAYTON: THE FACTS
* Aged 56, lives in Stourbridge with wife Lillian and daughter Kelly
* Works as a warehouse manager for Helix stationery
* Earned the name ‘Staffordshire Engine’ in his pro days for the way he could pull a group into a commanding lead
GRANT BAYTON: THE FACTS
* Aged 33, lives in Swindon with wife Suzanne, son Elliot and daughter Olivia
* Works in the planning department of WHSmith
* When he was a pro in Italy, his team was sponsored by the Vatican
From Cirencester take the unclassified White Way north over the A417 and out of town, follow signs to Withington. In Withington turn right (TR) on unclassified to Yanworth. TR in village and turn left (TL) on A429 and immediate TR at Fossbridge on unclassified through Coln Rogers, Winson and Ablington to Bibury. TR on B4425 back to Cirencester.