Ian Wilkinson: 
Work, rest and pancakes

An experienced all-round racer famed for straight-talking northern 
good sense shares some straight-talking northern good sense with us 
about nutrition and training

Age: 35
Team: Raleigh
Best result: Twice winner of the Rutland-Melton International CiCLE Classic, in 2009 and 2013

Ian Wilkinson started his cycling life as a mountain bike and cyclo-cross racer. He raced on the road in France for a while, then mixed off and on road racing, becoming national mountain bike champion in 2008.

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More recently Wilkinson has focused on road racing, with a number of wins and places in good races. He’s a true all-rounder who’s hard to discount on any terrain. He’s also famous for his no-nonsense approach to training and racing.

What’s more important, nutrition or training?
Training. You could eat rubbish food but if you rode your bike for three to four hours every day, you’d get fit. You might have poor skin condition and look a bit ill, though.

What’s your favourite 
pre-ride meal?
Poached eggs on toast, or beans on toast.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given and who gave it to you?
Get down, get your elbows in and follow the wheel. Malcolm Elliott gave it me inadvertently. He was talking about days when you aren’t going well, you’ve just got to get down and get on with it. I suppose it means always try as hard as you can.

When it comes to nutrition, what do amateurs tend to get wrong?
They get too worried about it. Just eat a balanced diet. There’s no one thing going to make you better.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known when starting out?
That rest is best.

What’s your favourite naughty food?
American pancakes, which are probably not that unhealthy, it’s the half a tub of syrup I have on them that’s not so good.

Tell us about a time when you got your nutrition wrong. What happened?
It was years ago, when I was young and just starting out. I went on the Buckden run from Keighley, which is a famous training group. Pros like Chris Young, Chris Walker and Jonny Clay were on it on this particular day, so it was fast, and I hadn’t got enough food, so I blew my doors off. I ended up three hours from home with no food.

Do you prefer real food or supplements when you are racing or training?
Gels and bars in single-day races, more real food in a stage race. In training I take ordinary food, a jam sandwich or something like that.

What’s the key to 
always improving?
Keep challenging yourself.

If you packed up riding right now, what are the three most important things you have learned from participating in this sport?
I’ve learned to organise my life, but that’s a life skill anyway. I was a builder while I raced for quite a long time, and you have to be organised to pull that off and keep everybody happy. Still, though, being organised is important in racing.

It’s no good being super fit then if it’s cold and wet in a race and you’ve forgotten your rain cape. The second thing I’ve learned is don’t always follow like sheep. It’s often better to do things your own way. The last thing is, who dares wins.