Wiggo effect: Mark Pennington and Laurence Ellis

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Mark Pennington
Age: 33
Bike: Trek 1500
Cycling status: Back from the States, back in the saddle

I used to cycle when I lived in the US. I did a ride in 2008 from Vancouver down to Portland, which was 600 or 700 miles. That was an incredible experience. But when I got back from New York I stopped cycling altogether – work and life got busy and things got in the way. For the last four years my bike stayed in the box it flew back from American in.

Earlier this year we moved out to Dorking. Then the Tour started and I was hooked. I work for a media company and we’ve got screens all around the office, so I could watch pretty much all of the Tour in the background. Seeing what Wiggo and Froome were doing was amazing.

I’ve watched cycling for a number of years and the Brits have never been anywhere near as strong. Seeing those British riders and that British Sky team standing for clean racing in a sport that had become quite tarnished, trying to do things the right way and almost taking this Formula One approach to cycling, tweaking all the percentages, was just fascinating.

So that encouraged me to start cycling again. I bought a Brompton to do little bits of my commute to work, but really I still didn’t get my road bike out until the Olympic road race. I’m lucky enough to live right at the bottom of Box Hill – you could see the Olympic rings that they put up on Donkey Green from my front door. So at that point I felt that if I wasn’t going to get out on my bike then, I was never going to do it again.

I had some friends come to stay and we went up and watched the nine laps of the road race on the hill and then watched the finish on the TV. We had a great time, a barbecue afterwards, and then the next day I got out my bike. I couldn’t go riding because it was the ladies’ road race and it was chucking it down with rain. But then the next weekend I went and tackled Box Hill, which, for somebody that has probably eaten too much food and drank too much beer for four years, was a bit of a challenge.

Since then I’ve absolutely loved being back on my bike – I’m loving the speed of it. I try to do two big rides at the weekend with the second ride a little bit easier. It depends on what I’m doing – if I’m doing hills I’ll do three laps of Box Hill, but if I only do one lap of the hill then I can do a bit more distance. Tomorrow I’m going to do a decent length ride with a friend – in fact it’ll be most of the road race route – starting in Dorking and heading up to Richmond Park and back again. I’m working up towards the CW sportive in Dorking – that is my focus at the moment and just finishing it will be my main target.

There have been so many events around here this year it would be hard not to be inspired in some way. I tend to go up Box Hill’s zig-zags very early in the morning, but even then it’s full of cyclists. I’m quite competitive so I don’t like it when I’m going up Box Hill and people fly past me. But it’s getting better all the time and I feel so much better in myself. When I immediately I get off the bike I feel invigorated and even in my day-to-day life I’m feeling less tired.

Having something to focus on also helps in other ways. Now when I’m having my lunch I think: what’s the impact of this going to be on my body? I also have bike envy, although I’ll not be able to spend a few thousand pounds on a bike just to save a bit of weight when there’s far more to save off of my belly. However, I’ve got a deal with my wife that I’m allowed to upgrade my bike when I’m regularly cycling – I’m just trying to get her to commit to a certain number of miles I have to do as I suspect the goal posts might keep changing!

Laurence Ellis
Age: 13
Bike: Claud Butler Elite
Cycling status: Junior Wiggo

We have days at our school when you have to help the teacher do tasks, and one day my geography teacher asked me to help him put up a display about the Tour de France. He had information about who was wearing the jerseys each stage, the riders, the teams. I didn’t know anything about it but he explained it all to me.

So I went home and watched the Tour de France that evening and, funnily enough, the first stage I watched was when Bradley Wiggins took over the yellow jersey. I was amazed watching the Tour on telly. It was just really awesome being able to see a British cyclist doing that well against other riders.

My dad and my brother road cycle a bit – they used to got out a lot on Sunday mornings and I’d wake up, not knowing where they were, and by the time they got back I’d feel really left out. I’ve always had a mountain bike and I’d occasionally go mountain biking. But during the Tour de France I realised I really wanted to start proper road cycling.

I originally asked my mum and dad if I could get a road bike, but they said to wait until Christmas or my birthday. I thought that was just too long away – I decided I really wanted one now. So I made a compromise with dad, which was to get a second-hand one for a year and then get a nice one the year after. We went to the shop looking for a second-hand one, but then we found a new bike for quite a good discount so we got that instead.

I was really happy – I went out on it that same day, as soon as we got home. For my first ride I went with my dad to do a bit of what was to be the Olympic road race route. It felt so much quicker than my mountain bike.
I’ve done rowing for three years, so I have a degree of fitness from that, but I do feel that I’ve got a lot fitter since buying the bike. I have to admit I like hills the most. I like climbing, I don’t know why, but I find it quite fun. On the flat you can end up going really slowly with the wind in your face, and descents I find really scary so I clamp on the brakes.

Hills and Spills
I do big, long rides on Sunday – from home near Hampton Court to Box Hill. Recently I’ve also been doing Tour of Britain routes. The last time I did Box Hill we cycled there, did the full Olympic loop twice, and then cycled back. That was 48 or 49 miles. During the week after school, providing I have time and it’s still light, I do short 10 to 20-mile routes.

We also had the Olympic road race go right by our home this summer. I managed to see Cavendish and Wiggo – that was awesome. I was amazed how quickly they go. I was expecting we’d have longer to see them but I saw them for about three seconds then they were gone. The only proof I have that they were actually there was that dad took some photos.

I’ve got a friend who also goes cycling a lot. About two weeks after the Olympic road race we were in Bushy Park, sprinting along the flat. I was just in behind my friend and I hit his wheel and flew off across the road. I was OK – I had quite a few scars on both knees and elbows, but I was fine and the bike was OK, which was the main thing!

In October my family I are going to the Isle of Wight on holiday and the plan is to cycle round the island. I also really want to race and join a club, but the local road club says because I’m under 16 I can’t join them on a Sunday ride, which is a shame. I also definitely want to try track cycling. I’ve heard that normal riders will be able to use the Olympic velodrome next year – it would be amazing to think I had ridden on the same track as Chris Hoy and the team pursuit riders.

I love my bike. Whenever I get bored I just get on it and go cycling.

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This article was first published in the October 18 issue of Cycling Weekly. You can also read our magazines on Zinio and download from the Apple store.