Wiggo effect: Tom Blake

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Tom Blake
Age: 23
Bike: Giant Defy 1
Where: Farnham, Surrey
Cycling status: Bike addict

Last November I dropped out of university. I was in my third year but I’d had some problems over the summer with depression and panic attacks, then I ended up living with the wrong choice of housemates and our house turned into a tip.

To make matters worse, on top of the depression and panic attacks, I was getting homesick – I don’t know why, I didn’t get it in the first or second year.

So I dropped out and started working part-time for my mum’s company while looking for a proper job. Meanwhile, I was eating a lot of the wrong foods and drinking a lot of alcohol. My weight ballooned over the winter – I got on the scales in mid-January and I weighed 17 stone, 12 pounds. I just didn’t look or feel myself anymore.

I knew I had to do something about it so I first tried the Atkins Diet. I lost one stone, two pounds in two weeks, but I quickly decided it wasn’t for me – you’d think you’d love having scrambled eggs and bacon every day for breakfast, but trust me, you don’t.

Then in February a friend and I signed up to a gym. Over the ‘honeymoon’ period between the beginning of February and April I went religiously three or four times a week and brought my weight down to just over 14 stone.

By the end of April, I was feeling much fitter and much better mentally, but I never got the gym bug and I didn’t really enjoy it. My interest in the gym waned and by the end of May I had stopped going completely. For the whole of June all I did was play video games, watch TV, and not do
anything active at all.

Tour inspiration
Each year I usually watch a bit of the Tour de France, not obsessively, but a bit. So I knew a few of the riders in the race, and I turned it on for the first stage in Liège expecting to watch it sporadically. But it was really good, I found it really exciting. It was great to have a British guy right there in the battle for the overall lead – that really pushed my interest on, knowing that we could win it.

By midway through the Tour I realised that I wanted to cycle again. I had an old Marin mountain bike in the garage that I hadn’t used for year. I tried riding that but I just couldn’t get on with it, it was full-suspension so it was too bouncy on the roads.

I sold that, and I sold my iPhone and my iPad, got a bit of money together and then went down to my local bike shop where I bought a Giant Defy 1 road bike.

I found a highly-recommended 20-week training programme on the web and started that on July 23, the day I picked up my new bike. I couldn’t wait to get started – I cycled every day that week. Then I got all the gear, computer, clothes.

Then the Olympics came along. It was amazing seeing the crowds at the road race and I actually went to watch the Olympic time trial as it came through Esher. I managed to get to the front of the barrier and see riders like Tony Martin, Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins come past, up close – that inspired me even more.

I’ve gradually been increasing the mileage I do each week, although I’ve been careful not to do too much too soon. I was riding about 20 miles a week for the first couple of weeks, then 35 miles a week for the next month, and then for the last two weeks I’ve been doing 50 or 60 miles a week.

Next stop sportives
The training programme runs up until December and really I’m following it to keep me motivated – I’m quite lazy so I need it there to make sure I get out and ride on the right days. I’ve also booked a few sportives.

Two weeks ago I did the New Forest Orchid charity ride and last week I did the 40-mile route at the Ibbo Cake Quest – that was a pretty tough ride but I loved it, even in the rain. I’m doing the fun route at the Cycling Weekly Sportive in Dorking and I’ve booked another two in October – the South Downs Sportive and the Devil’s Punch Bowl Sportive. I’ve then got two 50-mile sportives lined up for November.

I feel really great. I feel fit and healthy and happy in myself. I have honestly loved every second of my cycling and I can’t get enough of it, from the wind in my hair as I’m riding, to the concentration required to avoid potholes on the road. In fact, I can’t imagine my life without my bike now.

The Wiggo Effect up close
One lucky young rider got to feel the Wiggo Effect closer than most at this year’s Tour of Britain. Fifteen-year-old Callum McBrearty of Nottingham Clarion CC was offered the chance to meet Brad, Cav, et al, and lead out stage two in Nottingham.

“I was amazed, I didn’t think it could be true when I heard I was going to do this,” Callum said.
“It was weird seeing the riders close up. I see them a lot on TV but when you’re close up to them they look a lot different, they look so professional.

“Unfortunately I didn’t really get to chat to any of them. I was on the start line before them, and when Cav and Wiggo came so did a lot of photographers. It got a bit hectic. But I did manage to get a photo with me and Brad.

“It was such an amazing experience being on the start line with the best riders in the world. I really want to be as good as them so that one day I can race in the Tour of Britain.”

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This article was first published in the October 4 issue of Cycling Weekly. You can also read our magazines on Zinio and download from the Apple store.