Photos by Andy Jones
Based: Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire
Meets: Market Square, Bishop’s Stortford, 9am every Sunday, plus several social meetings — head to www.bs-cc.org for more details.
The cafe may be packed with cyclists from all over the region, but the 35 riders of Bishop’s Stortford Cycling Club have hijacked the Blue Egg.
Occupying all the tables at one end, their chatter fills the large room.
“This is a normal club run, it’s not because Cycling Weekly are here,” smiles Wendy Dorling, pointing out that nearly half the club’s members are present.
“It’s our 50th year and part of the longevity is that we have adapted to changes. We’ve gone through it all; there are members here who were here at the beginning and all the way through to new guys. Even our new kit has invigorated us.”
Around 30 miles north-east of London, Bishop’s Stortford is in prime cycling country. Today we have headed east into the quiet undulating lanes of Essex, but the club enjoys a good variety of roads within a 40-mile radius.
The atmosphere in the cafe is replicated on the road; despite the relatively high speed and the need to concentrate on navigating the tight narrow lanes, the chatter continues, buzzing up and down the line.
While the club run is now the heart of Stortford, it wasn’t always that way.
“We were a racing club but over the years we have lost the racing side,” says club captain Paul Jolliffe, whose father was one of the club’s founders back in the 1960s.
“The riders from the old days of the club, like Trevor Nutter, they’re the ones who brought us on and taught us what to do, but when we lost the people to run the races we couldn’t get in.
“Back then it was the Essex Road Race League, now known as the Eastern Road Race League.
“It’s a shame, but over the last two or three years the social side has become very good.
“We go out for an Indian meal once every few weeks, 15 of us went to Majorca for a training camp, we have a summer evening ride where we stop for a bar meal, and the club time trials are once a month until August.
“These training rides go a bit further than a lot of clubs on a Sunday. They keep you fit and you still have a bit of a challenge when we push along a bit. Sometimes we stop at the pub.”
Despite the conversation, our ride is a challenge, rolling along at a good pace in two well-disciplined lines, all the hazards being called, and it is easy to see why the club attracts riders for their Sunday rides as well as the social aspect.
A few of our number are second claim members, riding with some of the many local clubs for competition and with Stortford for the
This year Bishop’s Stortford CC celebrate their 50th anniversary.
Ken Jolliffe was the driving force behind the creation of the club, which formed when a number of riders from the town decided to leave the nearby Harlow outfit and create their own.
Stortford’s first meeting was in the town’s market square, the very same place their club runs meet 50 years on.
Though Ken Jolliffe has now moved to Norfolk where he remains active in the cycling scene, his son Paul is now club captain.
The club established their headquarters in the local British Legion club where, on a Monday evening some of the teenage members would learn skills like mending tubular tyres from the more experienced riders.
Establishing itself as a racing club in those early days, many of the riders were successful in local events.
However, as the youngsters who raced so much through the 70s and 80s began to retire from competition there was no one to take their place.
Membership dwindled to single figures on a number of occasions, there were even thoughts of winding the club up, but now, having benefited from the British cycling boom, membership is back up to a steady 75 — a not inconsiderable achievement in an area populated by so many other cycling clubs.
A few of the current members are second claim, their membership at other local clubs providing them with the chance to race in the Eastern Road Race League.
Darren Knight was the club’s most successful competitor. In 1984 he won the London Schoolboy Road Race Championships and was third in the Nationals, going on to win the London Senior race in 1989 as well as many other successes.
Also in 1989, long-serving member Trevor Nutter finished in an impressive sixth place in the Isle of Man one-lap race. Laurent Fignon was second.
Between 1988 and ’91 the club was a sponsored race team and Mark Farley, Sean Kilroy and Paul Jolliffe were among the club’s top performers in road races.
In 2006, 10 club members rode the 750km Raid Pyrénéen event, finishing in 100 hours.
1 Debden Road
The hill out of Newport crosses a railway bridge, which helps the gradient head towards double
figures. The climb covers a mile of the Essex countryside, before it winds into a short, fast descent.
2 Rayne to Felsted
The only consistently flat part of the ride, this section winds its way along narrow lanes between green fields. The good road surface means you can maintain a decent speed through this section.
3 Hatfield Broad Oak
The final few miles of the ride invite hard riding. Short, sharp hills precede similar descents. You can really up your speed and attack the hills, safe in the knowledge you’re nearly back in town.
Famed among local cyclists, the Blue Egg’s connections to the sport are immediately obvious. Both Mark Cavendish and Alex Dowsett are regular visitors and both have left jerseys which hang on the wall.
The Blue Egg, Braintree Road, Great Bardfield, Essex, CM7 4PY. www.theblueegg.co.uk