I don’t exactly have a job title as such (ideas on a postcard please) but it’s what I do. I talk about cycling; On telly. On the internet. On the radio sometimes
If you’d told me a just couple of years ago that in a years time I would be exchanging my thirteen year career in the police force to essentially be paid to talk (and sometimes write) about my passion in life, I would’ve scoffed…But kept wishing.
Well, here I am typing this.
It’s happened. I don’t exactly have a job title as such (ideas on a postcard please) but it’s what I do. I talk about cycling; On telly. On the internet. On the radio sometimes. At functions. Even in the theatre. When I stop and reflect I can’t help but smile.
Don’t get me wrong. I did enjoy life as a police officer; it was cerebrally rewarding yet emotionally draining. I made many friends for life and learnt in a very short space of time more about who I was and what I could deal with as a person than the entire preceding 31 years of my life. And that included the birth of my son 3 months premature, right up to fighting my way through a Grand Tour.
I also changed, developed an edge and a degree of cynicism and a rather dark, dry sense of humour. For those of you who don’t know me I worked in Public Protection. Essentially the dark corner of policing. The stuff you don’t really talk about. Domestic Abuse. Child Protection. Historic Sexual Abuse investigations. Cycling therefore was always my escape. Whether it was training and racing, running a domestic UCI team or simply riding to a café, it was (is) another world entirely. The world I love. And, because you’re reading this, the world I guess you love too.
When I left the police last July it was a calculated risk. I had after all given up a solid, reasonably well paid career with a ‘great pension’. But, I wanted more than just a decent pension at 55. I wanted to look back, at 55, without regrets. The opportunities presented to me were just to great to turn down; regular commentary slots on Eurosport and ITV, writing, presenting for Global Cycling Network (GCN). I had to make the leap. My work colleagues in fact encouraged me to seize the chance I had, because if I didn’t, someone else would. My girlfriend Holly helped changed my mindset. She gave me a fresh perspective, the belief that I should give it a go. When I did finally walk out of the police station, having handed in my warrant card, a ‘civvy’ again, it was at once frightening, liberating and motivating, but most importantly, everything was now down to me.
A post ride chat with Tinkoff Saxo team owner Oleg Tinkov
The past 12 months has been a wonderfully rewarding maelstrom of remarkably varied cycling work, unbound by any sort of rhythm, which at times has been a challenge to adapt to; the familiar structure of a ‘normal’ week crumbling to haze of frantic foreign travel, studio booths, interviews and bike rides with eccentric Russian oligarchs.
I actually feel very privileged to be in the position I am; Incumbent though is a profound responsibility to enjoy it and do the best I can. How could I not?
Matt and Bertie just hanging out… as you do…
Take the month of May for example, where I had 3 days off. No, I’m not asking for sympathy. I of course chose to work 27 straight days. I’m a freelancer after all. But what a month it was. First up was the MC role at Cycle Wiltshire, which I then voiced for Eurosport, before heading of to Belfast with GCN for the Giro ‘Partenza’ where over the next 4 days we produced 8 videos. Next up I flew back to London to commence 8 days as lead commentator for Eurosport on the Tour of California before flying back out to the Giro for a further 9 days, including riding up a mountain with Tinkoff Saxo on the rest day. (Draws breath). To cap off a whirlwind month I next flew straight back to Eurosport in London to do lead comms on the Tour des Fjords from Norway for 5 days. A high octane work rate, primarily fuelled on enthusiasm, coffee, gooood Pizza and Haribo. I wasn’t quite a physical wreck, but I did enjoy my week off… Which included going to the Smithfield Nocturne (as a fan of course…)
Matt, John Cooper Clarke and Johnny Green
Things took a turn for the surreal two weeks ago. It began with 22 rapid-fire live radio interviews on the Tour de France for Eurosport in London. The following day I drove up to Leeds with GCN for a pre Tour ride with Alberto Contador who, incidentally, told me with quite disarming delight, that he’s seen me attacking the final climb of Stage 2 on YouTube, which was pretty cool (him saying it. Not me sprinting btw.) After taking a spin with Alberto and his wonderfully bonkers boss, Oleg Tinkoff, I headed home only to turn around, refreshed and with a new bike collected en route, back up to Harrogate.
Here I met up with raconteur Johnny Green (former Clash road manager), ‘Punk Poet’ John Cooper Clarke, Phil Jupitus and The ‘Fast Show’s’ Simon Day. I was to join them on stage at the Harrogate Theatre as part of an evening of poetry, comedy and chat curated by Rouleur magazine. I wasn’t actually being me this time but my capricious alter ego Kenny Van Vlaminck, whom some of you may have had the misfortune to hear of. It was an almost hypnagogic experience and one I’ll share with you another time… but, in short, I was so terrifyingly nervous that I visited the loo on seven (7) occasions before I went onstage…
Following the gig at 11pm I drove from Harrogate to Folkstone. Slept for an hour in the car park at the Eurotunnel before disappearing under the channel and reappearing in Calais. I then drove to Ypres in Belgium, got on a bike loaned by Trek Factory Racing and was filmed (GCN again) riding the 9 sectors of Pave that formed the dramatic conclusion to the then forthcoming stage 5 of the Tour. In the rain. The bed felt good that night…
My job is brilliant. Cycling is brilliant. I’m a lucky chap.