Setting out for something with low expectations occasionally results in an unexpectedly positive experience. Such as heading off for an Evening with Sir Bradley of Wiggins…
In brief, the background to this take is that someone close to me bought two tickets for an Evening with Bradley Wiggins in Edinburgh, but a social calendaring cock-up meant that I ended up going alone. Pausing in the Festival Theatre lobby only long enough to buy the worlds most expensive can of fizzy juice, I went to find my seat in the dress circle. Finding it, I told the old chap in the aisle seat that there wouldn’t be anyone sitting between us and we could therefore enjoy the luxury of having somewhere other than the floor to put jackets, jerseys, etc. Cue a few words of polite and innocuous conversation as we awaited the presence of Wiggo on stage (beside a collection of significant cycling jerseys and a yellow Pinarello).
Wiggo himself doesn’t come across as much of a cycling geek, which is a shame as I believe that’s what most of the audience were wanting. He must have got that out of his system with Team Sky as he was clearly a teenage cycling geek himself and the tales of his escape from the Kilburn sink estate to train in the velodrome were entertaining. So, bla bla Kilburn, bla TdF, bla track racing, bla hour record, bla The Jump, etc, etc; and suddenly it’s the interval.
One ice cream (vanilla, sensibly priced) later and I am once again in conversation with my neighbour in his aisle seat. As we start chatting about which clubs we are or have been members of, it isn’t a huge surprise to find that my new pal, Ramsay, used to race. It turns out that he used to race quite seriously too. In fact, he was National TT Champion in 1950. Rode for the Scotland team in the 1952 Tour of Britain. Finished 14th in GC in the 1954 Tour of Ireland. Set a tandem record in the Edinburgh – Glasgow – Edinburgh race (also 1952, I think) and was National Hill Climb champ in 1953. Most of those achievements were aboard what was clearly a very much loved custom built Gillott – a proper bike made with proper Reynolds 531 tubing, properly hand brazed with proper custom filed lugs! It was a reluctant sale on eBay last year and made over £1000 at auction; he was clearly sad to see it go and had been riding it until a few years ago when spousal tolerance of his continued riding had seemingly expired.
We could have talked for a lot longer (to be fair, there was really only one of us talking), but some chap called Bradley came back onto the stage and interrupted us. As interesting as His Wiggo-ness was, I honestly believe that most of the audience would have had a more memorable night listening to Ramsay talk about riding and racing in the ’50s.