Q: Robin, it’s 9 years ago since you won the CiCLE Classic, you were 26yrs when you won, what do you remember from that day?
Robin Sharman: “The win was actually unexpected. It’s been my favourite win because of that. I wasn’t actually feeling that great on the day. I’d been prepping for the Tour of Ireland and it was the first time I’d ridden the CiCLE and was looking forward to it. I went to look at the course with Colin (Clews) –I was relaxed and I think that helped on the day.”
Q: What is your cycling background?
Robin: “I grew up with Paris-Roubaix, Tour of Flanders and idolised those races and the CiCLE had a real flavour of that. An epic race on tough roads. It’s a special day and race.”
Q: You come from Derbyshire, what sort of training opportunities did that provide?
Robin: “Derbyshire is one of the best places to train. The network of lanes, beautiful countryside, steep, long hills, big and little – so beautiful in the Peak District – best ever – arguably the best cycling terrain in the UK, I’d say.”
Q: When you used to get inspired watching the Tour de France with your brothers, what moments stood out to you?
Robin: “The year I really got into it was 1992 and the epic race with the Italian Claudio Chiappucci – 7hrs he’d been out all day on the front. It was one of those feats that was a defining moment for me and made me want to get involved in cycling and replicate those sort of rides.”
Q: The Rutland-Melton CiCLE is described as Britain’s Belgian Classic, do you agree with that?
Robin: “I agree with that – it’s an inspiring event. Colin does a great job.”
Q: What sort of rider do you describe yourself as?
Robin: “Endurance; long, hard rides and stage races. I was good at keeping going when others couldn’t and things got hard. I wasn’t so good at tactics, speed and skill and I relied on winning alone.”
Q: What sort of rider suits the course?
Robin: “Someone who’s got a good work ethic – luck also needs to be on your side. But you need to be able to “Stick your nose in the wind” – “Got to be prepared to really grunt.” Because of the nature of the course, it’s not just off road – it’s tactical and hilly and you need to work hard and dig deep, keeping form, speed and power.”
Q: Robin, you spent 2½ years in France with Nantes, what sort of experience did that give you?
Robin: “France was like the equivalent to someone’s university experience – it was fantastic, living alone at the time and supported by GB Cycling team and also my family supporting me and not everyone has that… and I can see that now.”
“Whilst I was there I trained with Tom Southam – we were both on the U23 GB team and we were placed in Nantes developmental. It was high level racing at the time. We were there to show what we could do and learn. It was a fantastic experience. I learned how to cook and stand on me ‘ode two feet.’”
Q: What was the terrain like in France?
Robin: “Terrain was rolling, not too dissimilar elevation to Leicestershire really – it was great and the weather was sunny in La Vendee, so that made it even better.”
Q: Did you learn any French?
Robin: “The odd word and phrase that used to make us all laugh, but the thing about cycling is that all the vocab is transferable! Bidon, musette, peloton. Muscadet .. which was the local wine of the region I lived in.”
Q: Did you ever think you’d see a British TdF winner… or even two?
Robin:“In all honesty, no. It all still seems rather unbelievable. But it’s a great thing that’s happened – it’s the best thing in the world in fact.”
Q: What sort of food would you eat on training rides? What about race day morning/ evening after race?
Robin: “Depending on the race, I used to eat what was known as ‘The Mix’ for breakfast. It was a John Herety special that consisted of soaking all sorts of things overnight to create a porridge like consistency .. oats, yoghurt, nutella, raisins, milk and other things, (the full recipe might be secret!) that by the morning gave us enough energy to last us the day. It was quite a heavy mix but it did used to do its job at the time. On other occasions, we’d have things like baguettes that the soigneur prepared post race and triple sandwiches. Pre race, the night before, teams might go for a big tent pasta and chicken dinner and at 11am before a race, have a second serving.”
Q: What bike were you riding the day you won the CiCLE?
Robin: “A Pinarello F4-13”
Q: How many hours a week training were you doing at the time you won the CiCLE Classic?
Robin: “18-20hrs was a staple week – never really did more that that – in my opinion it was a question of focusing on quality hours rather than quantity – I always used to make sure I went hard.”
Q: What’s the biggest bit of advice you’d give yourself now if you could go back and speak to yourself at that point in your career?
Robin: “I’m now a coach for the GB Cycling team and if I could go back, I would tell myself to work on my weaknesses a lot more. I partly didn’t know what my weaknesses were at the time, but tactics, speed and skill were my weaknesses, looking back.”
Q: For young aspiring riders racing the CiCLE for the first time in our new Junior race, what’s your advice?
Robin: “First and foremost you need to enjoy it. Be ‘free to fail’ – learn, try things and learn some more. I cannot stress this enough.”
Q: Have you lived the ‘cycling dream’ or are you still living it?
Robin: “Yes I guess so, I still love riding my bike. Although I’m not racing anymore, I have a young family and I’m very happy. I’m living a different dream, but still living it.”
Q: If you hadn’t been a cyclist, what else would you have done?
Robin: “Cycling is everything to me and still is. It’s a hard question … There’s nothing else I’d have rather done.”
Q: So, what are you doing now?
Robin: ”I’m Performance and Pathway Coach for British Cycling. I look after under 16s who are up and coming in the East and West Midlands. I help them get more skilful and explain to coaches how to become more skilful as a coach. I often do talks.”
Q: Since the Olympics in 2012, how do you think that has affected the popularity of cycling?
Robin: “The sport in general is on an upward trajectory. Cycling has become more mainstream in a short period of time. The British Cycling leadership of David Brailsford has made it even more mainstream.”
Q: For youngsters not yet into cycling, but dreaming about it, what can they do?
Robin: “Get down to a club that caters for youngsters. Get out on their bike and simply enjoy it. The Go-Ride Club provides so much for young people wanting to get into cycling. Go-Ride clubs are the grass route system.”
Q: Will you be at this year’s CiCLE Classic race?
Robin: “I want to be in it! – like many racers, it’s hard to watch! But I’d like to inspire some of the youngsters, so I’d like to be there.”
Q: Have you any message to the organisers on their 10th anniversary?
Robin: “Good luck.. go and smash it!”
Thanks for your time, Robin. We look forward to seeing you on 27th April 2014.
Rutland-Melton CICLE Classic