The 2023 season began much like a phoenix rising from the flames: our cancelled 2022 Finale (thanks to the train strikes!) was rebranded and it was great to welcome so many new and old faces to the Pinarello flagship store on Regent Street in late February. We were excited to announce the programme for the new season, and hear from the captivating Matt Randell.
It is easy to see how Matt has forged a successful career talking about cycling as he regaled us with stories of starting out in cycling journalism, the changing landscape of professional racing, the challenges he faced writing books about some of cycling’s biggest characters, most notably “Il Pirata” Marco Pantini and, then finally, the “secret sauce” of the Colombian riders. Matt’s candour about the Armstrong-era was particularly enlightening.
The Olympic Velodrome was the setting for our first real-world meet-up on the bike. This wasn’t the first time that a group of BDOVELO cyclists have started the season on the boards and with 20 minutes still on the clock, Chris Grove took on the role of coach to coordinate some team formations and the basics of “through and off”. Needless to say I don’t think we will be troubling the pros any time soon!
This was closely followed by a social meet-up in London, this time at Michael Sodeau’s Vermuteria in Coal Drops Yard, King’s Cross: a characterful Café & Bar inspired by the bodegas & cafés along the cycling Grand Tour routes of Italy, France & Spain. We were joined by Phil Cavell, author of The Midlife Cyclist and founder of Cyclefit UK, who showcased his new bike brand, Landrace. Conceived with his Cyclefit business partner Julian Wall, Landrace bikes are the product of their combined decades of bike-fitting and designing thousands of custom bikes for their discerning clients.
In April the BDOVELO tour group departed for a superb few days in Lake Como, which included some breathtakingly scenic rides, as well as some terrifying climbs, most notably an ascent of the Muro di Sormano. Later that month we hosted our first formal UK event, as we welcomed riders from near and far to The Drift Golf Club in Surrey for a rolling 40 mile route, with Staple Lane and Combe Lane, flagship climbs in the Surrey Hills, thrown in for good measure. Back at the club, we heard from our new ride captain (ex-pro and now coach) Natalie Creswick, who shared tips on preparing for a ride and staying motivated. The key to it all is "knowing your why”.
In May we had an informal Denbies ride-out in the south, and the BDOVELO North fraternity held their annual event, blessed by some amazing weather. Hosted by BDO colleagues from both the Leeds and Manchester offices, 22 guests met at the Utopia cafe, Broughton Hall near Skipton for coffee and pastries before heading out westwards in three groups. Not content with the amazing cycling roads in Yorkshire, they headed over into Lancashire, always on scenic and quiet country roads, before returning to Broughton Hall for lunch.
By this time in the year we were really into the swing of things and June saw two headline events, an evening with Alex Dowsett and our collaboration with Irwin Mitchell at Goodwood Race Circuit.
For over an hour, Alex Dowsett regaled us with some of the highs and lows of a fascinating life story. Growing up with haemophilia, transitioning from swimming to cycling, life as a pro with Team Trek-Livestrong, Team Sky, Movistar and Katusha-Alpecin, rounding his career off with Israel Start-up Nation. We talked time trials, grand tours, equipment, marginal gains and small goals. Humility abounded; this was a guy who had made all the sacrifices, gave 100% to be the best that he could be, and his results were nothing but impressive.
Our ‘Summer Cycling at Goodwood’ event was billed as the showpiece event of the 2023 calendar and it didn’t disappoint. We met at the wonderful historic motor circuit, set out up the glorious and iconic Goodwood Hill Climb, passing the famous Goodwood House, rode quiet country lanes (if a little gravelly in places), and stopped at an award winning vineyard for a glass of cold fizz and cream tea, before returning to the motor circuit for to test our speed, and endurance! The hum of network chatter in glorious sunshine from 60 enthusiastic cyclists reflected the essence of BDOVELO.
Next up was our foray off-road, and a group of 12 enthusiastic riders met at The Cricketers pub on Downside Common near Cobham on a miraculously dry summer’s day in July. A varied selection of bikes were on display from a ‘vintage’ aluminium road bike sporting 28mm “gravel kings”, to full suspension mountain bikes and everything in between. The route was a great mix of byways, bridleways, fire roads and quiet country lanes, which allowed for a wonderful traffic-free ride where the pace found its own rhythm. Riders were free to rotate and conversation flowed.
We had a great turn out for our August introductory Ride-Out from Denbies Wine Estate despite the forecasted storms, which we successfully avoided, although one road closure did result in a slightly more eventful ride than planned! It was great to see new faces (and some familiar ones) and get out on the bike and talk business on what turned out to be a warm and sunny Friday afternoon.
In September we hosted our final formal event of the year as we returned to Harleyford Golf Club and ventured once more into the Chilterns AONB. The route was picturesque, passed wildlife-filled hedgerows, gently fading Victorian walls, honey-coloured churches and thriving deer parks; the hills were unavoidable. Back at Harleyford Golf Club, we heard from another one of our ride captains, Felix Young, about his recent experience as the Great Britain Cycle-ball Team manager at the UCI World Championships.
In late October a hardy crew set out for one more ride, and the longest of the year. Having met at The Queen Stage in Effingham, despite the threat of a yellow weather warning for rain and an overnight deluge, the group set off at 10am and the promised break in the rain duly materialised. The sun even emerged as the group pedalled their way towards Tanhouse Farm for the obligatory mid-ride coffee and cake stop. The 72km route was a hilly one (1100m of elevation), but all four of the Surrey climbs were tackled with good humour, and a sprinkling of competitiveness!
The season was rounded off in November back at the Pinarello Store, which just so happened to be our 100th event since the founding of the BDOVELO network in 2015. To mark the occasion we welcomed Ed Clancy OBE, the most successful Team Pursuit cyclist in history, having won gold with Team GB at three successive Olympics, along with multiple World, European and Commonwealth medals. Ed is a member of the cycling glitterati but you would struggle to find a more modest, self effacing individual in professional sport. What a pleasure it was to celebrate our milestone event with him.
If you’ve made it this far, you are showing more stamina than most of our guests this year, and we’d like to take this opportunity to say we hope you have a very merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year. We very much hope to see you at an event in 2024: Keep an eye out for the full calendar being launched very soon.