We recently caught up with age group National Champion cyclist Don Parry about one of his cycling event sweet spots, the Tour of Cambridgeshire and life with the bike in general.
In 1966 Don Parry became the UK National Junior Road Champion Cyclist.
He went on to race as a Category 1 cyclist and maintained the momentum into his early 20s. Then as College beckoned along with other life adventures (and the expectation that he start a career some time soon!), he gave it up.
It was another two decades before Don got on a bike again.
As it turned out, twenty years didn’t seem to have much of a negative effect on Don’s muscle memory. Since returning to his sporting passion Don has taken out multiple age group National Champion titles and represented the UK at World Championships. Most recently Don won the 2016 National Champion Road Race, Criterium and the National Percy Stallard Series Championships in his age group (I press Don for more details about his wins but he very modestly admits that he can’t quite keep up with them all. Wouldn’t the rest of us like to have this problem…!).
Don’s local area of Northamptonshire has surely played a part in his collection of impressive titles – as anyone who’s cycled in the area knows, once you get off the main roads there’s a seemingly endless series of idyllic country lanes that make it such a delight to be out on the bike. His local bike shop, Corley Cycles, also helped with the return. They’ve sponsored Don for the last decade and keep his Trek Emonda SLR H1 in tip-top condition. Now racing in the 65-70 year age group, Don is nothing short of an inspiration to those who think their competitive racing years might be finite. No stranger to maintaining a 40km/h pace, men half his age would be hard-pressed to stay on Don’s wheel.
For Don, getting back to biking at the pointy end of racing – and maintaining the training to sustain it – has delivered myriad benefits.
If you were to ask his wife, the reduction in stress – or the improvement in how it is managed - has made his cycling comeback all the more valuable. Don concedes her point, but adds that the bike has enrichened his life in other ways.
“I’ve made some great friends and met some amazing people through this sport,” admits Don. “I belong to the UK League of Veterans Racing Cyclists. To be eligible you have to be over 40 years of age so we tend to all know each other fairly well and we’re privy to a huge number of events and races year-long that we can enter, it’s sensational.”
Further, embracing the technological advances in the biking world has been a revelation. Hiring a Wattbike, using SRM power cranks on the Trek, and downloading the right apps have enabled Don to manage his training time smartly. His training now days is “light years” ahead of where it used to be when he was collecting palmares as a young lad.
A recent fall whilst training in the Velodrome led to a fractured femur and a 16-week+ recovery, so Don has become very familiar with his Wattbike. He’s a man on a mission and although he concedes the painful break might have set him back, he’s returning for his fourth consecutive Tour of Cambridgeshire. A UCI World Championship qualifying event, the Tour of Cambridgeshire is on repeat rotation in Don’s calendar. Having won his age group each and every time he’s raced the event, Don’s looking for the quadruple hat trick and has his eye on competing in this year’s World Championships in Varese, Italy.
For Don, the Tour of Cambridgeshire is one of the UK’s ultimate racing events.
“It’s run on closed roads, making it the only event of its kind to do so. This is a major attraction,” explains Don.
“My advice to anyone planning to enter this event with the intent to do very well, is not to underestimate the terrain. Sure, there are no mountains but this course is very exposed and every year I’ve battled against the wind. You need to know how to effectively and efficiently ride in such conditions,” he says. What about race tactics? For Don, it’s difficult to maintain all ace cards.
“When you get to this age category, you tend to know your competition well and they know you. We’re all familiar with how the other races. Tactics remain very important! As you go up the age bracket the degree and level of competition doesn’t change, but the numbers racing of course reduces. So in my field we tend to be open books before we even cross the start line!” he jokes.
You may want to join Don at the start line of this year’s Tour of Cambridgeshire. A three-day cycling festival there’s something for everyone, even those who don’t feel they can maintain Don’s pace!
Gran Fondo Sportive
Gran Fondo Race
Mellow Velo Ride
Gravel Enduro Relay
Folding Bike Race
Cambridgeshire Bike Show
To find out more and/or to register for any event during the Tour of Cambridgeshire, visit here