Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Ian Cammish – “I’d have ridden 600 miles a week, if that’s what it took”

"At the end of the day, I achieved everything I set out to do. Maybe if I’d been more laid back then wouldn’t have achieved what I did."


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To my shame, I couldn’t tell you who the reigning BBAR is, but if this was the 80’s I‘d have little problem in informing you.

Cycling Weekly printed regular updates of the table standings, with the final ‘50’ on Boro’ always a big deal – that race could make or break your bid for the prestigious top twelve.

I could probably also have given you a potted biography of most of the riders in that top 12.

But there was another reason that it was easy to remember who the BBAR was.

The same man, Ian Cammish was on the throne for all but one year of the decade.

Glenn Longland took the title in 1986, but apart from that, Cammish reigned supreme. He was also invulnerable at 100 miles, taking the national title nine times and competition record four times – leaving it an astonishing ten minutes faster than when he started.

And the man is still racing, 30 years after he began his remarkable decade of domination – just this year clocking a 1:01 for a 30.

Recently Mr. Ian Cammish very kindly gave VeloVeritas of his time.

Ian Cammish
Ian dominated the British Time Trialling scene for a decade.

This is a pure testing piece; so best start with ‘personals’ please, Ian.’

“10 in 1992: 19-13.

“25 in 1991: 48-36

“50 in 1994: 1-39-49

“100 in 1983: 3-31-53

“12hr in 2000: 292.2mls”

Your first time trial?

“The Cambridge open 10 on the F2 in 1972; I did a short 28.

“Since then I’ve not had one year off – I’m envious of guys of my era who come back now and get the benefit of all the new equipment.”

And what was your most recent race?

“A 30, this year in 1:01; Hutchinson won with a 56.”

How did you keep the motivation going for nine BBAR wins?

“My original aim was six titles, to beat Phil Griffiths’ record of five wins in the BBAR.

“In ’86 I lacked motivation and Glen Longland was BBAR – but that’s not to take anything away from his win.

“In ’87 I had fresh motivation with the Manchester Wheelers – Jack Fletcher the man behind Trumann’s Steel had such enthusiasm for the sport.”

Ian Cammish
The Manchester Wheelers were one of the country’s strongest clubs.

The 25 was never your best distance, but you made the podium a couple of times.

“I wasn’t really at my best for the 25; the 50 was really my first target of the year – but I won silver behind Martin Pyne in 1981 and bronze behind Daryl Webster, one year.”

You won the 50 four times and had the record – the first sub 1:40 ride.

“All of my records were ridden on spoked wheels and low profile bikes – there were no disc wheels or tri-bars.

“I’m not actually going much slower, 25 years later; I’ve ridden a 1:40 for a 50 in the last three or four years – they reckon tri-bars are worth one mile per hour.”

The 100 was your speciality.

“I won the championship nine times and broke the record four times. I remember one year I won the championship by 15 minutes, from the late Pete Longbottom, I think.

“The first time I broke the record, I took two seconds off Phil Griffiths’ time with 3:41:41.

“Then I took that down to 3:41:32, then 3:38:39 – and then, in 1983 down to 3:31:53. That was on the A12 in Essex; Renny Stirling was helping me and at every time check I was just going faster and faster – 3:38, 3:37.

“But there are faster courses, now – back then the top course was Boroughbridge; but there were only 60-odd miles on dual carriageway, the rest was in the lanes.

“There’s a Saturday afternoon 100 now on the A52 Derby/Uttoxeter dual carriageway – it’s just so fast but very dangerous with the traffic.

“It was 13 years before Andy Wilkinson took it down to 3:27:39 – he was a class act.

“But if you break a record, you’re just a care taker, if you win the championship you’re there on the statute book for ever – that’s nice.”

Ian Cammish
Ian didn’t use bottle cages on his bike in time trials.

What did you eat and drink on your record ride?

“I had no bottle cage on the bike; when I think about it, I had to slow down at lay-bys to take a drink from Renny, so it must have cost a bit of time.

“I drank Isostar, Accolade, Coke – and had a Mars bar at 60-65 miles.”

But it took a while for you win the 12?

“Yeah, 32 years!

“I rode my first one in 1976, eating malt loaf and all of that – now you can do it on gels and drinks – but didn’t win it until 2008!

“It was always the mental side which let me down, I’d blast though 100 miles and then think; “there’s still eight hours to go!” and negative thoughts would creep in.

“I took so many battering in 12 hour races – but when I did that 292, that was a good 12, I was actually racing around the finishing circuit.”

The GS Strada / Manulife squad show off their trophys after a successful season.
The GS Strada / Manulife squad show off their trophys after a successful season.

Your association with Phil Griffiths?

“I learned a lot from Phil when I was with his team, the GS Strada – we were good mates, I practically lived with him.

“But you move on and lose touch – I’m starting a new website and when I get that up and running, I’ll take the opportunity to say ‘thank you’ to him, properly.”

Ian Cammish
Riding in the famous colour of GS Strada.

What about the rivalry with Dave Lloyd?

“That was largely headed up by Phil – I had total respect for Dave Lloyd as a rider.

“But you’ll be referring to the ‘Lloyd Beater’ T-shirt which I wore after beating him in the 100 – I don’t think that went down too well!

“We all wanted to win but I think he treated every single race like a national championship – whereas I could always raise my game for a national.

“But national championships are like that – there’s always someone who rides to the occasion and produces an unexpected, quality ride.

“But Lloyd was at such a high 95/100% level all the time; his career was amazing though, it takes some doing to produce all those great rides and wins.”

How have you maintained your motivation, all these years?

“I just enjoy riding, I get a buzz from training and racing fast – but it now needs a lot of mental preparation for me to race, it’s very stressful for me, these days.

“I suffered from depression and had to stop working – the counsellor I spoke to says that it could well be as a consequence of my single mindedness and need to have everything bang on right, regimented.

“I was driven, waiting for other people would be very stressful – I still suffer from anxiety and stress and have to back off from the racing.

“But I still get a buzz from riding 25 miles fast – but without goals and enjoying good physical health.”

Who among your rivals did you respect most?

“Alf Engers and Graeme Obree are the only two riders I ever travelled to just watch them racing.

“Graeme I can totally empathise with – I didn’t have depression to the extent that he did, but now I understand what he goes through.

“Andy Wilkinson was another great rider – a total class act.”

Ian Cammish
Ian is too modest to say it, but he was a class act too.

Did you ever have a coach?

“I used to listen to people and then filter what they’d told me – Adrian Collard, Pete Wells and Phil Griffiths were all riders who I listened to.

“I was a believer in miles, this year I’ll do 13,000 but in my best years I was clocking up 22,000 miles – I think I must have ridden half-a-million miles by now.

“I did my own style of interval training when I was breaking comp records – Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I’d do miles, Thursday, Friday I’d cycle to work and back and do intervals.

“Saturday I’d rest and Sunday race.

“Back then Griffiths and Roach said you had to do 500 miles each week to win the BBAR; but if they’d said 600 miles then I’d have done that, if that’s what it took.”

You were a man for the big gears.

“I rode 57 x 12 up, but I wasn’t in it all the time – they’re riding 11 up, now.

“I remember Alf saying that huge gears were ‘failures and leg breakers’ – when he broke the ‘25’ record he was on a 13-up block.”

Tell us about your professional record breaking phase.

“It was brilliant and just at the right time – I’d won my ninth BBAR and when I won the national 100 that year, for the ninth time, I said at the presentation that was my last time.

“I suppose things happen for a reason – and when I was at a Pickwick Bicycle Club dinner some time after that, I was sitting with Keith Robbins, Ron Kitching and Mike Breckon from Raleigh.

“Ron was sounding me out about my plans and the next thing I got a call from Raleigh – within a week I was sitting talking to them about a retainer, bonuses, clothing and equipment.

“The only problem was that if you wanted to go back to amateur you had to wait three years.

“But as it turned out, organisers let me ride their events – and I broke the straight out 50 (1:24:32) and 100 (3:11:11) records, that had stood to Dave Lloyd and Ray Booty respectively.”

Did you ever fancy going for track records?

“I’d been to Leicester to watch the track champs but time trial speed and track speed are two entirely different things.”

Ian Cammish
Ian is still capable of riding very fast, as here, in the VTTA 30, on fixed.

Tell us about the ’84 LA Olympics.

“Not many folks remember that!

“I always remember that after I decided not to ride