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Colin Sturgess – the Ex-World Pursuit Champion on the Comeback Trail!

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Colin Sturgess
Colin Sturgess.

It’s been a wee while since we last spoke to former world professional pursuit champion, Colin Sturgess.

When we heard he was back in harness – winning the League of Veteran Racing Cyclists time trial championship this autumn we thought we’d best have a word.

Happy New Year, Colin; It looks like life is much better, now?

“Going OK Ed!

“I’ve found my mojo again, it seems to have been hidden beneath a fug of cigarette smoke and alcohol fumes…”

You said you were back in the UK from Australia for a ‘few months’ the last time we spoke to you – but you’re still here …

“I am! A few months stretched effortlessly into a few more months, and here I am – still!

“Almost three years hence. I’m still not entirely sure where ‘home’ is; Aus or the UK.

“My son’s back on the Central Coast beaches outside of Sydney so my heart’s there.

“But I do love the UK… in the summer!”

What got you back on the bike?

“Taking a long hard look at myself.

“I was smoking a pack-a-day, drinking heavily, and not making any tangible improvements – so I started riding a couple of times a week, then a bit more, and then a bit further … all of a sudden the miles were adding up, the weight (slowly) dropping and I was enjoying life.

“I was coaching at a Wattbike Studio and my power was reasonable, so I started taking a bit more interest in getting some condition back.

“Then all of a sudden I wanted to race again, despite saying I’d never pin a number on EVER again and took out a LVRC licence then that wasn’t enough – now I’m back in the peloton for 2015. Happy days!”

You were going to ‘come back’ earlier in 2014 but you had knee issues …

“Yep, I trained reasonably well over the 2013/14 winter and had decent condition.

“A few friends and I had a week in Lanzarote training and I got some good endurance stuff under the belt, but on the penultimate day two of us were doing hill efforts and I felt my left knee start to ache – by the end of five hours the ache was a ‘pain’ and I could hardly walk that evening.

“By morning I was incapable of even pedalling to the nearest cafe!

“Unfortunately, I overcompensated and ‘blew-out’ the other knee; no disrespect to the NHS but sporting injuries rank a very low priority, and it’s taken almost 12 months to get to where I am now – which still isn’t 100%!

Colin Sturgess
Colin enjoyed his time with the Lutterworth guys. Photo©Leicester Mercury

Are you still with the Lutterworth Cycle Centre team – and working there?

“No, I left a couple of months ago. I had some great times with Russ, Tim, John and Noel at the shop, but I moved on. I’m still riding and training most days with Matt Sinclair though.

“I still stay in touch with the shop team – a good bunch of lads!

“I was spoiled and had an amazing Giant Propel SL0 with ENVE 6.7s to use – lush!

“And I thought you’d like to be one of the first to know that I’ll be riding for Metaltek-Kuota in 2015 under their new guise of Sportgrub-Kuota.

“Also, I’m also fortunate enough to have support from Northwave.

“I’ve just this week signed up as a coach with Dan Fleeman and the team at Dig Deep Coaching, so I’m looking forward to getting my teeth into some coaching!”

LVRC Champion, 19 hilly miles in 42:56, can’t be bad?

“Yeah! Happy with that to be honest.

“Not the fastest time ever ridden over 19 miles, but it was enough on the day.

“Fortunately I rode over the parcours a few days prior so I knew it was lumpy.

“Rob Orr, George Atkins and I made a day of it – we rode down from Leicester, had a pedal over the course, rode home.

“I didn’t expect it to be so grippy towards the end though!

“I could have ridden at 350w all day long, but to pick it up . . . jeez. And my position on the TT bike was akin to a brick, aerodynamically!”

What’s your best for a ’10’ and ’25’ since you came back?

“Not all that impressive!

“I’ve only done one 10. It was a Saturday afternoon on the Wolvey course (2015 Nationals course) and I’d ridden to work, done the morning, ridden to the course etc.

“I rode my road bike with clip-ons and did a 21:36. Got beaten by 10secs by a guy half my age on a full TT rig…

“Haven’t suffered through a 25… yet!

“Matt Sinclair and I have ridden a couple of longer 2-ups together, and plan on giving the Duo Normand a decent nudge next season.

“I think my days of smashing out 18s and 48s for 10s and 25s are over.

“But one never knows!

“My watts are up notably since then, so it’s looking good. Just need to get in the wind-tunnel!”

Colin Sturgess
Colin hammers it in the LVRC time trial. Photo©Akomos Photography

What are the biggest changes you’ve noticed in the UK race scene in the 14 years you’ve been away from it?

“Where to start! “Sophistication” I think… in the true sense of the word.

“The average person is in the know, and the average cyclist is far more astute.

“Cycling is now a major sport, and better for it.

“Training has changed for the better, and equipment and kit has improved yet again. There’s still a place for ‘old-skool’ thought, but tempered with contemporary methodology.

“I’m quite geed-up for 2015 in as much that I’m excited to learn new stuff and put it into practice/use.

“One negative however, is the backlash on the roads from intolerant, ignorant, and arrogant motorists. I’ve never experienced so much abuse in any other country as I have of late. It’s shameful. (And, I’m a considerate cyclist by the way…).”

Carbon/11 sprockets/electric – what about all this nice new kit?

“Loving it!

“I’ve been fortunate enough to have ridden both 10 & 11sp Dura-Ace Di2 bikes, and raced on ENVE 6.7s Zipps etc.

“My race bike for 2014 was a Giant Propel SL0, and latterly I rode a Kuota Kalibur in a few TTs. I’m on Kuota again in 2015 with Sportgrub-Kuota, and we’ll be riding a couple of models: the Kougar, and the Kuraro. I’m really keen to get on one asap!

“I have noticed that the stiffness of carbon isn’t as forgiving as it is made out to be… or that could just be me getting older!”

I read you could do 385 watts for 20 minutes, back in March – it must be higher now?

“Not sure at the moment. I’ve yet to do a CP20, or any specifics.

“I’ve been concentrating on long steady conditioning rides, with the occasional 2×20 minute efforts thrown in.

“My numbers are where I’d expect them to be, but I’ll give it a nudge soon and see what I can put out.

“I’m certain I could bang out high numbers, but watts/kg is where it matters, and my weight counts against me.”

Colin Sturgess
Colin loves the latest equipment and innovations. Photo©Chris Sidwells

Do you train with a power meter?

“Yes, it’s invaluable as a training tool! I was using a Wattbike all season, and a Powertap at present.

“The WCPP (World Class Performance Plan) was using SRMs back in 1998-2000, but there’s been vast improvements since, and whilst “power is power” the accessibility of data and the advent of Training Peaks etc makes it more user friendly.

“I recently found a training diary from my last year, 2000, and I rode a 25 at 422w and a 10 at 435w… hell’s-teeth, I wish I could put that out now!”

I read a Tweet of yours; 715 K training in a week, earlier this month – heavy duty!

“Gotta get the miles in Ed! Too many wasted years… haha.

“Yeah, I nudged 2600km for November so I’m reasonably happy with that.

“I was hoping to get 100km a day in, and got 99.

“December is following suit – long miles, a few intervals, then start to concentrate on specifics in January and Feb.

“We’ve got a great bunch of riders in and around Leicester: Rob Orr, George Atkins, Sinclair, Dan McLay, Craig Twigg, Will Clarke, Simon Price, Rob Muzio and many other class acts, so there’s always someone to share the pain with.”

Do the young riders know who you are – do you get respect?

“Some do, some have no idea. It doesn’t really bother me to be frank.

“A few people ask what the National Champs stripes are for on my jerseys though.

“In general most people are very respectful, but you do get the occasional idiot with inner-chimp issues – I’ve never been one for ‘big-upping’ myself, so I’ll keep that humility and I’ll let my legs do the talking.”

Colin Sturgess
Colin follows pal Matt Sinclair in a ‘Gentleman’s 2-up’. Photo©Coalville Wheelers

How hard were the fags to give up?

“Not that hard – I went for hypnotherapy – walked in a cynic, walked out a convert!

“Chucked my Davidoffs in the bin, and haven’t touched one since.

“Don’t miss it one bit.

“But the aroma of a good Cohiba has me drooling…”

How’s the weight?

“Anyone that knows me will know that I was always a heavier rider. I never had to be Froome-like given the races I had to do.

“Of course I’d love to be leaner; yeah, the power-to-weight ratio would have been more efficient, but I didn’t do too badly. It’s slowly coming off, and once I knock the Shiraz on the head, I expect skinnyness!

“I also have the uphill battle of working against strong psychiatric medicine, which by nature, puts on the weight. I’ve read literature around the subject and it’s reckoned that a gain of 5-10% of body-mass is common.

“So taking a conservative 5% as a benchmark, then I’m doing ok. I’m nurturing some Sean Yates-like varicose veins nowadays… well proud!”

Have you got the bi-polar stabilised?

“The Billion $$$ question! The mania is certainly subdued, but the depression lingers.

“I’d prefer the reverse.

“Weeks will go by and I’m well, then a small trigger has me curled-up in a mess in a darkened room for a day or two.

“I work with it these days, not against it as in the past.

“It’s hell to tell you the truth.”

2015 – is the World Track Masters on the agenda?

“I hope so, maybe… perhaps…  Yes, bugger it!

“It does depend on team commitments, bike, and health, but I’d give it a go!

“I have been somewhat scathing regarding the Masters in the past; I don’t see how it can be termed a World Championship when one simply pays an entry fee and ‘hey-presto’ you’re on the start line.

“There should be, and needs to be, a minimum qualification standard.

“If the UCI are going to hand out rainbow jerseys then it can’t be akin to entering your local track league.

“All things said and done, I’d still like to win!”

And the 2015 goal is to ride the British Elite Road Race Champs?

“Yes, absolutely. I plan on lining up 25 years to the year/weekend of winning the Nationals.

“I’ll give it my utmost to be there, and to be in the company of other ex-champs.

“Can you imagine the response as Matt Stephens or Hugh Porter announces the past champs?

  • Kennaugh, YAY!
  • Thomas, YAY!
  • Wiggins, YAY!
  • Stannard, YAY!
  • Downing, YAY!
  • House, YAY!
  • Sturgess… who?  WTF?

“There’s other goals that need to be achieved too, but this will be a priority.”

VeloVeritas wishes Colin ‘all the best’ for 2015, especially since he’s now joined with forces with ‘our Dan’ at Dig Deep Coaching.

Ed Hood
Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 47 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, a team manager, and a sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days for some of the world's top riders. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

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