Mark Walsham, one of the “Crit Kings and Men of the 80’s” – there can only be one first question:
How many wins in total is it, Mark?
“Just over 200 all included.”
1984, your breakthrough year with a Girvan stage, the Manx International, the Archer – what was that down to?
“The engineering firm I worked for as a welder, making stuff for the coal mining industry went under with all the pit closures.
“This meant I was able to train full time, not so much more miles, but more rest/recovery time.
“I also had a big accident in the autumn of ‘83, fractured my skull in several places, in intensive care on a ventilator for a while.
“I was super motivated after that, training with John Wainwright, Malcolm Elliot and other great riders from the Sheffield area.
“I’d sometimes put in double days, out with the pros in the day and then out again on the evening chaingang.”
1985 and Raleigh – tell us about how you got the ride and what was the adaption to pro racing like?
“In ’84 I was being helped with training advice by George Shaw (Raleigh team manager), but more importantly he believed in me and motivated me.
“It was a natural progression to turn pro for Raleigh-Weinmann for the following year once I’d got the results.
“Season ’85 was my first year as a pro with a lot to learn.
“Pro racing is so much more a team sport.
“I probably learnt the most from Steve Jones as regards training, but you soon pick up the rules, who should ride with who, which team should chase, when to organise a combine to benefit both teams etc.”
1986 and Bilton, I believe ‘Mr. Percy Bilton’ was a ‘character’?
“Ron Groome (CEO) was passionate about cycling, he used to go touring on silk tubs.
“He always backed the team 100%, we used to get our yearly salary in a lump sum in January and full expenses/bonuses monthly on top.
“I remember we won the Mercian Asphalt in 88, which was a local event to where Percy Bilton first started and Ron sent us all a £1000 bonus each the following week.
“We always had the best kit and stayed in the best hotels.
“The way we were looked after really motivated us, we really wanted to repay his faith and commitment and always rode 100%.”
1987: the start of a phase where you were rampant with ’88 bringing you a Milk Race stage, the Crit. Champs and wins all over the country – how did you maintain such consistent good form?
“I think my consistency was mostly down to doing very similar training week in week out, I always felt best doing between 450 – 500 miles per week and always with other good riders.
“The Peak District is great for training, trust me, five or six hours out in the hills with riders like Malc Eliot, John Wainwright, Simeon Hempsall, Chris Creaghan, Gary Speight and John Tanner is no joke, a lot of strong legs.
“The terrain and egos did the rest, I was very rarely ill either, so consistent training and very few lay-offs were the key.
“Oh, and I liked winning!”
But what about all those Champs podiums over the years, any ‘what ifs’?
“It still irks that I never won the National Road Champs. I should have won it several times, but it never happened, silvers and bronze, but no gold.
“Championships can be a bit of a lottery, often with favourites being marked out.
“The last time was ‘97 in Wales, silver again, three man break… I should have had confidence in myself and led out, but I hesitated, Jeremy Hunt got the jump on me, I was coming up his inside when he closed the door.
“I accepted it was my mistake, but the kicker was the following week talking to the chief judge. He told me that if I’d put in a protest he would have upheld it.”