There I was, researching Peter Doyle’s palmarès for his recent interview with us, checking out his big French win, in the Essor Breton. I was looking at the race’s roll of honour and was surprised to see that Englishman, Jonathan Dayus had won the race twice.
Tom Simpson finished on the podium in 1959 and since then the race has been won by the likes of Alexandre Vinokourov and Warren Barguil – it’s a prestigious event.
I remembered Jonathan had won the British Hill Climb Championship because it was the year Scotsman, Alex Coutts finished on the podium but I hadn’t realised just how successful the man from Worcester had been.
We dropped him a line and found out more…
You’re a Worcester man – that’s Volta Legend Cayn Theakston country, did your paths cross?
“That’s right I’m from Worcester… I think I must have bumped into Cayn a couple of times at club time trials or events but he wasn’t riding anymore.
“I obviously heard lots of stories about Cayn from fellow club members about his cycling career.”
How did your French adventure begin?
“I came out with Ben Coekin in 1998 to ride with Pays des Olones cycliste in Vendee they were looking for foreign riders after already having another brit Mick Wellington with them the year before.
“All that was through Roger and Richard Hobby who had the contacts in France.
“It was the next logical step after racing in England.”
The first time you pop up in the palmarès sites is 3rd on GC in the 2000 Tour de la Nouvelle-Caledonie, pretty exotic. Tell us about that please.
“That was an end of season race with teams of four riders, some really good riders and a brilliant experience.
“I managed to be consistent all week long against a good field.”
2001 and a win in the Circuit des Monts du Livradois….
“That was a French Cup race.
“I was with Nantes 44 and all the GB u23 squad was with Nantes that year.
“It was a hilly race and I managed to stay in the mix all day and get away on my own with a couple of kilometres left.”
A stage win in in the Ringerike in Norway in 2002, that’s a long way from France?
“The team got the invitation through Jean Francois Quenet, a French journalist.
“It was another hilly race in Arctic-like conditions – it even snowed during the first stage.
“I won the queen stage where the finish was on top of a long climb and I won the sprint from a small group.”
And another win there in 2003 – and you were on the Ringerike team that time, how come?
“Same race, same climb and a sprint from small group again.
“The team had seen me race in Norway and the contact was made through Jean Francois Quenet again.”
And is it correct that you had Monument winner, Australia’s Simon Gerrans as a team mate?
“Yes, we had a good team with Simon Gerrans and Gabriel Rasch that year, but the team fell apart after a sponsor was involved in a financial scandal in Norway and Sweden.
“Simon then came to Nantes for 2004.
“That was a brilliant experience that year because we raced all over Europe and even started the season in South Africa.
“I got to race with guys that I never thought I’d be racing with at all.”
UC Nantes Atlantique for 2004, was that a good set up? – you were with them for a few years…
“Yes, it was a Division One French amateur team with a real solid group of riders.
“We managed to win the French Division One Championship in 2005.
“The team had the same group of riders for a good few years which meant we rode well together and had confidence in each other…
“I guess it took a few years to build all that up, with 2004 not being the best year for the team.”
And that year you came home to win the CTT Hill Climb Championships. What are your memories of that?
“I came back to England after riding the Tour de la Reunion and had good legs.
“Rob Finch and the Arctic team made it all possible but I only just won in front of James Dobbin who was a good hill climb specialist and fellow Arctic Shorter team mate.
“We won the team prize too.
“It was quite long, not a traditional short climb with undulating road on the second half of course.”
You won the Tour de la Martinique in 2006 – another exotic one.
“That was a good hilly race in hot conditions which really suited me.
“Consistency again was the key; I got in a few breaks, made some time and w