Walking away from the BBAR and turning professional for Raleigh in early 1990 was, perhaps, the beginning of a new 'fun' stage of cycling for me. I think it had become fairly general knowledge as a result of comments I'd been making in the cycling press that I'd had enough of riding the same 50s, 100s and 12 hours every year and that I was ready for something different. When I was saying all that I had no idea what I really wanted to do though!
However, they say nature takes its course and during the winter of 1989 I was fortunate enough to be invited to attend the Pickwick Dinner by Keith Robins (then of Beekay). I got sat next to Ron Kitching who, unbeknown to me at the time was 'talent-spotting' for Mike Breckon (Raleigh's Marketing Services Manager). One thing led to another and before I knew it I was meeting Mike at the Motel that used to be located at Brampton Hut roundabout with a view to me turning professional to attempt RRA records - the primary objective being Ray Booty's 100 mile record.
At the time, there was a distinct difference between being amateur and being professional. Professionals weren't allowed to compete against amateurs and since the (then) RTTC was a wholly amateur 'set-up' I really would be turning my back on time trialling if I were to take the plunge. Furthermore, if I ever wanted to revert to amateur, there was a distinct possibility that I'd have to have at least a year out of competition altogether ... so it was a big decision for me.
Of course I signed on the dotted line (below)!
This was the beginning of my 'has-been' phase ...and boy was I going to make the most of it!
Mike told me not to change anything. "Carry on with your day job and we'll pay you a retainer, give cash bonuses for winning races and breaking records as well as meeting all your expenses. You'll also get all the kit you need together with a car .. of course."
It was like my birthday and Christmas rolled in to one - kind of like having an extra salary but no extra mouth to feed.
I honestly couldn't have hoped for any better people to work with. Although I'd had a pretty good amateur period and met some very good people / sponsors (Jack and Norah Fletcher, Ron Kitching and Brian Rourke were the 'best' to ride for) I'd also had times when sponsors weren't always what they made out to be at the outset ... which, I'm afraid, led to disappointment at times .
But this really was going to be the icing on the cake .. and it was going to last for three years.
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