DISTANCE 17 miles (28km)
MAIN CLIMB Theydon Mount
TOTAL CLIMB 290m
ACHTUNG! Crossing the A113

This February may have been the warmest on record but it’s well under 10 degrees when team PCA-Ciclos Uno-Isaac roll into the car park at Lambourne End village on the edge of Hainault Country Park.

At least it’s bright, and the sun reflects dazzlingly off the four white Isaac Impulse team bikes, white Northwave oversocks and silver Limar helmets of the almost perfectly coordinated squad. Almost, because two of them wear white DeFeet gloves and the other two are in black. We’re splitting hairs, this is a professional turnout that does credit to a small, basically amateur, outfit.

It’s not a put-down to be an amateur racing team. Ciclos Uno are five blokes who want to race together, do as best they can and enjoy the experience. They are supported by the local bike shop, Ciclos Uno in Hainault, which supplies the team with racing kit (two sets of everything) plus bikes and equipment at killer prices. Travel is paid for by the riders and there’s no salary or bonuses. Other suppliers include Squeezy Sports Nutrition, Bioracer and Oakley.

Ciclos Uno are not pretending to be a professional team but they show how the patronage of a local bike shop and an organised approach can create a slick looking racing team with real esprit de corps. James Whatling, 33, is the brains behind the team and is riding today with team-mates Daniel Cogan, Ian Franklin and Daniel Patten. Back at the shop, Trevor Maddern is the patron, and a tireless supporter of local racing and sponsor of half a dozen clubs.

EssexCarriage lamps
We are on the outer fringes of London but the post rush-hour traffic is easing and once Stapleford Abbotts is behind us and we leave the roar of the M25 behind, the lanes are surprisingly peaceful as the sun filters through a freezing mist which has gilded the trees and hedgerows in a silvery frost. It’s very pretty, but chilly. Luckily there is no black ice, as it would be hard to spot in these glaring conditions. The carriage lamps and Roman columns of dubious structural integrity are left behind as the house styles change from Dagenham Dave to Essex-boy-made-good.

Both Daniels, Kogan and Patten, are students at Loughborough University. Kogan, 19, is doing a one-year art foundation course and Patten, 21, is on a three-year sport science course. “I’m living in halls,” says Kogan, “it’s fine for cycling but they don’t feed you enough, especially after a five-hour ride.”

Patten is hoping to specialise in nutrition and physiology and enjoyed racing some Belgian kermesses last year: “We went over in July, the racing was hard and fast and I got some top 20s.”

Ian Franklin, 20, is a trainee quantity surveyor, taking a day off every week to study at Anglia Ruskin University. “I have been training on my own, mostly in the dark this winter,” he says. “I do two or three hours after work and have been doing 15 to 20 hours a week, which includes long rides at the weekend. We are all doing about that amount and just got back from a training camp in Majorca where we did 1,000 miles in two weeks.”

These three are the core of the squad, all espoirs looking to progress through first-category level to living with the hitters in the Premier Calendars. With support and encouragement from experienced roadman Whatling and fifth team member Martin Bryant (not on the ride), 35, they are basically a bunch of mates looking out for each other.

Essex

“By the end of last season we wanted to do a bit more,” says Whatling, “and the idea was to bring a group of talented friends together. We were always going in to Trevor’s shop and annoying him but he was happy to do anything he could to help the lads.”

Whatling also wanted to do something for the younger riders, to put right his own experiences: “When I was 18 or 19 I was quite a good mountain biker and we finished pretty high up in some county events. But it was not mentioned once in school and we never got any help from the local bike shop. If we can help these kids out so they don’t have to blow all their money on racing, then that is the whole point.”

We cross the river Roding, which gives its name to a rolling area of countryside criss-crossed by a network of lanes bounded by the Harlow, Bishops Stortford, Braintree and Chelmsford. This is great cycling country and the only way to avoid the M11 and north-south corridors of traffic. It’s where Alberto Contador and his Discovery team-mates trained before the London prologue of the Tour de France last year.

We are on the southernmost lanes of the Rodings today and after climbing the highest hill on the route, Theydon Mount (75m alt), Ciclos Uno head south to cross back over the M25 before heading for home, following the river Roding, then across it into Abridge, which is just a mile or so from Lambourne End.


MEET THE GODFATHER
Trevor Maddern’s shop at 37 New North Road in Hainault, is just 10 miles from the centre of London, in an anonymous parade of shops with constant traffic outside. Push open the door and the smell of fresh tyres and a forest of bikes and wheels hanging from the ceiling will be familiar to all cyclists of a certain age.

At ground level, racks of clothing and accessories jostle for space. You will spend at least 10 minutes gazing at the exotic merchandise before approaching Maddern at the counter in the corner.

“I support five or six clubs in the area and help organise more than 35 events during the year,” says the veteran of 500 wins since 1959, many on the track. “I’d rather put my money back into the sport than spend it on advertising. It works for the shop because we are so specialised.

“I used to organise races at Eastway and closed circuits and most of the people who ride those events support the shop.”

EssexYOUR GUIDES: PCA-CICLOS UNO-ISAAC
* James Whatling, lives in Ingatestone, married to Lucie and works as an agency photographer. He was fifth in the ECCA senior RR champs
* Daniel Kogan lives at home in Clay Hall, Ilford and likes dance music. Strong climber with seventh in the junior Tour of Sussex and rides his first Premier Calendar this year
* Daniel Patten lives at home at Corringham near Basildon and likes R&B. A former runner, he won three races in his second season last year, was first espoir in the South-East RR series and second in the British University RR champs
* Ian Franklin lives at home in Writtle, Chelmsford and likes the Hoosiers. Won the Essex Roads RR last year and was in the top 10 in the Nocturne d’Antibes in France
* Martin Bryant rode for Team Economic Energy last year and is coming back from illness. He is dedicated to helping the younger riders out in all races
* Team colours will change soon to orange because Trevor is a big Euskaltel-Euskadi fan.


WHICH WAY?
Start at Lambourne End, take minor road east to Stapleford Abbotts, turn right (TR) onto B175 then out of village turn left (TL) then TL again onto minor road direction Navestock Heath, crossing M25 en route. Ride through Navestock Heath and at T-junction on other side TL to T-junction with A113.

TR (care) then immediately TL onto minor road to Toots Hill where TL to Colliers Hatch and Mount End where TL to Theydon Mount, crossing M25 just after the climb. At T-junction TR and following river Roding, continue to T-junction with B172 where TL into Abridge. TR onto A113 and then TL onto minor road back to Lambourne End.

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