Velo Vercors came about because of the love Roger had for cycling and the Vercors, the region where he finished his Elite Amateur career in a 2 year contract with VCRP- Velo Club Romans Peugeot in 1989 and 1990. Having raced throughout Europe during his 12 year career, he was passionate in his belief that this region had it all and was a paradise for cyclists'. We left London, returning to the Vercors in 2007 after my career at Virgin and EMI records had finished and found an old wood mill in St.Jean-en-Royans where we set up Velo Vercors with the aim to put the Vercors on the map as a destination for cyclists' from around the world. Over the years more and more cyclists have discovered us and this fabulous region. 'The Big Ride' feature in 'Cyclist' April 2015 featuring Roger and Josh Cunningham on a 142 km loop around the Vercors revealed the region to a much bigger, world wide audience and to date, it is their best selling monthly edition. Roger's untimely death in 2015 has been such a sad loss but everything we built together continues and we welcome back many cyclists' who had met Roger and many new ones discovering the Vercors for the first time.
It seems a very long time ago since I worked in London at Virgin and EMI records and on reflection 2006 was a good time to move on from the music industry. The move to France in 2007 was an exciting new challenge for Roger and myself and after Roger's death I realised running Velo Vercors, living in France and welcoming cyclists' from around the world was still very much what I wanted to do. I've had great support from friends in the village and those that have come to help me over the years, particularly Amy, Dominic and Christine, Jake, Megan, Adrienne, Tony, Mags, Pete and Nicky, Paul and Bernessa who have brought their positive energy to Velo Vercors. Roger's legacy lives on and I look forward to welcoming you.
A Bientot !
Not only did Roger have a lasting impact on guests that may have only met him for a few days, he was also very much loved by friends we had made in St.Jean-en-Royans and in his honour they have installed a memorial bench on his beloved 'Combe Laval'. This was no mean feat having to navigate French administration at a local level and also at a national level as the Vercors is a National heritage, but they persisted for many months and finally permission was granted. It rests at the top of the cliff, nestled among trees on a walking route and is used by many locals as a peaceful resting spot and picnic area. I'm not sure if many locals comprehend his tribute as it is written in English but it gives guests who knew Roger a purpose to stop and remember him and for those guests who arrived after Roger had left us a opportunity to understand a little bit about him and to take in the views.
A little about myself and my cycling history. At the age of 14, in 1972 I became a club cyclist with London St Christopher. It was the Sunday club run that met at the Compass points in North and South London, like Staples Corner to the North and Streatham Common to the South, and the mid-week club night that met at Waterloo, that started my love of cycling. YHA weekends and Time Trials would follow.
Things really began to happen when as a Trainee Quantity Surveyor, on a HND course at Willesden Tech, I was posted out to Cardiff, South Wales in 1978, to work on the M4 project. Cycling wise it was a dream come true with the demands of the valleys and the further Brecon Beacons and my form began to improve. It was in conjunction with the London St Chris' summer holiday that year, based in Chambery when I saw the 14th and the Alpe D'huez stages of the Tour de France that my passion for competitive road racing was really ignited.
At the end of 1978 I became a 1
st cat still riding with London St Christopher's. In 1979 I
became recognised on the national stage when in the early season I took
the scalp of the future legend, Sean Yates, over a 33 mile Hardriders TT
in E.Surrey and finished the season notably being the best UK based
amateur in that years Tour of Ireland, amongst the likes of Roche,
Millar and Anderson.
I was signed in 1980 to the Anglia Sport Racing Team; organisers of the re-knowned Star Trophy GP of Essex.
Toen and Country Pernod Star Trophy 1979. 5th place. Roger in break with Bob Downs and Mick Grey.Overall, Wimpey head office were fairly supportive of my cycling career, but my immediate boss made it difficult for me to pursue a career as a QS and the training demands needed to make a successful career in cycling, so I made the decision to quit hoping that my tenuous contacts in Europe might work out it. Its a decision I have never regretted and in1981, I signed to ACC Contern based in Luxembourg. A team that produced the likes of Kim Anderson, Bjarne Riis and in more recent years the Schleck brothers and Kim Kirchen. What an exciting, demanding and enlightening 3 years that followed.
In 1988 representing GB, I rode the 41st ' Peace Race' (Course de la Paix ). The forgotten 4thGrand Tour of European cycling and the amateur equivalent to the Tour de France. The tour was a mighty 1830kms over 14 days starting in the city of Bratislava (Czechoslovakia) up into the Tatras mountains, through Poland and finishing in E.Berlin, East Germany.
One heart rendering memory is the stage into Dresden, won by Olaf Ludwig (GDR). I'd had a terrible day having punctured for a 2 nd time, 15kms from home and as I struggled towards the finish line, my memory went back to a history lesson about the great fire storm that had destroyed the city and here I was, in an GB jersey with the roads lined 6 deep on both sides, being applauded all the way. It was enough to bring tears to my eyes.
I finished in Berlin in 80 th position, 1 hour,3 mins,16 secs
behind the overall winner, Uwe Ampler (GDR)who went onto turn pro as
did the other Uwe Raab (GDR), Abdou Japarov( USSR) and many other
Eastern bloc riders when the wall came down in 1989.
I ended my amateur career in France, not far from where our cycling holiday business is based here in St Jean-en-Royans, at Romans-sur-Isere with a 2 year contract with the VCRP club; a team that produced Charley Mottet – stage winner and King of the Mountain in the Tour de France. It was prior to this that I met my partner and wife, Teresa so gradually competitive cycling became less of a priority. Even so, I managed a major achievement in my first year at VCRP. It was the 1989 Tour of the Ardeche, with 120+ riders where I finished 2nd having been caught in the final 10kms, by a re-knowned rider from Grenoble and pipped by a wheel on the line with a roaring peleton 20 seconds behind!
I called it a day after my last competitive year of racing in 1990 and moved back to London with my wife who had a successful career in the music Industry. I kept on form by running regularly and sometimes competing for London Irish, plus the weekly 2 hour ride from our base in the inner London area of Harlesden and yearly cycling holidays. However, my passion was re-ignited when I took my nephew, Conor Dunne on holiday in 2005 to show him my old stomping ground in the Vercors and surrounding areas. Something must have worked as he has just signed his first pro contract with the An Post/Sean Kelly Team based in Spain. He also represents Ireland and had the great joy of winning the first stage of the RAS/Tour of Ireland 2013 wearing the Irish Jersey. The timing was right for both Teresa and myself, so here we are, at Velo Vercors where I look forward to welcoming you and passing on my knowledge and experience of cycling in this wonderful region.