Following on from joining Sulis Scorpions a year ago, we took a family membership to VC Walcot so that Morgan (u14) and Laura (u12) were part of a GoRide club – needed for the South West Cluster sessions they attend monthly at Newport Velodrome.

We have loved being members of such a friendly club, the kids love their jerseys and the support they have received. Morgan especially likes Sunday rides and the hill up to Kingsdown. 

Both kids wanted to get into racing this year, for Laura a totally new experience, and for Morgan a first full season having taken part in a couple of races at the backend of 2013.

Back then Morgan had been shelled out the back from the off, and so he put his mind to training over the winter, using rollers and the turbo with Sufferfest videos for company. I think it is fair to say he returned a different rider this year.

No longer clinging on to the back, he has been in the leading group racing at Odd Down, Ludgershall, Castle Combe and Ilton, and now looking forward to his first street Criterium in Chepstow at the end of the month.

Laura too has developed far beyond recognition, from a girl who just 8 months ago sat on her first road bike and couldn’t do more than wobble across the cul-de-sac outside of home where she had to be caught by Dad as she couldn’t reach the brakes(!), to a strong rider, confident and more than a match for many of the boys in her age group.

They both started the season with the Easter Classic at Castle Combe, and it was a day to remember, but not for the best reasons. Firstly Laura rode her first u12’s race, and the emphasis was on nothing more than enjoying it and most importantly finishing. As her race got underway and she disappeared out of sight I remember feeling a touch worried that she would get lost! (Lauraland as we call it, is a wonderful place). But we need not have worried, spurred on by a good luck message from her idol Dani King, she did find her way round and completed the race. Whilst she finished 8th out of the 8 girls who completed the distance, I was very proud of her, and her enjoyment was clear. 

Next up came Morgan in a strong u14 field. He had already tried his legs out at Ilton a couple of weeks earlier, and so was feeling ready for the challenge. At the end of the first lap he was at the front end of the leading group and looking extremely comfortable. It was then that disaster struck, just 400 yards into the second lap another rider came across and the collision took Morgan and two others out of the race. Morgan was left flat out on the circuit with what turned out to be a nasty broken collarbone. 

Not one to be down for long, just 8 days after the crash a one armed Morgan was proudly wearing his Vintage VC Walcot jersey (thanks Laurie) and began a gentle training programme to try keep his legs, lungs and heart at the level he had worked so hard to achieve.

Laura carried on going to races during the 8 weeks it took  Morgan to recover, and her brother was always there at the start and finish line with a one armed hug and words of encouragement. I think the way he handled himself during those weeks when he couldnt ride made me as proud of him as anything else he has achieved.

Towards the end of May, Laura had started picking up wins and second places at Castle Combe in the u12 Girls, and her development and enjoyment were her motivation. By the time Morgan returned for his first race post crashing, at Odd Down in June, Laura was no longer being dropped by the boys, and was holding her own for much of the race.

So began a weekly routine of Saturday at Odd Down with Sulis Scorpions, Sunday a club ride with Morgan, Tuesday Odd Down races, Thursday Castle Combe races, and the odd Monday trip to Ludgershall. Morgan definitely suffered for having the 8 week gap, but he has continued to work hard and has started picking up points regularly, in a recent race going off the front for 15 mins in an attack that Jens Voigt would have been proud of. His work ethic is fantastic, and he is planning on a winter of training and the Track League at Newport Velodrome.

Laura has continued to progress, and now finishes with the lead boys – many of whom are a year her senior, picking up plenty of wins including a fantastic ride last night at Castle Combe. We have to remind her to ride in a straight line and keep looking ahead, but her enjoyment was summed up as she crossed the finishing line for 3 more points last night – a big “whooooppeeeeeeee!” bringing plenty of smiles and laughs to the crowd. 

The opportunity, support, and sense of belonging afforded them by both VC Walcot and Sulis Scorpions has truly been fantastic, Morgan and Laura, Karolyn and myself are, and continue to be, very grateful.

The kids both plan to get as many races in as possible before the season draws to a close, Laura keen to improve and hang on to her UK top 20 ranking, and Morgan keen to learn, develop and put the early season crash firmly behind him – hopefully getting into the top 50.

As I write this I have great pleasure in being able to say that Morgan picked up a first win of the season this week, fully deserving for the amount of work he has put in, and Laura also picked up another couple of wins this week.

As for ‘Dad’, I am looking forward to more club rides, the outside chance of giving Cat4 racing a go, and to moving through to the Sport Rider group with Morgan. Still one of my biggest pleasures is to be out riding with my son – although sometime soon I won’t be beating him up the climbs! How long before Laura is joining us?…