The spirit of Will Monk: a training ride report by Stuart Wilks

I only met Will Monk a few times. He captained on my first ride to MIPIM in 2018. What was striking from the outset in London to the finish in Cannes (apart from his immense calves) was his sense of commitment to the people at the back of the peloton. He was always there, supporting, encouraging and every now and then, literally pushing them along.


I can’t profess to have known Will well. But, when the wonderful Toby Fox organised a ride in his memory taking in a route Will used to run post-Christmas, it seemed ideal to kick start my training for 2022.


Did you ever look at the weather and think, “I’ll ride another day”? Since my first ride to MIPIM, I’ve spent much of my time doing exactly that. So of course, when the forecast said we’d get damp, the temptation to cancel the 6am trip to Surrey was strong.


But the chance to ride and catch up with some friends and familiar faces was stronger.


Arrival at Newlands Corner should have struck alarm bells. The faces greeting me were some of the faster members of Club Peloton. And I was on my old winter bike which hadn’t seen any action since March. 


Mike Cook grinned as the wind whistled across the car park. “The wind is not going to be our problem today,” he declared, almost gleefully. I hadn’t checked the profile of the ride. In fact preparation was not something I’d really considered. It was only 65km in Surrey, how hard could it be? 65km with 1250 metres (4100ft) as it turns out, is quite a ride.


Maybe a bit of preparation would have been prudent…


The rain started on cue at 8.15am and continued until our return. The countryside of the Surrey hills can be stunning. If you can see it. We were promised views to the South Downs. What we got was cloud and torrential rain. The sole redeeming feature of the day’s weather was the almost double figure temperature. Ridiculous for the time of year, but not at all disappointing!


When we hit Barhatch, I was reminded of the massive commitment of riding to MIPIM. While the rest of the team made an impressive attack on the climb, the previous night’s curry had other ideas for me. I found myself defeated about halfway up. At the summit, the incredible supportiveness of Club Peloton’s members came to the fore.


Having determined I was going to head back there and then, I was done. But Toby and the gang were having none of it - convincing me we were too far in to go back and I ought to continue. Mike Thornton (colleague of the late Will Monk) went into supportive mode (something which also saved me in 2018). Toby and the others chipped in with jelly babies and all I needed to see me through the next few miles.


The spirit of Will Monk was very much alive and well.


Looking at the map now, they weren't being entirely truthful! I could have gone back. And cut about 25 miles off the ride. But were they right? Of course they were.


If you’ve not cycled with Toby before, particularly if you’re new to the gang, he must be one of the most supportive people in Club Peloton. I’ve seen him work his magic with other riders in the past - explaining how to approach climbs, keeping their mind off the struggle, and encouraging them to continue. The team spirit Toby and many others embody is surely what makes Club Peloton great. This time it was my turn - and it was much needed and appreciated.  


I’ve never fully understood Toby’s business. Much of it seems to involve enabling relationships and people to flourish, helping local authorities meet the people who can renew their towns and places. The same magic he works for businesses and councils has helped many a struggling cyclist reach their destination on cycle to MIPIM.


The rain continued to fall and fall. Barhatch was followed by Holmbury, Box, Ranmore, Leith, and of course a finish on Newlands. The soggy ride was punctuated by some very welcome flapjack and cake from Chris Clarke. If you want some punchy hill training in the south, you could do a lot worse than that little collection. Check out Toby's Strava for the 27th December for the route. But do prepare for it, and maybe choose a nice day! And at least pack a few jelly babies and a flapjack. Oh, and grab a sausage roll from the cafe across the road before you leave, they’re incredible!


Thanks to Stuart Wilks, Limeslade, for the write-up, and to Mike, Kuros and Chris for the photos. 


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