Thursday, 22 August 2013

An Interview With Andy Cook

[caption id="attachment_3335" align="alignright" width="249"]Andy Cook Picture courtesy of Andy Cook Cycling[/caption]

For the third year in a row, Smiths News is linking up with Andy Cook Cycling, who have a wealth of knowledge and cycling experience to ensure the logistics of this year's bike ride run as smoothly as they possibly can.

So we were a little surprised to find the 'man behind the company name' has yet to be introduced to you properly. With a number of new cyclists joining the team for the Paris to Swindon bike ride, now is the perfect time to correct that omission.

Andy is based in Chippenham, Wiltshire, so I agreed to meet him in his office located on a farm on the outskirts of the town to find out more.

There was an initial hiccup trying to find Andy as I thought the office would be located in the Business Park part of the farm, not in the farmyard itself. However, that gave me the opportunity to meet Jacqui - Andy's wife, business partner and herself a very experienced cyclist - who kindly guided me in to the right place!

Andy, thanks for finding the time to see me this morning, can we start by outlining what Andy Cook Cycling is about?

Cycling is about camaraderie and friendships - there's a bond that goes with it. I've met so many people during my cycling activities as a rider, racer, and ambassador for the sport and I know that if I pick up the phone to talk to anyone I've ridden with over the years, there'll be an instant re-connection from our shared experiences.

So, we want to share our passion about cycling. Both Jacqui and I have lived and breathed cycling for years and our prime motivation is to pass on our excitement and knowledge.

You've always worked in cycling then?

No, I'm a Naval Architect by training, so I started out in my career as a civil servant! Pretty much all my spare time was devoted to cycling though. As a result, I became Chairman of the Cycle Touring Club [a voluntary role - Ed]. CTC was formed to encourage more participation in the sport, but has more of a campaigning role these days.

From there, I joined British Cycling in 2005 to manage their Everyday Cycling project. British Cycling used to focus more on the race training side of things, but their membership was static. They realised they needed to capture the explosion of interest that was happening in cycling and that's what my role was designed to do.

What then motivated you to start your own business?

I was very happy at British Cycling, but they wanted me to move up to Manchester. I also realised I had plenty to offer the 3 main cycling organisations in the UK [Sustrans is the other and has a more family oriented, infrastructure and sustainable transport remit - Ed], by providing an independent input to their initiatives. I can help them take the best aspects of the sport's traditional thinking and combine it with more modern ideas.

How does that help Smiths News?

Our bread and butter work is planning safe routes for all kinds of events. At the moment there's no legislation in the UK which covers running non-competitive cycling events. Andy Cook Cycling bridges that gap by ensuring our cycling events are safe for both ride participants and other road users. On top of that the routes we design are easy to navigate and are both scenic and pleasurable.

You've just come back from a recce of this year's Paris to Swindon bike ride how, did that go?

Very well. Luckily I can look at a map and pretty much devise a route which will meet the design criteria. We always drive a new route to make sure what we've seen on the map holds true on the ground, to tweak it where necessary and to also make sure the rest of the logistics, such as the day's stopovers are in place and are the best they can be.

So what can this year's team expect from the Paris to Swindon bike ride?

Well..., that's the subject of part 2 of this interview. Tune in next week to find out!

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