Journalist Trevor Ward writes about cycling for a living and appears to have the dream job. From riding Ventoux for Cyclist magazine to reporting closer to home for The Guardian, he’s a man for all weathers. Spokesman caught up with him at home in Scotland.
- What came first, the cycling or the journalism?
Cycling. The rite of passage and gateway to adventure for kids everywhere. Dad holding on to the seat as I pedalled down the pavement of Eversley Street in Liverpool. The sense of shock and glow of happiness when I realised he hadn’t been holding on to me for the last 20 yards. The journalism didn’t come until about 12 years later when I got a job aged 17 as a cub reporter on the Birkenhead News.
- Some cyclists might consider your job as the best job in the world. Tell them it has its downsides.
Dirty work, but someone has to do it. Like any job, there are pros and cons. There are two distinct sides – the deskbound, researching and writing side; the being on my bike side.
Cycling used to be purely what I did for recreation. Now it’s suddenly a big part of my job. It’s no longer a case of, “It’s a lovely sunny day with no wind, I think I’ll go out for a ride”, it’s a case of, “It’s pissing down and blowing a hoolie, but I’ve got to get the miles in because Cyclist magazine want me to enter the Gran Fondo La Sufrida in Spain in a couple of months.”
Yes, I get to ride in some exotic parts of Europe, but 90 per cent of my cycling is like everybody else’s – building up the base miles on local roads which I’m getting sick of the sight of.
- Describe your cycling week when you’re at home in Scotland.
It depends on how much writing I have to do, but I try to get out for a two-three hour ride at least three, hopefully four, times a week. Every night at 6.55 pm, the local weather comes on, and my wife and cat leave the room. They know one of them is likely to get kicked when BBC Scotland tells me just how much rain and wind we can look forward to here on the east coast of Scotland the next day. The downside of having to get out and ride my bike regularly is that I have become obsessed with the weather. I try to explain to my wife (and cat), that I effectively have an outdoors job. Sometimes I wish I had a normal, 9-5 indoor job(I have applied for them, without success!) and then I wouldn’t care what the weather was doing.
Anyway, I try to plan my week around the weather, so that I do my research – for ideas to pitch at editors, for features I’ve been commissioned to write, etc. – and writing on the worst weather days.
As for the actual cycling, I used to concentrate on distance, i.e. try and do 50-60 miles at a decent clip, but recently I’ve been doing a shorter circuit – 40 miles – that has lots of short, steep climbs on a single speed bike (not fixie), probably an accumulated elevation of 550-600m (check Strava!). My s/s bike cost £500, it’s heavy and cumbersome, complete with mudguards and 28mm tyres, but I really feel the difference when I switch back to the geared bike!
- How essential is the training when writing about cycling?
It’s essential for two reasons. Firstly, many assignments involve me going out and riding a challenging route, whether it be a circuit in the Alps or someone’s DIY Paris-Roubaix sportive in the UK, so I need a base level of fitness. I’m not expected to break any records, but it’s only right that I should be able to complete the whole distance before darkness falls!
Secondly, in other assignments I may be interviewing a current pro or former rider, or writing about some other aspect of the sport, and it’s obviously a big help if I can identify with what riding a bike in all weathers on all terrains actually feels like!
- Which trips stand out as being the most memorable?
Two stand out as most memorable: First was the Dolomites. It wasn’t even a work assignment, I’d just heard about the Maratona dles Dolomites Gran Fondo, failed to get a place, but decided to go out there for the week leading up to it anyway. I based myself in Corvara in Alta Badia, and it was paradise. Anyone who’s been there will know how it’s possible to ride different, manageable loops in a day, all offering the most spectacular mountain scenery. On the last day – the day before the actual Gran Fondo – I rode the whole route. 135 km, 4,000 metres, it nearly killed me. But when I read about 13,000 riders all queuing up to walk their bikes up the first climb of the route at 5 am in the morning on the day of the actual event, I was happy with my decision.
Second was the Gran Fondo Ventoux, one of my first sportive assignments for Cyclist. Long story short, the event was suspended 800 metres from the summit because of 120 kph winds. The photographer got some great shots of people cowering behind their bikes, trying to keep on their feet. The ride back down the mountain was one of the coldest, most miserable experiences I’ve had.
Read more of Trevor Ward’s interview in Part 2