Best of Moments: Phil Jones MBE

If ever there was a major life moment in cycling, the Tour of Britain One Day Ahead ride by Phil Jones MBE and James Golding in 2018 was one as Phil explains in a recent interview

Best of Moments: Phil Jones MBE

Back in 2018, MD of Brother UK, Phil Jones and James Golding rode the entire course of the Tour of Britain, a day ahead of the race itself and it was says Phil, one of his life defining moments.

Phil, Cherie and James on the Day Ahead charity ride in 2018

Phil’s journey on the bike was reborn in 2008 when his 40th birthday was the trigger to exercise more. Ten years later, Phil planned something even bigger, an adventure that even he didn’t realise was going to be so much fun with many a mini adventure on each of the eight days.

Looking back at the ride around Britain, which was in aid of the Dave Rayner Foundation, Phil explained “my resounding take away was quite simple and that is ‘leave more room for adventure in your life’.

“It was just the best fun for eight days; more than I have ever had in my latter years. You may do a lot of this when you are younger, but when you are older, you get far fewer opportunities to do things like that so for me, it was like eight days of escapism. It reminded me I can get away from the corporate bubble and being a dad and husband and do my own thing for a week with little to focus on other than getting from point to point by bike.”

“I’d planned the ride wanting to do something big for my 50th with a legacy to it as well.”

Pete Mooney, a legend in the sport and part of Phil’s crew on the Day Ahead Charity ride for the Dave Rayner Fund

The logistics and planning for the ‘One Day Ahead’ ride for the Tour of Britain took many months for Phil to do. Inviting riders to join him, fundraising, promotion, booking hotels and so much more, it was a huge planning exercise which he says he quite enjoyed.

“For a lot of people, they may have been overwhelmed by the size and scale of the task, but I think like anything in life, you can take on these audacious goals if you break them down and work through them bit by bit, as James would say “One step at a time.” Start with the goal and work backwards. In business, that is all we ever do. My message to anyone is you can do this audacious stuff but it means you have to commit to it backed by a solid plan of action.”

It wasn’t just about the logistics either as there was a little matter of riding over 700 miles up hills, down dales, and for Phil, that meant almost a years worth of training to be ready physically for the challenge alongside a rider who was well equipped for such a ride, James Golding. Phil says of that “I surprised myself doing the distance but I knew I could get myself into good physical condition because I was committed to doing it. It was also handy to sit on the wheel of a world distance record holder for a lot of the way. “

Talking to Phil, it quickly becomes obvious that whilst it’s easy to say the ‘One Day Ahead’ ride was a lifetime highlight for him, just like the challenge of the logistics and the training for the event, when you break down the eight day adventure, it reveals a load of mini adventures which made the whole experience such an exciting one for everyone involved.

Emily hard at work on her phone

“The support team was brilliant, and we gelled together so well. We had Rupert on content, Chez (Cherie Pridham – DS of Vitus Pro Cycling) directing, Emily on social media and of course, Pete Mooney the mechanic too and he was the funniest person to have around.

Pete kept us going all week and had us in stitches with a quip for everything. We gelled so well as a unit, it was brilliant, and we had this great adventure for eight days with so many mini adventures within it.”

“Like when we had the puncture on the support car on the longest transfer between stages and ended up on the side of the motorway at 11pm at night. We got to the hotel with the car on the back of a transporter at 3am with still our kit to wash, ride schedule to meet the following day and a puncture to get fixed on the car! That was an epic 24 hours for all the crew who showed great adaptability to solve all the problems so quickly.”

“Then there was the Team Time Trial where we synced up with the race on the day of the Team Time Trial for the pros and we were racing up Whinlatter (climb) and that was the first time we’d encountered the crowds on the race because on the other days, we’d been a day ahead.

We rolled off the ramp surrounded by the thousands of people watching the race live and to do the time trial ahead of the pro teams with everyone clapping and blowing the horns was just tremendous. Then there was the longest day stage. There were so many individual memories in the whole thing.”

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Star Studded Dinner

One of the highlights was the charity dinner he organised the night before the final ride in London.

“We’d pulled together an exclusive fundraiser in the Groucho Club (a private members club in Soho). We had Eurosport commentator Brian Smith as MC alongside a number of other cycling stars as Adam Blythe, Russ Downing and David Millar. Hugh Roberts CEO of Sweetspot – who organise the Tour of Britain – mid evening said ‘I have a surprise for you Phil’ and in walked Chris Froome (Tour de France, Vuelta and Giro winner) and Geraint Thomas (that year’s Tour de France winner)!”

“Our jaws dropped! “Here we were in a private dinner in London and Geraint and Chris walk in to join us. I looked at Hugh and thought, ‘bloody hell Hugh, that is some coupe.”

And Chris and Geraint were brilliant as well. They had dinner and were chatting to the guests. I also had Andrew Ridgely of Wham sat next to me for dinner. He’d come with another of the guests there.

What a special evening that was, so much so, James and I got stuck into the wine that night and the following morning had to get up early to do the final ride around London in slightly foggy conditions (not due to the weather)”.

Phil, Russ Downing and James

Take Two Please …

Another happy memory from the adventure was stage 2 in Devon which is well known for its hilly terrain. “There was this killer climb at the end of the stage, it was a hell of a climb, really steep with a 25% kicker at the end and it was horrible.”

“Waiting for us at the top of the climb was a local BBC television crew and I was grinding up this climb. It was so steep I was in 34×32 with a heart rate of 175 and it was hot.

“We get to the summit, and the journalist says, ‘I’m really sorry but the camera wasn’t rolling and we need to redo that last bit of the climb’, like I was in the mood to take that climb on again! Thankfully, it was only 150 metres from the top to a blind bend, so I said, ‘give us five minutes’.”

“So we rolled back down past the bend, took some time to get ourselves recovered and then said to James, ‘let’s go round the bend like a couple of pros’ and so we flew round the last bend and took that last 150 to 200 metres like we were world tour pros. Out of the saddle, swinging the bike from side to side, hardly breaking into a sweat. Whereas if they’d got the first take, all they would have had was me crawling up sweating buckets and barely able to breathe. That was a funny a moment to remember for sure.”

London Finale

As expected with any such adventure though, the final day, in the centre of London, was certainly a huge moment for Phil.

“I remember the course was still being built in the morning and the roads were closed in parts so we had to go up and down pavements to get round the blockages. Mick Bennett, (legendary race director) understandably didn’t want us on certain bits like the gantry area for health and safety reasons, so we had to do the first 15 or 20 kilometres of our final 60 kilometres first thing, navigating round the course builders.”

“Then they closed the course for the sportive and after a word with the race organisers, we were able to slip onto the course to do the final 20 kilometres. We had Russ Downing with us and to have a rider of his capabilities join us on the final laps was superb”.

“The final 8 to 10 kilometres was on the fully closed course with nobody else on it except for James, Russ and I. It was phenomenal to be riding around the streets of London with people lining the course and staking their positions for the race finish cheering us on.”

“Then for the final lap, I jumped onto the Raleigh Banana bike I’d bought and the chain snapped after only 200 metres which was hilarious, best laid plans.

It was a moment that stuck with me because I’d done the day ahead ride for the Dave Rayner Foundation, and when that Raleigh Banana bike (Dave Rayner rode one during his career) was rolled out and I put the Raleigh Banana cap on, I just had this 20 seconds where I filled up with emotion because it suddenly dawned on me, we’d done it.

I had ridden the Tour of Britain course for my 50th birthday. A year of planning, over twenty thousand pounds raised, hundreds of thousands in publicity and 700 miles of riding, all from an idea in my home office to do something memorable.”

“We’d raised all this money to so that Rayner Foundation funded riders had the chance to go and race abroad in Belgium. I’d also read so much about Dave Rayner in a book about him (Everybody’s Friend) and I’d met his parents at Otley and also his former wife – Serena. Everything just zoomed in on me.

Jumping on the Raleigh Banana bike (above) at that moment was like the world stood still for 20 seconds and all I could think about was Dave Rayner and what his legacy was to British talent.”

“I was really emotional, and that last lap was quite phenomenal with James and Russ before we rolled up Haymarket with the crowd banging the boards and to roll over the finish line was such a wonderful feeling.

“The next morning, there was this vacuum because it was over – no riding, no route planning, no media interviews, no more riding with James and banter with the support team, no bike (it was ironically stolen close to the finish line).

If someone had said to me that morning, would you like to head out again, but in reverse, I would have done it. It was one hell of an experience on every level and I’d encourage anyone to have a go at something similar.”

MORE: You can read more on the Day Ahead Ride here

Thanks to Phil for those amazing memories of his ride back in 2018 and we wish him a safe and enjoyable ride on his equally amazing bikes in his collection.

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