Zachary & Hutch: why cycling is one of the most social sports out there
“I want to race in every country that there’s a race going on. Down under in Australia, the Tour De France, Italy, everywhere that cycling takes me.”
Ever since he was three years old (yep, you read that right), Zachary has been fixated on cycling. His weekly training regime is undoubtedly hardcore, and includes rides with his local club, heading out with his dad’s mates, and entering online races and training activities.
We spoke to Zachary and his dad Hutch about their shared love of cycling. We chatted about the unique camaraderie that cyclists share, the social side of the sport, and what makes it such an enjoyable community to be a part of.
Do you guys go out cycling together a lot?
Zachary: “Oh yeah.”
Hutch: “I mean especially now he’s older, Zachary rides with men now all the time. As well as riding for his own Junior club, he rides with my group a lot now. And when I say there’s three or four national champions, we aren’t average cyclists, you know – we’ve got a national mountain bike champion and the youngest IronMan winner ever. That’s the type of riders that he’s with, doing like 80/90 miles of really hard terrain, and he’s just right up there with them.
Zachary: “It’s a club, but it’s not really a club, if you know what I mean. It’s a lot of friends that call it a club.”
Hutch: “In that group, you get judged on your ability. A lot of them have got kids of their own, but they don’t see Zachary in that same light, because of his ability. So sometimes he gets exposed to a bit too much adult content! They just don’t make the correlation between him and their children.”
“You feel proud, don’t you, when you ride with men. He fits in really well, because he’s judged on his ability.
“There’s that sense of camaraderie with any cycling group – everyone’s mucking in together, it forms a little bit of a bond. You want other people to do well, even in a race and even if you’re competitive, you want to win because you’re just that bit better, not because someone is misfortunate.”
What was your first introduction to cycling?
Zachary: “I set off down the side of my house, and just started pedalling, and that was it really. Believe it or not, it was my mum (who doesn’t have anything to do with cycling) who was the one who pushed me off. I think I had one or two attempts, and then mum just pushed me off.”
Hutch: “It was on your third birthday, and I was at work. On his birthday when I was at work, at lunchtime I got a phone call, ‘Oh you’re not going to be happy, he’s learnt to ride his bike already.’ And that was it. From then on he was relentless, almost immediately. He was doing like 20 and 30 mile rides when he was still just three.”
When do you think you realised you were good at cycling?
Zachary: “I definitely didn’t think, when I was three, I was good or anything. It wasn’t really until I started racing and doing quite well. That was when I was about five (I started racing then because there’s no category below under 8’s). But when I started doing those and tracking what I was doing and looking at the data, I think I started realizing that I could make something of it.”
Hutch: “I would say you were probably around 8 when you decided it was maybe something you had a natural gift for. I mean, Zachary was racing on his own, on Saturday, and his average speed was the same as the under 16 races.”
“He’s one of the bigger kids even if he’s one of the youngest in his racing age group, but it’s good because he’s had to try hard.
“When puberty comes along and all those kids (that they used to just rock up and beat)start trying really hard, practicing and training. Some of those naturally gifted kids have had it too easy for too long, and so the fallout rate is quite high in a lot of sports. Whereas those kids who are younger, they’ve got used to doing the work, as they’ve always had to work hard to catch up. As they get older, natural ability isn’t enough, it is something that you have to commit to.
Zachary: “There isn’t a sport in the world where you don’t have to try to get good at it. Like Dad says, you might be good when you’re my age, but when you get older you’ll have to try, no matter what sport it is.”
“One time Chris Hoy was riding, and so he was riding along next to Chris Hoy.”
Where do you think the commitment to cycling came from?
Zachary: “I’ve just been like, when I started realising that I was getting good (I mean I always enjoyed it before I started getting good), but then I started thinking like, ‘I enjoy this, I want to make it like something that I’m going to do.’”
Hutch: “You like being outside, which is great. When we’re out, if we climb a hill, he stops and looks back, and you can see the appreciation on his face. And on occasion he’ll go, ‘Wow look at that view!”. And I think that’s because he’s earned the view. You can see that on his face, it just means more to you if you’ve got there yourself.”
“That’s probably why you like riding your bike for fun, just for the sake of it. When we first did lockdown, we did a staycation bike packing trip, because you couldn’t go anywhere. So we packed our bags with all our kit, then did a circular route back to our garden, and stuck our tent up in the garden.”
How do you typically train during the week for your cycling?
Zachary: “It depends really. On Monday, I go down to my club and do a training session, which is an hour and a half. This last Tuesday, I did a race, but if I wasn’t racing, I’d go out or do an online ride. I use The Donny Chaingang online races a lot. Then Wednesday is either a fun day on a ride with Dad’s friends, or a short online race. Thursday I go down to the track and go round the velodrome. Friday can be a day off. Saturday is pretty much always a race day. Then on Sunday we’d go out early, and go out on a walk with Mum in the afternoon.”
Hutch: “Cycling clubs are very much like judo clubs, where it’s all mixed ability and mixed ages, and the kids are really nice because older kids become tolerant of older kids, and younger kids aspire to be like the older kids. So I like him going to training, because it’s good for your humility.”
Hutch: “This last year he’s been doing more racing than ever before, because he’s been able to do a lot more online.”
Zachary: “Yeah, I’ve been doing like 500 km a month on my training app.”
Hutch: “The online app is really quite structured, and you’ve got targets to hit and time trials or structured workouts come up, and Zachary does those.”
Zachary: “There’s hundreds of them, they can be like responding to attacks, they can cover anything.”
Hutch: “Zachary can do them himself, he doesn’t need me to tell him. He can just download one and start it. He’ll just go into the shed and sort it all out himself. He’ll take a drink then come back an hour later completely drenched in sweat, saying ‘Oh that was good, I did alright there.’”
“It’s a really immersive app, and you’ve got all the other riders on screen. It is literally a bike controlled game.
“Quite a lot of pros do it too. One time Chris Hoy was riding, and so he was riding along next to Chris Hoy. Then after another race, Russell Downing, a recently retired professional, messaged him to say he’d done really well because Zachary had beaten him in that race.”
"There’s so many amazing, beautiful places in the world. The lakes and the mountains and all of the routes."
Where do you like to ride?
Hutch: “We live on the edge of York, and Zachary has ridden to the seaside and back, which is like 100 miles.”
“You do everything don’t you, which is unfortunate because he’s got loads of bikes!”
Zachary: “I think my favourite is probably mountain biking. It’s more fun. I’m not like the ‘Oh yeah, hit that 12 foot jump and pull it down with a 360 jump’ type, I ride to ride, cross country. Not jumping and tricks and all that, but I like the trails mostly. It’s just fun and it’s less competitive and relentless than road biking.”
What are your aspirations for the future, and where do you hope to take your cycling?
Zachary: “Everywhere. In every country that there’s a race going on. Down under in Australia, the Tour De France, Italy, everywhere that cycling takes me. There’s so many amazing, beautiful places in the world. The lakes and the mountains and all of the routes.”
“I’ve always wanted to ride in the Tour De France (and hopefully win it). My favourite rider is probably either Gareth Thomas, Chris Froome, Tom Pidcock or Matthew Vanderpool. I like a lot of them.”
What advice would you give anyone who was interested in cycling, but didn’t know how to get started?
Zachary: “Have fun, and go to a club. For example, my club has got people who are really good at cycling, and then there’s a lower group of younger kids, where it’s more like learning about it than trying to get stronger.
Hutch: “Get out and support your local club, because they need you as much as you need them.”
Zachary: “Cycling is one of the most social sports, I think.
Hutch: “For example, traditionally the winner of the Tour De France does not collect his money, it goes to the team. All they get is the accolade. Also, it’s tradition to buy all your teammates a watch, because it’s impossible to win without your team. It’s a community thing, because it’s just better with others.”
Zachary: “I’d much rather have a race where I’m in a bunch where I’m fighting for position, but end up coming like 7th, rather than starting, riding away from everyone in the first lap, then riding on my own. Because when it’s like that, you almost think, ‘What’s the point in coming to the race?’”
Hutch: “It’s nice that he’s got something that he feels like he really belongs and really feels comfortable in. He owns it, and cycling belongs to him as much as he belongs to cycling.”