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Comeback Kid 2

The Comeback Kid

While he hasn't raced since he injured his back during a big pile up at the Tour De Romandie in the mid 80's, 5 times National Cyclocross Champion Chris Wreghitt has never been far from Cycling. With his back troubles hopefully behind him now he's looking at racing Cyclocross once again.

Q. What got you into cycling Chris?

A. I got into cycling when I went to Loughborough Grammar school. I didn't get into the rugby team and one of the school masters ran a cycling club in the school. I started age 11 and competed in the Midlands Under 12 English School CX Championship- which I won. My second event was the National Champs and I won those as well. You couldn't keep me off a bike after that.

Q. Was it always CX for you?

A. We did other types of cycling; Peter Hopkins who ran the school club introduced me to TT, road racing, grass track and touring. He even took a group of us from Lands End to Loughborough.

Q. Did you race straight through from under 12 to junior and the senior ranks?

A. During my last year at school, I won the British Pro/Am CX title, aged 18. I went on to win that for the next four years as well. I went to Birmingham University to read history and continued racing throughout that time when I completed my degree I went out to live in Switzerland to chase a full-time CX career.

Q. How was racing in Europe?

A. Europe was good to me. I won the Zurich Waid World Cup while still an amateur and that launched my career. I raced hard all season and was in good form for the World Amateurs in France, but I got brought down with one lap to go and lost eight places to come in 11th. I switched to road shortly after that.

Q. You had a decent career on the road.

A. I enjoyed my riding certainly and I was lucky enough to get some good results. It wasn't all good luck though. Coming out of the 82-83 season I'd be laid low with a knee injury, so I was fresh for the 83 road season. I won the GP Lugano Classic, taking the top spot on the podium above Erich Maechler and Gilbert Glaus. I took second on the last stage of the Peace Race and then went on to the Tour of Sweden with the GB amateur team where I held the yellow jersey for several stages.

Bianchi Piaggio's pro team manager saw me racing with their Swedish pros and offered me a place on the team. So I relocated to Imola, near Bologna. Learning Italian has stood me in good stead over the years, especially as we represent Gippiemme the wheel manufacturer.

I rode Milan San Remo, it went well, I had decent pace, not too far back. Then we went to the Tour of Romandie and there was a big pile up on one of the alpine descents. I went down, landed hard on my back, maybe on a pedal and that was it. Compressed vertebra, loss of feeling and power in my left leg. Surgery wasn't the option it is now and despite traction and physio, my back stayed bad. I quit the sport and that was that.

Q. You retired only age 25 with probably your best years to come, how was that?

A. I'll never know what could have been, that's the thing. But you have to look forward and you move on. Luckily I fell into a job with Halfords. I spoke French, German and Italian, I knew bikes and had exposure to the bike industry so I became their Cycles Buyer. I've not looked back, it has been bicycles ever since.

Q. So what prompted you to make a comeback? A. I've been cycling again for a while now. My fitness feels good, my back feels better, so why not. We need challenges in life! The over 60 Masters CX appeals to me so I'm getting back into serious training, a couple of days a week. We'll see where it goes. This first season is about getting back to grips with riding and racing cyclocross after 33 years away from it.

Q. This must be your first new cyclocross bike for a few year then?

A. Yes. Things have moved on. Carbon frames, lightweight carbon tubular wheels, disc brakes. The last time I raced we didn't even have SPD pedals, so that will be a new experience. I'm really looking forward to getting back into it again. Getting fitted up for the bike was important; I want to make sure that I'm in a perfect position, that my back line is as good as it can be.

There are a few bits on there that are familiar to me, I know the Gipiemme wheels well, and those canti brakes are a modern version of a classic design. I'm looking forward to getting it mucky.

Q. What about your custom painted Second Wind bike, that's a bit special. Why Freddie Mercury?

A. I'm a big Queen fan, one of my favourite bands, the designer picked up on that. I've never had a bike quite like that before, it's a work of art. There's a lot of time gone into that paint job, it's full of little touches, dates from my racing career, all sorts of things. I'll be proud to race that bike and wear the Second Wind team kit.

Q. The 2018 Champs are being held in Sunderland at Hetton Lyons Country park, have you raced there before?

A. No, I think the Hetton National Champs CX course was still a working coal mine when I was last racing...

And with that bomb shell, we helped Chris pack up his two new bikes into the car and set him on his way. His new custom designed Second Wind team kit will be on its way to him soon. Now that it's been approved by British Cycling. 

The Second Wind name for his 'team' is his wife Wendy's inspiration- it seems to sum it all up in 2 words! Forty years after becoming British Cyclo-cross Champion, Chris Wreghitt has got his second wind and is back in the saddle determined to repeat his success. His target is to compete in the World Masters Cyclo-Cross Veterans Championship in Mol, Belgium in December 2018.

Now cycling, running and gym work must be squeezed into a busy career and home life. His first race is at Shelsley Walsh in Worcestershire on October 1. It’s the start of his serious preparations for the championships which take place just after his 60th birthday. Chris commented, “It's proving tough to get back to fitness but I am improving. Now I know how easy it was when I was 20! I have a programme to follow and I’m keeping to it. It will be so interesting to see how I perform in my first race. That will help me gauge how far I have come in the last few months… and how far I have to go!”

Having secured sponsorship for his championship bid from Planet X, Gipiemme wheels, and Lake Shoes, Chris will ride a custom painted cyclocross bike created by Jorge Jovino. He calls it " King of Queen of the Second Wind". The edgy design is carried over into Chris’ jersey and shorts. “I feel privileged to be riding and wearing such amazing artwork. My sincere thanks to Jorge for giving his time and genius to create this wonderful design” Getting the sponsorship was as much about giving me an extra spur to get out training. I hope though that what I am doing might inspire others to realise it is not too late at 58 to have a 'second wind' at something!

Chris has decided his pain will be someone else’s gain too.   He will raise funds to support the not for profit company ‘Ride for Charlie’. Charlie Craig was a young cyclist who tragically died in his sleep at the age of 15. Set up in his honour by his family, Ride for Charlie aims to support young cyclists who are or would have been inspired by Charlie's love of off-road cycling. You can follow Chris on facebook, Twitter or read his blog

15 September 2017


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