Image: Cal

We were lucky enough to share most of 2019 with Angus. This exciting year for him saw multiple podiums in the toughest bikepacking races, and we had the pleasure of his company when he worked with us at Mason.

It's been a while since we've had a chance to meet up with him but last week Cal finally managed to catch up with Angus to find out what's been going on and what he's got coming up for 2020.

Could you give us a quick recap on your touring/adventures and race results last year?

You could describe last year as a bit of a breakthrough for me. I had always enjoyed the longer races and fast touring but 2019 saw me competing in my first bikepacking races. First up was GBDURO a 2000km mixed terrain route from Lands End to John O' Groats. Being my first race, I inevitably made quite a few mistakes but learned a lot and managed to pull through to finish second overall.

Over the summer I went away on a few bikepacking trips to Scotland and around England with a more relaxed outlook on things. Late August brought Further, the brainchild of Camille McMillan had 30 riders racing around the Ariege region of the Pyrenees. For the majority of the 600km route it was neck and neck between myself and Emma she was a faster rider than me but I had the edge when it came to sleep deprivation. When I was passed on the final morning I knew there was no way I could keep the pace and when I crossed the finish line I was content with another second place.

We featured you on the blog last year just before GBDuro. SInce then at has changed! Back then we had the pleasure of your company at Mason, and at the end of the year you made a big career change. Could you tell us how that is going?

In September I started a teacher training course at the University of Reading. Whilst working at Mason was ideal for me at the time, I had always planned on eventually going back into education, this time on the other side of the table. 

Teaching is great, It certainly keeps you busy! I have always loved chemistry and now I can finally put my Oxford degree to good use by trying to instil that passion in others.

My partner is a first year teacher having just finished their PGCE, so I know from them how much work this takes. How are you keeping the work/ultra balance?

It's certainly tricky to get the training in whilst planning lessons and preparing for school. One thing which certainly is getting trained is my practice at functioning with little sleep! Over the winter I have found myself turning to the indoor trainer to get quality workouts in as I no longer have the luxury of a 45km commute each way like I had when I was at Mason. I have also been spending more time running and in the gym as these are a little easier to squeeze into your day than having to escape the city for a cold and wet bike ride. 

One of the reasons that many people get into teaching is for the holidays, this wasn't my sole reason for starting but it certainly was a contributing factor. My holidays have given me time to escape and get some solid blocks of training in.

Please fill us in on your most recent race.

Last weekend I was off to Romania to compete in the ETU European Winter Triathlon Championships, Winter triathlon is a bit of a niche sub-sport triathlon which follows a run-bike-xc ski format all of which is on snow. The race went really well, I placed 19th in the Elite category which I am still absolutely buzzing from. I was up there with the main pack until the ski portion where I became super tough for me to compete with the Russians and Europeans who have been born on skis. I am very happy with how I did and its clear where I need to make improvements.

Results last year and now competing in Elite category, how is that??

Having won my Age Group as an amateur last year I was entered to race In the Elite field with professional athletes. It was a huge step up in terms of pace right from the gun, my main worry going into the race was that I would be straight off the back of the pack from the start but I managed to hold my own with some of Europe's top athletes. What I has given me is an appreciation of the level at which theses guys are at, its hard to tell just how much fitter they are until you have raced with them. I learned a lot and ill be back stronger and fitter next year.

How do you train for it?

Training for winter triathlon is on the whole fairly straightforward when it comes to the run and the bike training. As mentioned before a lot of my training this winter has been on the indoor trainer, whilst it isn't the most interesting it does lead to great results. 

The elephant in the room is cross country skiing, this is obviously tricky to do in the UK where we don't have any snow. The solution is to either roller ski, which can help you build fitness but lacks development of technique or head off to the Alps to find some snow. This year I lacked much time on snow which really showed when it came to race day.

How it fits in with the rest of the year?

Winter triathlon is great, It gives me a focus for the off season during the winter. The shorter races force me to focus on intensity which in theory will pay dividends when it comes to the ultra season. Conversely, ultra racing building an extremely good base of fitness onto which top end speed can be developed. In my opinion its a perfect combination of disciplines.

How is your 2020 race calendar coming along?

Full! Im kicking things off in April with Der Lokomitive's A Classics story, this is a 1200km event which follows the routes of the famous cobbled classics in northern France and Belgium. I have chosen this mainly because I have always wanted to ride the famous cobbled sectors as they are such an integral part of cycling culture. My primary goal is just to get some racing kms in my legs as well as soak up as much of the culture as I can. Its Paris-Roubaix that weekend so it should be easy!

Come May half term and Ill be up to Scotland to race the HT550 a now Iconic MTB race through the highlands. I was up last summer to recce some of the course and I can confidently say that its going to be tough, The unrelenting terrain of the highlands is going push me to my limits. I can't wait.

The summer will have me competing in many more races including GBDURO and Further again as well as the 20k ultratrail in Italy. Certainly enough to keep me busy!

We're very excited that GBDuro will be on for a second year. There's a nice relationship between us, as sponsors, you as our friend and supported rider, and GBDuro founded by our friends Miles & Philippa and now organised by yourself and Ed.

GBDURO was such a great event last year and it was clear how much work Phillipa and Miles had put into the event organisation. I offered to help out this year straight after last years edition because as cliche as it sounds i wanted to give back to the community that I have grown to be a part of. Essentially I just want GBDURO to carry on being a success.

AND you're racing GBDuro again, is the pressure on after last years' podium? Or is this more about the beautiful route?

Its certainly a tough one to balance at the moment I'm more focussed on ensuring that event happens with no major hiccoughs. Once the event starts I can focus on my own race as Ed will be the main point of contact and decision maker. I am always of the opinion that if I'm racing an event I will give it my all, no half measures. The beauty of ultra racing is that its easy to both race for a podium and enjoy the beautiful route.

What will you change over last year? Same bike / kit set up?

I will be on my lovely Flare Orange Bokeh again, its the perfect tool for the job, there will be a few minor changes to the kit list probably the biggest change will be in my choice of tyre, last year I used 35mm gravel kings and this year ill go for something with quite a bit more volume.

Has the race grown since last year? Main/any changes?

Despite last year's success it was still surprising how many applications we received, this made the selection process very lengthy as well as very tough as we could only accept around a third of applicants in the end for 55 spaces. We really pushed for inclusion in this years race with a goal of reaching a 50:50 female:male ratio whilst we didnt quite reach this we do have around 35% of the field being women which is a good increase from last year as well as being well above the average for similar ultra events.

The one major change is that this year we are introducing the "no fly" rule this is in an attempt to extend our leave no trace principles beyond just the trail. Whilst this was a controversial decision the majority of the responses were positive. Not only is it about reducing the overall carbon footprint of the event its primarily about sending a message that we dont need to fly around the world to have an adventure. This year we will have people traveling from as fair away as Hungary, Italy, Spain and Ireland all without flying. These people really show us that it is possible to travel without flying if you are prepared to put a bit more effort in and as a result of which the journey to and from the start becomes part of the adventure.

No fly, are you following this principle throughout the year?

This is a tough question for me to admit to without feeling mildly hypocritical. I did fly out to Romania for the winter triathlon this year. I have tried to alleviate my conscience by paying for carbon offsetting however its still not ideal. This is my only flight of the year and whilst my summer plans are filled with me travelling all around Europe all of this will be from the ground, mostly by bike but also train and bus when needed.