Washington ready to get back to race scene after 70 years as a cyclist
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Alasdair Washington was 14 when he developed a serious interest in cycling – and almost 70 years later he is still going strong.
Not only has he continued to clock up the miles, Washington has made a habit over the decades of picking up silverware and setting successive age-group records.
Neither a hip operation nor a pandemic has deterred him as he looks forward to a return to competitive racing as restrictions are eased.
Washington, who will be 84 in May, is life president of Caithness Cycling Club, having been one of its founding members in 1963.
He grew up in north Cheshire and moved to Thurso at the age of 24 to work at Dounreay as a physicist on the fast reactor side.
“When I grew up my parents were reasonably well off, we lived in a nice house and my father had a good job, but we didn’t have a car. People didn’t. So you got around on your bike," Washington recalled.
“I can remember at about 14 years old setting off with my pal and we did 120 miles in that day, on really old bikes with no proper gears compared with today. That was an exception, but we did often go off for 20 or 30 miles in our early teens on these old bikes.”
Washington made a quick recovery from a hip replacement two years ago, and is currently the Scottish veteran 100-mile champion on age standard and best all-rounder.
As well as winning multiple honours he has shown what can be achieved, regardless of age, through dedication and hard work and by keeping as fit as possible.
“People do say ‘you’re an inspiration to me’ and I think that’s great, I feel privileged," Washington said. "I’m probably only where I am now because I was really inspired by other people.
“The thing that kept me going was that I knew of people who were much older than me, in their sixties or seventies, and doing extremely well. I know people who inspire me still.”
People do say ‘you’re an inspiration to me’ and I think that’s great, I feel privileged.
With Covid restrictions soon to ease, Washington and other club cyclists are looking forward to getting back to racing and there is a busy schedule of events across the Highlands and Moray from April until the start of October.
“I am hoping we’ll be racing in the north and further south as well, but we’ll just have to see how things pan out,” Washington said.
The last Caithness Cycling Club activity was the annual dinner in February 2020, and members have mainly had to rely on solo rides and indoor trainers to maintain fitness. Malcolm Gray has been busy redesigning and updating the club’s website which contains a wealth of information, past and present, including race results and photographs.
One innovative event that has been held was an online 17-week competition between Orkney, Shetland and Caithness, organised by Olga Hamilton of Orkney. It ran from November to March, using Zwift apps and smart turbo trainers, and gave an unexpected feeling of reality for both time-trial and road-race events.
Points were awarded for each event ridden, with Orkney’s Bob Gunn in first place with 136 points. Caithness was represented by Hamish McAllan in fourth place with 85 points, Colin Earnshaw (ninth, 62 points), David McIvor (13th, 38 points) and, for a few events, by “Hamper” MacLeod – all Caithness CC – and by Chris MacLeod (15th, 31 points) of Wick Wheelers.
Although group activities have not yet restarted, Debbie Simmons plans to begin her popular women's Breeze group rides this weekend. These were developed nationally to encourage ladies into – or back into – cycling, with typical rides being around six miles for the beginners and 15 or more miles for intermediates.
Although the club’s weekly time trials – together with regional and national events – are still on hold, the annual Caithness Festival of Cycling in June is again on the Scottish calendar.