Cycling Like a Black Widow
Q&A with Richard Chapman
Every year the Black Widows Cycling Club take on the Haute Route, the most prestigious amateur cycling event in the world. This year it took them through the Pyrenees.
It’s a tough multi-day cycle that takes the riders 2160m above sea level. It takes a lot of grit to get through it, and a lot of good, strong coffee. That’s where the van comes in. The BWCC support van is stocked up with coffee machines and boxes of CaféPod capsules.
The Black Widows are back from the Haute Route, and we had a chat with Richard Chapman – club member, van driver, pilot, cyclist, and coffee drinker.
My perfect choice would be a Supercharger shot...
Who are you? What do you do?
My name is Richard Chapman and my day job is as a pilot for a major international airline.
Why do you cycle?
Because it’s absolutely the best sport to mix athleticism, endurance, the thrill of speed, technical skill and being social in the great outdoors. Plus you get to buy some great new toys.
How do you push yourself through a tough bike ride?
Some – in fact the – best rides are tough and you might need some mental tricks to get you through and still enjoying it. My favourite when climbing a hill is to just look ahead 100m at a time and then count reps of 100m. 5km to go? That’s counting to 50, taking a sip every 10 and eating something at 25.
What’s your coffee of choice?
It’s all about good, strong coffee in small but regular doses. Espresso is the default setting and single is the default dose. While cycling, where your body positively resonates with the caffeine hit, my perfect choice would be a CaféPod Supercharger shot served from a customised support van.
What is the Black Widows Cycling Club?
The Black Widows Cycling Club is a growing group of like minded cyclists from all over the world who take pride and pleasure in annually challenging themselves in one of the most competitive and gruelling amateur events, yet striving to create the strongest bond of camaraderie and also ultimately not taking ourselves too seriously.
We’re named after the slapstick motorcycle gang with the same name in the cult 1970's Clint Eastwood movie "Every Which Way But Loose".
What is the Haute Route?
The Haute Route is a week-long ‘sportive’ (timed stage race for amateurs) that started in 2011. The idea is to simulate for 500 keen amateur cyclists a week of a professional cyclist's life during an event like the Tour de France, the Vuelta or the Giro D'Italia. It is six or seven consecutive days in the mountains – the Alps, the Pyrenees or the Dolomites – covering approximately 850km and about 20,000 metres of climbing. And of course it’s a real race; all riders are timed and their cumulative time over the week determines the finish order.
What are your ambitions, either for yourself, the Black Widows, or both?
I would like to continue giving myself and my growing band of team-mates the chance to pit themselves against a monumental cycling achievement each year while being part of a team that fully supports the ethos of looking after each other and having the best week’s cycling holiday that is possible.
How did the BWCC van come to be?
In 2014, I managed to persuade my father to lend me his VW van for a couple of weeks to take part in the Dolomites event. I added race decals, stripped the rear seats out, installed a coffee machine, tool box and a TV screen to liven up the top of any mountain. After the event the van was returned to its winter clothes for its normal life in Plymouth. This has occurred every year since, just with an improved coffee selection!