in my early twenties, before the cycling bug had taken serious hold, my spare time was filled with drumming in pretty much every shape and form. that was predominantly how i made a living, of sorts, by taking every gig that came my way, no matter whether i considered the music to be my thing or not. so all-consuming was this percussive obsession that i had decided that would be my future career path, a choice that seemed to leave me no option but to move self and drumset, lock, stock and barrel to london town.
there was a modest amount of studio work on offer which i figured i could accomplish with sufficient aplomb to guarantee the offer of more. accommodation was initially likely to consist of sleeping on someone's floor or sofa but, optimist that i was/am, i reasoned that it couldn't be that difficult to quickly find a flat of my very own. the reason, however, that you have the dubious delight of reading my daily musings on the state of the cycling nation rather than the benefits of maple/mahogany drumshells, is that i chickened out.
suddenly the thought of being alone in a great big city instead of a scottish west coast town, with only a drumset and a few cymbals for company and conversation, seemed just this side of terrifying. the usual concerns of 'what if i'm not good enough?', 'what if i run out of money?' or 'is this really what i want to do?' pretty much put paid to an illustrious career as a megastar.
many would doubtless sympathise, because not all of us possess the derring do and sense of adventure exhibited by indiana jones or luke skywalker. or dave rayner.
"In early June of 1976, as Britain began to bake at the start of a summer that would lead to drought and water rationing, the Milk Race rolled into Bradford for a short stage that would start and finish in the West Yorkshire city. Among the many fans who streamed up to the start at Odsal Top were John and Barbara Rayner with their nine-year-old son David."
so begins peter cossins' excellent book entitled everybody's friend', outlining the determined, yet sadly short career of dave rayner. "Mum, IÕll be in one of them one of these days." the youngster said to his mother and entirely unlike yours truly, that's precisely what he achieved. having managed to do neither, i have no idea whether being a professional musician is any harder than becoming a professional cyclist, but suffice it to say both are probably a tad more onerous than studying to be an accountant (no disrespect intended). though the modern cycling milieu, even in traditionally agnostic britain, is more accepting of the aspiring professional today, in the early 1980s, that was very much not the case.
grit and determination, allied to a probably unhealthy dose of pain and suffering.
rayner had accrued a reasonably impressive palmares in his early years as an amateur rider, including that of uk junior champion in 1984, but it was a further three years before he signed his first professional contract with the less than snappily named interent-yugo. but, as the saying goes, everyone has to start somewhere and rayner's professional career, at least in terms of international profile, probably peaked on his signing with jan raas' buckler team. as cossins reasons on the basis of comments by several of his peer group, they were surprised at his move to a team that concentrated on the one-day classics, when his build ("He was paperweight category...") would have perhaps suggested more success in an italian team that raced in the mountains.
despite the inevitably sad ending to cossins narration of the rayner story, this is an upbeat book. even his unfortunate death ("An unnecessary tragedy") at the hands of a nightclub bouncer and only five weeks after his marriage to girlfriend, serena is rightly presented as the beginning of dave rayner's legacy to british professional cycling. the dave rayner fund. as detailed in my recent feature on the prendas ciclismo/rocket espresso rayner fund initiative, the substantial amounts of cash raised to assist aspiring british professional riders has helped britain to reach the forefront of the sport. and as pointed out by cossins, it inspired fellow professional rider brian smith, to found scotland's braveheart fund along similar lines.
'everybody's friend' underlines the esteem with which rayner was held by his fellow professionals, with contributions from smith, dave mann, jon clay, bernie burns, chris walker, keith lambert, mario cipollini (a team-mate of rayner's in the early days) and many others. for those who know only of the dave rayner fund and little of the rider whose wretched death brought about its existence, this is a marvellous and sincere tribute to a young man whose legacy has played a major part in britain's international cycling success. it would not be too great a claim, i would think, to state that we probably couldn't have done it without him.
everybody's friend by peter cossins is available direct from the dave rayner fund website at a cost of £10 (+p&p). compulsory would not be too strong a recommendation.
thursday 12 november 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................