Words: Claire Beaumont Pictures: Angus Sung
For most racing cyclists cycling begins as a hobby, which at some stage leads to the pursuit of biking excellence, and for a lucky few it eventually becomes a profession. But what happens when your hobby turns into your career? Do you need to get a new hobby? What do professional cyclists do with their spare time?
Kristian House has made a career from bike riding, for over a decade has been a consistent winner in continental and domestic races. “Right then, let’s get her going,” announces Kristian as we arrive at his Chesire home. He walks to towards a garage and is soon pushing a sage green Morris Minor along the gravel of his drive.
He rubs his hands together smiling and finds an old cloth musette to wipe off light condensation from the windscreen. “I have got a few things to do to the car,” admits Kristian in his Texan drawl that will be familiar to viewers of this year’s Tour of Britain, where Kristian managed to both race and provide race punditry for the highlights show.
He’s right, the car is a little tired, the seats have had a good life, the leather is no longer the vibrant green that rolled off the assembly line in Oxford over sixty years ago, but the body shows no serious signs of rust and the engine starts with one turn of the key.
Out on the road, it has the familiar smell of old car; a mixture of fuel, pomade and old leather. On Kristian’s 21st birthday his grandfather gave him a blue Morris Minor, which he still has to this day – a smarter example compared to the sage green model we a bumbling along in now. Kristian has a grin on his face, “this was my grandfathers and I drove it up to Chesire the day after the Tour of Britain finished so that I can restore it.” We fly somewhat aggressively over a speed hump, and Kristian admits “I still need to tune this up a bit!”
We turn and the indicator pops out the side of the car; the engine is loud and roars as he accelerates from the junction. The Morris is a classic, in the fifties Lord Snowdon dressed as a sophisticated mod drove about London in a ‘Moggie’, Sir Frank Williams, of Formula 1 fame, declared to Esquire magazine he had a love affair with his Morris Minor (before promptly crashing his by going too fast).
Soon we are back at the former National Champion’s home and pulling back onto the drive. We get out and Kristian stays seated in the car, pointing out things he needs to do and neaten, his eyes glinting with excitement. The project is a polar opposite from racing a bicycle but perhaps share the same commitment of hard work.
“I have always been around these cars, there isn’t much to them, which makes them simpler to fix.” Explains Kristian, “I love riding my bike and racing, but I like that this is nothing to do with cycling, gives you space and something else to think about, so when you get back on your bike to do a hard block of training you feel motivated and excited.”
Then he pats the roof of the car like a faithful partner in crime, having proven that, this bike racer at least has something to keep him busy when he’s not thinking about bikes.