DVR Under the Helmet with Tony Allen-Mills

Almost all bike racers can tell you that they’ve been in this position: a social setting where they are introduced to a fellow bike racer, out of kit, with no helmet or sunglasses, and miles from his/her bike.  They are both then confronted with the awkward realization, that without those items, they may not recognize someone with whom they have previously shared the day’s race endured sufferings.  As bike racers we are intimately connected to our trusty steeds, and faithful helmets and without them we sometimes feel naked.  So here at DVR we decided to launch a new piece to highlight a few of our riders and their lives off the bike.  It is just an effort to get you to know the rider under the helmet.

Tony:  Under the Helmet

Tony: Under the Helmet

For our first edition of DVR Under the Helmet we selected the team’s elder statesman, Mr. Tony Allen-Mills.  Tony was kind enough to take a break from his hectic schedule as a reporter for The Sunday Times to talk with us.  When you get done reading this please remember to follow him on Twitter @TAMinUSA.

Tony at the top of the hill at Raw Talent Ranch

Tony on top of the hill at Raw Talent Ranch

District Velocity Racing:  Mr. Allen-Mills, welcome to the first installment of DVR:  Under the Helmet.  How has your training been going lately?

Tony Allen-Mills:  Pretty good. Over 2,300 miles for the year so far. I’m still the Mark Cavendish of hill-climbing but I feel as fit as ever, very pleasing for a man of my years.

DVR:  Tell us a little bit about yourself before you discovered bike racing, where did you grow up?

TAM:  I’m an English army brat raised on military bases in Germany, sent to boarding school in England. A philosophy degree at Cambridge, then journalism around the world. I’ve lived in Africa, Asia, Europe and both North and South America.

DVR:  What are your first memories of your life on the bike?

TAM:  I still have a log of every ride I’ve done since I pulled a rusting hybrid from the back of my garage in New Jersey in December 2008. My knees hurt too much for running, and I wanted to stop getting fat. Day 1: 14 miles at the princely speed of 15 mph!

DVR:   How and when did you discover bike racing?

TAM:  I turned up one day for the Bike Rack’s Sunday ride in DC. There were all these fierce-looking men in blue standing around with shaved legs. One day, I thought, I want to be like them.

DVR:  We know you are not a native Washingtonian, how did you come to live and race among us here in MABRA?

TAM:  My wife’s job brought me down to DC from New York. I’ve come to like Washington much better than I thought I would back then.

DVR:  Tell us more about this incredible career you have, how did you realize you had a passion for journalism?

TAM:  Ooops – not really a passion, more like an “oh dear, I can’t do anything else, I’ll have to try newspapers”. Then they started sending me around the world. And they paid for my tickets! Then I met a girl on a Lufthansa flight to Peru. But that’s another story…..

DVR:  What’s it like as a journalist getting interviewed?

TAM:  You basically wonder how badly you’re going to be misquoted and what it will be like suing a lawyer….[editor’s note: the author of this article moonlights as a fearsome litigator]

DVR:  In your career you’ve had the opportunity to interview some pretty famous and important people, any one or two stick out in your mind as particularly interesting?

Tony in his day job interviewing another famous newsmaker Al Gore.

Tony in his day job interviewing another famous newsmaker Al Gore.

TAM:  Cindy Crawford put her hand on my knee!

DVR:  Why?

TAM:  My knees are pretty irresistible, I guess.

DVR:  Any crossover between your professional life and your bike racing life?

TAM:  Yes! I once featured fellow DVR racer Dennis Bodewits in a very nice story about his work with man-powered helicopters!

DVR:  What challenges does the blending of these two lives create?  And how do you overcome them?

TAM:  My editors somehow fail to understand that it’s much more important for me to be at Hains Point than at a White House press conference. The biggest problem, though, is breaking news. Earthquakes in Haiti, bombs in Boston etc are very disruptive to training routines……

Tony at Turkey Hill 2013, his first 60+ race

Tony at Turkey Hill 2013, his first 60+ race

DVR:  You just crossed over the threshold of Masters 60+, correct?  Age BFD, right (#sarcasmfont)?   What does the peloton look like from your perspective now compared to what it looked like when you first started racing?

TAM:  Can’t wait for my first 60+ race, but I already know it won’t be easy: the competition at every masters level in MABRA is just awesome. I couldn’t believe the speed and power of the old dudes I was up against five years ago – and there seem to be more of them every year.

DVR:  hashtags and social media aside, how has the evolution of technology changed your approach to your career?  To your bike racing?

TAM:  Everyone knows that print is dead and journos like me are dinosaurs. But somehow we struggle on. The technology has got a lot quicker (in the old days I used to dictate my stories over a crackling phone line to a guy sitting at a typewriter in London). But I have to say it’s a lot less fun when, thanks to Twitter and 24-hour cable news, your editors know what’s happening before you do – even when you’re the man on the spot. And yes, since you asked, I use Strava…

DVR:  What insights do you have for those guys and girls just getting into the sport?  What about for those just discovering bike riding?

TAM:  The first bit always hurts. Get past that, and you’ve got a sport you can enjoy for a lifetime. I just wish I’d started 40 years earlier…

DVR:  You have a beautiful bride and a wonderful quorum of children, correct?  What do they think about racing and this crazy group of spandex clad DVR teammates you have?

The Family.

The Family.

TAM:  My French wife grew up in the Alps and has long been used to the sight of men struggling up hills on bicycles. She hopes it will keep me alive, though she worries about the crashes. My four daughters don’t worry – they are too busy laughing at my shorts.

DVR:  What are your goals for this upcoming season?

TAM:  Win, baby, win.

DVR:  What are your goals for bike racing and life in general?

TAM:  Enjoy both as long as possible….

DVR:  Tony, thank you for joining us for this inaugural sit down on DVR:  Under the Helmet.


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