Aardvark – What on earth can that possibly be?

Well having just completed my 5th Aardvark, I still can’t get to the bottom of how this almost mythical description evolved. What I can tell you however is that for an observer, it represents a unique bi-annual opportunity to have your riding skills assessed by some of the best on-road coaches money can buy. Namely Rapid Training.

For the 3rd year running I was recently buddied with one of my favourite TVAM riders Steve Harris and when we found out that once again Alan Thomas would be our Pro-Coach, we knew we were in for a treat. Alan’s irreverent sense of humour breaks the ice from the get go and his non-prescriptive coaching technique guarantees that we will spend the day more akin to a 3 amigo’s road trip than a headmaster embarrassing us in front of our class mates. I suggest you ask Steve or Alan about the squashed raspberries incident if you are ever in need of a pick-me up!

Unfortunately, just hours before our scheduled session with Alan, Steve’s rear suspension failed (his bike’s equipment of course!) and as a replacement buddy could not be found at such short notice, I was offered the opportunity to ride with Alan on a one-to- one basis which I readily accepted. Sorry Steve, hope you can forgive me.

I met with Alan in a Costa coffee shop in which he, offered me, a cup of coffee. A nice twist on the usual student offering the teacher an apple scenario. We then spent some time discussing my riding since we last met and by the end of the coffee, we had the day planned to match precisely what I wanted to do, which included a trip to the sea-side for ice cream as Alan lives in Christchurch.

Throughout the day and in equal measure Alan gave credit for my riding skills where it was due and offered, in a positive and encouraging manner, constructive commentary on those elements that could perhaps be tweaked a tad. From time to time he also provided a semi-guided tour of his home county as we were riding along which I felt was a bonus!

In addition to all of the above, Alan offered me the opportunity to observe and comment on his riding for a short period which I readily accepted. He immediately rode off in a spirited manner and it took every ounce of my riding skill to catch and finally stop this Class 1 roads policing pursuit officer to give him a piece of my mind! However, I managed to moderated my questioning and batted away the constant excuses he gave me, drawn no doubt from his decades of listening to people trying to talk their way out of a prosecution.

At the end of a very long day, I arrived home completely knackered but elated from the brilliant, confidence inspiring and totally fun time I’d had.

I’m aware that for some, the thought of attending an Aardvark session can be a bit daunting. So I’m hoping you can see that if you embrace the opportunity with an open mind it can be a huge amount of fun.

Steve Selby

First published in Slipstream July 2022