Hailing from Cornwall and now living and racing in London, Neil Philips is a Cat 1 racer and founding member of Kibosh Racing. He gained his Cat 1 licence at 31, following his 8th place finish at last year’s Bristol Grand Prix. We catch up with Neil as he tells us about the suffering involved in his second place in the incredible Transcontinental, and the importance of racing for fun.
How long have you been cycling and how did you get into it?
I’ve always been riding bikes of sorts, as a teenager 4x, Trails and DH. I slowly got into road cycling when I moved to London, but I’ve only taken it more seriously for the last 4-5 years. My interest in road cycling was just a development from commuting, and me wanting to explore beyond the local borough. It gave me the chance to get out in to the countryside that I was missing. After a while, the urge I had as a kid to race came back. I always want to go faster and further.
In 2016 you claimed 2nd place in the Transcontinental. You must know suffering pretty well. Can you tell us a bit about your experience racing the TCR?
There were plenty of ups and downs. It’s a hard race!
I experienced a lack of sleep, muscle tiredness and a few niggles, but round every bend there would be something new and exciting to see. It just keeps you going forward. Plus, the sooner you finish, the sooner you can rest, so I decided to just keep going as fast as I could. Ultimately though, I knew it was the best chance to really find out what I could achieve physically and mentally. A race like the Transcontinental takes you well beyond your comfort threshold, and it isn’t easy to just pull the emergency cord and get out. You need to keep going.
What was the most testing part of this race?
I’d say the second to last day, where we experienced intense storms and flooding in Macedonia. We then needed to play catch-up for the next 36hrs. Cycling around Greece at night is horrible, there are far too many dogs. At 36 hrs, and after 725km, your body has gone through so much it’s a real test. But, you battle through it, and the adrenaline your body releases in the last couple of hours takes you out of the hole you might be in, and raises you right back to the top of the world.
What were you doing in Argentina recently?
I was lucky enough to be asked to head out for the new Rapha brevet shoot. It involved a week of bike riding, with George Marshall taking pictures. Although it’s more leisurely then the TCR, it wasn’t easy. We rode unsupported for most of the time, with a mixture of bivvy bagging and hosterias. Hats off to G though for carrying his camera equipment and riding with it everywhere.
Are there any future bike packing adventures that you would love to do?
Pretty much everywhere that has quiet roads and hills/mountains, the world is there to explore. I’d like to head back to South America, the trip in January didn’t even scratch the surface. But I’d also like to explore around Georgia, Armenia, Iran.
Were you already into road racing when the idea of doing the TCR came about? What are the main differences between racing something like this and a one day road or few day stage race?
I’d raced I think for a season or so prior to doing my first TCR. It seemed like a good way to engage both my competitive side as well as see Europe fast…
The differences are massive. It’s completely different, everything you do has big consequences: sleep, pacing, food. Make a mistake in a road race and you’re dropped and it’s a spin back to the car. On the TCR its a logistical nightmare to get to the nearest airport which could be hundreds of miles away (and a pricey flight home).
Don’t get me wrong. Road racing can really help. The additional speed and power you have can allow you to ride the distances faster - but only if you have the endurance…
Your cycling history and build might mark you out as a rider best suited to longer distance and hilly events, yet in 2017 some of your best results came from technical crits like the iconic Crystal Palace Tuesday night meet. How would you describe your style of riding/racing?
I like to think I’m fairly versatile, but I do seem to get my best results in crits that favour bike handling skill. I try to race as aggressively as possible. It’s not always that smart, but I like it to enjoy the excitement of the race and less focus on my result. I think I’m fortunate in that I can corner pretty well, and it seems to help!
I’m hoping I can carry this through 2018, and stay in touch at the high pedigree races.
Tyre testing! Came in for second to @dan.coops 👏🏻📹 @rmnc_cc #kiboshracing #staylit @donhoubicycles @ritcheylogic @specialized_uk @columbus_official
A post shared by Neil Phillips (@_neil_phillips_) on
What has your best performance on a bike been? (If it’s TCR maybe you could provide another example!)
Hmm obviously the TCR is probably pretty defining, but I’m pretty stoked at my 8th place at the Bristol Grand Prix in 2017, and my 13th at the 3 Peaks (cx).
When did you obtain your 1st category licence?
At Bristol last year! The previous two years were hard for me to get the points whilst doing long distance races. Although I had been trying to race as many Nat B’s as possible for those 2 years.
Was there a specific moment when you decided you were going to try and step things up with your racing or has it been more of a natural progression?
The year I got 2nd at the TCR I felt my racing was going pretty well and could have got my Cat 1 if I hadn’t taken the time off to do the TCR. I knew prior to getting to the start line that the following year I’d concentrate on ‘normal’ road racing, which was cemented in my mind when arriving in Turkey. I had achieved my goal of getting on the podium and it was time for me to move on to the next goal.
Do you have a specific road racing goal?
The main reason for getting the cat 1 was to try and race a few more National A’s. I’d get round in the bunch at a nat A town centre crit.
Is there a particular race you would love to win and why?
I’d love to win something like Bristol, would be a tall order mind. It’s the closest Nat A to the heart land. But more realistically Crystal Palace series, its grass roots scene and technical nature just make it so fun to race. There are always friends racing and watching as well.
What’s the story behind Kibosh? Who formed it, who rides for you, where are you based, who are you supported by?
It all started three years ago. Originally there were four of us: three in the South West and myself who’d emigrated to London. Now we’ve grown to 10, and a couple fringe riders. The idea originally was to have a team where tactics and results didn’t matter, but how we raced did.
Basically, we decided not to take shit seriously just go out and attack.
If we blew who cares as long as it was fun. None of us have the desire or the ability to be a pro, so sitting in a race just to get a couple points seemed boring. We all liked the romance of the Hunt era in F1, when people raced on the edge. Cycling had become so clinical at all levels, but when you’re not getting paid to do it, ride with spirit. No aero gains and power meter watching for us!
We are lucky to have Rapha helping us out with their new custom kit this year, Donhou bikes providing some of the finest steel whips and Specialized giving us traction with tyres (my not-so-secret weapon in staying stuck rubber side down).
“You ain’t pro bro” and “South West is Best” are phrases you have adopted (if not invented?) at Kibosh. They might seem to be self explanatory but can you elaborate?
Both go back to why we created the team, “you ain’t Pro Bro” is as much for ourselves as it is aimed at other, a reminder not to take it too seriously, as explained above. We’ll take credit for that one ;)
“South West is Best” we can’t take credit for, but even with more of us up in the smoke than the SW we want to keep the team bedding in the the heart land. And I think the riding down there has helped us develop.
What do you do when you’re not sat on a saddle?
I have a grown up job! I work as a civil/tunnel engineer for a consultant, a desk job. The company I work for are understanding though and supportive of my cycling, which helps a lot. Otherwise I’ll probably be cooking or in the pub.
How many oeufs is enough?
Depends what dish they are going in to, minimum of two always though.