British national champions recall how they won their stripes, the pride in wearing them for the season and the effect it had on the rest of their careers. Podium fines, finish line crashes, curious combines, white shorts and unlikely alliances – these are the stories behind the jerseys.
Tara Hammond – with Roger (2003, 2004)
I met Rog on the Tour of Britain in 2004. I was race doctor – never seen a bike race, no idea what they did. He was national champion, he’d signed for Discovery Channel, he was far too important to talk to me.
After the race, I thought he was all right. We got talking, exchanged emails. Then he handed me this scrumpled up national champion’s jersey. I had no idea what it was, that it was specific to him. It was just a smelly jersey, really.
Anyway, I took up cycling a while later and everybody kept saying ‘that’s Roger Hammond’s jersey.’ The guys on my Saturday morning rides in Birmingham were fairly typical British club men – liked to prove their point.
One of them said: ‘I’ve met the man whose jersey that is a copy of. I’ve met him. He signed my autograph book. You could learn a thing or two about him.’
I replied: ‘The last time I saw Roger Hammond was in bed this morning,’ then cycled off…