Casquettes and Bidons
Introducing Charlie Paige
Updated: Mar 30, 2021
We are delighted to announce that completing our lineup of excellent writers is Charlie Paige, a British rider who currently rides for Team U Cube 17.
Beginning his racing career with the Green Jersey team, based in Clitheroe at the heart of Ribble Valley cycling, Charlie has quickly progressed for a rider who was a relative latecomer to the world of racing (having begun racing properly in 2013). Balancing sport and studies at first Bowland High School, before taking his A-Levels at Clitheroe Royal Grammar Sixth Form, Charlie was able to start life as a full-time cyclist with a good palmarès of results, coupled with fine academic achievements.
During his time racing for Green Jersey, the Lancastrian was chosen to represent England in the Junior Team for the Arctic Tour of Norway. He notched up a 7th placed finish overall, helping his teammates to secure the team prize. Amongst his most notable results is a White Jersey (young rider competition) at the Junior Tour of Ireland, where he finished 8th overall.
Prior to the 2020 racing season, Charlie signed for Team U Cube 17, who are based in the Charente-Maritime region of France. It was quite the leap of faith for the man from Lancashire.
We conducted a quick interview with Charlie to let our readers know a bit more about him!
How has your season started?
After a good month of preparation over January in Calpe with two other British riders, who are based in France, my season started on the first weekend of February at an Elite National Series called Essor Basque. I was pleasantly surprised that the series went ahead as there was a large possibility of cancellation. However, I managed to get in two weekends of racing by the middle of February. The races brought a lot of chaos, and bad weather added to the stress of the first race. Happy with my performances despite illness and a lack of luck, I am looking forward to the rest of the season and confident in myself that I can perform.
Charlie riding at Essor Basque as his season kicks into gear. © DirectVelo
Please explain to us what level you currently race at in France and where you hope to progress to in the next couple of years.
I am currently racing for a French National Division 1 team called Team U Cube 17. With a race calendar that includes Elite Nationals, several rounds of the Coupe De France and some UCI races as well. The level that I am at is classed as “amateur”, however it is closer to the continental level in the UK, as to be a DN1 team you must have a budget of over €200,000 and some of the best DN1 teams have closer to a 7 digit budget.
Over the next few years I hope to progress through the French scene and establish myself on the continent. Hopefully during my under 23 years progressing onto a development squad that may lead to a shot at the professional ranks of cycling.
What are the main differences between racing on the continent and racing in Britain?
There are a few big differences that spring to mind when comparing the races on the continent to that of Britain and I think the UK scene still has a lot to learn. One being the organisation of the races, which have been running for years in France, helped by the great infrastructure provided by the FFC. Another of course is money, with France not only having several professional teams, but also 26 DN1 teams (amateur teams with budget of €200,000 & 2 full time staff members minimum). With this great infrastructure and finance, it means that the level of riders is so much higher in France. Instead of having a handful of top riders like in Britain, you have a full peloton of top level riders.
Charlie sits near the head of a packed peloton at last year's Avallies Limouzines GP. © Gérard Photos
How did COVID-19 affect your first season in France and how are things looking for 2021?
I was very lucky in terms of the amount of racing I did in 2020 compared to most riders. I raced in February and March until the first wave and then returned back to the UK for lockdown. I then spent about 5 months at home until mid-July. In this period I got a lot of good hours in the bank and it was like another off season, except in the sun and on very quiet roads.
Then returning back to France for the resumption of races in August, later followed three months packed with races. For August I had an average of one race day every three days. With the season finishing towards the end of October, I was very grateful and lucky with the amount I was able to race.
For 2021 the next 2 months are very touch and go. However, my first races at Essor Basque have gone ahead so I’m hopeful they’ll continue. But there continues to be races cancelled in March and April, this being down to the organisation not being able to comply with COVID measures. Although I do think that from April onwards, the season will be pretty safe.
What was the hardest thing about making the move to France and how have you overcome this difficulty?
Moving to France or to the continent is a “leap of faith”, that riders who aren’t involved in British Cycling have to take if they want a shot at being professional. Not only are you moving out and away from home, but also to another country. On top of all of the difficulties that come with this, the bike racing and training aspects are also tough too.
Overall I’d say the main difficulty was stress and things not going the way you planned. Bike problems, language barriers, being away from home, the list is endless. But I learnt last year how to deal with these problems, as every problem has a solution. It is also about learning when to care and when not to care, because otherwise every race and training session is so draining. I think those riders that learn to adapt to the stress and worry are those that are less likely to be packing their bags in the first year.
You mentioned in a recent interview the importance of finding a French team that fit you as a person and rider, what were the things that drew you to Team U Cube 17?
It is always a struggle for British and other foreign riders to find a place on a French team. There are a limited number of teams that will take on foreign riders and then these teams limit the amount of foreign riders to about 2 or 3.
Like for many British juniors, it’s always hectic to find a good team right off the block for your first year as a senior. After a few months of frantically applying for French teams, I eventually got a few responses, one being from John Trott (staff member at Team U Cube 17). John is an Englishman living out in France and has been involved in the team for many years, we spoke about the team and the setup sounded good. I didn’t hesitate when they gave me a contract.
Charlie piles on the pressure at Essor Basque. © Martin Early
When you look back upon your formative years with the Green Jersey Team, what is the most valuable thing you learnt that has helped you transition to the continent?
Looking back on my Green Jersey years always puts a smile on my face. With the other riders, we became a real family.
The experience of racing high level Junior races really helped. Learning the trade in junior years really helps you when you step up to Elite. I think the main thing that I took away was to enjoy it, have a laugh along the way and to always have a positive outlook. As at the end of the day, it's only a bike race!
It does not necessarily have to be the best result, but what is the defining result of your career so far?
It has to be two results way back in 2018, which I would describe as "defining results".
The first one has to be at the local early season opener, Clayton Spring Classic, which is a popular race for domestic pros and elites. Back in 2018 as a junior (16-18) in my first senior road race, I managed to get in the race-winning break and came in 6th. Later in my first year of juniors in the summer, I managed 8th and white Jersey at the Junior Tour of Ireland.
Both of these results are now three years old and having achieved better results since, may be outdated. However, this was a real turning point for me, where I began to catch up with my peers and began to be noticed more.
What brought you into cycling and at what point did you decide to begin racing, rather than just recreational cycling?
As a kid I always rode a bike, but only for recreation. With the influence of my dad, who has ridden and been in the cycling trade most of his life, my childhood was filled with family bike rides- most of which I hated... and watching a handful of races.
However, I started racing relatively late for someone whose dad is so heavily involved in cycling. Just before 2012, I started racing occasionally. Then inspired by Wiggins and the Olympics, I started racing more and more. But I was definitely glad I didn't start racing until my teens, as it gave me the opportunity to try my hand at most sports. But road racing had me hooked.
Charlie meets Arnaud Demare at the 2014 Tour de France.
How did your support from the Rayner Foundation begin and how has it helped you?
As a junior I went to the annual Rayner Foundation Dinner to support the fund. Plus I knew it was a lifeline for riders who wanted to move to the continent to race. With it's rich history and great support, it is perfect for riders such as myself.
Once I had confirmed my place on Team U Cube 17 for 2020, I then applied to be on the fund for 2020. It not only helps riders financially, but supports them in countless other ways. Also, it creates a real community and that makes you feel a part of something bigger, rather than being isolated. If you haven't already checked the fund out online, the list of previous riders is truly impressive.
Who are your heroes and riders that have inspired you?
Out of all of the questions, this one I had to give the most thought to, as the closer you go to professional racing, the less legendary and superhuman those at the top seem. But I think if I could have an hour or a pint with any rider in the history of cycling, it would be an easy answer- Ray Eden.
Ray Eden, who was an ex-professional cyclist and a very close friend of my dad, was part of some of my earliest cycling memories prior to when cycling had a big place in my life. I remember going on family bike rides with Ray and his family, with him being super encouraging. Sadly in 2011, Ray passed away in unforeseeable circumstances.
My dad then went on to set up The Green Jersey bike shop in 2012, naming it after Ray’s Tour of Ireland points jersey win in 1995. It was around this time that I began road racing. Then I began to hear stories after stories of Ray's cycling career and the races he had won, a lot of them featuring him doing something crazy or unpredictable. These stories for sure inspired me and made me laugh in the early years of my cycling career, and continue to do so today.
A young Charlie looks on after a tough day at the Cyclocross office.
Do you prefer training in Charente-Maritime or back home in the north west?
It has to be back home, no roads can ever beat home roads. The Forest of Bowland, Lancashire and even as a proud Lancastrian, The Yorkshire Dales, will always have a special place in my heart.
Cycling: what is it good for?
“What is cycling not good for?!” is the answer you’d receive from the majority of cyclists. But hey, they’re not wrong. For every person it is different and every rider has a different story. For some it’s socialising, for commuters it’s their transport and for others it is escaping, whether that be on a quiet country lane or a gnarly mountain bike line. For me, it’s a whole heap of aspects. The adrenaline and competitiveness of racing, the adventure of going to new places and sometimes just riding to clear my head.
Crosswinds or mountains?
Alps or Pyrenees?
Finish the sentence: “Happiness is…”
Raiding the local village shop or fridge after a long sunny day in the saddle, made even better by good company.
And of course, the all important question- why did you want to join the team at Casquettes and Bidons?
As a “professional” cyclist, there is a lot of downtime with the rest and recovery needed from the training and racing. I have wanted to do something like this for a while, whether that be on a website, a blog or on a vlog. Being a close friend of George, who I became friends with through school, not cycling, I saw the setting up of Casquettes & Bidons as the perfect opportunity to get involved in cycling media.
We can't wait to see what Charlie brings to the team and wish him all the best for the upcoming racing season! It appears as though Hugh Carthy has a fellow Lancastrian ready to put the 'Red Rose' county on the map...