Former jockey Ray Cochrane enjoying life in the cyclo-cross saddle
“It’s like going out to ride in the Derby every weekend” – that is how Ray Cochrane describes life on the cyclo-cross circuit.
Cochrane had a career to remember in the saddle as a jockey, winning almost 1,500 races, including the 1988 Derby on Kahyasi for Luca Cumani. Two years earlier he piloted the Ben Hanbury-trained Midway Lady to glory in the 1,000 Guineas and Epsom Oaks.
But he was forced to retire in the year 2000, a few months on from the plane crash at Newmarket’s Rowley Mile, in which he saved the life of his good friend Frankie Dettori.
Little Wilbraham resident Cochrane spent the next 20 years as Dettori’s agent, yet since 2015 he has been filling that competitive void thanks to a different form of riding – cyclo-cross.
It is a sport in which races tend to take place in the autumn and winter months, with courses featuring many different terrains to give competitors a brutal physical test.
Yet for 64-year-old Cochrane, it is a discipline he wished he had taken up sooner.
“It was my brother that got me involved when I went back home a few years ago,” he said. “I’d never see it before but it was a great craic and I’ve been really into it since then.
“It gives me that spring in my step and it’s an adrenaline rush. It’s like going out to ride in the Derby every weekend.
“It’s also very good for your weight – I’ve lost a stone or so since March.
“It’s good for the mind and I actually wish I’d started cycling when I was riding, I’m sure I’d have been lighter.
“It’s better for you than jogging every day. I used to do five miles every day on the Heath and in the end the fatigue of that gets you.”
Cochrane recently stepped things up by joining one of the country’s most successful cycle racing line-ups, namely the Team Jewson M.I.Racing Polypipe McCann-7 formation.
It was a group set up by eight-time World Masters’ Championship winner Mick Ives, who also won 81 British Cycling Championships.
There are currently 35 members who compete both at home and abroad, and Cochrane is looking forward to becoming part of the squad.
“After Mick found out I had the cyclo-cross bug, he loved my enthusiasm and asked me to get involved,” added Cochrane, who recently won a four-race series in Ashwell.
“I was a little bit apprehensive meeting everyone because I’ve only really just started and there are so many champions in the team.
“I thought I’d end up looking like a bit of lemon but nothing could have been further from that. Everyone made a fuss of me and made me feel so welcome.
“Mick is a lovely fella as well and he really loves the sport.
“Being part of the team means I’ll be able to get some advice from so many champions – that can only be a good thing.”
As well as competing in the Cyclo-Cross UK and East Anglian Leagues in the coming months, Cochrane may also take part in a Masters’ event.
“It’s nice to be taking part in such big races against really good riders,” he said.