I could never match Tao’s work rate on a bike
Tao has always been moving, whether with his mouth or his legs. With a five-year gap between us, he was like a parent to me. Whatever sport, music or television show my older brother was following, I was engrossed in too.
Growing up, we spent time between our parents’ homes but we were always together until he moved to Spain seven years ago to pursue his dream of becoming a professional cyclist. Though separated by borders, we remain connected through our circles – he has a tattoo of one on his left arm and as soon as I was 18, I matched him with one of my own. I also cover my stuff with circle stickers I had made. It has a meaning for us.
It was Tao’s swimming coach who got him into cycling – he said he would improve his leg strength. He didn’t realise he had converted Tao to a sport he would love so much more.
His first road bike was a Specialised Dolce, bought second-hand with the help of London Fields Cycles, and when he crashed it, he stopped swimming and focused on the cycling instead – and not just for fun. He had a job working for Condor Cycles on Gray’s Inn Road and every Saturday he would ride down to the shop on his Francesco Moser fixie. He would come home each week with new stories, telling us who he had met, be it Kristian House [former British national road champion] or Channel 4 newsreader John Snow.
No matter where Tao went or worked, he would always make sure that I had the chance to experience them too. Whatever fights or arguments we had, he shared everything with me, always supported and looked after me.
Working for Condor opened doors for Tao and the people he met resulted in him finding sponsorship with companies such as Condor and Rapha. On top of this he had the support of our local club, Cycling Club Hackney, where he trained alongside people like Dave Carr, an ICU nurse who is the same age as our parents, to Alex Peters, formerly of Team Sky and now with Canyon Eisenburg, who is only a year older.
Throughout Tao’s junior racing I would travel with him to as many races as possible. The one thing I always noticed was his consistency and patience while riding. You could see he always knew if he worked day-in-day-out then he would get his time and get his results. We would follow him as much as possible, too, when he joined Axel Merckx’s team, a team where I believe he learnt so much and grew so much.
He moved away from home, and started racing all over the world. Dad and I used to drive through the night to watch him race in Belgium or France. I would spend days planning driving routes to watch him as many times as possible and then Dad would drive like a mad man to make sure we could get there. I think my record was nine times that we saw him one year at the under-23 Liège-Bastogne-Liège.