by Marcus Leach
When a professional sportsman has achieved all there is to achieve in their chosen sport, it can be hard to find new challenges upon retiring, challenges that will help satisfy that hunger to keep achieving.
That is exactly the position Lawrence Dallaglio was in when he finally hung up his boots and called time on what was a stellar career. During his eighteen years with Wasps Dallaglio won the Heineken Cup twice, five league titles and the domestic cup three times. But it was with England and the Lions where he really shone, a World Cup winner who also has four Six Nations titles to his name and three British and Irish Lions tours for good measure.
With a clear appetite for success it was never really an option to just retire without a new focus to keep him driven, which is where the Dallaglio Foundation comes into the story. To find out more about the foundation, as well as the Dallaglio Cycle Slam event he runs as part of the fundraising process, The Essential Cyclist went to catch up with the man himself.
Marcus Leach: Where did your enjoyment for cycling first develop?
Lawrence Dallaglio: Rugby is tough on your body, so following my retirement cycling has been a good fit for me in being a low impact sport with the appealing aspect of the challenge and training that’s required. More importantly than that I think the reason I chose cycling is because it’s so inclusive, it’s a really good way of getting people together for a common cause.
I also like that sense of achievement you get at the end of the day. When you’ve been on a bike of seven or eight hours you get that euphoric feeling of achieving something. This feeling is heightened when you’ve been on a bike for almost a month.
ML: What is your bike of choice?
LD: I ride a number of bikes that have been custom made to fit me and enjoy riding them all, especially my Pearsons and Boardman.
ML: Having played a team sport all your life what is it about the challenge of cycling that you love so much?
LD: Because even though it can be a team sport it ultimately comes down to you against the road. I’ve always been very goal-driven, and I’ve always set my goals pretty high and I really believe in the power of working as a group. When you are struggling, you have to think of the people we’re doing it for to put things in perspective.
For the three months before we start, I really step up the training. A lot of miles on the bike, a few long distance weekend rides. You spend a lot of hours in that saddle and doing 100km plus per day is a big challenge for even the most experienced cyclist. This is all worth it for the satisfaction at the end of the event when you've achieved the challenge you've set out on.
ML: What was the inspiration behind not only the foundation, but cycling being the main vehicle for fundraising?
LD: I set up the Foundation in 2009 after my retirement. I had done a lot of charity work in the last few years of my career so knew I could do something to help people and I wanted to focus on one cause so decided that I wanted to channel this energy into helping young people.
As a charity the Dallaglio Foundation run an umbrella of rugby activities with young people, the most prominent being our social inclusion programme where we work with disadvantaged youths who have been excluded from mainstream education. We use rugby as a way to improve their self-esteem and teach them the positive values of the game with the aim of making them more employable to increase their chances of a good future.
To fund this activity we established an event in 2010 based around a sport which many of our supporters love, cycling. Creating that rugby tour on two wheels feel is a core part of the event and year on year it’s been a great success.
ML: What's your favourite road to cycle on and why?
LD: I very much enjoy my weekly rides from Richmond out to Box Hill, it's a great road without going too far from home and an enjoyable way to catch up with friends.
ML: And the toughest mountain you have every cycled up?
LD: Stage one of this year's Dallaglio Cycle Slam was from Treviso to St Moritz taking in, amongst other climbs, the Stelvio. Definitely the toughest five days I've done!
ML: What's harder, a Test match for England or taking on one of Europe's biggest mountain passes?
LD: Well, they’re actually quite similar. My rugby career was all about achieving goals and targets, and doing that in a group with a huge sense of fun. That's something I can bring to this.
To find out more about the Dallaglio Foundation, as well as the Cycle Slam ride, click here.