British cyclo-cross expert Rob Jebb is one of the sport's unsung heroes. Able to achieve the highest level of several sports all while holding a full-time job takes determination, dedication and a strong passion for sport, as Steve Thomas finds out.
Another dark and cold winter's night sets in to the Lake District in Northern England as Rob Jebb tests his lights and pulls on his rain cape and gloves. "I don't mind it (training in the dark of winter). I start work pretty early and finish just as it starts to get dark. I get out on the road in the dark some nights, extend my rides to work some days, and do the dreaded turbo trainer sessions when it's too bad outside."
It's the epitome of amateur sport, something seemingly long forgotten in modern day cycling, but despite holding down a full time engineering job with British Telecom, Rob Jebb's sporting performances are anything but amateur, be them on a bike or on foot.
To most readers, Rob is known as a cyclo-cross racer and a multiple champion of the infamous Three Peaks Cyclo Cross race, which is revered as the toughest cyclo-cross in the world. "I started cycling because my mates and dad did it. I was always a fell runner, but figured cycling suited me more, and so gave the Peaks a go – they have the fell running version too, and runners always do well in the cross. Plus it was just down the road from home."
It was in his late teens that he first tackled the 'Peaks'. "I finished well down the field, but really started to get the bug. I really enjoyed it." Within a few years Rob had progressed towards the podium, and in 2000 he took the first of his record equalling six Peaks titles (Tim Gould also had six wins). "It's always a major thing for me, my years main cycling goal." This year the race did not take place due to potential foot and mouth disease fears, which also halted the 2001 race – arguably preventing Rob taking a staggering eight consecutive victories; "It was disappointing, but understandable – if something did break out it would mean the end of the race for ever."