Nestled along the Cornish coast, the idyllic harbor town of Padstow exudes a charm that captivates all who stroll its cobbled streets and breathe in the salty sea air. This picturesque setting serves as the backdrop for renowned chef Paul Ainsworth’s culinary haven. Here he has two restaurants (one with a Michelin star – Number 6), a hotel and a bar located in the vibrant coastal town, while also being where he found his passion for cycling.
Having been persuaded by a friend who already cycled through the second month-long lockdown the UK has experienced during the Covid-19 pandemic, Ainsworth decided the time might be right for him to try road cycling, while many others do too. had this idea… “It was probably the worst possible time to get into it because there wasn’t a bike available anywhere,” laughed Ainsworth. Fortunately, he met Alan Murchison, a Michelin-starred chef turned performance chef for Specialized.
“I asked him where he could get a bike and he ended up having one in a bike shop in Southampton, which is where I’m originally from, so I knew exactly where it was,” he said. Embarking on the eight-hour round trip, Ainsworth secured one of the few bikes available and was sold on cycling from that point on. Recalling his first ride, he mentioned the endorphins he felt after completing the 30-mile cycle. “I felt so energized,” she continued, “and I just got this incredible buzz.”
Like many cyclists, the coffee stop is another reason Ainsworth loves the nature of cycling. He said that he runs a lot, and had done so before he started cycling, and that he could never imagine stopping mid-run for a slice of cake and a coffee, but he likes that it’s perfectly acceptable to half way to do such a thing. “I really like this aspect. You know, Cornwall is very hilly too, so it’s nice to stop and have a coffee and a good chat with your mates, so yeah, I’ve never really looked back,” he said, the joy evident in every word . . .
But being a chef is a demanding job, let alone running multiple businesses on top of that, as well as media requests, TV filming and being a father to seven-year-old daughter Cici. Ainsworth explained that he is used to being busy, from a very young age he was helping his parents and by the age of 12 he already had four rounds of paper, working five nights a week at fruit and vegetable traders and taking orders for the Betterware, although he still attends school every day. This is a man who knows how to handle turntables.
“I take my time,” he said simply. “It’s hard when you’re so busy, so you just have to make time for it. Saturday is always a good day to get out because all the emails for the week have stopped and the inbox slows down a bit .Last year when I did Race the Sun in the Brecon Beacons I had a really good routine and I made sure I cycled at night too.I’ve never ridden at night before and it was really nice.
“And the funny thing is, I don’t drink, so I’d have a Coke Zero or a lemonade, but when I’d go out with my friends who also bike, they’d trade the cappuccinos for pints, so they loved going out there. afternoons.”
For Ainsworth, it’s just about being able to enjoy the bike. It’s not about numbers or competition for him. The only competition he has, he said, is with himself. He noted the sense of accomplishment he gets when he achieves something on the bike, and with that in mind, sets himself an annual challenge. In 2022, he rode 180 miles in two and a half days across France, never having done more than 30 miles in a single leg before, and in 2023 he completed Action Medical Research’s Race the Sun event, a triathlon style And this year? “We have to see how it goes,” he said. “I have a burning ambition to try to complete the Ironman 70.3. Something like that I would love to do, and who knows, maybe one day the full Ironman, but baby steps. Cycling would obviously be a big part of the 70, 3.56 miles actually. So that’s where my head is right now.”
Having started on two wheels three years ago, although Ainsworth shares fond memories of getting a BMX as a kid and riding around town on his metallic Raleigh Mustang and Dakota growing up, Ainsworth still is learning a lot about – Distance cycling. A trap many fall into is undercooking, and even with his culinary background, Ainsworth admitted to being guilty of it, especially on his trip through France.
“I made a huge mistake on the first day,” he said pragmatically. “There was a guy with us who was a friend or a friend and he was constantly feeding, like every 25 minutes, no matter what. So I was looking at that and I took that into account for the second day and that it made it a lot easier.”
Ainsworth also pointed out how heavy his bike felt as they tackled some of the biggest climbs in France from unnecessary stuff he carried with him in his bike bags, laughing as he recalls thinking every night of the ride : “Why did I wear this?” But the trip was a learning experience nonetheless, and while he suffered some lows throughout – “I’ll happily admit there was a moment when I think I had real tears in my eyes” –, nothing better than the achievement of being able to overcome and finish something like that. challenge
“I think the bike has an even greater sense of freedom for me now than it did when I was a kid,” Ainsworth said. “I had a good childhood. It was quite simple. I was of that generation where you went out to play in the woods with your mates on your BMX. He was pretty carefree. Now, I’m very busy. When we started our business in 2005, there were four of us. Today we have five companies and currently employ 166 people. So this comes with a lot of pressure, stress and responsibility. When those opportunities come up, to get on the bike, the stress just goes away.”
Hoping to get out more and savor those more stress-free moments, she recently bought her daughter her first bicycle. Showing her the delights of cycling, he took her on a 10 mile cycle ride along the coast from Padstow to Wadebridge and back along the Camel Trail. “He absolutely loved it,” she said. “I think he loved it too because he loves Haribo candy, and I explained to him that you can eat it when you’re cycling for energy.
“I’ve taken her running before, you know, just a mile or so, and I think for her it feels more like a chore, but with cycling, you just have a sense of freedom that nothing else can give you, and I think she felt it.”
*Cover image by Florence Parker