Luke Allingham. Photo by Carole Snow.
For most people, big accomplishments at the age of 12 amount to a trophy won on a sports team, a project aced in middle school, or maybe making out with someone for the first time in the park. When Luke Allingham was 12, he decided he wanted to break into cycling journalism by writing race reports for an unofficial Leopard Trek fan site. Now at the ripe old age of 16, he has interviewed some of cycling’s best athletes, racing legends, and even the head of the sport’s international governing body. I can’t decide whether Allingham’s gumption is inspiring or distressing, but either way he is seriously impressive. I spoke with him about his early foray into writing and interviewing, his love of bike racing, creating these opportunities for himself, his longterm plans for cycling journalism, and more.
Correction: An early version of this interview implied that Allingham was writing race reports for the Leopard Trek team. He was actually writing for an unofficial Leopard Trek fan site.
How’d you get your start interviewing riders and writing about cycling?
It was in April of 2011 and I was just getting into the racing scene and following the Leopard Trek team–the Schleck Brothers and Cancellara and all of them. I had a Google news alert set up for the team and one day got an alert that said an unofficial Leopard Trek fan site was looking for volunteer writers. I’d never really tried writing, never really considered it before, but I figured I’d take it a shot and try something new. From there, it’s built over the past three and half years now.
How has it the work evolved?
When I first started, I was doing strictly race reports. For the first two and a half years I was just covering the Tour de France stages, Giro stages, Vuelta stages, covering races I’d never really heard of. It was fun for me cause I got to learn about all these new races. In the last year and a half or so, I started focusing on interviewing riders. I’ve interviewed UCI cycling officials, some former US Postal Team and Discovery Team riders, a lot of guys from the domestic peloton and international peloton. I’ve touched on a little bit of everything.
Where are all these interviews appearing?
They’ve been all over the place. For a long time a lot of them were on a called the Daily Peloton, and at least five or six were on Cycling Illustrated. Now I’m getting back to my website and hosting there because it’s not very easy to find a site that wants to have a 16 year old write for them.
You mentioned you were just getting into cycling before you started writing about it. What attracted you to the sport?
My dad has been into it since like 2006. I didn’t get into cycling until the 2009 Tour de France. I watched most of the Tour that year and thought it was interesting. 2010, I kept my eye on the Tour and watched every stage and watched a few other races. Then 2011 I started writing. Basically July 2009 I got into just basically for my dad because he was excited about it.
Do you do any racing yourself?
I’ve always only done recreational cycling. I’ve never done racing. I don’t have any plan to. I don’t have the competitive edge too. I’m training for a century here at the end of September so that’s what I’m focusing on right now. Other than that it’s just riding my bike around all summer and just enjoying the bike and riding to ride.
That’s the best thing to do with bikes. I saw you got to do a ride along with the Garmin team? What’s the best experience you’ve had thanks to the writing you’re doing?
The craziest thing that’s happened because of the writing is Tom Danielson from Garmin invited me out to Arizona last December. He runs a training camp where you can ride with him for a week and train with a group of six to eight people. I went out to Tucson last winter and rode with him for a week. I interviewed him while I was out there and got to see more of what a rider experiences in the off season. That was really fun. That was the best thing that’s happened to me so far.
What are your favorite interviews you’ve done?
I interviewed Levi Lepheimer shortly after he announced his retirement last spring. He was a really good interview. I interviewed Christian Vande Velde. I went on one of his training rides and got to do a one-on-one interview with him. That was a cool experience. The third one I guess would be back in 2012 I interviewed Pat McQuaid when he was the president of the UCI. That was a good interview, it was interesting to get his perspective on things that were happening in that time period. It was a good experience for me and felt like a big accomplishment to be able to do that interview.
It’s remarkable that you are 16 and interviewing the biggest names in professional cycling both in the peloton and behind the scenes. How have you made this happen? How do you get in contact with all these important people?
It’s varied over the years. Team PR people are the main source during the season. Sometimes I’ve made connections with people where there’ll be a mutual friend and they help set me up with someone and vouch for me. It’s also just been luck. I reach out to people and send them tweets and just say hey this is what I’m doing, I want to talk to you. If you’re interested let me know. Sometimes that works, sometimes that doesn’t. A lot of it comes down to luck.
Do you want to make a career out of cycling journalism? I know you’ve still got a whole lot of time before you have to decide anything like that, but have you thought about it?
I’ve thought about it a little bit. I get asked that question a lot. I generally say yes, because I can’t see myself going on another road at this point. I’ve been going at this for three and a half years at this point. Am I just going to drop it one day? Maybe, maybe not. But certainly it looks right now like I’ll hopefully be going into a career in cycling journalism.
It’s pretty remarkable that you’ve built this thing. And it’s clearly a testament to your ambition. What are your thoughts about the ability to just go out and do something like this? I think most people would assume they need permission from some mystery person to be allowed to do what you’re doing. And you’ve just gone ahead and done it.
It’s really been a crazy dream. Like you said, you feel like you need permission to do it. But it kind of just hit me one day, like, why don’t I just break into cycling? I started this when I was 12. To think that I just broke in one day is kind of crazy. There’s not much more of a way to summarize it than that. A lot of it has been luck. I’ve had a huge amount of luck. I’ve met a lot of great people who have helped me along the way. Their support has meant a lot to me. Where I’d be without all those people, is impossible to say, but they’ve definitely been a huge encouragement. It’s been a dream.