Here’s the thing about Mr X: people are genuinely scared of him. The more people we spoke to for this story, the more we heard that we needed to be careful. We heard countless stories that painted Mr X as a loose cannon, a dangerous, vindictive, jealous and vengeful man with a love of making life difficult for those who have wronged him.
“He’s the sort of a character that — and we all talk about this at the coffee shop — if he walks across the street one day and he’s got an overcoat on, get out of there because he’ll have a gun,” said Steve Goodall. “That’s the sort of character he is. He’s scary.”
Some people asked for proof that we worked with CyclingTips — proof that we weren’t Mr X or one of his “cronies”, getting in touch to give them a hard time. Others were reluctant to speak to us at all, fearful that they’d suffer some sort of retribution.
“I do have some reservations [talking to CyclingTips] because of [Mr X’s] mental state and his seemingly pathological desire for revenge when he feels he’s been wronged,” said one individual. “I have been [on] the receiving end already.”
Indeed, the subject of Mr X’s mental state came up often.
“[Mr X] told me personally one day about his satire page, and how he wanted to manipulate the reactions of motorists, and I remember thinking how devious that was at the time. But what I’ve seen and heard since is really disturbing,” said Craig Pearman. “What started out as superficial charm coupled with insincerity — or simple callousness — now seems to have evolved into a lack of empathy, lack of guilt or remorse, manipulation, poor impulse control, antisocial or aggressive behaviour, all the way to outright predatory conduct.
“I’m genuinely concerned that he might be an actual psychopath.”
We were warned to beef up our online security, too. Mr X once worked in IT security at the big banks, we were told, so he knows his stuff. We were told to expect that Mr X would target CyclingTips and our own personal accounts if we painted him in a negative light.
We didn’t take the warnings lightly, but we were quietly hopeful that Mr X would want to speak. We weren’t put off by the fact that more than a dozen media outlets had tried to contact him, all of them unsuccessful. We knew that Mr X had a healthy respect for CyclingTips, for our founder Wade Wallace, and for the authors of this present article.