All Images ©Copyright Chris & Ben Dando @ Cycling Shorts.
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Last night saw the first round of the Revolution series 2011 get underway. As an enthusiastic crowd filtered into the velodrome through the National Cycling Centre‘s new vaulted reception area the riders were out on the track warming up. There was a real buzz in the air, everything felt fresh and new, the presence for the first time of the TV cameras brought an extra bit of excitement to the proceedings. ITV4 set up their pundit interview area near the finishing line with Ned Boulting and Rob Hayles readying themselves to broadcast.
Rob Hayles & Ned Boulting - Image ©Copyright Ben Dando @ Cycling Shorts.
The format and teams for this season’s Revolution really feel right, the perfect balance has been struck. The team sponsors and structures give the whole event a classic track event feel, with stylish new sponsors including Rouleur Magazine, howies Cycling Clothing, Cunga Bikes and Team UK Youth which is in it’s inaugural year, was set up by the unlikely benefactor Nigel Mansell. The team takes the name of the formula one star’s charity and they fly the flag for the work the organisation does to support over 750,000 young people. These teams were joined by the Revolution old guard of CHEP, Sky, Rapha Condor Sharp and last year’s Championship winners Maxgear.
The headliners included Sky’s Alex Dowsett (British National Time Trial Champion), Steven Burke (National Pursuit Champion), David Daniell and Frances Michael D’Almeida (World Team Sprint Champion)
Devil Scratch Race
Things got underway with the Devil. For those unfamiliar with the format of this fast paced race, there really isn’t any chance of hiding away at the back of the pack waiting to seize glory. The riders have to avoid elimination for the first part of the race with the last rider over the line being disqualified. This happens until you get down to just a handful of riders left on the track and they then fight it out for the win. Alex Dowsett, who’s had a very successful first year on the Sky Pro team, didn’t hang around and was obviously in the mood to show the long road season had been knocked out of his legs. With six or seven laps to go Alex decided to lead out from the front, he shot off the front of the pack and within a couple of laps he had the back of the peloton in sight. He didn’t quite make the catch before the finish line but to be honest I don’t think he tried to. He sat up to celebrate well before the line and the peloton was only metres ahead. The rest of the riders rolled across the line some time later led by Sam Harrison.
There was one thing that seemed different about the atmosphere as people settled in their seats and wandered around the food and bike stands, and it took me a while to realise what it was…. no Watt Bike Challenge! I’m guessing the reason being the huge amount of noise it can generate from the bikes and the spectators. The sound would be a nightmare for the ITV production team to compete with, it did make it was a lot easier to hear Hugh Porter‘s trademark catchphrases over the tannoy too which are always a joy!
DHL Future Stars Girls
One of the standout riders of the evening for me was the lovely Emily Kay. She returns this year to defend her title and she kicked off her first event of the series with an emphatic win in the DHL Future Stars Girls 5km Points Race where she scored points in every sprint for points and then still had enough for a final attack at the finishing line. Alice Barnes took a tumble in the back straight but she got up and dusted herself down to cheers of encouragement from the crowd. Second and third positions were hotly contested by Megan Boyd and Ellie Coster, both putting in great performances. This was just a taster of what was to come later in the evening from Emily though. She continued her charge on the championship jersey with a win in the Girls 6 lap dash and rounded the evening off with the Girls Scratch Race. Riders tried attacks throughout the three Girls events but Emily just stayed calm and controlled the situation. Emily does seem to be head and shoulders above the competition at the moment. She has amazing strength and tactics, an unstoppable combination. I can’t wait to see where her career goes, she’s destined for great things!
Kian Emadi winning his heat against Michael D'Almeida - Image ©Copyright Chris Dando @ Cycling Shorts.
In the sprint competition Round 1 saw Louis Oliva beaten by David Daniell and Kian Emadi proved he’s a talent to be watched as he nudged out Frenchman Thierry Jollet. Philip Hindes was beaten by Michael D’Almeida. Craig MacLean never ceases to amaze me, his experience and strength seemed to be too much for John Paul who put in a valiant effort.
Round 2 saw Craig MacLean make David Daniell work hard for his win and Kian Emadi dispatched World Sprint Champion Michael D’Almeida with an audible gasp from the spectators. I’m not even sure Kian expected that result.
In the Losers 6 Lap Dash race John Paul pushed his way past Thierry Jollet to deny the French yet again.
The Final of the sprint was a great fight between Dave Daniell – who’s obviously on form – and 19 year old Kian Emadi. They were well matched through the early stages of the race but David Daniell had the better of Kian in the second half and powered to the line by almost a bike length.
DHL Future Stars Boys
While the boys events weren’t dominated by one person there was good news for Team CHEP taking 2 wins; Jake Scott took the first of the boys events (Boys 5km Scratch Race) beating Zac May (howies) and Ollie Wood won the Boys 6 Lap Dash ahead of Adam Lewis (Cunga Bikes) and Chris Lawless (Maxgear). CHEP teammate Jake Womersley said, “The races went very well for me and my team, we came out with two wins which was brilliant, they weren’t from me but I tried to help my team mates to get where they needed to be. It was good to be in front of a large audience like that, it really motivates me to do well”.
The Future Stars Boys Scratch race went to Ryan Whatmough. Ryan rode stongly last season and it looks like he’s back to make a play for the championship. He crossed the line ahead of Matthew Cross in 2nd. Jake Ragen put in a great performance throughout the evening with 2nd place in the points race and 3rd in the Scratch race.
Russell doing his Fonzie Mexican Wave - ©Copyright Chris Dando @ Cycling Shorts.
1km Madison Time Trial
Russ Downing whipped up the crowd with Alex in his trademark Fonzie Mexican wave style in preparation for the 1km Madison Time Trial. Alex Dowsett and Russell put in a good performance but in the end they didn’t do enough to get Sky a win, they came in third behind Rapha, winners Leif Lampater and Jon Mould for howies looked very focused and slick taking the win in 58.980.
Points Race – 15km
Russell Downing (Sky) dominated the Points race coming home with 24 points, 9 ahead of David O’Loughlin and Adam Duggleby. I caught up with Russell after the race,
Alex Dowsett Austrailian Pursuit - ©Copyright Chris Dando @ Cycling Shorts.
“I’m loving it, good to know I’ve still got it, I love the Revolutions the crowd create a party atmosphere.”
One of the races I love is the Australian Pursuit. This race is one you have to keep focused on as you need to keep your eyes on the riders and their team manager, who stands throughout the races and acts as their individual start and finishing line. The riders (in this case 8 of them) are evenly spaced out around the track and the object of the twelve lap race is not to be caught by riders starting behind you on the track. If a rider is caught they are immediately eliminated. The winner is the first rider back to their starting position after 12 laps. This endurance race is a great crowd pleaser but pure endurance and in this case it favoured Jens Mouris the Dutch Vacansoleil pro rider in the Rapha colours for the Revolution series. Steven Burke and Alex Dowsett came in second and third respectively.
Feature Race – Round the World Pursuit
A break from the championship came from a special event: in February 2012 Sean Conway intends to cycle solo around the world without a support team in 150 days or less to raise money for SolarAid, hoping to raise £100,000. Throughout this season’s Revolution Series there will be a number of events to help raise money for Sean’s efforts. Each Revolution Sean will take on a different challenge.
Sean Conway on his Pursuit - ©copyright Chris Dando @ Cycling Shorts.
For the first Revolution the challenge was a 12 lap pursuit on fully laden touring bikes. Sean would be up against Vin Coxthe current Global Bike Race record holder, this was going to be tough for both riders as the track is not the environment either of them are used to and touring bikes with panniers aren’t the ideal choice for a velodrome. Sean got off to a good start but the lead swapped a number of times with Vin Cox finally getting the better of Sean and he opened up a gap and made it stick.
After his race Sean challenged members of the audience to beat him on the rollers at his stand. For more information on Sean’s amazing adventure please visit his website and please donate www.cyclingtheearth.co.uk
Keirin (8 laps)
Back to the sprint racing and Craig MacLean got his revenge on the rest of the sprint field as he powered on to win the Keirin.
Scratch Race – 10km
The Scratch Race was the penultimate event of the evening and Rouleur ruled the event with Sam Harrison winning and teammate Tom Murray coming in 3rd. Steven Burke of Team Youth UK came 2nd.
Team Sprint – GB v France
The final crowd-pulling event was a two man international team sprint grudge match between Team GB and France. Riding for GB were John Paul and Dave Daniell and for France Michael D’Almeida and Thierry Jollet. It was a nail biter and the crowd really got behind the GB team but World Team Sprint Champion D’Almeida and teammate Jollet put in an impressive performance and crossed the line in 31.949 with Great Britain finishing in 31.971. A great ride by both teams and while it may have been a bit of a disappointment for the home team I came away smiling when the delightful Michael D’Almeida pulled up to the railings and handed me his winners bouquet… a true gent!
Future Stars Emily Kay & Ollie Wood - Image ©Copyright Ben Dando @ Cycling Shorts.
The team leading the Championship after the first round is Rouleur with 204 points. So our very own Tom Murray was on the podium I had a chat with him afterwards, “I’m trying to find my track legs still! So not at my best tonight, but a great result for the team, but always a good laugh doing Revolutions with a big crowd”. Emily Kay (Cunga Bikes) now leads the girls DHL future stars competition with 90 points and looks like she has no intention of giving up her long held crown. Ollie Wood (CHEP) leads the boys competition with 50 points. It looks like it’s going to be an excellent series so don’t leave it too late to book. The next meeting will be headlined by Sky’s Geraint Thomas and Mark Cavendishwith more to be announced shortly.
Image ©Copyright Ben Dando @ Cycling Shorts.
Watch highlights on Monday 31st October
at 7pm on ITV4 in the UK
To buy tickets or to find out more about the Revolution please click here.
Revolution Team Championship
2 Team UK Youth 190
3 Sky Procycling 165
4 CHEP 160
5 howies 159
6 Cunga Bikes 158
7 Maxgear Racing 154
8 Rapha Condor Sharp 132
Future Stars Girls Leader
Future Stars Boys Leader
Revolution 28 Girls Future Stars Madison - Amy Hill & Amy Roberts - Image ©Copyright Anna Magrath
Yes that’s right, it’s that time of the year when our attention here in Europe turns to the warmth of the track as the road season draws to a close and the track season gets underway today with the British National Championships.
So if you’re not lucky enough to be attending the Nationals one of the best ways to see some vibrant cycling action is to attend a Revolution, don’t worry it’s not that sort of revolution! Revolutions are competitive but friendly track meetings between world pro cyclists and the best of British pro cycling, along with the cream of British junior talent. All this is condensed into a Saturday evening of electrifying entertainment.
Bradley Wiggins at The Revolution - Image ©Copyright Revolution
I’m a big fan of the events as you can tell, I’ve attended them since they started in 2003 and the atmosphere is amazing, it’s not intimidating like other sporting events can be, I think that’s mainly down to the fact that cyclists and cycling fans are a uniquely friendly and laid back breed. The Cycling Revolution Series is now in it’s ninth season and it will kick off with the 33rd event on the 29th October 2011. There are four meetings a year [usually one per month], already confirmed for the first is Alex Dowsett from Team Sky, fresh from his National Time Trial victory and I am told more top names are to be confirmed shortly for this first event, but throughout the season you will be able to see the likes of Chris Hoy, and Victoria Pendleton. Confirmed to appear during the season are Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas, Ben Swift, Russell Downing and Pete Kennaugh. Last years Revolution Championship team Maxgear will include Simon Yates, Adam Yates and Chris Lawless. Rapha Condor Sharp will bring- Ed Clancy, Andy Tennant and Dean Downing, and UK Youth will join the action headed by Magnus Backstedt, Steven Burke and James Lowsley-Williams, more will of course be added to the list as the season progresses and riders such as Luke Rowe will be available for selection once the new riders contracts start on January 1st 2012.
Your almost certain to see well known faces past and present wandering around the edge of the track mingling with the crowd. There are stands of cycling goodies, food and drink tempting you to part with your money. A great way work those calories off is to have a go at the Watt Bike Challenge, it’s open to everyone and is a real crowd puller.
The Revolutions give fans a chance to see the worlds best compete in a track league format (it was the first track league in the world). The evening’s are filled with different formats of racing including international grudge matches, where riders temporarily leave their Revolution League team to join with their national team to go against rival countries in crowd pulling races like the teams sprint, it’s a great way to see how on form riders are before the Olympics! The venue and event has a very family friendly atmosphere, it’s a great night of fast paced racing and music which enthrals both newcomers to cycling and those hardy old skool cyclists and fans. I’ve often taken friends with me who have no interest in, or knowledge of track cycling and they always come back for more! It will inspire any child to get into cycling, they’ll be pestering you to arrange a track session or find a club for them to join, I’m yet to be proven wrong on that one! It’s thrilling for youngsters because they see the Juniors [Future Stars] riding the track in the same teams as the pro riders and up against them. All teams compete for points towards the Revolution Championship and the all important winners Black Jersey. There are 8 teams with a mix of international, British and junior riders on each. Last seasons winners Maxgear and the runners up Team Sky will be part of this years line up along with other British Pro teams like Rapha and UK Youth. There’s also a bonus this year because the recent building work is now complete at The National Cycling Centre and the brand new adjoining indoor BMX Centre is now ready for competition and training sessions, so visitors can take a peek at what that has to offer, the BMX facility has a shared reception area with the velodrome.
Throughout the winter the Revolution Series takes place in four Saturday meetings (29th October, 19th November, 7th January and 28th January) at Manchester Velodrome, and with Olympic track tickets sold out, this is the perfect and for some the last time to see the Pro’s ride the boards as they reach their peak form in preparation for London 2012, tickets normally sell out well before the meetings so it pays to book early to bag yourself the best seats! I would recommend buying a season ticket, you get to enter the velodrome early and avoid all the queues via the VIP entrance 30 minutes before the main doors open, ideal on a cold, dark Manchester night. You also get 15% discount from the Revolution shop, but hurry I’m told the Season Tickets are nearly sold out!
To buy tickets you can call the ticket line on: 0843 208 0500
or click here to be taken to the Revolution Website to buy tickets online.
For more information on past and future Cycling Revolution Series Events please go to the Revolution’s BRAND NEW website by clicking here.
Follow Cycling Revolution Series on Facebook.
Follow @RevolutionUK on Twitter.
ENTER OUR EXCLUSIVE PRISE DRAW TO WIN TICKETS TO THE FIRST REVOLUTION OF THE SEASON BY CLICKING HERE!
Revolution 28 British Team Sprint Line Up LtoR: David Daniell, Ross Edgar, Pete Mitchell - Image ©Copyright Anna Magrath
I heard of this great event and I thought I should share…
Sunday 11th September 2011
Ride the track on your own bike between
Free bike-powered cinema
Screening: Breaking Away & The Best Seat In The World
Herne Hill Velodrome
Burbage Road, Herne Hill, London, SE24 9HE, UK
This weekend sees “Save the Velodrome” host an evening of free green entertainment, first on the bill is “have-a-go” cycling on the newly laid track at Herne Hill Velodrome followed by a bicycle powered outdoor cinema night as part of the Peckham & Nunhead Free Film Festival. The screening will be showing the cycling classic “Breaking Away” it will be accompanied by the premiere of “The Best Seat In The World,” a new documentary about Herne Hill’s Velodrome and it’s long history and struggle to stay open, it’s peppered with interviews from cyclists young and old, past and present.
It promises to be a great night for all the family, volunteers will take it in turns to have a go at powering the cinema on the special bikes provided.
For more information on the event please click here to be taken to the Free Film Festival Website.
Herne Hill Track League Grand Finale Image ©Copyright Martin Dixon
Those of our readers in the UK who compete at any level or follow professional cycling will be aware of the ongoing battle to keep the wonderful Herne Hill Velodrome open, for our readers from further afield who are less familiar with Herne Hill you may be aware of similar stories of cycling venues near to you. Herne Hill is in London, it’s been at the heart of British cycling since 1891 and manage to survive the damage it sustained during blitz of the Second World War. The velodrome was a venue in the 1948 Olympic Games, it has an amazing history and many passionate people who use the track and fight to give it an amazing future. When Herne Hill was repaired after the war it was given permanent grandstands and buildings, these are now unfortunately closed to the public because of the upkeep costs and health & safety, but if the velodrome can be given a more secure financial future and a longer lease can be obtained, then one day the grandstands will hopefully be restored to their former glory.
Herne Hill Supporters Club Image ©Copyright Pete @Fixedgear
The velodrome still continues to attract cyclists and supporters to it’s grounds, including the ever popular Good Friday Meeting that attracts cyclists of all levels from all over the world to compete.
Herne Hill is one of the oldest velodromes in the world and it has seen racing from many cycling greats including Jaques Anquetil, Fuasto Coppi and Tom Simpson. Bradley Wigginsfirst raced at Herne Hill when he was just 12.
For more information on the Save The Velodrome Campaign and events please click here.
This event is presented by Free Film Festivals in association with Herne Hill Velodrome, Electric Pedals, Hackney Bicycle Film Society and Save the Velodrome. Free energy drinks and snacks for cyclists kindly provided by Vaidas Bicycles. Future Projections provide the inflatable screen for the event.
Alex winning Nocturne - Image ©Copyright Tom Simpson Photography
Alex - ©Copyright Kramon
A Conversation with
by Anna Magrath
Alex Dowsett chats to me about cycling, living with haemophilia, Team Sky… and the significance of martial arts bears in modern cinema.
Alex is one of British Cycling’s rising stars, and this year the Essex rider joined the ranks of Team Sky. Alex, who has spent his career perfecting his time trialling technique, has had a lot of success against the clock. Alex joined the Trek-Livestrong Development Team after spending three years with the British Cycling Olympic Academy. He spent a lot of time in Quaratta, Italy with British Cycling before he was snapped up by Trek-Livestrong in 2010, a team owned by Lance Armstrong. Under Director Sportif Axel Merckx Alex flourished. In 2011 Alex came back to the British Cycling fold by signing to Team Sky where he’s had an excellent start to his season.
Alex suffers from haemophilia and he’s the only rider in the Pro Tour peloton with the condition. I caught up with him to talk about his career and how his condition has impacted on his life.
How has your first season with Team Sky gone?
This years been pretty good so far, I mean I sort of set out with the aim not to disgrace myself in my first year in the pro ranks, so I’m pretty sure I’ve not done that. I got my first podium in the prologue of the Electro Tour [Ster ZLM Toer] a few weeks ago… and I finished sixth overall and I’ve just finished 5th overall in the Tour of Denmark [Post Danmark Rundt], 3rd in the Time Trial on Stage 5 which I am really, really pleased with. It’s just nice to prove to myself that I can be competitive at this level. So it’s still onwards and upwards. Unfortunately I’ve had a little bit of an ankle injury just the last couple if weeks so I had to take some time off but it’s all been fixed and I’m back on the bike and trying to crawl back to where I was before.
What was the ankle injury?
It’s basically a form of arthritis, I haven’t got a lot of cartilage in there which the doctors have fixed with cortisone injections along with a lubricant which they injected straight into the joint and that seems to have fixed it. The doctors are pretty confident that it shouldn’t give me any hassle. They say there’s research into other sports that are weight bearing and there are footballers in far worse condition than I am in, playing football is pretty hazardous for the joints.
Is it something they’ll have to keep an eye on?
Yeah I might have to have this injection they say maybe at worst every six months but I might never have to have it again. So it’s just a case of if it comes on again I know something can be done to ease it, so it’s not bad at all to be honest.
So will that injury be impacted upon by your haemophilia or is unrelated?
The haemophilia certainly wouldn’t have helped it, I’m not sure whether it’s directly related or not, it’s difficult to know to be honest. It might stem from me playing basketball a lot when I was at school, that could have aggravated it. It could be a culmination of a number of things, haemophilia included most likely, so it’s not something we see as being massively important, it’s just a case of managing it and dealing with it as best we can.
Alex and Team Sky - Images ©Copyright Chris Maher
Alex Tour of Utah, Stage 4 Crit - Image Copyright Brian Hodes @ VeloImages.com
So have you enjoyed your time off the bike or were you itching to get back out there?
Yeah it was good, well it was frustrating for a while, it was a bit of a worry. I only really had one day were I was pretty down about it all, I went out that night and lost all my worries though. I didn’t drink because I live in the middle of nowhere so it’s a bit of a logistical nightmare when I want to go out and have a drink. I had a nice time though and met a really nice girl that I’m still talking to so it’s all good in that respect, I was stone cold sober! It couldn’t have gone better really and I felt great in the morning not having a hangover.
What’s your next focus then?
Well for the next few races, with all this time off, I’ll be largely playing the domestique team roll, doing what I can for whoever’s really on form and going for it. I’ll be doing things like getting bottles, lead outs and just generally looking after the boys.
Who’s on the next team selection with you?
Errr… [Chuckles] I haven’t the foggiest, I mean I probably should know, it’s all on the website, we get the race brief through a couple of days before we travel. We do so many races with so many people it all just rolls on to the next one, there’s a large number of us. Usually directors ring around everyone a few days before a tour or race to see how everyone’s feeling and how the training’s going and how well they’ll be performing. It also depends on whether the race is going to suit you more than others.
So how are you settling in to Team Sky?
Oh it’s been brilliant, they really do look after their athletes, the support you get when things are up and when you’re down is equal which is something that you may not get with other teams. It’s easy to neglect the riders that have had problems during a season but that certainly isn’t the case here, they all really get looked after. It’s brilliant that all the riders are really prepared to help each other out too. There’s no competitiveness within the team. It’s a fantastic environment to be in.
You were with another great cycling team (Trek-Livestrong) before making the move to Team Sky, so what made you want to move?
I think ultimately I’ve been supported right from the start by the GB squad and British Cycling, from a very early age. Sky is a fantastic team that’s really moving forwards and pushing the boundaries. So the option I guess at the time was Team Radio Shack or Sky. The problem with the Radio Shack offer was that it was only definitely for 1 year, whereas Sky were offering a definite 2 years. Also Dave Brailsford [Team GB and Team Sky Performance Director] phoned me himself to talk about going moving there, but from Radio Shack it was my agent who phoned me to tell me about the contract offer on the table. I mean if the top guy can take the time out and ring me himself it says something about the team and the sort of respect they have for all the individual riders. There were a whole load of factors that contributed to the decision. The Olympics were part of it as well, that’s a big target for me, being part of the collaboration between Team Sky and the GB Team is massive, it means my race programme is completely tailored around being as perfectly prepared as I can be for the Olympics.
Alex riding Ster ZLM Toer - ©Copyright Kevin Kempf
So are you still aiming for the Time Trial in the Olympics?
The way it works is if I ride the time trial I also have to ride the road race, so I think with me being a young rider, whilst I’ll aim for it I think a medal might be out of reach… well in the time trial I’m more likely to be an outside chance of getting a medal. So I’m turning a lot of my focus on being a team player in the road race for Cav [Mark Cavendish], and then it would be a case of making sure he does as well as possible, and then I’ll turn my focus to the Time Trial.
You must be feeling pretty good with your results lately (injury aside), I mean your performance at the Smithfield Nocturne in London and your result in the Commonwealth Games show you’ve got a lot of strength?
Yeah and I think it’s something I can develop as well, I mean come Rio [2016 Olympic Games] I hope to be a gold medal contender. When you’ve got the likes of Tony Martin and Cancellara [Fabian Cancellara] I’m just not at that level yet. I think there’s an age and strength issue. David Millar is a prime example of that: in the Commonwealth Games I showed I have the potential, I was only 3 seconds behind him and then the headwind just completely pulled me apart. It’s just pure strength which comes from the experience these guys have of riding loads of grand tours.
So is the grand tour circuit one of your main goals and aims at the moment? Sky are reasonably new to it, as you are, but the performance they’ve put in has been amazing?
Yeah, well before the Tour, I err… Well there was a possibility of doing the Vuelta [Vuelta a Espana]. Now that I’ve had this injury and that Brad [Bradley Wiggins] said he was gonna hit the Vuelta hard it was no longer an option. My first grand tour may well be the Giro [Giro d’Italia] next year. I did the under-23 Tour de l’Avenir last year which is the under-23 Tour de France basically.
Chris Froome & Alex Dowsett - ©Copyright Kramon
Alex Dowsett - Tour of Utah
Do you think the pressure of the Olympics being so close to the Tour de France next year will mean Team Sky have to rethink who will ride the tour to give Team GB a chance?
Yeah I mean it won’t effect me at all because I don’t think I’ll be a contender. I guess with the likes of Geraint [Thomas] and Brad there’s a few issues there and also there’s a lot of guys in a situation like Edvald Boasson Hagen, I mean what’s he gonna do? We just don’t know to be honest, I think I’ll leave it in the team managements hands, I certainly wouldn’t want to have to make those decisions.
What do you feel is your proudest moment to date, not necessarily the biggest accolade?
I won the under-23 European Championships last year, but eight weeks earlier I was on the floor with a broken shoulder blade and the doctors told me I’d be lucky to get on my bike let alone train for it. I was back on my bike faster than a shoulder blade break, I was on the turbo within a week and back on the road in ten days, and these were the haemophilia doctors saying this, I mean usually a break for me would be two to four weeks just in hospital.
So you’re one of these people who gets a kick out of proving someone wrong?
Yeah, there’s nothing like proving someone wrong to add a little bit of incentive. I have a fair bit of grit. I’m not stupid about it, all within reason. One of the doctors at this hospital (I think she usually works with children), she treated me like a child the whole time, that was the incentive there and then I guess.
As someone with haemophilia did you find as a child that you were discouraged from taking part in sports because of the dangers?
Yeah definitely. Certain sports, particularly contact sports are a big no-go which is understandable, I think it’s something I’m trying to change and encourage as well. I mean it applies to kids in general, there’s so many mainstream sports whereby people judge if you’re not good at them you’re never going to be a sportsman or athlete. My dad was a racing driver so as a kid I did a lot of go-karting, and then swimming, followed by sailing and I moved on to cycling. But I did the sports that you wouldn’t usually stumble across, you just have to have to opportunity to try it out, kids need to be shown and given taster session to get them outdoors. I mean for all I know I might be living next door to a potential Michael Schumacher, but without that chance a child may not have that interest ignited. Obviously that’s just an example, there are plenty of other sports out there that don’t cost a fortune to try out or get involved with.
So you’re really trying to raise the awareness of sport across the board?
Yeah, certainly in the haemophilia community. It’s easy for parents to be scared, they find out about their child having the condition and it’s a deep shock to them. They then just want to wrap the child up in cotton wool, but the fitter you are as a youngster the less problems you’ll have. It’s a bit of a double edged sword. All parents are protective of their children and don’t want to see them get hurt, but a child can gain their independence, strength and confidence through sport, which can help them later in life.
Alex Tour Of Utah, Stage3, 2010 - Image ©Copyright Michael Crook Photography
Were your parents very supportive towards you taking part in sport or was it something they worried about?
Yes they were very supportive, I wouldn’t be were I am at all if it wasn’t for them. When the doctors said that swimming was a great way of keeping my haemophilia at bay, Mum had me swimming five different swimming lessons in five different towns six times a week, she was finding as many swimming lessons as possible. Dad would take me go-karting every Sunday morning, he got me a small dinghy for sailing. They were really supportive for sports that I showed any kind of interest in.
Do they still get nervous when your out on your bike?
Oh yeah, yeah, [chuckles] if I’ve been out for longer than I said I would be my Mum will give me a ring. It wasn’t a problem when I was living in America, she didn’t know where I was, now I’m back in England it’s “Where are you? Are you at home yet?”, “No mum I’m at a cafe”, “Well make sure you give me a ring when you get home… Don’t forget!”, “Yes Mum”.
Though if I forget to take my medication Mum will be on my case. It rarely happens, but I know the day I slip up will be the day that Mum and Dad will be on to me. It’s good, I’m very lucky to have the parents that I have.
How do you go about giving children with haemophilia advice and encouragement to take up sport especially, with the understandable worries parents have? You do think parents should allow kids more freedom?
Yes, I’ve worked with the UK Haemophilia Society now for some time, but now I’m starting to work quite closely with the World Federation of Haemophilia. I’ve done a few interviews for them and basically I’m just trying to share my story and experiences with others. Actually I’ve had a guy on Facebook contact me from the Ukraine recently whose son has been diagnosed and he found an interview and article and sent copies of it to me. It was in Russian which was pretty surreal. He said (and I’ve had a few emails like this and it’s really cool) that my story has helped them. I know how traumatic it was for my parents when they found out, I was 18 months old, it was pretty grim for them. The doctor at the time painted the worst picture possible. If they’d known then what they know now and what sort of life I could have and achieve, then life would have been a lot easier and a lot less stressful for them.
It also impacts on siblings, I have a little sister and there were some rough times, they’d worry that my little sister Lois would get left out, but I’ve got fantastic parents and Lois is a bit of a hard nut herself. We’re all fine, all reasonably normal [laughs].
Alex at Revolution 30 - Image ©Copyright Hope Tranter
What’s your favourite discipline and do you prefer road or track?
Time trial, definitely!… and I have to say road is my preference.
Will you be doing any of the Revolutions at Manchester Velodrome this season?
Yeah, I’ll be doing as many as I can, I’m sure there’ll be one or two that clash with Sky training camps but I’ll be there. I do enjoy them.
A lot of your team have come through the British Cycling Academy as you did, what do you feel are the main benefits you’ve had from the process?
They taught us to look after ourselves and behave like pro riders before we reached that level. I noticed when I went to Livestrong I could actually drop my levels of discipline, whereas a lot of the Livestrong riders that had just come in from junior squads, or just racing in other teams, they had to suddenly raise their game, whereas I could relax a little bit. They covered things like self discipline to organisation, food and obviously training. The academy really teaches you to look after yourself and to be disciplined as well. It also give you a lot of independence with the living arrangements. It’s pretty hard as well, we’d have days in the winter which were grim and you had to survive on just under sixty quid a week. That was just for food basically, but when you’re doing 25 hours a week training you tend to eat quite a bit. You’d have days where you wake up pretty early, ride into the velodrome any weather, have a two hour Italian lesson, then lunch which you had to make yourself and bring in, then a three hour track session, then dinner that you’d had to make yourself and bring with you, then your track league… And then you’d ride home at 11 o’clock at night. To go to bed and get up the next day and do it all over again.
On one occasion, in fact one of my first track sessions, my phone battery had run flat over night. I’d been making a number of calls in the evening and forgotten to charge the phone and I used it as my alarm clock each morning. I ended up missing the first track session. I rang up Rod Ellingworth and said, “Sorry about that, I’ll make it in for the second session though,” and he said, “No, you’ll come into the velodrome now!” and when I got there I had three cars to clean lined up in the car park. I went out and bought myself an alarm clock that night. I wasn’t going to have that happen again! At age 18 it was an eye opener for me, I soon learned. The average kid is starting their first job or heading to university or college and able to mess around a bit or have an off day, so it was a bit of a shock to the system. Our accommodation was in Fallowfield, Manchester which is student central and the flats were above a Wetherspoon’s, next to a nightclub and opposite another nightclub, temptation everywhere. That sorted out who were the ones that were going to make it, though some of the guys that went out did make it through. It was just knowing your limits and getting the balance, there was a time and a place for it.
Alex winning at Smithfield Nocturne 2011 - Image ©Copyright Phil Jones
Talking of going out, do you get much time for a social life? And if and when you do does it revolve around a cycling set?
Erm… The academy was pretty grim at times but it was what you needed to do. Training in Italy was good but it was tough, eight guys who all thought they were gods gift to cycling living under one roof, there were some fireworks but for the most part we all got on. We were stuck in a small town, nobody spoke English. We ate, slept and trained together, that was pretty tough, no escape from each other. Then I went to Livestrong and suddenly I was in America! Living in the States was great because everything they say about the English accent and the girls is absolutely true [laughs]. I also found I was racing better when I was happier. Now I’m back in England I’ve got a good group of mates that live around me, I don’t go nuts, a lot of my nights out are for dinner or down the pub, a cafe or trips to the cinema. I go to the cinema a lot because I’ve got a good friend who’s a bit of a film buff. It got to the point that the only film we hadn’t seen from the current listings was Kung-Fu Panda. He was still up for it but I said, “Nah, this is starting to reach new levels of sadness, we’re gonna have to do something different tonight! No films about martial art bears!”
I take it fairly steady in the season because I know that’s what I need to do. I’m reasonably disciplined about it, the team helps you as much as they can, but at the end of the day it’s up to you. You have a nutritionist that comes round and tells you you can afford to lose one or two kilos to burn off your fat levels but ultimately it’s down to you to make the effort, they can only do so much. The same applies to training and getting yourself ready for races. All the facilities are there, it’s up to you how much you make the most of the opportunity, they can’t make you get out on your bike and put the extra hours in. If you don’t perform you don’t get into races, you don’t get your contract renewed and then you’ll never win! You’ve got everything laid out for you, you just have to grab hold of it and make the most of it.
If you sustain an injury how do they control your medication during a race, are they able to treat your condition on the spot?
Well the beauty of racing with the team now is that there’s always a team doctor at the races, he’s aware of my condition and holds my medication, and when I come down he’s there to scrape me up off the floor, he makes sure I’m alright. It’s all handled really professionally, and the team have really taken it upon themselves to learn everything they can about my condition because it’s pretty unusual and I think I’m the only one in the pro peloton with it. The medication has to be taken every other day but when I fall or get an injury I take more. The medication gets me up to about sixty percent of the levels of a normal person, which is enough to keep any problems like a minor injury caused by crashing at bay. Then if I do find myself on the floor I just take extra. My drugs aren’t controlled substances, it’s not the same as say someone in the pro peloton with asthma, they would have to fill out forms to allow them to use their inhaler. If you’re going to require a drug that can be abused and used as a performance enhancer then you have to fill in a form. A lot of the asthmatic medication would make you test positive. If you have to take a drug that will cause you to test positive then the doctors will give you a form that’s called a therapeutic use exemption form, which they hand in with a sample that says,“This guy’s on this drug, but it’s fine because he’s got asthma.”
Where’s your favourite training ride and what are your favourite stop-off treats?
Oh… A massive cake! I guess I like it a little bit too much. A pre-breakfast ride: I get up, have coffee and then ride on empty for about and hour and luckily about an hour away from me is pretty much the best cafe in Essex so that’s where I spend a lot of my time. It’s called The Blue Egg, the cakes are excellent. I usually have the date and oat slice because I kind of convince myself that it sounds healthy, it’s probably got a lot of butter and sugar in it but they don’t tell you about that, so what you don’t know doesn’t hurt you I guess.
What advice would you give to kids interested in getting involved in cycling?
Get out and try all forms of racing and see which discipline suits you. I think kids should try lots of different sports too, I mean when I first started cycling I was swimming as well and I think it really helped me on the bike. I mean Time Trials were my thing, it was all I did until I was a junior. I first tried the track at about 15, I then started doing it with the junior GB squad at 17.
Alex at the National Road Championships 2011 - ©Copyright Ian Robinson
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For more information about the World Federation of Haemophilia.
To be taken to the UK Haemophilia Society website.
British National Time Trial Champion
5th Overall Tour of Denmark
3rd in Stage 5 (Time Trial)
3rd Overall – Prologue – Ster Zlm Toer (and best young rider prize)
1st Smithfield Nocturne
1st European Time Trial Championships U23
1st Stage 5 Cascade Cycling Classic (USA)
Tour of Utah
2nd Stage 2
Tour de l’Avenir
2nd in Prologue
2nd Commonwealth Games Time Trial
1st Chrono des Nations U23
1st Richmond Grand Prix
1st British Time Trial Championships U23
7th World Time Trial Championships U23
11th European Time Trial Championships U23
3rd Abergavenny International Criterium (UCI 1.2)
4th British U23 Road Race Championships
3rd British Senior 10 mile Time Trial Championships
1st Team Time Trial Tour d’Alsace (UCI 2.2)
1st British Time Trial Championships U23
1st Perfs Pedal Road Race
1st Overall British Premier Calendar U23 Champion
1st Rudy Project Time Trial Series
3rd British Senior 10 mile Time Trial Championships
4th British Senior 25 mile Time Trial Championships
1st British Junior Road Race Championships
1st British Junior 10 mile Time Trial Championships
1st British Junior 25 mile Time Trial Championships
1st Tour of Switzerland 7.7km Time Trial
1st European Junior Team Pursuit Championships
My thanks to Alex and all the photographers.
Click to read Sam’s interview with Alex
©Copyright 2011 Anna Magrath @ Cycling Shorts. Please do not reproduce any content without permission from myself or the photographers.