Manuel Ferrara pictured centre
Manuel Ferrara is a rider from Monterrey, México. He normally trains with me and my sisters in the Velodrome of Monterrey, I wanted to do an interview with him to share his story with all of you who are passionate about cycling but are not competitive riders. Arni (as we call him) rides in the Master Category and he was a multi-medalist in the Master Pan Am Champs this year.
How did you get into riding a bike?
I actually started riding some years back due to knee injuries, the doctors gave me an option between swimming and biking as rehab and, since I swim about as good as a heavy rock I decided to bike. At first it was just for my health, and then I found a local cycling group, the Biscauch, that took me in after one of my friends invited me to join them, this was still recreational even though I had to actually train to even do the Sunday rides with them and not get dropped! After some time I got the hang of it but never really saw myself as a competitor in this sport, mostly because of my build. I am 5’6” and weigh 165 pounds, mostly due to weightlifting, a bit too heavy for all the uphill’s you know.
What made you take up cycling as a competitive sport and not only as a hobby?
Your dad and coach Rolando Arreola actually did. He saw me sprint against one of the elite track riders during a Sunday ride and started sending me videos of track sprints… Chris Hoy, Theo Bos, you name it, big names that at the time meant nothing to me. Heck, I’d never even seen a track at that point, and this was only two and a half years ago…! I think it was mostly the adrenaline that lured me… that and the fact that my oldest daughter Karla is a competitive swimmer and the young one Sara started cycling. She had stopped Diving due to heel problems and one day Armando (Mandy) Menendez, her coach, and your dad insisted she had good potential for the track; this after looking at her once in street clothes at the bike shop and her never having ridden a bike! I believed them and convinced her to try track cycling and when she did I decided to try it myself. What the heck I figured we would both be new at it…
Tell me the challenges that you had to face to start racing.
Well, first of all, it was not easy to organize my time around work; I had to incorporate the specific leg training into my lifting routine twice a week which meant doing heavy squats at 5:30 in the morning if I wanted to do them at all. From there it was straight off to the Track and then shower and eat to be in the office at 9:30am. Second, I had to fend off old knee injuries to strengthen my legs and get into shape for the events I was aiming for. And then there was the bit about learning to ride a track bike… no brakes? No free wheel? Bankings, really?!? These were all new to me and all things I was advised not to start trying at my age… ha! Finally, the awkwardness of being the only one not under the age of 23 trying this sport, at least here in Monterrey. There was no Masters Track Category to go race in!
Manuel Ferrara, Sofia Arreola & Rolando Arreola
What was it like to compete with the elite riders in Mexico?
Intimidating, scary and exciting!!! Where is the Masters Track League when you need one?!?
My first challenge was to not looking foolish in a sport they’d all mastered already. I did not want to be the old man that comes in way behind the young bunch but receives pity applause just for trying; I wanted to be like them, and even be one of them one day. These kids have no fear and still think they are made of steel or rubber, I don’t know, but nothing can faze them! So for me a decision had to be made, it was either put my fears and worries aside, think like they do and get on the track… or stay home! So I took to the track. Fortunately I seemed to resemble the image of a sprinter, so that helped a little at first… until the first race! A flop, but at least I did not come in last, which was comforting and gave me the motivation to go on with the project. Of course I would never have dared to do so without the support and guidance of you dad and you girls. I put my trust in him as a coach and fully believed he would not ask me to do anything I was not ready to, I left my pride aside and put up with being dropped by your sisters (Sofia & Chely) and you at training and just worked at hanging in there. Of course I’ve made my share of rookie mistakes along the way as the pressure of the events still gets to me, and my abilities have yet to be polished up, but I am slowly getting better; your dad has been very patient with me.
All in all it’s been a great experience… you have all taken me under your wings, your dad, the other coaches and the elites have taught me a lot about training and racing and I now feel like a part of the track community, all though it still feels funny to be called Tío (uncle) by every racer out on the bike.
How do you handle cycling and working?
It’s tough at times; I have made an effort to organize work around training and training around the meetings, and so forth… to do this I have to start the day early and get it all in before I go to the office, so I am leaving the track when the Elites are only starting their morning practice. I make it into the gym by 5:30am so I can fit it all in, they lift in the afternoons. I have no time to rest, let alone sleep after heavy work outs or even eat at the right times, but I try and do my best and live with what I can manage. Fortunately I have had a lot of help and understanding at the company and they have tolerated and even supported my efforts with rescheduling meetings and things when necessary which has been a life saver for me since there is a lot of training that needs to be done and the track is not exactly around the corner.
Team BICIS AH
What does your family think about you competing at the track?
Well, they worry for me since they have seen their share of bike crashes, they have seen me come back from the hospital after one of them and they know that it is all part of the sport and a risk that will not go away. But they understand of course since they are all athletes themselves; my wife was a European Champion in swimming, my oldest daughter will soon be going to Boston University on a Swimming scholarship and is a National Champion in her discipline and, my youngest daughter has made her mark in cycling by winning at Track Nationals in her age group as well. So it follows that they understand my need to be competitive and, even give me a hard time for being the only one in the family without a gold medal. Something I hope I can change in the upcoming seasons.
What are your plans for next season?
I will work to get stronger and faster, continue with the ongoing schedule we have laid out and either go to the Masters Pan Am Games in the fall or aim straight for the Masters World Championships in Manchester. It all depends on the number of team mates we manage to round up and the dates of the events. I will probably participate in some Elite Track cups during the spring and summer as well where I will try to better my times and the 8th and 10th places I have managed so far. A top 5 at the Elite Nationals would be sweet although it seems ambitious; hey, one has to have goals and dreams!
Do you have a favorite quote that you read or think about before racing?
I actually have many, I have always liked quotes as they provide good motivation, but my all-time favorite is still:
“Because talent alone won’t take you to the top and luck won’t last forever… perseverance is what winners are made of.”
Of course a new found one due to my present age and the contrast to those around me is this one:
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” George Bernard Shaw
Can you give any tips to other people interested in cycling who don’t know how to combine it with their work?
I have found it to be true that in cycling the time you spend on the bike is directly proportional to the level you can acquire; so go out there and bike, have fun, figure out where you are at and what you want out of this sport and then do what it takes to get there. Whether it’s recreational, to get into shape and maintain health or to be competitive, the main thing is that you enjoy it, then, it will not be such a sacrifice to find the odd hours you need to fit your rides in, train and still make it to work on time.
Thank you very much for your time and for sharing part of your story with us, we will keep following your progress in cycling and wish you all the best!
Not every married couple has five Paralympic medals between them. Meet Mr & Mrs Waddon the far-from-average husband and wife team…
They say love moves in mysterious ways. Although not usually around a velodrome track or up and down a swimming pool at lightning speeds.
Which means Rik and Natalie Waddon are some way from being an average couple. At the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, Rik pedalled his way to silver in the 1km time trial, while his then-fiancée Natalie won two bronze medals in one of the strongest divisions in the pool, the women’s S6.
Three years and one wedding ceremony down the line, the Waddons are preparing for big things at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
But do the demands of being professional athletes take a toll on their relationship? Do strict diets make them nightmare dinner-party guests? And would success for one and failure for another in London make things a little awkward around the Waddon household? We caught up with the Paralympic husband and wife team to discuss this, and find out how a cyclist from Chester first met a swimmer from Essex…
Let’s get this out of the way: how did your paths first cross? We hear seven-time Paralympic gold medalist Sarah Storey had something to do with it…
Rik: “That’s right. Sarah was just making the crossover from swimming to cycling and she set us up on a blind date – it was quite strange!”
Natalie: “Sarah’s got a lot to answer for, let’s just put it that way. She didn’t actually tell me that we were going on a blind date. She texted me a picture of Rik the night before, but he was far away, so you couldn’t make out his features!”
R: “After the date we didn’t see each other for about a month. It took a while to get going. I had plenty of time to think about it!”
N: “Yeah, he went away the next day to a training camp and the day he came back I went off to South Africa for a week, so it was a bit of a nightmare really. We were texting and chatting though.”
It must have been a pretty good first date then?
N: “Yes it was, because Rik didn’t talk! Sarah started reading all this stuff to him about me and she was really putting me in a shady light, so he didn’t really speak. I think he was just taking it all in, but I didn’t know what he thought of me. He did ask me for my number though, so it was all right.”
So Rik keeps his cards quite close to his chest?
R: “Yeah, if I’ve had a bad day I’ll keep it to myself and think it over in my head.”
N: “He does. Sometimes I have to prise things out of him, which can get annoying. He’ll be away and something will go wrong and he won’t tell me until he gets back.”
And what’s Natalie like to be around if she’s had a bad day at the office?
R: “Not good! I’ll know what her day’s been like as soon as she comes through the door. When we first started going out I’d be like, ‘Uh-oh, what’s going on here?’ But now I’m able to read the station straight away!”
What are the tell-tale signs?
R: “The door gets slammed – always! Over the years she’s mellowed a bit. I think me being the way I am – quite laid-back – it’s rubbed off. She’s still got that feisty Essex-girl thing going on!”
N: “I feel really bad now! Whereas he’s so laid-back he’s almost horizontal, I’m exactly like my dad in that I wear my heart on my sleeve. Rik knows what I’m like. Or, I’ll just come in and start yelling!”
What’s it like when one of you is away from home competing?
R: “I travel a bit more than Natalie I think, this year even more so. I think I tend to deal with it better – Natalie is out all day, then comes back to an empty house. I can quite happily spend a lot of time on my own doing nothing and it doesn’t really get to me much.”
N: “I hate being on my own. I’ve got to cook, and I end up talking to the fish! This is the first sign of madness and that’s why I go round my mum’s. It’s a good job she lives close by!””
So your family all moved up from Essex?
N: “Yeah, people think they moved up because I train here, but it’s not the case. We made the collective decision to move because my dad works in Lancashire and he’d had enough of commuting from Essex. To be honest, as much as I love Essex and my friends, I’d never move back. There’s something about Manchester and Lancashire. I met Rik up here, I’ve got some great friends and I love it.”
R: “That’s right. The only way isn’t Essex!”
You mentioned training – do your different schedules have an impact on your time together?
N: “They do, yes. Especially when we’re both training hard. We try to manage it as best as we can. Unless we’re competing, we spend the weekends together. It’s quite nice that we’re in different sports because as much as I love him, he’d drive me mad if I was with him 24/7. I’d drive him mad, too!”
R: “Apart from the track stuff, most of my training is based at home – on the turbo and on the road. So I’m here while Natalie goes into Manchester to train at the Aquatic Centre. She’s up just before 5am – the dedication of getting up in the morning is something I couldn’t do!”
Do you both get to eat the same sort of food, or does your training require different diets? And what effect does that have on meal times?
R: “We get to eat the same things, lots of proteins and stuff, which is quite handy for meal times. You can’t eat whatever you want in case you put on weight – obviously we want to get the most out of our diets to support our training. With British Swimming and British Cycling we get access to nutritionists, so if we ever need to, we can get in touch with them and ask questions.”
N: “I’m a bit more ladylike with my portion sizes than Rik is!”
R: “I tend to eat people out of house and home…”
N: “If you ask my Mum, she’ll agree – it’s him and my brother. By the time we’ve left, Mum’s got empty cupboards!”
So are you nightmare dinner party guests?
N: “No, most of our friends are athletes, or are involved in sport in some way. So generally they’re pretty understanding and eat the same sort of things as we do.”
How do you unwind when you’re not training?
R: “We just take the piss out of each other! I’ll take the Mick out of her Essex accent and her living up north.”
N: “We’ll watch telly too! A bit of footy if it’s on, or maybe a film. To be honest, I’m so tired after training I’m normally asleep by about 9pm. I’m a Chelsea fan, which doesn’t go down too well in Manchester. Rik’s a Liverpool fan, so he’s not too popular either. I think we’ve got ‘mugs’ written across our heads.”
Do you get much of a chance to watch each other compete?
R: “I’ll go and see Natalie if she’s competing in Manchester or Sheffield – places like that. Natalie doesn’t get a chance to watch me that often because her training schedules are so full on.”
N: “It’s quite bad really, I want to see him – I love watching Rik on the track. I managed to see him at the Paracycling National Championships in Manchester a few weeks ago, but the only time I get to see him is if he’s racing up the road in the Velodrome.”
Are you quite competitive? What would happen if one of you won gold in London and the other had a shocker – would it make things a bit awkward around the house?
N: “No… we’d be happy for each other. We support each other really well – in Beijing, Rik had to go home early and I supported him through that. If it happened the other way around, he’d support me.”
R: “We’ve both set our sights on what we want to do in London. The situation at Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games involving Natalie losing her swimming hat halfway through the race resulted in her getting a bronze medal. At the time it was a sore subject, but now it’s a bit of a joke. Telling her to keep her hat on is quite funny.”
If the two of you are racing on the same day, who gets the most people to go along and watch?
R: “Natalie. Yeah. I think swimming is more accessible because a lot of my racing is outdoors on the road. I’ll go past for a couple of seconds and that’ll be all they see. With the swimming, you can sit in the venue all day and watch all Natalie’s races.”
When one of you has a good result, how do you celebrate?
R: “When I won silver and Natalie won two bronze at the Beijing Games, there was a bit of banter – she was always rubbing it in my face saying two bronzes were worth a silver, so it was quite good fun. When we got home, our families all wanted to go out and celebrate, so it was quite a family thing.”
N: “Normally we don’t get much time to celebrate though. Success is part of the job and thankfully we’ve had quite a bit of it in our time, so we’re used to it. Hopefully it’s going to be different in London and we will get time to have a big blow out!”
Finally, will you get to enjoy Christmas or does training mean you have to hold back?
N: “I’m actually training over Christmas. We got married last year, so this is our first Christmas as a married couple. I’ll train up to Christmas Eve and have Christmas Day and Boxing Day off, before going back on the 27th. We won’t be indulging in too much food and drink. We’re both aiming for London and want to be the best we can be, so Christmas is going to be hard, especially when other members of the family are eating and drinking what they want!””
For more information about all sports and the athletes taking part in the Paralympic Games please visit Channel 4’s Dedicated Paralympic Games website.
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
Click here for Alex’s Facebook Page.
Click here to view Alex’s Twitter feed.
Click here for more about Alex & Team Sky.
Click here to be taken to British Cycling.
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.
Sofi & Nancy
My Sister Sofi
by Nancy Arreola
Sofi and her papa Rolando in Apeldoorn for the World Championships
Sofi Arreola is a young successful rider from Mexico (she also happens to be my sister) and she’s aiming for a place to ride for her country at the London Olympic Games in 2012.
Sofi has won 6 gold medals in the Jr. PanAm champs, 4th place in the Junior Worlds in Moscow 2009 and she’s finished within the top 10 in almost every Track World Cup she’s competed in. She was invited to the World Cycling Center in Switzerland for the 2009-2010 track season and that changed her life. Her results as a Jr. were really good but it wasn’t until she met her new coach Andy Sparks that she started to look at cycling in a different way.
Not everything has been easy for her, she’s had to fight for everything… including her own life. Sofi was a premature baby and she almost didn’t survive. The doctors told dad that he should be prepared for the worst because it was very possible that she wouldn’t survive the night, but she fought and she won that battle. She was getting 15% less oxygen than other babies for one and a half months and she was so tiny.
We had to take lots of care with her because she was always getting sick (I have to admit… I was SUPER jealous because she was getting all the attention from my parents). She used to be allergic to everything so she had to go to the hospital once a month to get 30 injections in her tiny little arms. I could see in her face she was in so much pain but she never cried or complained about it; 3 years old and she was so tough! She wasn’t 100% healthy but my little sister was never weak. She has been giving me life lessons since the minute she was born.
Sofi & Nancy
Life goes on…
Our younger sister Chely and I are really hyper so my parents introduced us to sports at a very young age. Chely is 2 years younger than Sofia but she was just as big as her and beating her in every sport they tried! I bet she can’t say that anymore though… haha!
When I started cycling both my sisters were doing speed skating and they were really having fun with the sport but after one year they took part in a local bike race and they instantly fell in love with cycling, just as I did.
Sofi did the State Championships two weeks after that but she didn’t qualify for the Nationals so she made it her personal goal to win it the following year, she worked harder than anyone else, never missed a single practice and she was really serious about eating well and taking her recovery to a whole new level. It was impressive to see a 13 year old girl behave like that.
Sofi at Apeldoorn - Image ©Copyright Anton Vos
The next year she won everything in the State Championships and got 2 silver medals in the Nationals, since then she’s won almost every competition she’s entered in Mexico. The first time my sister ever rode on the track she won the Scratch Race in the elite category when she was only 14 beating Nancy Contreras (former 500m World Champ) and yeees… she beat me as well but let’s forget about that part!
Sofi & Rolando (Papa) in Puerto Rico
Arreola Family LtoR: Rolando (Dad), Sofi, Chely, Nancy (Mum) and Nancy
She’s had many good results in her short career but also had her ups and downs. In her first Jr. World Champs she crashed in her opening event and was forced to use a wheelchair because she couldn’t walk, but even that didn’t stop her from doing the road race and TT.
She also crashed in the Central American Games last year in Puerto Rico. She was knocked out but the first thing Sofi said when she gained consciousness was “where’s my bike?!” she finished the race concussed and went straight to the hospital not knowing where she was. All her efforts that day gained her a bronze medal for Mexico, a bronze with a good taste of gold.
I’ve seen her do an Omnium going from the ambulance to the track and then back to the ambulance again because she was really sick and even then winning 4 out of 6 events (it was an important race because it would decide who was going to the track world cups to represent Mexico). The Olympic dream has been in her head since she was a little kid and it’s that determination and desire that leads her to keep fighting.
Even with those chaotic races she’s had good results on her way to London, she finished 2nd in the elite PanAms [Pan-American’s] last year and 4th in the Scratch Race at Manchester’s World Cup, putting her in 2nd place in the world rankings but eventually she finished 4th at the end of the track season.
Of course Sofi and I have the support of our whole family. My dad Rolando goes to almost every World Cup with her and when we’re in Mexico he follows us both to every single ride providing all the support while training; my mum Nancy is the one who makes sure that Sofi has everything she needs. Mum calls the FMC [Federación Mexicana de Ciclismo] almost every day, books her tickets to World Cups and she also makes sure that she has all the right equipment to train and race. Chely and myself are her biggest supporters!
Sofi with her coach Andy Sparks
But I think the main thing that has made the biggest impact on her career is training with Andy Sparks, she was training with him when she was in Switzerland and now she’s followed him to Mallorca where they are now both based.
Andy is an amazing coach and they get along really well. She has a lot of respect for him and follows everything he says 100%. Since she’s been training with him we’ve seen her gain more confidence in her skills and has a better attitude while racing. Andy gives her the right motivation and the perfect training to be at her best in every competition.
Sofi knows that nothing is impossible if you work hard for it and you give your best at all times. The fact that she gets to train with Sarah Hammer is also a major boost for her, Sarah is her role model and inspires Sofi to become better every day. Sarah and Andy have been an amazing support for her when she’s away from home, even when she’s missing family, home and friends she’s surrounded by great people in an amazing environment and we know she’s happy even though we all miss her.
She had a complicated season last year but has pulled herself together and focused on doing things right and hopefully she’ll qualify for the London Olympics and achieve a good result. She’s taking it a step at a time, the next track season will be crucial for Sofi, as it will be for many other riders across the world, in order to qualify for London she needs to get good results in the 4 World Cups and the World Championships in Australia. It’s going to be a fun season; I am excited to see how it goes!
Sofi & Nancy - Sisterly rivalry while training - Mexico - March 2011
Thank you very much for reading and I’ll be giving you more updates about the World Cups and who has a chance of getting to ride in London 2012 via my articles here at Cycling Shorts!
Nancy caught up with her friend Sarah Hammer for a chat.
Sarah Hammer is an American cyclist from California, her dad (Cliff Hammer) introduced her to cycling when she was only 8 years old, she’s been racing since she was 12 and won her first National title in 1995.
After competing for many years Sarah retired from cycling in 2003 burned out from the rigors of competitive cycling, but in 2004 she found inspiration again in the Olympic Games of Athens, watching her old teammates and rivals competing at the highest level.
She came back to cycling to show the world what she was capable of; she has amazing discipline and a willingness to do things right, always looking for perfection.
It’s her personality along with the support of her coach (and husband) Andy Sparks that has lead Sarah to become World Champion 4 times, member of the United States Olympic Team in 2008 (where she finished 5th in the individual pursuit), winning multiple World Cups and breaking 2 World Records last year in the PanAm Champs (individual pursuit and team pursuit with compatriots Dotsie Bausch and Lauren Tamayo.)
[N] It was pretty impressive to watch you break the World Record in Aguascalientes last year, when you walked to the start line you had that look in your eyes saying that you were going for it. What did it mean to you? Where you targeting that when you went to Aguascalientes?
[S] Yes, when I decided to go down to Aguascalientes I went to try to break the Individual Pursuit Record. We knew it was a great opportunity in a race environment that doesn’t come by very often. The track was brand new, really beautifully built and at an altitude of around 6000 feet.
[N] It was also great to see Andy coaching you and cheering for you every step of the way, I know is a victory for the two of you. What is it like to have him as a coach?
[S] Yes, it’s great, he is my biggest supporter hands down. It’s such an amazing journey that we both have been a part of, and together every step of the way.
Sarah Hammer World Track Championships – ©Copyright Paul Sloper
[N] It’s no secret that you’re targeting the gold medal in London Olympics. How did your preparation change when the UCI removed the Individual Pursuit and put the Omnium in the Olympic program?
[S] Yes it was a pretty big blow to hear the news of the removal of the individual from the program. Although I have had some success with the new omnium I still believe that it was a total mistake to remove the individual pursuit. I am excited about the new Women’s Team Pursuit and I think that this is only going to make women’s cycling grow and get more depth.
[N] We all saw you winning almost every competition in the last track season; whatever you’re doing you’re definitely doing it right. What does it takes to be in top form for the omnium?
[S] A lot of hard work!! No, really I do a medley of different things in a week, from road rides to track and gym. Each time I’m on the track I’m working something specific for the omnium. So it does keep it fresh and new but some days I long for my pursuit bars!!
World Championships Apeldoorn – ©Copyright VeloImages
[N] You and Andy were based in Switzerland the past season and now you are based in Spain, it doesn’t matter where you’re based, you are always traveling for races or training camps. I know from experience that being away from home is very hard, especially when is a country with a different culture and language. What kind of impact does it have on your life? Do you ever get homesick?
[S] Absolutely I do get homesick sometimes. I miss my family and my puppies. I do keep in touch regularly with my parents each week on Skype so that’s good. The major positive is that I am here with my husband so that makes things a lot easier.
Sofi Arreola congratulating Sarah after Women’s 3000 Metre Individual Pursuit World Record ©Copyright Nancy Arreola
[N] What do you miss the most when you are away from home?
[S] I miss the food the most. I am a SoCal [Southern California] girl so I need my Mexican food!!
[N] What do you like to do when you have a break from racing, do you have a hobby?
[S] I love exploring new places and hiking, that sort of thing. I am a major book reader.
[N] What are your plans for the next season?
[S] Next season plans are to keep progressing by earning points in both the Omnium and the Team Pursuit. Try to win a world title next year in Melbourne and then hopefully get to stand on the podium in a years time in London.
[N] Can you give advice to other riders that are trying to succeed?
[S] Give your 100% commitment in training and racing. Whatever you‘re doing right now, do it 100%
[N] Thank you for your time Sarah, I think everyone is excited to see you racing again. You’re a great role model and an inspiration to many riders and I hope you have another extraordinary season towards the London Olympics and accomplish that dream of winning the gold medal!
Sarah & husband Andy – USA Olympic Team Beijing
To find more out about Sarah click here to go to her website.
To find out more about the USA Cycling Team click here.
Sarah’s major career results include:
– Four-time World Track Cycling Champion
– 2008 United States Olympic Team
– World Record Holder – 3 Kilometer Individual Pursuit (3.22.2)
– Ten Times World Cup Gold Medalist
– 20 National Championship Cycling Titles
Our thanks to Sarah and all the photographers.
©Copyright 2011 Nancy Arreola & Anna Magrath @ Cycling Shorts. Please do not reproduce any content without permission from either Nancy or Anna and the photographers.
Mark Langlands - Image ©Copyright Pure Black Racing
Conversation with Mark Langlands of Pure Black Racing
National pride is a powerful motivator and now, as ‘Le Tour de France’ takes center stage, there are many-fans and athletes alike, who wonder what the future of cycling will look like. But there are also those who continue to believe in the beauty of cycling and the tremendous potential it can provide corporations and nations alike.
Enter Carl Williams and his new Pure Black Racing Team. With a personal background at the highest levels of professional sailing and embracing the legendary New Zealand competitive spirit of a country hungry to branch out and challenge the world, Williams is invoking the aura of the hugely popular ‘All Blacks’ rugby team to create a new road racing presence in cycling.
New Zealand is certainly not new to cycling with standout riders the likes of Greg Henderson, Julian Dean and Hayden Roulston who year after year garnering worldwide attention in the pro peloton. Up until recently though, the emphasis for most up and coming Kiwi cyclists has been on the track. Pure Black Racing is out to change that, with the support of the national cycling federation and a growing list of enthusiastic sponsors and young riders, hungry to compete with the best.
The team has created a lot of early season buzz with the successes of Roman Van Uden and Mike Nothey at San Dimas, and Tim Gudsell taking the overall at Sommerville. With the additional experience of NRC pro Glen Chadwick providing a strong backbone for the team, the young New Zealand Pure Black riders, racing abroad in the US many for the first time, have plenty of motivation from their mates and their management.
I was on hand at the recent Air Force Crystal Classic, where the young Pure Black Racing Team was putting up impressive performances in a very competitive field. We caught up with rider Mark Langlands and got a look inside this exciting new team, its reliance on culture and the hopes for the future…
How did you get started in cycling?
Mark Langlands: I started doing BMX when I was 5 years old, continued with that until I was 13. There was really no opportunities to represent NZ until I was 18, so started Road Cycling when I was 12, and stopped doing BMX a year later.
Do you remember your first bike and any adventures that made you love to jump on your bike and ride?
Mark: I can’t remember my first BMX bike, but I do remember building some jumps on the driveway and throwing myself over them. Living on a farm, my Dad built us a track in one of the paddocks and we’d spend hours just riding up and down, normally coming back inside when some skin was missing or something was broken. My first road bike was an Apollo, I’d just get on and ride, go exploring and finding new roads and places.
What led to you getting your first pro contract?
Mark: I was approached by fellow Pure Black rider Mike Northey at Tour of Wellington in 2010 and asked if I wanted to join the Bici Vida Team that he was a part of at the time. Carl Williams, who was the director, got in contact with me and it sort of snowballed from there. I rode the 2010 season in New Zealand for Bici Vida, which just before Tour of Southland in November became Pure Black Racing and gained a UCI Continental Licence.
Do you think the concept of “team” on and off the course helps keep the team together. Would it be the same professional group without it?
Mark: Of course. When Carl put the team together he wanted to bring a group of guys together that got along well with each other. I think if the team was made up of riders who believed that they were constantly better than the others, then we would not have the same atmosphere within the team.
How often during the season do you race? When does your season begin & end? Do you race here [USA] and then back in NZ or is Boulder your home away from home for now?
Mark: Its kind of hard to determine when the season begins and ends for us. With our National Champs in January, its pretty important to be going well for that. So prior to that we’ve got a block of domestic racing from October through to the end of January, which incorporates the Tours of Southland and Wellington. Then with Pure Black, we race here in the United States from March until August, doing the NRC races and a few UCI tours, which is the most important part of the year for us. So our year is split between living in Boulder, and back home in NZ.
Cycling is a team sport with riders dependent on a tight knit group for support, but there seems to be something special about teams from New Zealand and Australia. Do you feel this is the case? What do you think accounts for it?
Mark: I guess being from a bottom end of the world and geographically isolated from the main cycling nations, when we do come away as a team overseas we are willing to sacrifice ourselves for each other to show that we are genuine contenders against those nations. And the satisfaction of proving that we can achieve results as a small cycling nation, makes the determination to get those results all the more greater. Even off the bike, especially here in Boulder, the Kiwis and the Aussies get on well together. I mean NZ is pretty much part of Australia according to most people over here so we should get along.
Do you have certain races right now where you are designated to score a victory or be the lead rider? Or is your job right now to ride mainly in support of others? Does that role change during a race (stage or one-day) or is it generally planned out ahead of time?
Mark: Not at this stage. At the moment, I’m content with being a support rider for the leaders of the team. If the opportunity arises to get a result however, then I won’t turn it down. I guess it can change slightly depending on whether people have good or bad days during a stage race or one-day race, and how the race unfolds on the road. We’re always able to adjust to what happens to ensure the best result possible for the team.
How would you define the term cycling “domestique” and what do you think that cyclist’s role is?
Mark: Someone who is unselfish enough to sacrifice their result to ensure the team as a whole gets a result.
Tell me a little about the mental side of riding in support of someone in a race. How do you “suffer” for someone else?
Mark: For me, first of all, I believe its a matter of respect for the person you are riding for. If you don’t have respect for that person, then you can’t suffer and hurt yourself to support them. I think once you have respect, then the mental part comes easily. If you start to doubt the other riders ability then it makes it that much harder to ride for them, so you have to back yourself to do your job but being able to push yourself that much further as a support rider is having confidence in your team mates ability as well.
Do you have a mentor on the team or are most of you guys about the same age and time in cycling?
Mark: Most of the guys are around the same age within the team, but one person who I do admire as a rider is Tim Gudsell. We both belong to the same club back in New Zealand, and he’s helped me from when I was a young rider through to being a member of Pure Black, so I have the upmost respect for him as a rider and a person. And now riding together with him in the same team, makes it pretty incredible to be riding with a person you have so much respect for.
You’ve had some serious injuries in cycling and have come back to be a great cyclist. Do you think the time away in recovery changed you in any way?
Mark: I think more than anything, the time I had in recovery made me realise how much I loved the sport of Cycling. I was just more determined to make it back, prove to myself I could make it back, and I think that mentally strengthened me to push myself harder to achieve my goals, not only as a cyclist, but also in life as well.
At the Air Force Crystal Cup race, some of you guys had a fun day out and about on rental City Bikes and saw the sights of Washington DC. On Pure Black is there a good feeling of comaraderie between all the members of the team? Tell me a bit about the team dynamic on and off the race.
Mark: Definitely! We are all friends on and off the bike, which makes it easier to gel together when we are racing. Back here in Boulder, we’re always having a BBQ at team mates houses, which is good to have a bit of relaxing time away from the bike. When we’re away from the bike, we’re all relaxed, when its race time, we’re all there in support of one another. There’s no ego’s in the team which also produces a real good dynamic between the riders and staff, whether we’re at a race or back here in Boulder.
Team Pure Black Racing - Image ©Copyright Pure Black Racing
You’ve written some great race pieces for the Team website. Is that something you enjoy doing in the off time–writing? Do you have any off the bike hobbies?
Mark: Ha ha! I do quite enjoy writing, I’m pretty useless at having an artistic side so if I can paint a picture using words then that’s my art coming through. I was actually doing Journalism at University last year but I wasn’t able to bring through my own personal flair, I felt a bit too restricted, so now I just write for my own pleasure and let people enjoy the flair I try to get into my writing.
I also find that cooking is pretty therapeutic for me, I enjoy getting my creative streak on in the kitchen, trying new things and creating something from nothing.
I’ve also got a passion for wine, hopefully once I get back to New Zealand I’ll plant myself a couple of rows of vines out the back of my house, a combination of Malbec and Pinot Gris vines to create my own wine. I want to own my own vineyard at some point in the future.
I think its good to have interests outside of cycling, it gets one out of the monotony of just riding your bike each day.
Who is your favorite top Pro-Tour cyclist? Did you have any favorite riders as a kid, or did you have heros from other sports (or from life or history)?
Mark: I don’t so much have a favourite Pro Tour cyclist, though I do admire Edvald Boasson-Hagen. It’s kind of hard to have a favourite when you don’t know the person personally. I can only do what my own personal abilities and determination allow me to do.
Outside of road cycling, I admire my brother [Paul Langlands] as a freestyle BMX rider. To be honest, I used to think it was all a big joke, it wasn’t really a sport. But after watching the skill involved, and the risk he puts himself through, it is pretty impressive. My coach, Brendon Cameron is another person who I look up to as a person and mentor. He has been helping me since I was a skinny little baggy-shorted rider coming into the bike shop when I first started, and both him and his partner Sarah, have been there for me throughout my career.
Thanks to Avanti, Shimano, Pure Black Racing, Kenda and Peak Fuel.