Bronzini beats Vos to win Prudential RideLondon GP

The Prudential RideLondon Grand Prix
Team Wiggle Honda retained the Prudential RideLondon Grand Prix title this evening thanks to Giorgia Bronzini who pipped the world and Olympic road race champion Marianne Vos in a thrilling sprint finish on The Mall in central London at the end of the greatest women’s criterium ever held in the UK.
The Italian timed her effort to perfection to snatch victory by less than a quarter of a wheel over the Dutchwoman who won Olympic gold on the same street two years ago.
Vos led off the final corner from Horse Guards Parade at the end of 15 laps of the 1.3-mile circuit around St James’s Park, but Bronzini was dragged into contention by her teammates Laura Trott and Peta Mullens, and launched herself to the line alongside the world number one.
Bronzini threw her arms in the air and Vos stretched out her hand in congratulations, but it was so close that at first the announcers weren’t sure who would get the verdict.
When the result was confirmed, Bronzini beamed with delight, relieved that she had made amends for her last appearance in London when her chances of an Olympic medal were ruined by a flat tyre.
“That felt so good,” said Bronzini [a former world champion] who celebrated her 31st birthday last Sunday. “Any time you beat Marianne in a sprint you know you’re going to win.”
Twelve months ago it was Trott who snatched victory for Wiggle Honda, but this time the 22-year-old Londoner played a supporting role, aiding Bronzini’s last-lap bid for the line, an effort the Italian was swift to acknowledge after the race.
Prudential RideLondon 2014“In the middle of the race I asked my teammates to make it hard and put in attacks to take the sting from Vos,” said Bronzini. “What I did today was because of the support of my team.”
“I think we made her tired by attacking as a team. That was our tactic today, and in the end it was a great sprint into a headwind.”
 
“She was ahead until 100 metres to go when I passed her, but she came back and I had to push hard in the final 50 and lunge for the line.”
 
“The last time I was here for the Olympics it was not a good day, so this time I wanted to win badly. It is so amazing to win here in such a historic city and in front of these amazing buildings.”
 
“I really like racing in the sun, and today was a beautiful day.”
Vos had come to London in great form after winning the Women’s Tour of Britain in May and the La Course race for women at the Tour de France last month. Wearing number one on her jersey, the team Rabo Liv rider was the pre-race favourite and looked a certain winner when she kicked off the final bend at the head of a large bunch, but later admitted that she couldn’t respond to Wiggle Honda’s determined teamwork.
“It was a hard race with a lot of breaks,” agreed the much-medalled 27-year-old. “On the last lap I was in the right position but you never know in a bunch sprint and I just couldn’t hold it at the end. I launched my attack early, maybe too early, but I am happy with second.”
 
“Today Giorgia was faster on the line. I knew I couldn’t make any mistakes so it was always going to be close. At the end she was just very fast.”
 
“It was so amazing to race here again, especially in such a great race,” she added. “To be part of a criterium with all the world’s top riders was an amazing feeling.”
RideLondonWomensPodium2014Behind the two tearaway leaders, Lizzie Armitstead stole third place for Boels Dolmans from Eileen Roe of Starley Primal Pro Cycling as Trott took fifth ahead of her arch rival, Hannah Barnes of UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling, last year’s runner-up.
Many had predicted Armitstead would be Vos’s closest rival, but the Briton admitted she was happy with third just a week after winning the Comonwealth Games road race gold in Glasgow.
“I had not really prepared for this because I’ve been concentrating on road races,” said the 26-year-old from Yorkshire. “For me it was not about winning today but about having some fun.”
The first day of the world’s greatest festival of cycling came to a fitting end with two criterium races for youth riders, the next generation of cycling champions racing over the same iconic course as the pros.
Ethan Hayter produced an impressive home win in the boys’ race for London, winning a sprint finish ahead of the South region’s Alex Joliffe after what he described as the perfect lead-out from his teammates.
“That was the greatest win of my life,” said the 15-year-old from the VCL club. “I didn’t expect to win because I wasn’t feeling that well but I knew if we worked it out I would have a chance.”
 
“It was great to race on these streets though. It was so noisy with loads of people all the way round the course.”
Tom Pidcock from Yorkshire was third.
Sophie Capewell from the West Midlands came out on top after a dramatic end to the girls’ race, the 15-year-old edging out Eleanor Dickinson from the North West by centimetres on the line with another North West rider, Henrietta Colborne, third.
“I loved the ride,” said Capewell, a member of the Lichfield City Cycling club. “It was a massive opportunity to come down here and race on The Mall where so many great champions have raced before.”
 
“It was a tough race with a lot of good girls in it. It was very fast but I felt quite strong at the end. The roar from the crowds was amazing pushing us on and when I saw the finish I just went for it.”

Strong Scottish Cycling Team head to the boards of Manchester

Scottish Cycling athletes travel to Manchester ahead of the British Cycling National Track Championships

This week sees the Manchester Velodrome play host to the British Cycling National Track Championships. A line up of 284 riders are confirmed to appear throughout 5 days of competition (25th – 29th September) including World Keirin Champion, Jason Kenny, who will go up against fellow London 2012 Team Sprint gold medallist Philip Hindes in the men’s sprint events. The men’s endurance events will feature Olympic Gold Medallists Ed Clancy and Steven Burke as well as former World Champion Andrew Tennant and Olympic Champions, Joanna Rowsell, Laura Trott and Dani King.

In the women’s events, Scottish Commonwealth Games silver medallists in Delhi; Charline Joiner (MG Maxifuel) and Jenny Davis (City of Edinburgh RC) will compete for the 500m time trial title alongside Katie Archibald (City of Edinburgh RC), Louise Haston (City of Edinburgh RC), Emma Baird (City of Edinburgh RC) and Eleanor Richardson (Edinburgh RC). Joiner and Archibald will also compete in the 3000m Individual Pursuit and Davis will compete for the women’s sprint together with Haston, Baird and Richardson. Louise Borthwick (Edinburgh RC) will be joined by Eileen Roe (Breast Cancer Care Cycling Team), Archibald and Joiner in the points and scratch race. Baird, Davis and Haston will also be lining up for the women’s keirin.

Also taking to the boards will be Commonwealth Games hopefuls Callum Skinner (City of Edinburgh RC) and John Paul (City of Edinburgh RC) competing in the men’s keirin on Friday and the sprint event on Saturday in which Skinner, as reigning champion, will look to defend his title.

Speaking to British Cycling, defending British sprint champion and Commonwealth Games hopeful Callum Skinner, originally from Glasgow said: “It (winning the British National Sprint Champion title) was probably one of my best achievements last year, so to be able to hold onto that or even be close to it would be a great thing.”

“The Commonwealth Games is also big target for me; want to hit that event full on. With ticket sales having drawn to a close, it seems like it is really on the horizon now.”

John Paul, Bruce Croall (City of Edinburgh RC) and Jonathan Biggin (Glasgow Life Track Cycling Team) are hoping to bring a British National Championship medal home to Scotland when they compete for Scottish Cycling (Scotland) in the Team Sprint, however they will be up against strong competition from the likes of Callum Skinner, Philip Hindes and Matthew Rotherham who will be competing for the North West of England.

Team Raleigh rider Evan Oliphant, straight from the Tour of Britain, will be competing in the points and scratch races alongside James McCallum (Rapha Condor JLT) who will also be competing in the omnium.

Another Commonwealth Games hopeful taking to the Manchester track will be Silas Goldsworthy (Sandy Wallace Cycles) who will compete in the 4000m individual pursuit scratch and point’s race.

Paralympic gold medallists Neil Fachie (Ythan CC) and Aileen McGlynn OBE (Champion System/Maxgear/Base) will compete in the para-cycling kilo time trial and flying 200m TT. Scottish para-cycling pilot Craig McLean will also be competing in the keirin and sprint races.

Follow all the latest action at www.britishcycling.org.uk/britishtrackchampionships

Full Rider List

Event Schedule

 

 

Champion Systems Maxgear announce Women’s 2013 Team

New riders Lauryn Theryn and Joanne Blakeley will join current riders Eve Dixon, Frankie White, Melissa Bury and Nicola Soden for the 2013 season.
Lauryn joins the team with a wealth of sporting experience and success. Athletics was her main sport up until the age of 20. She was a thrower who competed in the Javelin and Discus at World Youth Games and Commonwealth Games standard. She finished her athletics career in 2006 in order to focus on Bobsleigh where she competed for Great Britain on the Europa Cup Circuit, World Cup Circuit and at the World Championships. She finished Bobsleigh in 2008 ranked 6th in the World, the best result for a British Women’s team in over a decade.

Lauryn Theryn Bobsleigh

Lauryn took up cycling in 2011 after attending a talent transfer programme run by UK Sport called Girls 4 Gold. She joined the Cardiff Jif Cycling Cluband raced for them on the road and track winning Welsh National medals in both disciplines. During the winter she took up playing Rugby and was selected for the England 7’s Development Squad. 
After sustaining three serious injuries early in her rugby career she took up cycling again to keep fit. She moved to Manchester in April this year to work for British Cycling setting herself the goal of competing in the British Track Championships and won a silver medal in the Team Sprint.

Champion Systems Maxgear

Lauryn commented “I am really excited to be given the opportunity to race for a local team and am really looking forward to racing with the other girls. My goal for next season is to be a reliable rider who works hard for the team and isn’t afraid of pushing my own physical boundaries in order to rise to any challenge.”

Jo is relatively new to cycling after coming from a running background. She was shortlisted for the Girls 4 Gold programme along with Lauryn. She joins the team after a year of riding with local club Seamons CC in which she achieved a great deal. She won the TLI National Road Race Championship and has produced some solid top twenty placings in National Road Race Series Races. She is also a very strong time triallist with several wins and podium places and 5th at the National Hill Climb Championships this year.

Jo wants to build on her road racing experience next year and is “eager to start racing with and learning from my new team – who love cycling as much as me! I’m particularly excited about racing in Belgium with them next year and gaining more experience on the track and in other areas.”

Ian Bury, team manager, said “Lauryn has had a spectacular sporting career so far both on and off the bike. She is a very driven individual and has much to offer to the team with vast sporting experience and a strong team ethic. Jo is also an exciting new addition to the team with a lot of raw talent. She can do a strong time-trial and is super enthusiastic to work hard with the team. We are very excited about 2013.“

The team have worked well as a unit this year with top tens and podiums in the National Women’s Road Race Series, National Women’s Team Series and races in Belgium and Holland. There has also been top National Championship performances, with Nicola placing 10th in the National Scratch Race Championship, Melissa winning Rollapoluza National Championship and second in the Grass Track 800m National Championship and most recently hill climbs with Eve winning the National Junior Women’s title for the second year running.

2013 line up:
Eve Dixon
Frankie White
Joanne Blakeley
Lauryn Therin
Melissa Bury
Nicola Soden

Follow the riders progress at maxgearettes.blogspot.com or on twitter @Maxgearettes

Pictures kindly supplied by Ed Rollason: www.edrollasonphotography.co.uk

 

 

Book Review: Racing Through the Dark – The Fall and Rise of David Millar

 

Racing Through the Dark

The Fall and Rise of David Millar
by David Millar

I have read many autobiographies about cyclists over the years, but none of them can be compared to this magnificent book by David Millar.
The story can be read on two levels. The first is the most obvious one: a review of one of the most important and decisive periods in contemporary cycling: the end of the nineties and the beginning of the 21st century (the controversial Lance Armstrong era), recorded by an insider. The second is more universal: it is the tale of the loss of innocence, the psychologically fully acceptable story of how a talented young person gets drawn into a world of corruption and foul play, driven by the hunger for success and recognition, and how this world makes this acceptable, because everybody is playing by the same “rules” and the “real world” is well hidden and seems reassuringly far away (a term recently used by Armstrong’s in his defence as he declined to fight his longterm battle with USADA, ‘I played by the rules of the time’). In David Millar’s case, the protagonist survives, and returns on a higher level, an advocate of stronger anti-doping regulations, which, sadly enough, can’t be said of many heroes in many similar stories.

For the real cycling fan, “Racing through the Dark” contains a tremendous amount of background information of how things worked in the pro teams at the time of the 1998 Festina Tour de France: we see how the Cofidis team was organised, we see how “stars” like Philippe Gaumont and Frank Vandenbroucke were behaving like real lunatics, taking drugs before major races, and getting away with it, as long as results were good…We learn how the practice of injections used for recuperation was omnipresent, and how one step leads to the other, as was the case for Millar when he was staying in the house of one of his Italian teammates, who is called “l’Equipier” in the book, but who, in my opinion, can’t be anyone else but Massimiliano Lelli.

We also get a nice insight into contemporary racing, because, luckily, Millar’s racing days weren’t over after he‘d got caught. There is the story of his meeting with the flamboyant JV (Jonathan Vaughters), his friendship with Stuart O’Grady, the Commonwealth Games in India together with Cav (Mark Cavendish), who is described in a very positive way, participating in the Tour de France with a young Bradley Wiggins, who comes across to me to be a rather selfish person, not a team player.

And then there is the second level, the extraordinarily intelligent and well written story of the fall and rise of a talented sportsman, originally from Scotland, who, after his parents get divorced, spends his youth partly in Hong Kong, and partly in England, where his mother and sister still live. We follow his story, how he comes to France to become a pro cyclist, how he reaches top level, winning the yellow jersey in the Tour de France, living the life of a superstar, dwelling in Monaco and Biarritz, how he gets caught for doping practices, and falls into depression, but, sustained by the help of his sister and a few good friends eventually crawls back, and reaches the highest level again, clean and more satisfied this time.

It is this story of “redemption”, as Millar calls it, that makes the book more interesting than the average autobiography of well- known sportsmen, it shows the reader how easily one can make the wrong decisions, how gradually a naïve ambitious youngster chooses the side of the cheating colleagues, and how living in a protected, small universe makes one unaware of what is morally acceptable in the “real world”.

Racing through the Dark is a must read for every cycling fan, who is not only interested in facts and figures, but also enjoys reading a fine story that makes us understand what was going on in the pro teams in the recent past, and makes us hope that there is still a future for cycling.


Title:
Racing Through the Dark – The Fall and Rise of David Millar  

Author: David Millar    

Published by Orion

Available in Paperback, iBook & Kindle

Price:
RRP £8.99 (Paperback), RRP £8.99 (eBook), RRP £18.99 (Hardback)

 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 

A Conversation With Alex Dowsett

 

Alex winning Nocturne - Image ©Copyright Tom Simpson Photography

 

Alex - ©Copyright Kramon

A Conversation with
Alex Dowsett

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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Alex’s Palmares:

2011
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

2010
1st European Time Trial Championships U23
1st Stage 5 Cascade Cycling Classic (USA)
Tour of Utah
2nd Prologue
2nd Stage 2
Tour de l’Avenir
2nd in Prologue
2nd Commonwealth Games Time Trial
1st Chrono des Nations U23

2009
1st Richmond Grand Prix
1st British Time Trial Championships U23
7th World Time Trial Championships U23
11th European Time Trial Championships U23

2008
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

2007
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

2006
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.

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