Well with all the excitement of 1 year to go celebrations I thought it was a good idea to update you on my progress and let you know what’s been happening over the last few months.
At the end of my last blog I was off to Glasgow to join over 600 riders, all raising money for Paralympics GB, on day 4 of the Deloitte Ride Across Britain. Myself and other members of the GB Para- cycling team (Darren Kenny, David Stone, Terry Byrne, Jon-Allan Butterworth, Helen Scott) rode alongside them for 4 days down to Bath race course. The ride didn’t get off to a great start, for myself Darren and David. We had been competing in Spain at the Para-cycling World Cup, but unfortunately for us our bikes didn’t make it with us to Glasgow! It was only by pit stop 1 that we managed to get hold of our bikes, and we joined the other riders on route to Carlisle Race Course. On each stage we started the ride as the last group off, and throughout the day we’d over take and talk to as many riders as possible. Some would join our train even if it was only for a few minutes just to say they’d rode with us, and others were just happy for the encouragement we gave them as they made their way to the finish line. The 4 days we rode were some of the hardest I’ve had in the saddle, not because of the terrain, or the length of the stage (even though they were the biggest rides I’ve done), it was the shocking weather we had to put up with. And in Chorley on the way to Haydock Park race course, this was possibly the worst I’ve ever seen, let alone ride in I really did wonder what I was doing! It was a shame we couldn’t do the whole RAB, but hopefully our presence through the midsection of the ride helped the moral of the riders as they headed to Land’s End.
National Time Trial Championships
At the start of August I headed down to Worcestershire to take part in round 5 of the Rudy Project Time Trial Series, which also doubled as the Para-Cycling National Championships. The course was changed at the last minute due to road works, into a challenging 13 miles of undulating roads. I rode as fast as possible around the course, trying to maintain as much momentum on the steep rises scattered throughout and managed to finish in 32:52. This was good enough for 4th place, definitely not a course suited to me, but perfect preparation for the World Championship TT the following month.
World Championships – Roskilde Denmark Worlds Day 2 C4 30.6km TT
The road worlds were something I’d never planned to do at the start of the year, but with a few top ten finishes at the world cup, and other events it kind of made sense and I found myself on the plane to Roskilde in Denmark. The first few days of training around the course were wet, and that didn’t give myself or team mates much confidence of a dry race, especially as all the app’s on our iPad’s laptops and phones had it down to be wet. But come the first day of racing the weather had picked up, and managed to stay dry for the duration of the competition. The time trial was first up for me, and I managed to get plenty of useful tips from my team mates who had tackled the course on day one of the championships, however I knew it was going to be tough, as it was a longer TT than I’d previously ridden and also with its undulating nature it was going to involve an element of pacing so I would not overcook it on the first lap. With my coach in the following car shouting words of encouragement on the megaphone I was underway, trying to maintain speed without going too deep into the red, as I came through lap 1 of 2 I was feeling pretty strong, but that feeling soon disappeared as my minute man over took me into turn 1 of the course. I had an idea this was going to happen as he had won the Segovia round of the world cup, so I just wanted to keep him in sight so I could post a reasonable time. However Roberto was quickly pulling away from me, and just as I needed to inject a bit more effort to maintain my speed the first laps efforts began to take their toll. It wasn’t until I was about 3⁄4 of the way through the ride did I get a second wind, but by now the damage was done and it was a matter of surviving to the end. I crossed the line in 45.13, a reasonable time, but only good enough for 12th place, just outside the top ten goal I thought I could do if everything went my way. After the TT I had an easy day, before an early starting road race, at 8am on a Sunday morning. I can’t even remember in my swimming days a start that unreasonably early!
Worlds Day 4 – C4 & C5 road race 75.6km
The goal for the road race was to try to stay in the bunch to the end and then sprint for the finish and see what that would get me. The bunch was the biggest I’d race in all year, 49 riders from the C4 and C5 class. The previous day there had been many crashes in the C1-3 race, and the first lap seemed pretty cautious, with everyone taking care through all the technical sections. By lap 2 the pace had increased and the race was on. However at the end of 4 laps I was still in the race as each break failed to get away. Even though lap 4 was easily the toughest all I had to do was just hold on for one more lap before being able to get involved in a bunch sprint for the finish.
With 2 km’s to go and much to my surprise, I was still there and was starting to think that it might actually be my day. Into the last kilometre the pace picked up again, as I found Jiri Jezek’s wheel and thought it was going to be a good place to sit. But just as I got settled in, there was a touch of wheels from behind, which forced me wide. I managed to stay on Jiri’s wheel, when almost instantly there was another touch of wheels. It was all gettng a bit too close for me and I had images of myself crashing in the last roundabout before the final 300m sprint. I had been watching the C1-3 race the previous day which had a crash in exactly the same place and didn’t want this to happen to me. I know the possibility of crashing shouldn’t affect me, but with the road being such a minor focus for me, I took the decision to back out of the sprint. As I moved to the side, I watched the finish in front of me, and sure enough there was a crash at the roundabout. I will never know if I would have been caught up in it had I continued to sprint, but I kind of regret not going for it, especially as I know I have more speed than any of the riders in the bunch. Unfortunately (or fortunately perhaps) in that sprint I developed a conscience and that voice in my head said it wasn’t worth the risk. I know it was for a podium place at a world championship, but I have to look at the bigger picture and that is London. Therefore, starting my track season injured probably wouldn’t be the best idea. I’m a trackie who loves riding my bike as fast as possible around a velodrome and I want to show the world just how fast I can go in less than a year, but in order to do that I need to stay injury free.
The road season for me has been a good experience, and although I didn’t score anymore qualification points for London at the World Championships, I’ve come away with an increased endurance base that I can now work into my track season.
Outside of training and racing, I have been quite busy off the bike. I can’t tell you everything yet, as a lot of things haven’t been announced yet, however one project I can tell you about was collaboration between Channel 4 and Sainsbury’s. They have made a series of ten ninety second films, each one focussing on a different Paralympic athlete. My film was to be the last in the series and involved 2 days of filming. The first day was to capture me in my training environment, so they came to the velodrome with some very fancy HD cameras, lighting and a bunch of ideas. It was pretty enjoyable riding with cameras mounted to my bike, and to the motorbike I was chasing, it was all good fun, and the little clips I could see it was looking pretty cool too. With all the filming at the velodrome done, the second day of filming was to capture me outside of my training environment relaxing with friends and family. First venue was Hunstanton beach. Originally they’d planned on filming me fly my power kite, and being dragged through the sand, however it was pretty obvious that wasn’t going to happen as there wasn’t a breath of wind in the air! In the end they decided to film me walking hand in hand on the sand with Christina, my girlfriend, and then skimming some stones on the calm sea. After getting the shots they wanted it was off to my uncles, where we had planned a bit of a get together with members of my family. We played a little golf, and then a game of cricket before having something to eat, all in front of the cameras. After all the filming they had one piece left to do, and that was to film my mum. She was going to be the voiceover for the film, and as such I wasn’t allowed to hear what she said until I saw the finished film.
I’m pleased with the final film, and think the voice over from my mum is almost poetic. If you didn’t catch it you can see the film on my website by clicking here.
Catch you all next month.