Newport Velodrome – ©Dave Gratton AKA SunflowerDave (on Flickr)
For someone who always has a lot to say for himself, thinking what to write about is more difficult than I thought! I should hasten to add, that’s not because I can’t think of anything, it’s because I’ve got so many ideas running around in my head it’s so difficult to chose.
So my decision has been made for me because for the first time in weeks I have an hour or so to spare to put pen to paper (yes, I am actually writing this on paper) as I’m sitting in the stands watching my daughter Ffion take part in a Welsh Cycling youth track session. So the subject: the importance of good cycling facilities, specifically Newport Velodrome.
The difference this sporting facility has made to Wales is difficult to quantify, but if you look at the numbers of riders both before and after this facility was built who are at or on their way to the top of the cycling tree, it’s obvious that its impact has been massive! The same can be said of Manchester Velodrome and I am sure it will be the case with the Olympic Velodrome; we should also consider Herne Hill and the riders that have benefitted from that facility. What it shows it that good facilities really do make a difference to the progression of riders coming through the ranks, whatever their cycling discipline. Of course we also need champions to inspire youngsters into the sport, but we’ve got such a conveyor belt going at the moment there is no worry about these facilities being under used.
So what memories have I taken from Newport Velodrome over the last 8 or 9 years that I’ve been making the 30-minute drive from Abergavenny to get here?
Well I might as well start with my number one memory and also because “why shouldn’t women’s cycling be given priority over men’s for a change?” If I can find the photo to accompany this when I next go hunting in the attic I’ll post it at a later date, as even now I find it quite hard to believe. Picture this: a women’s keirin with six riders on the start line. In amongst the six, the current senior World Champion wearing her stripes Clara Sanchez. Also on the start line I think it was Sandie Clair. Next up to them, a few star struck young girls from the UK including two from Wales, my 13-year-old daughter Becky and Katie Curtis. I can’t recall another current senior world champion ever racing in Newport, so that line-up is implanted very firmly in my head. By the way, it was France first and second with Becky coming in third to the disbelief of the French coach, especially when finding out Becky’s age.
As for other memories of female competition in Newport, between 2006 and 2007 the Youth and Junior Track National Championships had such strong fields the racing really was fantastic to watch. Seeing Becky, Lizzie Armistead, Joanna Rowsell, Jess Varnish, Laura Trott, Dani King…(I could go on) racing against each other with Hugh Porter getting very excited on the microphone really was brilliant. Looking back now I honestly think you could see then who was going to make it to the top and they weren’t all winners. The look of determination in a rider’s eyes is something I believe is what sets them apart and that is something you can spot at a young age. If someone happens to win a Youth National Championship on the way to the top that’s nice, but ultimately you need to look at the bigger picture and remember it’s not a sprint, it takes a lot of time and effort to win at elite level. And that’s what people will remember; senior champions not 11-year-old ‘superstars’!
On that last point, some really bad memories for me have been watching young girls of Under 12 and Under 14 level attempting to break a National Record as if it was the be all and end all. They have been all kitted out with the best equipment money can buy and their parents have been shouting so loudly at them as if they were doing it themselves, but why? Many of those I have watched are either no longer riding or just riding now and again. And why provide the best equipment at such a young age? Good equipment yes, but keep the very best as a reward and as an incentive when they are racing at international level. I really would like to see some sort of equipment specification cap on all youth riders to make it more of a level playing field and to give them something to aim for.
While I’m in the process of airing my concerns, the other thing that really worries me is that young riders seem to be specialising on one cycling discipline at ever-younger ages and training to the detriment of their education. Youth sport should not be like that. If I could single out one young rider who has got the balance right and sets an example for other to follow it is Elinor Barker and look where she is now! Elinor has given most forms of cycling a go, but over the time I’ve known her and the family her education has come first. She’s obviously had coaching, but it has been Elinor’s drive and determination to succeed that has won her the Junior World Time Trial and of course her supportive parents (I believe there could be another reason and the same applies to Becky as well; both Graham, Elinor’s dad and myself are ardent Newcastle United followers and maybe it’s because the girls have never seen us celebrate the winning of a trophy that they are doing their bit to cheer us up!).
On the male side of things, at the same time as that outstanding crop of girls I mentioned the boys’ fields were also amazingly strong and they provided fantastic racing to watch. Jason Kenny, Peter Kennaugh, Alex Dowsett, Luke Rowe, Adam Blythe, Andy Fenn…(once again, I could go on) are just a few of the names that cycling fans would recognise from the Olympics and pro-peloton this last year. Despite many outstanding races and individual performances the one that stands out still after these years is Andy Fenn’s Youth 500 metre time trial. Here was someone mixing it up with the best youth riders this country had to offer in all the circuit races around the country and he was winning the endurance and pursuit events on the track. In the 500 metre time trail he was up against all the best youth sprinters in the country including current BC Academy sprint member Peter Mitchell. I can still picture him going around the track now. I seem to recall I was sitting in the stands next to Iain Dyer, National Sprint Coach and Trevor King, father of Dani and a few others and the first thing that came to my mind was that here was the person to follow in Jason Kenny’s footsteps. Well I was wrong on that front, but I really think he has the potential to be the next big road sprinter from GB. I am not saying that Andy will be another ‘Cav’, because I am not sure there’ll be another in my lifetime, but I am sure that he’ll be winning many races and stages over the next few years. Another rider I’ve watched in Newport in a similar mold to Andy is Sam Harrison, although he’s got a few years to catch up yet.
As recent as last winter I was sitting in the stands of Newport Velodrome watching the annual ‘Winter Track League’, which mixes all abilities up into different races, both male and female. In Wales we are very lucky indeed to not only have Elinor Barker coming up into the senior ranks, but we also have Amy Roberts. To see both Elinor and Amy mixing it up with the men in the ‘A’ league really is a great sight and I am really excited about the prospect of those two girls representing Wales and GB around the world over the next few years. The girls often found themselves riding in amongst elite men, well not just elite, but professional riders. Last year watching Luke Rowe, Magnus Backstedt, Jonny Bellis and many more on a Tuesday night with the rain hammering down on the velodrome roof, whilst sipping a cup of tea, is fascinating, enjoyable and a relaxing time in amongst my hectic lifestyle.
I have never been in Newport Velodrome with a full stand of spectators, but with the success of this last season and the accessibility of cycling stars to the general public I think I might get to see that over the next couple of years. What Newport needs is the right event to fill the stands, something that has got my mind running wildfire again! Now, if that event gives equal precedence to the women riders or better still star billing, wouldn’t that be amazing?
…Next time, whenever that will be, I’ll probably write about organising my first ever hill-climb and also about the importance and thrills of cyclocross.
Thanks for reading.
Team IG-Sigma Sport Presentation 2012 - Image ©Copyright Team IG-Sigma Sport
Team Sigmasport-Specialized of 2011 has become Team IG-Sigmasport of 2012, to most this is a name change and not much else but in reality it’s a lot more than that, it’s a new direction and a great new opportunity but it’s also a great reflection on the direction cycling is taking in the UK at the moment.
The last two years has seen a lot of development within the Sigmasport-Specialized team and it’s been great to be part of it. Since I joined the team for the 2010 season we have gone onto become UCI registered, take in the Tour of Britain, Tour Series, Premier Calendars, stood on national podiums and enhanced our reputation across the water in Europe competing in France, Belgium and Holland. The team’s development has mirrored that of the flagship store of Sigmasport down in Kingston Upon Themes, which now operates out a grand new building and feeds the ever growing appetite of a new breed of cyclists.
It’s been exciting to be involved with the development, as a fan of the sport you see us riding around criterium’s or plugging through road races, but it’s not all about the racing. Spending time with sponsors and promoting events and products is just as much part of the job now. As interest in the sport has grown, so has the responsibility to be accessible and open to your own sponsors and the public who want to become involved at events throughout the year.
So now moving into 2012 the team has taken a new step, another stage in its development. IG Markets have come on board as title sponsor and our role as riders has grown even more diverse and important. The first month of the season has seen me standing on the rooftop of IG Markets in Central London for a photoshoot, heading fourteen hours across the world to Singapore for a Criterium, doing laps of Manchester Velodrome with a camera attached to the bike and having a shiny launch of new kit and products in the big smoke of London. Of course there’s been some bike racing too, that is after all the ‘day job’, in fact it’s been a strong start for the team in its new guise with five race wins already under the belt.
It’s race wins that make a successful team but with cycling’s new corporate popularity and with more and more of the wider public choosing to watch and become involved in the sport it’s key to be open and accessible to develop that ‘ownership’ vibe so people in the offices of IG Markets of whoever your sponsor may be can relate to you and truly feel part of the team and journey.
After stepping off the plane in Singapore and having some rest we were taken to meet some of the IG Markets employees of the Singapore office, while they enjoyed meeting the faces behind the jersey’s they see and support, it was great for us as riders to meet people that follow you from half way across the globe. They may follow us through social media or websites but now they have a face to put to the image and report too, it was great to develop that link with them.
It’s great that cycling while increasing in popularity and demand does keep this accessibility. So a team name for us this season is much more than just a shuffling of the title, it’s an opportunity to push the team in new places and develop the connection the public and sponsors have with the team both at events and away from them. It give’s everyone a slice of the action!
You can see Team IG-Sigmasport at all of Britain’s top races this season and follow them through both Twitter and Facebook. You can now also log into the riders training and race information through the Strava website and find out more details on the team’s own website. Now you can’t get anymore helpful than that!
Kit Issues, Good Friday & Sydney
by Jody Cundy
So much has happened since my last update, and also because I didn’t get chance to update you last month I’ve now got 2 busy months to fill you in on!
First up was the Good Friday Track Meet, the debut for my cycling team and first outing for the new kit. Actually, gettng the kit was the first hurdle to overcome: Due to the production times and delivery slots it was going to be tight to whether we’d actually have any kit to race in. Sure enough the last possible time (the day before!) the kit could be delivered, was when it was due to be delivered. Tracking it online, I could see it had arrived at the depot and was due for delivery, now I was just waiting for the buzzer in the flat to go off. By 3pm there was still no sign of the parcel, so I gave the company a ring to see where it was, but the response I received was not the one I expected “The driver tried to deliver at your address 10mins ago, there was no response and he’s bringing the parcel back to the depot!”. I wasn’t best pleased at this response, especially after I’d stayed in all day just to take this parcel. A few phone calls later and I’d arranged to pick it up from the depot, literally the last opportunity possible as the following day was a bank holiday, and the day of our race!
I breathed a sigh of relief when I took the kit out of the box and it looked as good as it did in the designs we’d received months before.
Jody Qualifying 10.995, 10th Place - ©Copyright Christina Kelkel
1st Round of the Sprint against Ross Edgar - Image ©Copyright Christina Kelkel
My first race was the Flying 200m to qualify for the international Sprint competition and having only been on the track for a few sessions since the World Championships, it was going to be a bit rusty with my track skills. However, I qualified well, importantly under 11seconds and 10th overall with a 10.995, which considering the level of the field I was pretty pleased with.
Qualifying 10.995, 10th Place 1st Round of the sprint against Ross Edgar
The first round of the Sprint was a 3up and I was going to face a tough challenge as I was racing Ross Edgar. I gave it my all and with a lap to go I made my move, dropping down the track and getting the jump on my Dutch opponent and managed to get onto the shoulder of Ross, so it was now a straight drag race to the line. However, coming out of turn 4, I could see Ross had the better of me, but I think he had to work a lot harder than he was expecting to take that round.
￼In the repecharge, I rode well but for some reason I felt the urge to get out of the saddle when I was already doing 70km/h, not a good idea especially as I was trying to go around Itmar Esteban from Spain. Once again, I was 2nd best, and now out of the Sprint competition. But in both rounds I’d done myself proud and only been beaten by a
Repecharge against Itmar Esteban from Spain - image ©Copyright Christina Kelkel
few cm’s on the line each time.
Next up was the 1Mile Dash, a 6lap Scratch race with all the losers from the Sprint competition and all the riders who didn’t make it through to the main competition. I got stuck in the bunch and went with the group as the speed increased and could feel the benefit of all the pursuit training I’d been doing in the last year. Coming out of the final corner I was in a good position and sprinting hard, but unfortunately I timed my run slightly too late and was pipped on the line. Nevertheless, I did come 2nd again by a few cm’s and I was happy, as it was my first podium finish in Para-T colours.
Last up was the Keirin. Buoyed by my performance in the Mile Dash I was feeling good about this race. As the derny peeled off the track, I made my move from the back of the field to the front. I had a quick look over my shoulder and realised I’d taken the other riders by surprise and had a gap, so I then went for it full gas. Unfortunately as I came across the line, I realised it was 2laps to go and I had some quality riders chasing me down, especially in Pete Mitchell who’d won the Sprint competition earlier in the day. Coming into turn 3 for the final time the inevitable happened and the two GB riders, Pete and Philip Hindes came past, as my legs finally faded. I could give no more.
A great debut for the team with some good results from Helen Scott, Jon-Allan Butterworth and Tel Byrne.
￼Team Para-T: Tel Byrne, Jody Cundy, Helen Scott, Jon-Allan Butterworth - Image ©Copyright Christina Kelkel
￼Sydney Road World Cup – Travel
The day after the Good Friday meet was a trip to the airport and the start of my road season, with the target of scoring some all important qualification points for London. With all the bags and equipment checked in with British Airways it was a quick flight down from Manchester to Heathrow, before the longer journey onward to Sydney. In the end, it turned out to be a longer journey than normal to Sydney. With everybody on the plane, the pilots voice came over the PA system to announce that there was an electrical storm over Heathrow, and which would delay our departure by 15mins. However, after 15minutes the pilot was back on the PA system to tell us that there was a medical issue with someone on the plane and we weren’t flying until this had been resolved. Another 30minutes and passed and we were informed that it was a crewmember who had been taken ill, and now had to be taken off the plane, along with their luggage.
In the mean time a replacement crewmember needed to be found and the affected crew member removed from the plane, along with their luggage. Another 30mins and to a cheer from all the passengers on the plane a new crew member boarded, and we were all set to go. After the issues on the ground, the flight to Sydney was pretty straight forward, and with a quick refuel in Singapore we made it to Australia. After a long day travelling the next issue was collecting all the luggage and equipment we had brought with us for the trip. Not an easy task with 11 people and over 35pieces of luggage, most of it oversized with bike bags and boxes, wheels, hand cycles and kit bags. Although the Australian officials at the airport appeared reluctant to help we finally made it through customs, just to be delayed by yet another problem: the van we had, got stuck underneath the entrance to the car park, even though the hire car official told the driver to go that way! So we had to wait for another van to transport us to Wollongong where we would be based for the week prior to the world cup.
At the top of Bald Hill on Gran Pacific Drive, with Sea Cliff Bridge in the distance
Finally we made it to Wollongong just in time for breakfast, which was very welcome, and the view over the beach and the surf outside more than made up for the delays.
￼Sydney Road World Cup
After a week of training down in Wollongong with rides through the Royal National Park and on the grand pacific drive, the team was over the jet lag and all set to race in Sydney.
100m Fly Golden Brick
100m Backstroke Bronze Brick
Our hotel for the World Cup was in the Olympic Park overlooking the Sydney Olympic stadium, a venue I knew well and had good memories of, especially as 11years prior to this I was a swimmer winning 2 Golds and a Bronze at the 2000 Paralympic Games. One of the first things I did on arrival was go for a walk around the Aquatic centre, it felt like yesterday I was in there racing, although it’s changed since then. Unfortunately the 15,000-seat stand has been reduced, but I think it’s still one of my favourite sporting venues.
Relay Golden Brick
My next mission in the Olympic park was to find the water fountain that was made from the Olympic Flame Cauldron, as I’d been told that all medal winners from the 2000 Olympics and Paralympics had their names on a brick in the base. Sure enough with a bit of searching I found mine!
Once I’d reminisced, it was onto the job in hand which was the World Cup. With our hotel in the Olympic Park, checking out the TT course was going to be easy, and with a few laps done I had it all sorted even though it was going to be a technical course it would make for an interesting TT, certainly better than the normal GB straight out and back dual carriageway affair.
However, the TT was on the 2nd race day and first up was the Road Race, 8 laps (78.3km) around the Eastern Creek racing circuit and complex. Having only done a few races prior to this, it was going to be a learning experience, but the goal was to finish top 10. Although I got dropped early on in the race, and with part of the course going up and down the drag strip out of the back of the course, riding on my own into the headwind in this section was pretty depressing, especially as I could see the field get further and further away with each lap. I managed to persevere and make it to the finish to cross the line 9th in the C4 category, which importantly scored points for the London qualification process.
The following day was the time trial, and thankfully the course was dry. In fact, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, which compared to the wet week we’d had in Wollongong was welcome.
￼￼With 4 laps of the Olympic park course it was a case of going as fast as possible and trying to hold as much speed as possible through the technical bends. At the end of the 22km I crossed the line in 6th place just 90seconds down on the leader. Although I hadn’t won, I had moved up the field compared to the road race and scored some more important qualification points.
Well my next update will be much sooner as I’ve already ridden Piacenza and Gippingen, and will be racing the 2nd round of the World Cup in Sergovia Spain this weekend.
Catch you soon.
All images ©Copyright Christina Kelkel