Ponderings from the Velodrome

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.

David James

Twitter: @Dai_Cwmheulog
 
 
 
 

Hello!

Mark Colbourne and I have produced a video featuring the Para-cycling team.

As myself, Mark and the rest of the Para-cycling team are unable to attend the Opening Ceremony tonight due to the cycling events starting tomorrow, we wanted to share a little video with you to say “Hello!”

We shot, directed and edited the “Hello!” video as a thank you for the overwhelming support we’ve received from the British public, and it was a fantastic opportunity for the whole team to get together and capture some moments from our time in the holding camp and athletes village.

Making the video was fun; we wanted to get together as a team and show we have personalities outside our day job, but also show some of our preparations in Newport. In doing so we hopefully put a smile on people’s faces…. Enjoy!
 
 

Meet the Superhumans

Time to meet the Superhumans if you haven’t already they including Cycling Shorts very own Jody Cundy MBE.

Channel 4 launched its biggest ever marketing campaign on Tuesday July 17 to promote coverage of the London 2012 Paralympic Games with a ‘roadblock’ premiere of its Meet the Superhumans film across 78 television channels.

The 90 second long film is set to the awesome track, “Harder Than You Think” by hip hop legends, Public Enemy, the film showcases the abilities of some of the leading UK Paralympians, represents some of the unique stories behind the elite athletes, and shows the herculean efforts that have gone into their preparation for the Games. It’s an extremely powerful short film.

Channel 4 is committed to bringing a new audience to the Paralympic Games and to raise awareness of Paralympic sport.

The campaign was commissioned by Channel 4 marketing, and conceived and directed by Tom Tagholm, for Channel 4’s in-house agency, 4creative.

Dan Brooke, Channel 4’s Chief Marketing & Communications Officer said: “London 2012 is a coming of age moment for the Paralympics. This campaign will help bring a whole new audience to it and may even raise a goosebump or two along the way.”

Produced by 4creative which is Channel 4’s in-house agency who this year have picked up a D&AD pencil (their 9th in 7 years) and a Cannes Gold and Bronze lion.

The shoot took place over 14 days in sports arenas across the country from the Sheffield Aquatics centre to Lee Valley Athletics Centre to the Olympic stadium, to the home of the Paralympics: Stoke Mandeville.

The full list of locations:
Paralympics Athletics Test Event at the Olympic Stadium
Herne Hill Velodrome Cycling Meet
Newport Velodrome
Cardiff Swimming Pool
Stoke Mandeville (Wheelchair Basketball)
Lee Valley Athletics Centre
Crystal Palace National Sports Centre
Reading Hockey Club (Blind Football)

The Final Push

The first week in July saw all the GB Para-cycling team members who had been selected for the 2012 London Paralympics, travel to and stay at the St Pierre & Country Club in Chepstow for the week, while we trained at the National Velodrome in Newport. This hotel will be our venue for our holding camp before the transition up to London one week before the games.

The first week of my training on the track was a small shock to my system, having had only two weeks back on the track in Manchester after my training abroad and now with my legs finding their power again, the efforts on the track were going to be increased every day to maximise my improvements for London over the next two weeks.

On the Sunday 8th July, fellow Para-cyclist and Paralympic Gold medallist Jody Cundy MBE and I were invited to take part in a SKY ride for the public at the Velodrome in Newport as part of the celebrations of 50 days to go before the start of the 2012 London Paralympics. The day was organised to invite the public to take part in safe cycling with trained staff on the roads around Newport. Jody and I had a fab time and made lots of new cycling friends, who also enjoyed their cycling experiences around the coastline roads in the sun.

My second week of track training in Newport saw me and my legs finally start to see some progress. The first week was more like a baptism of fire for me trying to achieve some really fast times on the boards, as well as get used to training at maximum on every effort. The week session was broken up with a 3 hour road ride with two of the team members who really enjoyed the Welsh countryside, apart from the rain which was warm but very wet!

While I was on the camp in Newport, I had the pleasure of being interviewed over the telephone by Stuart Lieberman from the International Paralympic Committee. The IPC (www.paralympic.org) oversee all Paralympic sports across the globe, so it was my pleasure to share my epic life changing story with Stuart and to explain just how my life has changed since becoming a Para-cyclist and also a Paralympic hopeful. I had to explain who “Dewi the Dragon” was and how he was going to help me in London, as my Paralympic mascot.

On 13th July, my-self and the team went to the Crown Plaza Hotel in Central London to have our official suit fitting for the 2012 London Paralympic Games, supplied by retailer Next. It was a brilliant experience for me and everyone who attended, as this was the first time we all had the chance to mingle with our fellow ParalympicsGB athletes from all the other sports who are going to compete in London in August and September.

The journey back to Manchester that night was very slow and certainly a long one, having taken us 6 hours to drive back, as the traffic was bedlam. The next day I was keen to get back on my bike and felt really good on my 2 hour road ride on my TT bike, which was thankfully spent in the sunshine.

Monday 16th July saw the start of my 6 week double training sessions on the track, with me having to do a road ride in the morning, then a full on track session in the afternoon, plus, gym twice a week. I do honestly enjoy these sessions; it’s just a case of working hard and then sleeping through the tiredness before the benefits are seen a few weeks later.

Mid July, I was invited by 2012 London Paralympic partner Deloitte, to a private function to share my experience and my life changing story with some of their young clients in Manchester. Deloitte who is the professional services supporter for both of the London 2012 games and who is among the country’s leading professional services firms, providing audit, tax, consulting and corporate finance services. My talk went really well and I had the pleasure of holding a 2012 Olympic torch, it felt rather serial to actually be holding a real one, however, the evening was a great success and enjoyed by all. On times I still have to pinch myself to realise that I am actually doing what I am doing for my country and it was my pleasure to talk and network with such a fabulous group of professionals.

My last week of training in July saw my track sessions increased and also my time spent on the TT bike. This extra amount of training helps me to overload my body before I start my final few weeks of preparation, for the biggest challenge of my Para-cycling career at the 2012 London Paralympics.

The end of July saw my-self and fellow GB Para-cycling team member Jody Cundy MBE, attend a BBC radio interview called “world have your say” at the Manchester National Velodrome. The interview was live across the World and covered the global excitement that the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics had created. The interview went really well and especially after Bradley Wiggins had just won the Tour De France two days previous, so everyone was on a GB high.

As the biggest sporting event on the planet began at the end of July, the 2012 London Olympic fever hit the UK with style. We saw hundreds of millions of people across the globe watch the opening ceremony in awe and with only 4 weeks to go before the 2012 London Paralympics start, the whole of the UK will be behind every one of our ParalympicsGB athletes.

I am so excited to be a GB Para-cyclist competing at a home Paralympic Games, knowing that very soon I will not only be racing on the same track as Sir Chris Hoy, but with 6500 screaming fans in the stands. This is something that really does get me fired up to do well. I wish all Team GB and ParalympicsGB athletes all the very best for the Games and make Britain proud by doing your absolute best!

The Para-T Cycling Team is Here!

The Para-T Cycling Team is Here!

by Jody Cundy MBE
 

Wow, nearly missed this being a January update, my god this month has flown by.

2011 already! That means the Paralympics are next year! It’s all starting to sound a little scary, however I’ve still got 576 days to train and perfect everything before then!

Well 2011 started with me switching to a new cycling team. A team I helped setup with my girlfriend, to be honest she’s done a great deal to get it up and running.
Here’s a little bit of information about the team I’ll be competing in.
“Para-T” (Paracycling Team) is a unique cycling team made up entirely of some of the best Paralympic cyclists in the world. The team has been formed to help promote Paracycling, and demonstrate the skill and speed of athletes who compete at the Paralympics.
Through promoting the amazing ability of our riders, and not their disability, we aim to increase the interest in Paracycling and push the boundaries of the sport as well as to show that sport is something nearly everyone can do.
In the first year of racing, the team will be mostly focused on track events, but a number of road races and time trials will be attended whenever possible, with athletes competing in both Paracycling and able-bodied events.

The team is a mixture of British and German riders, and hopes to expand in the future with increased rider numbers and racing on the road.”
For all the up to date information on the team, and a look at the amazing looking kit I’ll be racing in, head over to our website www.paracyclingteam.com.

With the world championships fast approaching (March 11th-13th) I’ve spent many hours on my bi- cycle and things are going really well. This winter I’ve spent more time on my bike getting in the endurance miles than ever before, because in addition to the team sprint and kilo I will be also competing in the 4km Pursuit at the world championships. The GB team is on a point scoring mission to make sure that we have the most athletes available at our home games in London, and that translates into yours truly doing the pur- suit! The pursuit training, is quite a challenge for me, and is quite different from the out and out sprint train- ing I’ve previously done for the Kilo. It’s all about measuring your effort, and not giving too much too soon, but making sure you get everything out by the end. As part of my learning process in the event I’ve painfully found this out in training, and it really does come back to bite you before the end of the 4km if you go out too fast! However with GB’s rich history in the pursuit I have a wealth of advice on hand from coaches and riders, and fingers crossed if all goes well, there may be another medal in it, which would make all the hard work worth it. But one step at a time!

With the poor weather in the UK over the winter, it was really nice to get away to Majorca for a 10 day training camp with the GB squad. The weather gods were really on our side, and we were greeted with bright sunshine every day. That made such a nice change to our rides, being able to head out in shorts and minimal layers, so much nicer compared to multiple layers I’ve been used to in the last few months! The camp was a huge success, with the whole squad getting in many quality miles, and making the most of the beautiful weather. It was definitely the time to be on the island as we spotted many of the professional teams in their preseason training, including Sky, Leopard Trek and Lotto.

I’m back from Majorca now, and my training has now switched focus, as I’m back on the boards of Manchester Velodrome trying to convert those miles into some race speed. Things have been going really well, but with the Manchester round of the World Cup fast approaching track time’s been a bit crowded. However inspiring as it is to watch the GB Team Pursuit team in full flight in training, it’s never a great situation to have to rush your efforts on track, so next month we have a 2 week GB training camp at the Velodrome in Newport with just the GB Paracycling squad in attendance. Once the world cup is over, it’s back to Man- chester to put the finishing touches to my preparation before heading out with the team to Montichiari on the 7th March.

Well that’s January all done, were there really 31 days? Catch you next month for another update.

Jody
 
 
 
 
All images ©Copyright Christina Kelkel

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