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!
Merde! You’ll be fed up hearing from me, but I can’t leave this one inside. My brain will implode if I do.
Today I was “in Town” as some of us over here will say just to annoy those whose own “Town” is nowhere near London, who’s West End (to those of us who regard it as a place of work) is “Town”. So there I was in Town about an hour early for my casting appointment for Colman’s moutarde. Hey… I’m a classically trained actor, my agent only sends me up for the plum jobs! What to do? What to do? “Ah the lightbulb explodes”. Always better than teardrop explodes…stoopid name for a band… I’ll wander down to Oxford Circus to the Nike shop.
Now for those of you not yet familiar with this quaint country of ours, there are no trapeze artists or conjurers here. At one time there was a roundabout at this intersection of Oxford and Regent streets. The facades of the faux Corinthian buildings lending this corner of our Capital’s most prestigious shopping experience an air of classical splendour. No there are no trapeze artists but after dark sheltering in the doorways are many a 15% proof cider drinker whom we call “piss artists” as for the conjurers…oh yes they’re there. Tempting our hard earned cash out of our pockets and into their cash registers.
And it is the glittering confines of one such purveyor of next years land fill that I was heading. The Niké store London. This very boutique is the American giant’s most prestigious store in Grate (sic) Britain. My mission this afternoon was to purchase a simple “T” shirt a black “T” shirt, with the inter galacticaly famous typhoon swoosh ..yes Niké..ny KEE was a name appended to a Hurricane that hit the Eastern seaboard of America the year that the running shoe maker was born. See, my utterly worthless pub quiz brain had information. Information of a degree that a well trained member of staff at this particular store might have been expected to know in this London’s Olympic year.
However, I did not wish them to have such anorak like knowledge. I merely wanted to know the whereabouts of my shirt. The black one with the Niké swoosh and the simulated signature in green of my hero…Mark. The Manx missile Cavendish. As one enters this wine bar of a shop, there are a row of black and white head shots each about four feet by six of Nikés most famous endorsees. Who the rest are I don’t know. My heart belonged to Cav. My countenance wreathed in idol worshipping stupor (I’m 60 in April for Dogs sake) I was approached by one the three strong greeting team. A pretty lass and very bubbly
“How can I help Sir?” Sir? Me, Sir?? I really ought to have seen it coming, but “T” shirt lust had me in its thrall.
“I’m looking for a Mark Cavendish signature t shirt”
“Mark Cavendish. Fastest human being on Earth? Your company have him on their books and sell a shirt with his signature on the sleeve and I’d like one”
“Really sorry Sir I don’t know who you mean”
Im still implacably cheerful at this point.
“ok, we’re you working here just before Christmas?”
“Too right innit? I swear I never had a day off for like three weeks”
Im still grinning pleasantly.
“Well in this very spot Mark, who won the tour de France Points jersey last year and then the World Championship Road Race before winning an MBE and BBC sports personality of the year. Was talking to about 500 of us. No? No recall”
Now I’m starting to loose my sense of humour at this point, but I refuse to be churlish, the drugs are working well today. I lead her over to shrine Cav: and present him with a ringmaster’s flourish….we’re in Oxford circus after all.
“oh yeh!!! ” she leads me to the escalator. What an obliging child “I know who you mean now *snorty laugh* you must fink I’m fick”
I am now on my way up the escalator
“first floor. All the foopball stuffs there.. Sorry”
I inhaled a calming breath chanting Om mane padme Hum. To the first floor then.
First thing I clapped eyes on was Lance Armstrong’s rugged Texan kisser on posters surrounding a goodly sized display of Livestrong gear…excelent! Good start.
“can I help Sir?” there they go with the bloody Sir thing again.
“I hope so. Mark Cavendish signature T shirt….?”
“Well as you’re in this area I hoped you might know where they were?”
It’s in the eyes you know. Actors always know when the other poor bugger’s dried. So I decide, (with my yin and yang in balance) to help
“he’s a cyclist like Lance??”
“oh right sorry, yeh. All the bike stuff’s in with the running kit. 2nd floor.”
My sense of humour was dimming dear reader, but I’m British, we never say die! I head for the ecscala’a.
“Can I help Sir?” I’ve worked it out, it’s the bow tie.
“Mark Cavendish T shirt black green signature. Guy downstairs says it should be on this floor”
“No! Ha! Sorry, the black and green one yeh?”
” yes” the grins back gang
“Hang on Sir I’ll go and grab one, what size?”
“XL please” the grin is really back, people are putting on their Oakleys.
A mere 5 minutes has passed when the young man approaches. A look of triumph emerging through the acne.
“There you go” with a flick of the wrist he displays a black polo shirt with… (in Green)
The embroidered logo of GLASGOW CELTIC. F.C.
Through my rictus grinning teeth I ask
“Is the manager about?”
I prepare an eloquent and uplifting little speech about how in this Olympic year, he really must ensure that his staff are better trained. The sports fans of the world will pour into this shop in the summer and they might reasonably expect your staff to be sufficiently interested enough to know who the people on your current poster campaign are. Especially as the one I’ve been asking about is hopefully going to be Britain’s first Gold medalist…yes that’s a fair speech Jonny bwoy.
“Hello how can I help Sir?”
I promise you, I did not Sir, most decidedly not give the fellow a bloody Coxcomb! But I tell you I exerted self control above and way beyond anything that my Bi polar drugs were designed for.
What’s that? How did the audition go after all that? ‘You ‘avin’ a giraffe???
It would be very easy today for me to get angry with the well respected journo in yesterday’s Times who ( in a précis to Olympic BMX) was less than complimentary and frankly patronising. So, as it’s very easy, I think I’ll do it. Now as close as sod it is to swearing the word pundit boils down to “he who should know best”. So in as much he rubbished a sport he knows absolutely zero about by calling it absurd and how the bicycles cannot be taken seriously… (average build on a club level machine roughly £1200 and more or less double that of a more than decent track bike) could be a good time for him to keep his trap shut.
Levels of fitness and precision cycle handling and tactics that many other top sportsmen would wince at. Why do you think Jess Varnish will lead out Vicky Pendleton this year? Simple. I love those two girls, but something written in the oracle says Vicky has to be the one to ride the final lap. Sadly, Vicky can’t live with Shanaze Read’s attack pace. If she could, we’d have a ladies team sprint record that wouldn’t be touched for a generation.. “so why doesn’t Vicky Pendleton lead out for Shanaze?”. Erm yes ok.
He further declared that although the sport was crazy and the bikes a joke, that it will all change at The Olympics where we shall see what the sport is all about. Erm..no actually Mr Barnes The Olympic games presents our sport in a weak light in my view. Hey don’t get me wrong I’d like to see the Medals come our way. Yet I agree with him. BMX ought not to be an Olympic sport. In my mind it becomes devalued by The Olympics. The Olympic competition is in no way a true representation of what Bicycle Moto Cross is about. Ok, you will see the elite of our sport in action, but consider this. The roughly two dozen riders that will sign on at Stratford are at the top of an elite group that is some several THOUSAND strong. The elite Road race entry is probably about 400 riders short of the total number of elite riders that that branch of the sport can muster worldwide. And you know from the last blog that road and velodrome are where my personal riding pleasures lie.
“so stop yer moaning John” well, no I’m in a whinge mood. 2 days processing the same number of riders that the organisers of a midweek club night at say Perry Barr or Bulwell, would be ashamed if they could not process comfortably in an hour….including recovery time, when 1200 on Sunday will go through the most exciting well organised machine very probably in any sport you can name!
So Mr Barnes. Do you want to challenge your poncy patronising words and make your way to Manchester this weekend? Roughly 1200 riders competing in all ages from 6 to 46. Many of our sport’s elite will be on show riding approximately £250,00 worth of laughable bikes. You’ll receive a copy of my little moan Mr Barnes. I’ll be middle of track on Sunday, iPad in hand couple of cameras about my neck. I’ll man up and defend my sport.. Will you have the balls to check us out and tell your readers that you owe us an apology? I somehow doubt it. You scrawl tripe for a Murdoch comic.. when did they last accurately report anything?
Thursday moan done. Can’t wait for the weekend. He won’t come. Far too many of us, plus our sport can speak for itself. So what’s this all been about then Jon? Leave me alone I’ve had gut ache all day.
Hi. I’m Jon Carver and whether you like it or not I’m cycling shorts newest correspondent.
Straight off though I’m lying. Because the branch of the sport I will be writing about is one where shorts ain’t a clever option At all ..BMX.. “Oh no!” I can hear them wail in Lycra stuffed tea rooms the length and breadth of Scunthorpe.
Well fear not Dear reader. Yes it’s just you and me. For I too am a Lycra lout. I prefer to do my cycling on my nice Campagnolo Athena equipped Ribbles, one road, one TT and my track Bike which is on its way. What? Well I raced in my youth and they’re cheaper than fake tan and a Lamborghini.
So, why BMX? First answer..why not? Second..because I can. Third, because it’s an incredibly large part of the cycling family and if you love your family, you should know about it. How did I get involved at the tender age of 60? Well…I didn’t, I was 30. Yes 30 years I’ve loved this Sport. My two boys Jamie and Jody (Barton) enjoyed BMX when a young man named Bob rode a bike fairly well in a movie called E.T. And inspired the heavy as lead Raleigh Burner and Mullet years. Jamie a highly successful racer and his brother Jody a keen and very young freestyler. My eldest was 8 when he started. His younger brother was just 5. Today it is still a sport where whole families take part. It’s an exciting social and sporting lifestyle. Ooh yes and if you think your new Campagnolo Super Record group is sexy…you’ve seen nothing!
During those heady days of two governing bodies U.K.B.M.X. and N.B.M.X.A I was a regional chairman of the UKBMX and a national council member. I chaired my local club The Tamworth Crusaders and saw that club rise from a small rag tag bunch that travelled by train to Birmingham Wheels …( sighs fondly) to a club with its own very unique track and a strong National and international pedigree. I urged the British Cycling Federation to take the two arms of a great sport under its wing. To my chagrin in the intervening years.. BC as she is now known, took over and to date….the jury is very much out.
So we come full circle. The eldest son Jamie and his sons are back in the sport again Jacob (Barton) is to represent Great Britain in the 24″ wheel class at this years World Championships in Brum and we are still hoping that younger brother Fletcher (Barton) may also yet qualify in the 8 yo class. Jamie and his friends Lee and Lisa run Finelines Racing which is an incredible organisation that can speak for itself.
So, that’s me. A bloke who is nuts about every facet of this most diverse of sports CYCLING and one who has a big vested interest in sharing a particular passion for all things BMX. (Bicycle Moto Cross by the way is what the little acronym stands for.) in its numerous guises.. Numerous? Oh my, oh my yes. Your eyes are in for a treat this year my lovelies. For whilst for the average sports fan Shanaze Reade‘s attempt to bring the Olympic ladies 20″ gold home for us, will hold their attention for the 24 seconds of the Olympic main. There is a whole year of fantastic stuff. A National series that attracts upwards of 1200 riders to each event…no 1200 isn’t a typo. A clear 400 average at regionals, there is also a YOOJ World Championships to be held at the National Indoor arena in Brum… I’m certain the city isn’t going to be ready for just how many people will be descending on them…oops! We shall cope ..Brummies always do. as well, there’s always Xgames and the most amazing skill artistry and (sorry ) Balls of the freestyle trials fraternity. Oh there’s loads happening on those tiny… gorgeous to behold, scarily priced, featherlight lightning fast Bicycles.
Can’t believe it, this coming Sunday when thousands of people will be running the London marathon, another milestone on the run in to the Paralympics rolls around, 500 days to go!
All of a sudden the Paralympics in London are becoming very real, and I couldn’t be more excited. With the world track championships all done and dusted for another year, it’s time to switch focus to the road, but not before hitting the track at the Good Friday meet, which for the first time in a few years won’t be rained off as it’s moved away from the outdoors of Herne Hill velodrome in London to the indoor velodrome, and my home track Manchester. The event is going to be the racing debut for the team I helped set up, and all our riders are down to ride, I can’t wait to pull on my skinsuit in the Para-T colours for the first time, and fingers crossed the couriers manage to deliver it in time! I’m going to be racing in the international sprint and keirin, which is a change from the normal track racing I do, which is usually me against the clock, but with others riders on the track elbow to elbow, it should be good fun.
Following the Good Friday meeting my road season really kicks off as I fly out to Sydney for the 1st round of the Paracycling road world cup series. I’m part of a small team of 8 riders heading down under aiming to score more essential points for the London qualification process. First up with have a 9- 10day training and acclimatisation camp in Wollongong, and then we head into Sydney and to the Eastern Creek raceway for a 75.6km road race, and then a few days later it’s a 24.8km technical (tight and twisty) time trial around the Sydney Olympic park in Homebush Bay.
Since the world championships I’ve had a very chilled few weeks and been busy with a few appearances. I returned to my home town to give an after dinner speech at the Rotary Club of Wisbech’s 74th Charter Night. I was also present in Salford Quays at the opening of the 2nd of 8 nationwide volunteer selection centres, where over 5000 people will be interviewed for an opportunity to volunteer at the London 2012 games.
As a team we had a day of meetings at the Celtic Manor in Newport Wales, a venue that we’ll be seeing more of in the future, as it will be our base for the holding camp into the London Paralympics. During our day of meetings we had chance to find out what was in store for the next 500 days and how the team was planning to take us forward. We also had an update about the now complete velodrome and the equipment that we’re developing for London, as well as a fitting session with Adidas ￼and Next who will be providing the sportswear and formal wear for the Paralympic team in London. With my new found endurance legs it turns out that in the quest for qualification points I’m going to be racing more than I ever have, so should be an exciting year. However we did hear some disappointing news, the UCI have decided for no apparent reason to change the rules for the Paracycling team sprint event, and have reduced the number of points a valid team can be comprised of. It’s an odd change of rules as the top 4 teams from the recent world championships are now deemed to be illegal under the new rules. As world champions we’ll never be able to ride all together in the world stripes we earned in Montichiari, and the WR we set will no longer be valid. To say I’m disappointed is an understatement and I have no idea why it happened, but the UCI are famous for this and we’ll just have to adapt our team and continue to challenge at the very top. However, I will enquire to find out why, as it seems like such a strange rule change at a particular sensitive time in a Paralympic cycle, and is bound to upset and disrupt many riders who were aiming to ride the team sprint in London.
Next week I will be at the Lee Valley White Water Rafting Park, for the official opening of the first Olympic venue that will be open to the general public prior to the games next year. It’s going to be a scary and exciting day as by the sound of it I’m in a raft with a bunch of others to test out the course, oh boy the things I have to do! I also have my rider review, where I’ll sit down with my coach and managers and discuss how the last 12months have gone, and how I can maximise my performance and make sure no stone is unturned on route to London.
Catch you all soon, with hopefully good news from down under.
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