On the first Sunday of the London Olympic Games, years of anticipation, hope and preparation came to fruition for Lucy Martin. As a member of Great Britain’s Women’s Olympic Road Race team, with Emma Pooley and Nicole Cooke, she gave her all on a treacherous, rain soaked, Box Hill Circuit, delivering a well orchestrated plan to help the team’s fourth member, Lizzie Armitstead, to take silver on the Mall and Great Britain’s first medal of the Games.
In so doing, she became the second cycling Olympian from her hometown of Widnes, Cheshire, since John Geddes secured bronze on the Melbourne track as part of a GB team pursuit team, which included Mike Gambrill, Don Burgess and nineteen-year old Tom Simpson in the 1956 Olympics.
Representing her country in the home Olympics marks the highest point so far in Martin’s cycling career, which started when she was fifteen years old, her potential spotted by British Cycling’s talent identification team on a visit to her secondary school. Although she had competed as a club swimmer and school runner, she had never before been involved in cycling, and, doubting that she could meet British Cycling requirements, almost missed the vital assessment session because of a timetable clash with another subject.
Recruited into the junior talent development team, she joined the Olympic Development Programme after winning the National Junior Road Race Championship in 2008.
Now an established professional women’s road racer based in Girona, Spain, with what she describes as the dream-like experience of taking part in the home Olympics behind her, she is very aware that the time is right to focus on new athletic and career targets.
I joined her on Lancashire’s lanes whilst she was out on a training ride in preparation for last weekend’s Belgian three-day stage race, the Lotto-Decca Tour. And she told me. “My three-weeks in the Olympic village were amazing – I had to pinch myself as I rubbed shoulders with the world’s greatest, like Usain Bolt. The crowds and excitement of the road race, and Lizzie winning the medal will stay with me forever. But coming home to my family in Widnes has been a really welcome chance to calm down and plan for the future.”
The third stage of the Lotto-Decca Tour involves two ascents of the Kapelmur Cobble, infamous as a regular feature in the Tour of Flanders. And Lucy’s training session took in an impressively fast ascent of Billinge’s Shayley Brow, which, with its 14% maximum gradient, is also a regular lung-tester for St Helens pro-rider Jonny McEvoy (Endura Racing) and Liverpool’s Mark McNally (An Post Sean-Kelly), regular winter training partners of Lucy when the three friends are home from racing and training abroad.
And her work on Shayley Brow went to good use in the tough final stage of the Lotto-Decca on Monday. Chasing an early break, she pulled hard at the front of the bunch for much of the stage, providing strong support for her team’s sprinter, Holland’s Kirsten Wild, who narrowly missed a podium placing with a bravely contested, but frustrating, fourth general classification position.
In career terms, Lucy’s next major target is to negotiate a new professional contract, having learned recently that her current team, AA Drinks-Leontein.nl, (which also includes Lizzie Armitstead, Emma Pooley and GB National Road Race winner, Sharon Laws on its team-list) will lose its sponsor at the end of the season.
Eyeing a number of options for 2013, she is hoping for greater interest in women’s cycling and the personal opportunity to switch from her current, mainly support, position to a team role in which she will be able to chase her own podium places more regularly.
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
Cardiff Swimming Pool
Stoke Mandeville (Wheelchair Basketball)
Lee Valley Athletics Centre
Crystal Palace National Sports Centre
Reading Hockey Club (Blind Football)
Interview with the Team Captain of VC St Raphael Women’s Team and lead British Cycling points scorer for Elite Women in 2010 and 2011.
How did you get into cycling?
As a youngster I grew up riding horses and used to compete in tetrathlon, that’s swimming, running, horse-riding and shooting at Pony Club. That ends when you reach 21 so I was looking for another sport similar so ended up trying triathlon. I quickly realised that cycling was the most fun out of all the disciplines and so started to focus on that with a local bike club. I quickly fell in love with the whole sport and so here I am. I never tire of striving to achieve more, cycling is a great leveller so you never quite feel like you’ve conquered everything, leaving you thirsty for more.
You work full time but still manage to be successful on the bike – how do you manage your time?
Managing my time is very difficult. Some years I have reduce my hours over the season to give myself a break but then it’s still not easy and I have raced the last 2 seasons having worked full time. I’m very lucky to work for such an understanding group of people as they are very flexible with me allowing me to work from home and flex my hours so that I can train and race. I love my job and it’s the reason why I have never tried to be a full-time bike rider, for me I have to have other things in my life other than riding the bike. My partner Jason also helps me out a great deal and is often ferrying me around to races…allowing me to sleep on the way!
You’ve won many races and have a number of National Champion jerseys – which would you say is your proudest achievement and why?
The Masters titles I have won mean a great deal to me but my proudest moments have come this year taking the sprinters jersey at the Bedford 2-day and getting on the podium at the Hillingdon GP, finally perhaps putting myself on the radar as a sprinter. I always take pleasure in doing the best I can and if a result comes from that then that’s a bonus.
What would you say to anybody who is thinking of starting racing, especially as it can be daunting getting on a start line for the first time? Any top tips?
First of all I can’t stress how important it is to develop your bunch riding skills before attempting to race, going out with a local bike club is a good way to learn some of these skills and gain confidence of riding with people around you and at speeds you wouldn’t by yourself. There are also a few Women’s training sessions that you can attend which are excellent. Then when you are confident, try to pick races that are within your reach to start with, perhaps local women’s races, don’t try to take on too much too soon as you can easily find yourself out of your depth both in terms of speed and technique. Always be realistic about your ability and recognise your strengths, some riders are better over hilly terrain and some are better at sprinting. Recognising these and targeting races to suit you will mean you will have positive experiences and enjoy the sport more. Don’t be swayed to do every race on the calendar just because everyone else is, be confident in your own training and race plan and stick with it. Most importantly it’s about your sport being fun.
Is there any advice in particular that you have been given over the years which has helped you to succeed that you could share with us?
I read a book once by Lance Armstrong, one of his quotes was that “pain is in the moment but failure is forever”. That’s something that has stayed with me and I try to remember when I am racing. Being the best that I can be is what I strive for so I train hard to save myself from disappointment.
Do you have any sporting heroes? Do you see anything in them that you could model yourself on?
I did a bike race a few years ago where a certain Lizzie Armistead rode and lapped the field twice. I witnessed first hand something special that day and hopefully she will pull on a rainbow jersey one day. I’d like to think like her I have some steely determination and a bit of a sprint at the end….just a little less of her talent!
Do you have a favourite event or circuit? What about the event/circuit do you like so much?
My favourite circuit has to be one local to me, at Thruxton Motor circuit. I love the circuit because it’s tough with the rise before the finish and can be very fast in places. When I heard that the National Master Road Race was being held there instead of the original road circuit I knew I was in with a chance at winning the title I’d been after for 4years, which I did and was delighted.
You have recently become the official Team Captain to the VC St Raphael Women’s Team, which in itself is one of the new kids on the block. How do you see the team evolving?
I’m excited and honoured at taking on that role, other teams have asked me to captain them over the last few years but I’ve not felt ready until now. I hope that I can lead the team to work together and get results. We now have a strong mix of riders covering track, road and time trials. It is a great mix of youth and experience and we have some exciting new talent joining the team as well as the hard core from last year. Having had 2 excellent training weekends over the winter I think we are ready to test our legs and get working together as a team, Cheshire Classic will be our first event.
Do you have any aspirations for the 2012 season?
Mainly I want the team to get some results and work together, a result for a teammate means just as much. I’d like to defend my National titles and perhaps the sprinters jersey at Bedford 2-day again.
Where would you like to be in two years’ time?
I’d like to be still riding my bike and enjoying it, perhaps with a World or European Masters title to my name.
Manuel Ferrara is a rider from Monterrey, México. He normally trains with me and my sisters in the Velodrome of Monterrey, I wanted to do an interview with him to share his story with all of you who are passionate about cycling but are not competitive riders. Arni (as we call him) rides in the Master Category and he was a multi-medalist in the Master Pan Am Champs this year.
How did you get into riding a bike?
I actually started riding some years back due to knee injuries, the doctors gave me an option between swimming and biking as rehabing at Legacy rehab fort pierce and, since I swim about as good as a heavy rock I decided to bike. At first it was just for my health, and then I found a local cycling group, the Biscauch, that took me in after one of my friends invited me to join them, this was still recreational even though I had to actually train to even do the Sunday rides with them and not get dropped! After some time I got the hang of it but never really saw myself as a competitor in this sport, mostly because of my build. I am 5’6” and weigh 165 pounds, mostly due to weightlifting, a bit too heavy for all the uphill’s you know.
What made you take up cycling as a competitive sport and not only as a hobby?
Your dad and coach Rolando Arreola actually did. He saw me sprint against one of the elite track riders during a Sunday ride and started sending me videos of track sprints… Chris Hoy, Theo Bos, you name it, big names that at the time meant nothing to me. Heck, I’d never even seen a track at that point, and this was only two and a half years ago…! I think it was mostly the adrenaline that lured me… that and the fact that my oldest daughter Karla is a competitive swimmer and the young one Sara started cycling. She had stopped Diving due to heel problems and one day Armando (Mandy) Menendez, her coach, and your dad insisted she had good potential for the track; this after looking at her once in street clothes at the bike shop and her never having ridden a bike! I believed them and convinced her to try track cycling and when she did I decided to try it myself. What the heck I figured we would both be new at it…
Tell me the challenges that you had to face to start racing.
Well, first of all, it was not easy to organize my time around work; I had to incorporate the specific leg training into my lifting routine twice a week which meant doing heavy squats at 5:30 in the morning if I wanted to do them at all. From there it was straight off to the Track and then shower and eat to be in the office at 9:30am. Second, I had to fend off old knee injuries to strengthen my legs and get into shape for the events I was aiming for. And then there was the bit about learning to ride a track bike… no brakes? No free wheel? Bankings, really?!? These were all new to me and all things I was advised not to start trying at my age… ha! Finally, the awkwardness of being the only one not under the age of 23 trying this sport, at least here in Monterrey. There was no Masters Track Category to go race in!
Manuel Ferrara, Sofia Arreola & Rolando Arreola
What was it like to compete with the elite riders in Mexico?
Intimidating, scary and exciting!!! Where is the Masters Track League when you need one?!?
My first challenge was to not looking foolish in a sport they’d all mastered already. I did not want to be the old man that comes in way behind the young bunch but receives pity applause just for trying; I wanted to be like them, and even be one of them one day. These kids have no fear and still think they are made of steel or rubber, I don’t know, but nothing can faze them! So for me a decision had to be made, it was either put my fears and worries aside, think like they do and get on the track… or stay home! So I took to the track. Fortunately I seemed to resemble the image of a sprinter, so that helped a little at first… until the first race! A flop, but at least I did not come in last, which was comforting and gave me the motivation to go on with the project. Of course I would never have dared to do so without the support and guidance of you dad and you girls. I put my trust in him as a coach and fully believed he would not ask me to do anything I was not ready to, I left my pride aside and put up with being dropped by your sisters (Sofia & Chely) and you at training and just worked at hanging in there. Of course I’ve made my share of rookie mistakes along the way as the pressure of the events still gets to me, and my abilities have yet to be polished up, but I am slowly getting better; your dad has been very patient with me.
All in all it’s been a great experience… you have all taken me under your wings, your dad, the other coaches and the elites have taught me a lot about training and racing and I now feel like a part of the track community, all though it still feels funny to be called Tío (uncle) by every racer out on the bike.
How do you handle cycling and working?
It’s tough at times; I have made an effort to organize work around training and training around the meetings, and so forth… to do this I have to start the day early and get it all in before I go to the office, so I am leaving the track when the Elites are only starting their morning practice. I make it into the gym by 5:30am so I can fit it all in, they lift in the afternoons. I have no time to rest, let alone sleep after heavy work outs or even eat at the right times, but I try and do my best and live with what I can manage. Fortunately I have had a lot of help and understanding at the company and they have tolerated and even supported my efforts with rescheduling meetings and things when necessary which has been a life saver for me since there is a lot of training that needs to be done and the track is not exactly around the corner.
Team BICIS AH
What does your family think about you competing at the track?
Well, they worry for me since they have seen their share of bike crashes, they have seen me come back from the hospital after one of them and they know that it is all part of the sport and a risk that will not go away. But they understand of course since they are all athletes themselves; my wife was a European Champion in swimming, my oldest daughter will soon be going to Boston University on a Swimming scholarship and is a National Champion in her discipline and, my youngest daughter has made her mark in cycling by winning at Track Nationals in her age group as well. So it follows that they understand my need to be competitive and, even give me a hard time for being the only one in the family without a gold medal. Something I hope I can change in the upcoming seasons.
What are your plans for next season?
I will work to get stronger and faster, continue with the ongoing schedule we have laid out and either go to the Masters Pan Am Games in the fall or aim straight for the Masters World Championships in Manchester. It all depends on the number of team mates we manage to round up and the dates of the events. I will probably participate in some Elite Track cups during the spring and summer as well where I will try to better my times and the 8th and 10th places I have managed so far. A top 5 at the Elite Nationals would be sweet although it seems ambitious; hey, one has to have goals and dreams!
Do you have a favorite quote that you read or think about before racing?
I actually have many, I have always liked quotes as they provide good motivation, but my all-time favorite is still:
“Because talent alone won’t take you to the top and luck won’t last forever… perseverance is what winners are made of.”
Of course a new found one due to my present age and the contrast to those around me is this one:
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” George Bernard Shaw
Can you give any tips to other people interested in cycling who don’t know how to combine it with their work?
I have found it to be true that in cycling the time you spend on the bike is directly proportional to the level you can acquire; so go out there and bike, have fun, figure out where you are at and what you want out of this sport and then do what it takes to get there. Whether it’s recreational, to get into shape and maintain health or to be competitive, the main thing is that you enjoy it, then, it will not be such a sacrifice to find the odd hours you need to fit your rides in, train and still make it to work on time.
Thank you very much for your time and for sharing part of your story with us, we will keep following your progress in cycling and wish you all the best!
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 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.
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.
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.
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].
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.
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.
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
1st European Time Trial Championships U23
1st Stage 5 Cascade Cycling Classic (USA)
Tour of Utah
2nd Stage 2
Tour de l’Avenir
2nd in Prologue
2nd Commonwealth Games Time Trial
1st Chrono des Nations U23
1st Richmond Grand Prix
1st British Time Trial Championships U23
7th World Time Trial Championships U23
11th European Time Trial Championships U23
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
￼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.
At the top of Bald Hill on Gran Pacific Drive, with Sea Cliff Bridge in the distance
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.
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
Relay Golden 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.
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.
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