Wow, it’s almost over. All the hype and build up to 2012, the Olympics, the Paralympics, and here we are about to head into 2013.
What a year for sport, and amazing to have played a small part in it!
Back in February my season kicked off in sunny Los Angeles, where I was racing at the Para-Cycling World Track Championships.
They turned out to be an interesting championship, in the Team Sprint riding with Darren Kenny and Sarah Storey we suffered our first defeat since 2006, taking silver behind the Chinese, who had found an amazing man 1 that really did make the difference to their team. In the 4km Pursuit, qualifying was interesting, as there was an official standing on the track in the back straight! Cue a restart, and I managed to post the 3rd quickest time. In the Bronze medal final I tried to learn from my pacing issues in qualifying. However after the 1st kilometre I could see my opponent and decided to chase him downrather than doing a full 4km. After 5 ¾ laps I’d caught and over taken Roberto Alcaide from Spain to take the Bronze medal.
In the kilo I managed to maintain my unbeaten record to take the 1km title in 1:06.001. Not my best ride, actually the first time I’ve won at the worlds without breaking the WR, but still it was good enough to take my 5th consecutive world title and the coveted rainbow bands. So LA turned out to be a mixed bag of results, but I did get a full set of medals!
After the worlds it was back to training and preparations for the London Paralympics. Another visit to Majorca for another 10day training camp kick started the final cycle off. It ended with me heading to the Tower of London for a bit of modelling and showing off the Adidas kit that all the GB athletes would be racing in at the home games.
In between all the training, with the build-up to the games I ended up doing quite a bit of publicity, the most fun was the 3 part Sainsbury’s short films, and the Paralympic promo video for Channel4. Some of the shots in the films were pretty cool, and due to the way they were filmed, they gave you an insight into track cycling that you just don’t normally see.
With the year flying by, the Olympics came and went, and before you knew it, I was at the holding camp in Newport, putting the final touches to my preparations for London. Things were looking good, as I PB’d in pretty much every session on the holding camp, just one little hiccup was a crash on day 2, but I survived with just a friction burn on my hip and elbow. A massive relief considering I hit the deck at 75kph!
Then it was time to race, with the kilo up first I was ready to go, with all my competitors going before me I was feeling really confident as I stepped on the track, especially as the fastest time was still half a second slower than my Beijing winning time and still some 9/10ths of a second slower than my WR, and I was going faster than ever now. I just needed to race at my best and that was it, unfortunately it all started to go wrong in a big way! I made my start just as I have countless times in training, however something was wrong, the gate held me, the next thing I know I’m wheel spinning and going sideways. Not ideal. So I stuck my hand up, and called for a mishap, pulled off the track and got ready to take to the start again. However that was it, I was unfairly denied a 2nd start, and that was it, a big fat DNF next to me name, and what followed wasn’t my proudest moment, but it will go down in Paralympic history in the same way as John McEnroe’s outburst at Wimbledon in 1981.
I basically threw all the toys out of my pram at anybody who would listen, in denial that I wouldn’t be defending my kilo title, and was removed from the velodrome. Knowing I was out of order I wanted to apologise, and try to put things right, at least to all the kids that had witnessed my foul mouthed tirade. So a little later I came back out to apologise to everyone in the crowd, then to the sponsors and governing bodies and organisers in a press conference and media scrum. Then finally I headed back to the village as I had to compose myself and come back and race the 4km pursuit the following day.
With the crowd behind me I ripped around the velodrome in qualifying to a new British Record, and 3rd best time. In the final I made short work of my opponent and took Bronze with an overtake in 5¼ laps. I covered the first 1km quicker than the winning time from the previous day. Considering the disappointment the day before, and the fact I hadn’t focussed on the pursuit as I placed all my eggs in the kilo basket, a bronze medal really did feel like winning gold. Having watched the footage back, it looks like I started the tiniest of fraction too early hence the gate held me when I pulled forward. Unfortunately though, the false start wasn’t called by the commissaires, so I didn’t get the immediate restart the rules state.
London will always be memorable for me for some amazing highs and some equally amazing lows, but I’m glad I can say I was there and I won a medal in front of the best and noisiest crowd anyone can ask for.
My racing year finished with a few more races on the track, a bronze medal in the Team Sprint at nationals, a 2nd place in the flying lap at the Revolution track series, and in my final race of 2012, a win in the 10mile scratch race in the final round of the MRTL Premier Division track league.
2013 will be a really important year for training, as I plan my revenge in Rio. On the way to 2016 I have also set myself the ambitious target of riding for England at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014. So the hard work starts again, and my motivation is sky high.
Thanks to all my family, friends and supporters, all my sponsors.
Have a great Christmas and New Year, and happy cycling.