It’s funny how things can change in a few weeks.
Last time I updated you on what was going on, things were going really well, great performances at the World Cup and the C1 event, and world leading times in both.
2 weeks after the C1 event in Manchester, I was pinning a number on my back again, this time swapping my GB skinsuit for that of my own team Para-T, it was time for the National Championships.
First up was the 1km Time Trial, my event and as such I had the honor of pulling on the rainbow bands as current World Champion. Having done a few kilo’s this year I was looking forward to the race and keen to try some things I’d been working on in training to build from my previous performances. However, after 250m that plan went out of the window. As it was nationals they run the 1km TT as a head to head, with your opponent starting on the opposite side of the track, sadly for me my fellow competitor wasn’t as fast as the athletes I usually race on the world stage, and to my surprise as I came into the home straight to complete my 1st lap, there was my opponent, my closing speed was probably over 20km/h different and I made an big evasive maneuver to overtake him into turn 1. This compromised my race, as this is the one place you want to be smooth, fast and nailed to the black line, as it set’s you up for the remainder of the race, and is also where you hit peak speed. In the end I settled into a good rhythm and powered on to the finish, in a time of 1:05.185. With the multiple classifications at nationals, my time after factoring was good enough for Silver behind Kadeena Cox.
In the evening I was back on track in the flying 200m time trial, an event that we don’t get to race often, but a good one to see how much top end speed you have. This for me was one of the best rides I’ve done in quite some time, as I did a big PB of 10.485 seconds. This was good enough to take the Gold medal in the event, but also take the World Record in the event too, considering the phase of training I was in, this was very satisfying.
With a successful nationals behind me, I was looking forward to the final run in to the World Championships, and it was clear I was in a better place than I’d been for many years, and excited with the prospect of what I could do once tapered and racing for the Stripes.
With 4 weeks to go, everything changed. In a freak occurrence, a mistake, a misinterpretation and extremely bad luck, somehow, I managed to find myself in the direct firing line of the sprint Tandem Pairing of Matt Rotherham and Neil Fachie, who were at full speed finishing their effort on track, they hit me and my coach at 66km/h.
Miraculously, we all escaped in relatively one piece. My coach was worse off, breaking his scapula and dislocating his elbow. I ended up taking most of the impact in my left lower back and kidney area.
The next 4 weeks I was having daily physio, working through goals that would get me to the start line in Apeldoorn for the Worlds.
Week 1’s goal was to get back on the bike, and able to do some efforts seated. Week 2 was to get back on track and get to appoint that I could get out of the saddle and put some power down. Week 3 progress the out of saddle accelerations until I was able to do a standing start. Week 4 was to bring it all together and go through all the phases I needed to be able to race (Start, Acceleration, Top Speed).
By the time Worlds came around I actually felt ready to race, physically everything was working without pain, and I thought it would be possible to pull something out of the bag, as even though I’d miss a few crucial phases of training everything seemed to be going pretty well.
However, the morning of travel to Apeldoorn, fate would decide I needed something else to deal with, and I had that familiar feeling of a scratchiness in my throat. 9 times out of 10 means I’m coming down with a cold, sure enough, even after topping up on my essential vitamins and taking Zinc lozenges to keep the cold at bay and reduce the symptoms I sat on the start line full of illness.
Competition day was a disorganised affair, especially for a World Championships. The start gate causing the majority of the technical delays, by the time I was due to race I think we were 2 hours behind schedule.
Finally though it was time to see what I had, and the time to beat was Jozef Metelka’s 1:06.477. I got out of the start gate cleanly, and up to speed and into a rhythm quickly, by the end of the first lap I was feeling pretty strong, but as the race continued I started to fatigue really quickly, at this point I was just trying to use my experience over the years to get to the line as smoothly and speedily as possible, the last thing you need is to panic as from experience it tends to slow you even quicker.
I crossed the line in 1.05.422, enough to take the rainbow bands, but I felt exhausted although in a weird way I didn’t feel like I got everything out in the race. I put that down to the cold and not being able to breathe and go as hard as is physically possible.
This was my 16th World Title in Para-Cycling and my 11th straight 1km Time Trial victory and considering the run in I’d had to the championships you would think I would have been over the moon. However, I was disappointed in my performance, I didn’t feel it reflected my true form, and it was only 15th fastest kilo I’d ever done, it was weird to feel so negative on the podium. On reflection I’m still disappointed, but importantly I didn’t lose, and I have many things I can learn from in the run up to this competition.
After the kilo I wasn’t due to race until day 4, this time I’d be lining up with Jon Allan Butterworth and Louis Rolfe again to defend our World Title in the mixed team sprint. With a few days recovery I hoped that my cold symptoms would have subsided, but this was a stubborn cold, and I felt pretty similar on the start line compared to the kilo. Thankfully all the technical issues had been ironed out by day 4 and the competition was running much smoother.
There were a number of teams who’d raised their game and will certainly be contenders in Tokyo, but it was our main rivals over the past few years, China, that had posted the time to challenge in qualifying. Our opening ride together went well, taking the top spot by just 2/10ths of a second. Things were all to play for in the final.
In the final the Chinese team bought in fresh legs as they replaced their man1 rider for another even faster rider, we kept our line up the same. This tactical move paid off, as the Chinese flew around the track, taking 4/10ths off their morning ride and to edge GBR into the silver medal by 0.245. As disappointed as we were to only manage Silver, it was the fastest time we’ve ridden all season, and we improved from heat to final, we were just beaten by the better team on the day, their time would have been good enough to win every World Championships and Paralympics before us, we are the only team to have ridden faster.
So that was my season done and dusted, a proper mixed bag. Some great rides early on in the season at the World Cup and C1 events, and a WR at the National championships. Then having to fight injury and illness just to make it to the start line, but I’ve come away with a World title and I have plenty of experiences to learn from as I get ready for the 2019/2020 season which starts in November.
This summer is all about getting all the background work done ahead of next season and most importantly enjoy riding my bike. To that extent I’ll be hitting the trails on my MTB to keep everything fresh, and taking on a 3 day coast to coast ride in July, which is going to be a pretty epic challenge considering I think 3hours is the longest I’ve ridden on my MTB, but it should be good fun!, My coach and I also have plenty of ideas to keep me busy and motivated during this period,, and although it feels like I have loads of time to be ready for next year there before I know it we’ll be on the final run in to Tokyo, so need to make sure every pedal rev on the bike counts.
Catch you all in the summer as I update you on how it’s all going.