I rode through the 2016 season, driven by pure love for the sport. I knew I would always be on the back foot, from a fitness perspective, due to injuries I sustained in a near fatal accident in September 2015, which hurt. However, this also gave me a renewed and powerful level of motivation to train hard through the winter into the 2017 season. Having been assessed, earlier in the year, by both British Cycling and the UCI, as a C5 Para-cyclist, 2017 also brings some new exciting challenges.
My first race of 2017 was really early: the National Track Championships in Manchester.
My first focus was to get some base fitness back. Last year I wasn’t able to ride until the end of January so, in effect, missed out on around 300 hours of winter training. In contrast to this, this winter I had about three weeks off the bike at the end of the 2016 season, concentrating on some much needed DIY (which also took a hit after my accident) and lots of family time. When I did start back under the watchful eye of Courtney Rowe (Rowe & King) I was ultra-motivated and for the first winter, in my memory, the weather didn’t matter.
Working full time for GKN aerospace, with a 20mile commute to and from work each day, plus turbo sessions, soon had me finding some half decent form again. The Christmas week was then a big one for me, as not having to go to work for 12 days was a perfect mini training camp from home. I had Christmas day off the bike (Family time) and just did a local TT on Boxing Day but still managed nearly 26 hours on the bike (and a TT win). The week after Christmas was about recovery and from there I had 2-3 weeks to prep for the track champs.
I have only raced once before on the track, back in September at the Masters Worlds, so I am still a relative novice when it comes to track tactics but the event I was targeting was a TT so I felt confident I could do a worthy ride.
Two weeks out from the Nationals the UCI announced they were going to hold a Para-Cycling World Championships in 2017 in early March. This is something they don’t normally do the year after the Olympics, so took many by surprise. I knew going into the Champs a time of 4:35 or less would stand me in with a very good chance of qualifying so this became my target.
In training I was hitting lap times very close to where I needed to be and planned to start fairly steadily; aiming for a 23 sec opening lap, being sub 17 every lap for the first half of the 4km and thereafter, ramping it up in the final 2km. However, this was not to be as my opponent, Jon Gildea, who rides on the BC para squad, rode me down by 2250 metres and affectively ended my hopes of winning.
Having been caught just before I had been planning to really open up meant I had to ease back and ride on the slower red line of the track. This was frustrating as I had the strength to go a lot faster in the final few laps, but I also knew if I performed an overtake I would have been DQD. As Jon crossed the line to finish in a time of 4:35 he eased off and started to swing up the track. I was still going hard on the red line and had to swing higher to ride over the top of him as he’d finished and put it all down in the last 50 metres. I finished in 4:45 absolutely gutted, yet happy for Jon (we’ve been mates for a few years) as he’d almost certainly qualified for the worlds (not something that’s a given even if you are on the performance plan).
Finishing 2nd in our C5 category and 4th overall (after Factoring of other para riders), in hindsight, I learned allot from this experience and will be putting that into practice the next time I have a track competition, Jon did qualify for Los Angeles so good luck to him I hope he Medals now.
A new week and head down. The season now kicks off for me on the road with my local race – Severn Bridge RR, and this will be followed up with races every weekend into the first rounds of the BC Elite Road Series. I know I’m going to be close to my best after the solid winter of training I’ve had, and this enthuses me. Neon-Velo and H2 Giant St Pauls also stuck by me through a tough season last year and this motivates me even further. This year is promising…I can’t wait to get going with my team mates on the road.
Will Bjergfelt on the cobbles.