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  • Writer's pictureSteve

Other side of the fence

Recently I’ve been lucky enough to stand on the side lines watching David Smith -MBE and Jon Gildea, two of my fellow para cycling team mates race. It’s a funny feeling standing watching, when you really want to be out there doing.

Dave is one hell of an athlete, he’s been in sport his whole life and completed at the highest levels and won. Now he has moved into cycling knowing that it’s not an easy sport however for Dave, that’s was the reason. I watched Dave ride a local 10 mile Time Trial which doesn’t sound that far if you drive everywhere, however when you are on your bike it’s a game of judgement and risk. The aim is to ride 10 miles as fast as you can against the clock, you are set off a minute apart from other riders so you have someone to chase down. Riding for 25-35 odd minutes flat out takes skill, to fast to early and you blow up, leave it to late and you cross the line with loads left in the legs. I think Chris Boardman once said ” if you know your not going to make it you have gone out to hard. If you know you will make it you haven’t gone hard enough. If you think you might just make it before your going to explode you’ve probably got it right.

As I watched Dave come round the corner with 200m to go I think he got it right, his face in pain under his mirrored visor, his form strong and solid still driving the pedals hard holding his aerodynamic position. He crossed the line in just over 22 minutes taking 3rd place. Quite remarkable for his 4th TT. Dave is improving every time he gets on the bike and it’s great to see, his commitment to hurting himself on the bike is remarkable.

I stayed with 100% Jon a couple of days before we flew to Holland for our own racing but before we left I again got to stand on the sidelines and watch Jon deliver the best performance of his year so far. Jon rode in an category E,1,2 able bodied closed circuit race at Salt Aire. The E,1,2 bit is the level of riders, which is pretty high, Jon being cat 2 ( I think). The riders ride around the circuit for an hour attacking each other trying to put the other riders in the ‘red’, so they fall behind leaving only the strongest of the bunch. After an hour riders complete another 5 laps of the course and the winner is the one who has played his hand well attacked when he has seen weakness and responded when others saw a hint of weakness, then cross the line first.

Jon has been tagged 100% in our para cycling team for the way he lives his life. Whatever he is doing at that moment in time you can guarantee Jon is going to deliver all of his effort. I saw this on the first occasion we met, riding the velodrome in Manchester. It was my second training camp with British Cycling and Jon had missed my first with a bad virus. When Jon rode the track it looked like he was trying to rip his bike in half, tear up the track, putting his body through utter hell just to make that bike go faster. I wasn’t just impressed, that’s how I wanted to ride.

As I watched Jon attacking the other 30 riders 45 minutes in I got excited. It’s a funny feeling standing on the side trying to work out how that rider is feeling, how their legs and lungs are holding up. With 55 minutes down Jon and the small but strong group at the front had put the rest of the field in the red and they had given up, some simply just pulled over to the side, got off their bikes and went home. This is usually the time the front bunch start looking closely at each other trying to work out who is looking strong or who is showing weakness. This is when you see if a rider has played his hand well and the cat and mouse games start. Riders attack to see who can follow then sit up and see what the next move will be, it’s great to watch. But with the pack coming around to take the 5 laps to go call Jon made a move, riding away from the bunch. Brave, bold and 100% commitment. With 4 laps to go Jon had a good gap on the field, the other riders started to look at each other to see who was going to lead the chase but all they did was look. With 3 laps to go Jon was still driving hard on the pedals, opening the gap more but had he gone to early. A group of riders is generally quicker than a solo rider as you get a rest in a group because the rider on the front punches a hole in the air for other riders to follow saving the riders behind energy. But not tonight, Jon saw the weakness in all of them, backed himself laid a royal flush on the table. By the time their was one lap to go I knew he was to strong for that bunch, the gap increased with every pedal stoke and he crossed the line on his own half a lap up on the field to win. An inspiring ride and great result.

Sharing those rides with friends was great, to watch them work hard and yell encouragement for the side lines felt good. It is amazing the lift you get when someone yells your name during a race. Standing on the other side of the fence is an important roll. I appreciate that now after winning the Dutch Tandem Trophy with sight pilot Adam ‘Howser’ Duggleby. The support we had from the GB and Welsh coaches and mechanics was amazing. Hearing you are doing well just makes you want to push that bit harder on the pedals. Next time your standing on the other side of the fence don’t be afraid to yell at all those people entertaining you.


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