“You can’t aways get what you want, but if you try sometimes you just might find, you get what you need!’
The Newport International was an interesting and frustrating time for both me and Adam. It’s always good to measure yourselves against some of the best in the world to work out how you stack up, however sometimes it can be a harsh reminder of just how much work is still ahead of you. The week before our pursuit was a good one. It’s not that often that both of us get on the bike feeling fresh and ready, however on Tuesday it was different. We started riding some pretty good lap times (or splits as they are known to riders), we were getting quicker and it felt good, easier than normal, the pedals light and the pounding in our chests less than in the past. We were getting excited for the weekend’s race to see if the national record we wanted so badly would be ours (we would have to ride 4km in under 4mins 27 seconds). On Wednesday morning we woke up with sore legs, but again on the track even though we were tired we were flying, riding the best splits we had ever done. The second set felt hard, but so it should with the amount of work we had done in the past couple of weeks building up to this event. We were on it, and so were the other guys, there was a buzz about the team.
Thursday was a planned rest day, to take it easy and start to taper down the effort to allow your body the time it needs to recover and grow that bit stronger. At this point everything becomes painfully slow. You spend most of the time in your room, which as the week goes on becomes smaller and smaller. You don’t really want to get off your bed, so going to lunch or getting up to go to the toilet seems like hard work. Your mind starts to break down every little thing that you have to go through on race day, and you try and push out any doubts that creep into your mind as quickly as they appear. Thursday dragged like a child sulking three steps behind his mother.
Friday was race day, well in theory, race prep day. We had been entered in the kilo - a sprint event that from a standing start in the gate you simply ride 4 laps full gas flat out! It sounds dead easy, and it only lasts about a minute if you are the worlds best, but for us it’s more around the minute ten marker. We were riding the kilo to practise the pacing of the first kilometre of our 4km pursuit event (16 laps - we are endurance riders not sprinters). This is because during the nationals last year we got it completely wrong, riding far too fast out of the gate, and we blew up struggling to finish with any speed - as we dropped off the pace our time grew and grew like Jack’s beanstalk! So the idea was to help us get our pacing right so we would hit the splits that we needed to. We came out of the gate well and got stuck into the first lap, driving the pedals to get the tandem up to speed where you can feel the gear getting easier as you raise the cadence. We came around to take the first lap in good time. I lost my head and kept driving the pedals in the first bend of the second lap, an early mistake that set our pace too fast when we came around to the second lap, a second faster than we needed to be. Once the tandem is up the speed, the heavy beast is hard to slow while your legs are fresh so we clocked a faster lap, our third time round, by 1/10th of a second! With one lap to go, it seemed pointless to try and slow down and I felt Adam push down the hammer so I followed. Our final lap was a 14.9 second lap, and the job was done. There were lessons to be learned, but we had started well finishing 7th without really trying.
The following evening was not meant to be for us. Our form was good, we were fast, the new position was working, the National record was in our sights, but it went a bit wrong. After the kilo event, we reflected with Tom our coach and we had gone too quick, we knew it, and we couldn’t make that mistake again. We were sat in the gate ready to go, I was glad to be there as during the last 5 minutes I was focusing on not throwing up as adrenaline pumped through my body and pulsed in the back of my throat. We were asked if we were ready and I gave a nod, I never say anything, just keep my mind focused on the start and on what I have to do . The counter hit 5 seconds to go with a beep. I stood up. Deep breath, beep. I rocked back, beep. Breath out, beep. Deep breath in, beep , beeeeep! Weight forward, we’re off, wait no the gate hasn’t released us. The gun goes off to signal a false start, we climb off the bike for them to reset it and test it. After a couple of minutes it’s still not working, so we get on our solo bikes to turn our legs. The sick feeling returns, but this time it doesn’t bother me. We are told it will be a held start this time (the bike held by our coach rather than the mechanical gate), so we climb back on the tandem and get pushed unto the start. Again the count down starts, my actions the same as before and this time we drive away from the start line, but with all the talk of not going out too quick, we scared ourselves into riding too slow! Within two laps, afraid of going too fast we were too slow……2 seconds off the pace at the end of the second lap. We lifted onto pace and started to slingshot out of the corners building speed. We held good splits for the first 2km and I felt good, but again we let the place drop ever so slightly. We had agreed before hand that with 3 laps to go we would raise the cadence and up our sped to finish strongly which we did but by then it was too late. We crossed the line and somehow I knew we hadn’t broken the record, and looking up, the clock confirmed it in its bright orange digits - 4:28.68! I was gutted. Really disappointed with myself, we were flying in training and we hadn’t pieced the hard work together on the day. It was 2 seconds faster than we had ridden before so a new personal best for us, however it wasn’t what it should have been. To make it worse, we had missed out on the ride-off for a bronze medal (and another chance) by 3/10ths of a second meaning our time in Newport had quickly come to an end. We didn’t get what we wanted, however we did show progression and that we are capable of much more. It’s disappointing when you set your goals high and never quite hit them, especially when you know you didn’t do your best. As disappointing as it was, we have positives to take from the experience, and it was another experience to learn from and put right the next time. As I write, I’m heading home after a Monday morning track session in Manchester. Newport is behind us, now we must move forward.