Friday, 30 September 2011

Next Year - Its on!

Well, it might be.

But there seems no conceivable barrier to me getting to Ventoux next year - May time I think.

I'd better get training - and the weather this weekend looks great...

Thursday, 29 September 2011

How I nearly qualified for the points race final

Back in the day when I used to race - probably around 97 or 98 I rode the track nationals at Manchester. I entered the pursuit, kilo and points race. I took it too easy in the pursuit, but I had a plan for the points race: Id move up with 6 or so laps to go and get amongst the sprint. Hmmm...

I put quite a big gear on - 94", more I think because my chainset wouldnt take campag rings and that was all we had. The race was fast and split up. I was on the wrong side of the split, but towed - of all people - future olympic gold medallist Paul Manning back up to the bunch.

With 6 or so laps to go I was getting nervous. But then Steve Whitcombe and Phil West appeared alongside me. Great! I thought - Ill get on their wheel, Steve'll want to get into the final, itll be a great leadout. The speed wound up, but we were going nowhere. The bell rang and we sat at the back. It was an easy ride but didnt they want to qualify.

Rolling over the finish line I discovered the truth: they'd actually lapped the field whilst I was grovelling at the back. And there endeth my nationals career: the year after I broke my collar bone again weeks before the event putting paid to the rest of my cycling hopes. I could have been a contender you know....

Monday, 26 September 2011

Geraint Thomas, the Maindy Flyers & Olympic Gold

This is worth a listen - LIVE on BBC Radio Wales, Debbie Wharton talks about Geraint Thomas, how he got involved in cycling and reacts to him winning an olympic gold medal. The race is at about 24 minutes.

  Debbie on Radio Wales by GarethEnticott

Given all her expertise, its odd of course to think about how Debbie was treated when she returned from maternity leave - instantly made redundant. Its odder still to think about how Sport Wales stood by and did nothing: isnt their role to develop sport and promote women in sport. Incompetent? I think so.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Debbie Wharton on the BBC

When Debbie Wharton was Director of Operations at Welsh Cycling she took some time out on maternity leave. Turns out that was the wrong thing to do given what happened after. But whilst she was away from work she still worked. I know, cos I looked after our baby instead. A good example of this was during the 2008 Olympics when Geraint Thomas was odds on to win a gold in the team pursuit. Instead of watching it with me, BBC Wales phoned her up the day before and asked if she would come in and watch it live on the radio (on Jamie Owen's radio show) and then they interviewed her after: you can see it here.

I have the audio file too, somewhere, but Debbie may have come over a bit Sean Kelly during the interview. As she said afterwards: "I wanted to watch the race, but they kept asking me questions!". If I find it, Ill post it too.

Its interesting: this week another Maindy Flyer - Luke Rowe - has signed a contract to ride for Sky Procycling team. Unlike Geraint, Luke has a family steeped in cycling. But there's one thing they do have in common: in the 1990s and early 2000s, they, just like all the other UK professional cyclists - Mark Cavendish, Matt Brammeier, Ben Swift, Adam Blythe, and now Andrew Fenn who has also signed a contract with a pro team - were all riding the youth events on the track and road. Events like the Brite track series, the Manchester Youth Tour and the National Track Champs. It seems crazy to think that until Tom Smith - one of Geraint's contemporaries at Cardiff - wrote to Willi Tarran suggesting that they have more events for youth riders at the Nationals, that there were only a couple of events for them.

As an academic, I know that it is always difficult to disentangle the effects of different and sequential programmes. Its very easy to pin the current success of UK cycling on British Cycling's U23 academy. I have no doubt it played a role. But what has an equally, if not greater role, was a bunch of hard working volunteers who created the opportunities for youth cyclists to learn how to race and learn from each other from a young age. But for them and UK cycling would look very different now. Its a shame that doesnt get recognised more often - it'd be a great article in Cycling Weekly. But its more of a shame that at least one of those people was not afforded the respect they deserve for the hard work they did by people that knew better but lacked the guts to do anything about it.