1 second can take you from the being on top of the world to being left with plenty of questions where you might have got that second back. What could we have done differently, ride a better line, be more aero, or was it simply push harder on the pedals…..sitting in the departure lounge of another airport I realised I will never know the answers to those questions and honestly, right now do I really need to? The rides we’ve had at this World Championships are by far a massive step forward for us as a pairing in the discipline of pursuiting. As the head coach put it, only a hand full of bikes have ever gone that quick regardless of being at altitude or sea level. You can easily overlook your performance and get wrapped up in medals and records in this game, trying to get your name somewhere in the history books of your sport, leaving a little piece of you behind that maybe someone someday will dust off the book when you are old and grey and remind you of something you did at one tiny moment in your life. I laugh as a write this because it was this time last year Adam and i were chasing the British National Pursuit Record (4:27) which we just couldn’t seem to get. Now we’ve broken a sea level World Record riding a 4:16, the first bike to go under the amazing Australian tandems 4:17. As with all of these records some stand for years, decades even, like the national record however ours was short lived with the very next qualifying ride, a Spanish bike smashing our time with an impressive 4:12. Followed very quickly afterwards by those amazing Australians posting a 4:12 as well.
Last year on day one I watched 7 of our team members standing around for a photo all in World Champions Rainbow Jerseys, a bitter sweet moment for me. Happy for my team mates but disappointed in myself for not achieving what we came for. Sure one of those jerseys was probably out of our reach last year if I’m honest but I was disappointed that we didn’t ride our very best. That is the biggest challenge about being an athlete, it doesn’t matter how good you are the rest of the year, what matters is how good you are when it really counts, the big races, the big medals and those rainbow jerseys. We knew coming here we had stepped up since this time last year, we now had the national record and broken that again but we were after even more this time. We had set our sights on riding at Olympic speed, even faster than what won the World Championships last year. We set an outrageous goal, we were bold, and to be honest I really wasn’t sure we were going to be able to deliver. We This year is a massive year for everyone in elite sport, it comes around every 4 years and when the plane leaves to go to the Olympic Games you want to make those last 3 years of work pay off and get you a front row seat on that plane!
The last two years being on the British Cycling Program has been like a game of musical chairs. You go to races and when the music stops you hope to hell you are not only sitting in a chair but you have a medal around your neck! Every time the music starts again you hope you have done enough since the last game to be quick enough to get another seat, and believe me the more seats you sit in the harder it is when you miss out, the pressure just keeps building as the chairs are removed. Not everyone on the team can go to the Olympics there are just not enough seats to go around, however day in day out you and your team mates, your brothers and sisters, turn yourselves inside out to try and be the very best you can be when it matters. The sad thing is that you know not all of you are going to have that happy moment together of getting your plane tickets. You may have to suck it up and send your family on there way, wishing them the very best even though you wished to hell you were in their shoes. While they walk onto that plane with a job to do while the whole world watches them go to work. The best job on the planet playing the biggest game of musical chairs with the best in the world.
People say that finishing fourth is the worst place to finish in a race. Out of the medals and left with a bitter taste at what could have been. However I can’t feel bitter with our efforts over the past few days. To ride 11 seconds faster than what we did this time last year is simply amazing. Not only how we managed to go that fast it was the way in which we delivered the ride we hoped too when it really mattered. For us that 4:16 was a perfect ride, we couldn’t have done anything better on the day but due to the nature of sport now we will put that behind us. Nothing to show for it except a video and some data to review but it’s very much about looking forwards now and going through the process of how do we go even faster. At first it always seems impossible, big targets or goals always do, but then you start to look at the detail, break it down into tiny pieces, turn over every stone to try and find every 10th of a second to make you quicker. We have an amazing support staff at British Cycling and I’m sure as soon as we crossed that line their were smiles on some faces and their minds were already starting to think about new targets, working harder, being smarter, getting stronger and going faster. All we have to do as athletes is commit to each and every session and have belief. But often belief is the hardest thing to find within yourself.
We will no longer be looking for that 1 second that cost us that bronze medal we now will be looking for another 10 seconds. We thought a 4:16 would be the winning time in Italy, we got that wrong. The world of sport can move fast and if you are not willing to evolve with it you are left behind and out of contention. Who knows what time will be the winning time in Rio, with teams stepping up and riding out of their skins. At this point I’m not even sure we’ve got a ticket but in 3 short months I should have an answer. But over those short months as more chairs are removed and as the music stops and the dust settles we will either be standing around looking at our brothers and sisters or we are sitting down preparing for the biggest show the sporting world has to offer.
Thanks to BioCare and Edinburgh Bike Co-op for supporting this blog.