Our coach Simon came over to tell us it’s time. As you pick up your helmet and get rid of the music that has been your distraction for the past hour and a half you make your way to the two seats at the track side. The seats where athletes wait before its their time. Mentally its where all of the hard work becomes you strength, the thing that allows you to justify to yourself why you are sitting in that seat in Great Britain Cycling Team kit. That situation can be very overwhelming and for some it doesn’t get easier the more times you do it. Most athletes have different way of dealing with the pressure at that moment of waiting, for me I like to think about all those hard training sessions over the past few months in preparation for this very moment. All those times you pushed yourself harder than before, your legs and lungs screaming for you to simply just stop driving at the pedals. All those times you couldn’t be bothered to do that session because you were still tired from the days before but you did it anyway. Telling yourself if you’re not doing it your opposition will be out working harder than you.
As our bike is put on the gig to check it has been set up to the regulations, I smile as the official attempts to pick up the tandem thinking it will be nice a light like the solo bikes. 15kgs shows on their face and quickly they ask for help. I think to myself we could do with some help getting it off the line and up to speed….Once the bike has been checked and cleared we wait for the heat before us to finish. You hear the commentary and the crowd, their coach yelling out the lap splits, “17.7!” and I think we will go quicker than that. Then I think about the job at hand, the things I have to focus on to get the best out of myself and all those hard months of training. I remind myself it’s all in my legs now and all I have to do is get it out and on the track. Leave it all out there.
The track side gate opens and you hear the times of the two riders just finished. I know with our form we are going we will beat both of those times, an advantage of riding the track and being a part of the British Cycling set up. It’s simple maths, power versus aerodynamics. A year ago it would have been close but I’ve worked my ass off this year and now our training splits and power data show it. I can be confident, but not cocky. Focus on what you have to do I remind myself. As I watch the guys set our bike in the gate I walk onto the track and try not to slide about on my plastic cleats. Then around the outside of the starting gate and sit down on the track and watch the bike being secured correctly. With my back to the crowd I can hear the noise but nothing is registering with my brain, just noise. There is a big cheer from the home crowd, they must have just read out our names, but I don’t change my focus, my eyes are glued on the bike. We get the all clear and Adam gets on while Simon and Matt our team hold the bike steady. I stall for a bit, giving Adam the time he needs to get sorted and feel comfortable. Then I stand up and get myself set. Clipping into the pedals I start focusing on my breathing. Simon gives us his final words, nothing complex but to the point.
The official asks me a questions, I hear it but don’t listen, I don’t speak just nod. I don’t care what they are telling me now a just want the count down to start and for this ride to get underway, i’m in that place athletes talk about, the zone. The last hour I have been working myself up to get into this place. Now i’m here and its calm. This ride is only going to last just under four and a half minutes but it will feel like ten once the pain in my legs takes hold. I’m focused on the back of Adams helmet thinking about what I need to do to make this the ride of my life, I hear my slow breathing thought my covered ears of the aero helmet and noise from the crowd. Next a loud bleep signalling the start of the count down, eleven seconds to go. The noise fades away as I turn and focus on the clock. Other bleep signals five and they follow every second now. On four on stand up, take a deep breath look ahead and BANG!
This was the start of our qualifying run for the 4km tandem pursuit at the Manchester International Track meet on the 15th November. We qualified in 3rd place with a time of 4:23.04, a second off our Personal Best and 3 seconds down on the quickest. We followed that ride with a 4:22.01 in the bronze medal ride off, catching the Spanish Bike on lap 14, we pressed on for a time which was a new Personal Best and new National Record.