With just over two weeks to go before the start of competition at the 2012 Para-cycling Track World Championships, the final selections for the GB team were made this week after Trials for the Team Sprint team.
Having worked so hard on my standing start for the Team Pursuit during 2011, I had been able to improve enough to be asked to Trial out for a position in a team that has been unbeaten for as long as I have been on the Para-cycling programme. It was a daunting prospect lining up alongside current world and Paralympic Champions, Darren Kenny and Jody Cundy as I was being asked to trial in both the man one and man two positions.
Apart from the lining up alongside two rainbow jerseys making me nervous, it was a strange feeling to be trialling out for just one lap; it is definitely the shortest trial I have ever done! Lining up in man 2 position was also slightly weird, not least because I was starting at a 45 degree angle to man 1 and had never previously “got on” a sub 21 second start lap. Nerves are always good though and despite the chilly feel in the air at Newport, I was able to pull out two of my best ever starts which saw me selected as the first woman to ride in GB’s Para Team Sprint team.
The event is officially for both men and women, and a recent regulation change has meant that Great Britain and probably many other countries in the world, have had to change their line ups. Previously GB have been able to field 3 men from the higher classification groups, but the regulation change has been put in place to try and encourage lower classifications into the event and as such riders with more severe disabilities. Female riders are worth one point less than their male counterparts and so when making up a team worth 10 points, it means that I am now worth only 3 points and therefore in direct competition with the men in the 3 point classification, C3.
Getting selected for a third event in Los Angeles at Track Worlds is a very exciting prospect, not least because it will keep me racing until the end of the competition, whereas normally I would be reverting to my role of team cheerleader after my individual events finish on the 3rd day of the 4 day competition.
Whilst the selection for the Worlds Team also means I could be selected for the Paralympic Games in the same event, adding a 5th event to my possible 4 individual events, the GB team has an incredible strength in depth. There are at least 2 other riders in the wings, just a fraction of a second away from selection and as such these two will be named riders as the reserves for the team in Los Angeles. Given the regulations around the composition of the team, it is important the squad travel with enough options in case of injury or illness.
So with less than 2 weeks until we fly west, the training is a good balance between hard, fast intervals on the track and the speed work needed for the shorter efforts of man 2 in the Team Sprint and the Individual 500m.
My favourite session is definitely the track intervals and although at the time you would think that I’m hating every minute, it is the feeling once they are over that is hard to beat in any other session!
On my rest day last week, I did a couple of interviews with some people interested in knowing about some of the psychological traits of an athlete and what makes one different to another. One of the areas we talked about was the ability to suffer and how that can define a good athlete from a great athlete. Lactate tolerance intervals are a great way to suffer and the faster you try and ride, the more they hurt, with the challenge being to try and keep the second and third sets as good as the first!
I also filmed Question of Sport last week, for the first time! It was a great show and the final round was quite hilarious. I can’t give too much away but I have to say I am looking forward to watching it back on TV because I can’t wait to see the performance of my captain for the evening in that final round!
This coming week I’ll be attending a couple of financial conferences, in my role as Scottish Widows London 2012 Ambassador, where I will deliver an Olympic themed presentation and share some stories about how we in cycling cope with changes in rules and regulations, and don’t allow these changes to detract from our ability to produce our best performances. Given the “factor system” I faced for my races in Beijing in 2008, where I effectively gave all my main rivals a 10% head start because at that point they were in a different disability group, not to mention some other regulations around bike set up, I will hopefully be able to bring some insight into the fact that even in sport we are not immune from facing regulation we don’t always agree with.