Monday, 4 August 2008


As an athlete I am indebted to the army of support staff that work behind the scenes. These guys are the main cogs in the system that enable me, at real crucial times like this, to have nothing to worry about except training hard and resting and recovering well. Most obviously there is my coach Dan Hunt (the best coach in the world) who I work closely with on a daily basis. He is the brains in the set up, planning and structuring my training and also co-ordinating most of what goes on in the background for me.

And now for the long list of superstars that make me feel like the laziest but luckiest athlete around. Number one definitely has to be Phil Burt the cycling physio who has picked me up and put me back together again on various occasions! Then there are the mechanics (see photo of them at work in a track session) who often work tirelessly into the late evening making sure that we have every bit of equipment in tip top condition and set up to go for our training. Here on training camp they work overtime doing jobs we ourselves should normally be doing such as cleaning our road bikes and changing the gears on our track bikes during track training sessions. Every bit of equipment detail is no longer of our concern – it is all covered. Preparations pre training sessions are made, help during sessions is always there and afterwards it is all cleared away for us. Any requests for changes to equipment are met almost immediately. At the end of the last training session of the camp today we walked away knowing that all of the teams equipment (four or five bikes of mine our going out to Beijing so that demonstrates just how much kit there is!) will have been cleared away, packed away and whisked off to Beijing and unpacked ready for us when we arrive at the Olympic track for our first session there.

Whilst on camp we have carers (also known as soigniers) who are there to provide the riders with additional care. For track sessions they will provide us with food and drink provisions as we need it and any extras. At the hotel they will do things like collect our washing, provide a room for the athletes with food for snacking and general lazing around, give recovery massages and be a general dogs body for anything extra that is required. In all honesty we are very spoilt and I see it as getting a five star treatment when the four stars would really do! But it is a service that is there nonetheless and one which we all make use of!

In addition to these guys who are with us on a daily basis with a real hands on approach, there are also loads of people in the background who keep things ticking along. There is the staff in the office back at the headquarters who do all the admin, logistics and organising - the things that we just take for granted but are critical to the team functioning as well as it does. Then there is the sports science support who provide research, testing and analysis provisions etc. Without them we wouldn’t be competing in Beijing with the best technologically advanced equipment, the added extras that will help us perform better, the nutritional, psychological and physiological support that has enabled us to train effectively and to a high level and also the technological analysts who have recorded every pedal stroke we have taken with crazy biomechanical, viedo and computery analysis stuff (of which I understand nothing) to basically number crunch us to faster times on the track.

This is only really a snapshot of the people in the background. There are just too many to mention right now. But believe me the work that goes on is immense. I only really have a very small job to do which is to train hard and go and win that gold medal to make up for everybody’s hard work and support. Speaking for all the riders on the team, the support staff really are the key to our success and we are probably the most privileged group of athletes in the world to have them behind us all. We are extremely grateful and appreciative of what they do for us.

Monday, 28 July 2008


So we have been settled in now for a few days at our pre Olympic training camp in Newport, South Wales UK. It’s no where glamorous in location that’s for sure but it’s still an awesome set up we have here and absolutely perfect for all our requirements during this last scary bit of lead in to the Olympic Games. The hotel is a huge, posh very lush place with fancy rooms etc. It’s the kind of fancy hotel that has posh coffee and biscuits in the rooms – bingo for me eh!!. I’m content to munch my way through tasty biscuits guilt free all day long because every time I get out of the lift to go to my room I can help myself to a rosy red juicy apple from the fruit plate that’s on each floor. That helps negate the naughty biscuits (and all the other cheeky treats I give myself)!

Whilst we are on the subject of food I should mention that the hotel is dishing up a fine buffet of food for our meals which pleases me. Although some of the other guys have been complaining that we keep getting pretty much the same food every day, so I have to remind them that better to have a bad selection of good food than a good selection of bad food!

So away from thoughts of filling my stomach and back to what I was saying about having all the requirements we could need. The accommodation is great as I’ve said except for the road to get here goes up a flipping great hill up a gradient of 16%. A golf course surrounds the grounds of the hotel and this is where venue for the 2010 Ryder Cup is (see I told you the hotel was posh). So we use the Newport Velodrome for training on the track and it’s brilliant because we seem to have pretty much exclusive use of it. For road training stuff we just head straight out of the hotel and pound the tarmac in the welsh land, again just perfect. It seems the cold and drizzly rain that I was doing my best to avoid recently finally went on its way to visit other places and in its place came clear skies and hot sunshine for a few days. I went out on the road for a couple of hours the other day and I was in my element. At long last for the first time this year I was able to train out on my bike with out a winter jersey or knee warmers.

So we have the accommodation and the actual training location requirements nailed on this camp. We couldn’t ask for anything better, except perhaps for a Starbucks coffee shop located next door so we can get a regular coffee fix! All the other help and services that are provided to all of us by all the support staff I think I will have to go into next time. Right now I’ve got to pay full attention to my mug of hot chocolate before it gets cold and below the optimal biscuit dunking temperature!

Friday, 25 July 2008


So this is July and it’s supposed to be summer….but it’s not yet arrived. The weather is foul, cold and rainy. Living in Manchester this is to be expected but only to a certain degree. As an athlete who has spent almost 10 years training outdoors, it is almost crucial to physical and mental well being that there are at least two months in the year spent training in hotter and drier conditions than the other ten miserable months of the year. We all know that last summer was a wash out. One bad year is tolerable but two is not. Hence I became a hermit and a full time indoor cyclist over the past month. My competition event being on the track means I get a reprieve from the outdoors every now and then which is good - but sometimes it’s just not sufficient. Some might say that substituting road training for turbo training is madness. Masochistic even! But that is me! I’d much rather batter myself and bore myself senseless looking at the same view (a white fan blowing air over me to cool me down and a data box mounted on my handlebars) than get drenched by the rain, smashed in the face by the wind and chilled to the bone by the cold. Oh, and not forgetting the dicing with death when fighting it out with other road users for a bit of space on the roads. At lest when training in the gym I can crank out some motivational tunes on the stereo. Whilst on the road the only music to my ears I get whilst on the road is ‘BEEP-BEEP’ and the revving of engines by impatient drivers.

So before I start grumbling about a whole new topic of ‘crazy drivers’ I better tell you that the photos I have included are a couple of snaps of me in the gym on my time trail bike warming up before a good hard session. They are only of the warm up because I’m not showing the grotty hellish state that I get myself into during the real hard grippy stuff. That wouldn’t be fair on the readers!

Sunday, 6 July 2008


On Friday I went to the Birmingham NEC to get fitted out and collect my Olympic Kit. Having been through the experience four years ago for Athens you'd have thought i'd have taken it in my stride. But no, I was just as excited as the first time. In actual fact I was more so and it took me by surprise. Already knowing what to expect from the kitting out was something that added to the excitement. What would the kit designs be like? What would the opening and closing ceremony uniforms look like and would they make us look like a bunch of silly sailors like last time? What would be the little surprise extras that made going through it all once I got it home feel like christmas morning?

The other buzzing feeling I had was that of reaching a marker point. It was the first feeling of really appreciating that it is all real....I'm actually going to be going to the Olympic Games. For an athlete the kit fitting out is one of the many unique experiences of the Olympic Games. Getting the kit represents the first step in becoming part of the Great Britain Olympic Team, representing your country and being in the privilledged position of competing in the pinacle sporting arena and fighting for the ultimate glory of becoming Olympic Champion. It is unlike any other event that we will compete in. Four years on from the Athens Games I've been given another opportunity to join a team of the most elite and talented athletes in Great Britain. A team comprised of the absolute best competitors from a multitude of Olympic sports. For the duration of the Games I'm not just a cyclist, but an athlete, and one who joins forces with athletes from other disciplines in a special unity to become an Olympic athlete.

It is because of this that I found the kit fitting on Friday to be so poigniant. When I decided to retire from rowing I made the decision knowing that I'd be retiring from International sport and would therefore not be going to the Beijing Games. I'd accepted that never again would there be all those special things that are unique to the Games like Olympic trialing and qualification, Olympic kitting out, opening and closing ceromonies, the Olympic village, Olympic poduims and medals, special Team GB events etc etc. But here I am doing it all again! It is an extatic feeling to have achieved so much and to be feeling the anticipation and exhilleration of another Olympic Games after I'd accepted that it wasn't going to happen again. Specifically energising for me is getting the experience from a completely different sport and with a different support network and team mates around me. I really can't wait to get out there and crack on with it!
So as you can see I've included a photo of the massive bags of the ludicrous amounts of stuff we get supplied with. Cool eh! Unfortunately somewhere in one of those bags is a pair of deck seems the nautical theme did not escape the kit designers this time round either :-(

Wednesday, 25 June 2008


So I finally overcame my phobia of all things computery and technical and it seems I have managed to get my personal blog up and running. It wasn't without issues though. The mention of 'url', 'edit' and 'upload', were enough to send me into a frenzy. But it's only taken me half the day and there were only about four occasions when I wanted to throw my laptop out of the window with rage, so in actual fact I consider that to be a good effort and a major achievement in my book. That's assuming this doesn't crash on me before I get to post it!
In the event that I remain able to use my new found computery whizz kid skills, I will be aiming to blog as often as I can. As I navigate through this toughest last phase going into the Beijing Olympic Games, I'll be keeping you guys updated on the goings on and sharing with you the biggest yet most exciting challenge of my life so far.
I hope that I do a good job - on the blog and at the games!!! Until next time then.......