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A Steep Learning Curve

A Steep Learning Curve

Since being classified as a Para cyclist in November last year I have had dreams of being national champion and hoping to go to the Paralympics. This year has been a massive learning curve for myself but one I have enjoyed immensely. When I started training for an ironman and trois etape in 2012 I wouldn't of dreamed i could of come on so much. I sat down with my coach at the start of the season and expressed some goals i would like to achieve both long term and also this season. This year as Mick put it was my learning year. I left feeling very enthusiastic about the year and also with a training programme which involved training 7 days a week 2 of those rides would be recovery rides.

I wanted to target time trialling and road racing this year so all the training was geared towards these. My experience at this point consisted of a few local Time Trials which I had done in may 2012 8 months after having my leg amputated and a month in to getting on a bike. My PB was a shocking 29:00 minutes on a slow Cuckney. With 5 months solid training under me I started the time trial season. For anyone who has never time trialled the courses are all given a letter and a series of numbers. This dates back to when it was all done secretly after the war. The letter denotes the region and the numbers the actual course. A time trial handbook is a book filled with these codes and is mindboggling when you first look. Again this has been a learning experience knowing which courses to target for fast times.

As part of my training I would use Cuckney my local tt to train on and then target Para cycling tt and the faster courses for placing's and tines. After my first few tt I was learning constantly, every time I went out I wanted to PB but soon realised its all about the weather conditions at the time. Over the season at cuckney I have got my time down to 23:28. As im a c4 classified athlete my time is divided by 1.057 to allow for my disability. Over this distance its takes off roughly 90 seconds. On the faster course at Hull v718 ten mile I have managed to do a 21:56 which puts me just under 20:30 classified. For people who don't time trial its averaging just over 27mph. For time trialling I have been using the Planet X Exocet 2 with 82mm front wheel and 101mm back. I have loved riding this bike and would recommend it to anyone.

Road racing has been a massive learning curve this season. I have raced against able bodied people all season. After sitting at the back without the confidence of even daring to go near the front at the start. After a few races that confidence came and I went from struggling, to working at the front and chasing down attacks to even attacking and breaking away. Road racing is so tactical and I soon found out its not always the fittest people that win. You find yourself almost playing a chess game whilst exercising at a very intense level. It is such an enjoyable sport though and the buzz you get at the end is amazing. I have accumulated a few points over the season. In British Cycling races. My highest was an 8th place finish and in a TLI race it was 3rd. I was happy enough with these results as the majority of the races come down to sprints and generating high power over short distances is something I struggle with because of the amputation. This was my learning season not just for racing but time trialling and training in general. I'm hoping to kick on next year and target national level by having a hard programmed winters training.

To keep the racing going over the winter I have foolishly agreed to do cyclocross. For anyone who doesn't know what that is its basically like doing cross-country running on a cross between a road bike and a mountain bike. I have chosen the Planet x Dirty Harry as my weapon of choice. I think its the mounting and dismounting whilst also having to carry your bike which will be tricky. But someone said to me you cant do that so me being the person I am said watch me. Its going to be an interesting winter.

Craig Preece.

6 September 2013