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BLS interview world tour rider, World champion and Olympic Medalist from Belgium, Jolien D'hoore

Interview: World Tour Pro – Jolien D’hoore

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We interview one of the very first ambassadors to join us; the Olympic bronze medalist, World Champion and rider for UCI professional Woman’s world tour team Boels-Dolmans from Belgium – Jolien D’hoore

 

How did you start cycling and what was your road to becoming a pro-cyclist?
I’ve started cycling by doing a summer camp for cyclists when I was 12 years old.  At that time I wasn’t a cyclist, I was into track and field but I was looking for something new.  At the end of the camp we all received a license to race.  So without knowing I could now do some bike races.  Soon I started my first race; I crashed but I decided to continue.  Every time I got better and better and I started to enjoy the feeling of winning.  I never thought about making my profession out of it until I was 18 years old and I became World Champion on the road as a junior.  My parents supported me 100% but I had to put my studies first.  So I started studying physiotherapy at the university in Ghent.  I’ve always done the combination school/cycling.  A couple of years ago I finally became a professional athlete!

 

How was it coming from the home of road cycling, Belgium?
Cycling is big in Belgium.  It’s great to ride the Belgian races on home soil.  Especially when I was wearing my Belgian champion kit.  People recognize you and support you.

BLS interview world tour rider, World champion and Olympic Medalist from Belgium, Jolein d'Hoore

BLS interview world tour rider, World champion and Olympic Medalist from Belgium, Jolien D’hoore

Do you prefer track or road cycling?  And what role has track cycling played in your success on the road?
I can’t choose!  I prefer to do both.  The track has given me so much bike skills and experience.  Also as a sprinter on the road I benefit from the short and explosive work I do on the track.  The other way around, road also helps to have a good endurance level to compete in the track races I’m doing (madison).

 

How do you manage both track and road seasons so well?
I’ve been doing this combination since I was 12 years old!  The year after the Olympics in Rio was the first time I skipped the track during the winter and I felt I missed something.  Mentally it’s a nice change as well.  After a long road season it’s always good to come back to the track.

BLS interview world tour rider, World champion and Olympic Medalist from Belgium, Jolien D’hoore

You medalled in the omnium in Rio 2016, do you prefer old or the new omnium format?
I prefer the old format.  Having an omnium over 2 days makes it extra tough.  Also an omnium should have some timed events.  Now it’s a bit unpredictable.  Even if you’re in shape you can still miss out on a good result, with all those bunch races.  Coming into Rio, I felt good and I knew I could have a good result because I could ride good times in training.  But this omnium makes it more like a lottery.

 

You’re also the first world champion in the woman’s Madison, how does that feel?  And do you think that the Madison will help get more girls on the track?
Belgium has a history in the madison.  Our men have so much experience and skills, so it as easy to share all that information with us.  As a kid I did lots of madison training.  And any free time we’ve got during training these days, we started to do a madison (during cool down, etc.).  So when the news came out that the madison would be a new event for the women, we were very excited because we knew we already had the skills.  I hope it helps to get more girls on the track.  Surely it’s a cool event to watch!  It’s the most beautiful discipline in my eyes: you need speed, endurance, technical skills, tactical skills – a bit of everything.

BLS interview world tour rider, World champion and Olympic Medalist from Belgium, Jolein d'Hoore

BLS interview world tour rider, World champion and Olympic Medalist from Belgium, Jolien D’hoore

What do you think has been the biggest factor in your success?
My family and my boyfriend.  They have been there for me from the start.  Even during the bad days they have my back.  That’s what you need as an athlete – people who support you onwards and upwards.  I’m so grateful to have them.

 

What do you think makes a champion?
Hardship, discipline, mentally strong and the will to never give up even if people telling otherwise.   It’s not only talent that makes a champion, but the eagerness to become stronger and work hard every single day.

 

What do you think of the state of woman’s cycling?  And what would you like to see change or improve?
Women’s cycling is evolving so fast.  Every year I think I had a good prep, I’m stronger than last year but everyone gets even stronger again.  They ride faster and harder every year.  Teams are getting more professional as well.  More men’s teams realize they should have a women’s team having the same kit, same bike, etc.  The only thing that’s still missing is the media coverage.  Our races can be followed via Twitter or Facebook, but no live tv coverage.  Once they start showing our races on television, sponsors would come and it would make our sport even bigger.

BLS interview world tour rider, World champion and Olympic Medalist from Belgium, Jolien D’hoore

What do you enjoy most about cycling and being a pro-cyclist? 
I just enjoy the whole package.  We have a luxury life!  We get to choose our own training hours, we have our freedom, the places my bike takes me are incredible, you travel the world, meet new people!

 

You have recently signed for a new professional team, do you enjoy being a part of a team and what made you choose this team?
Yes, cycling is a team sport.  And the results you can get as a team is so rewarding.  I’ve signed for 2 years with Boels-Dolmans.  They have set the standard for women’s cycling and are always the team to beat.  It’s an honour to defend the orange colours the next 2 years.  I’m looking forward to ride with them and hopefully contribute to their success.

BLS interview world tour rider, World champion and Olympic Medalist from Belgium, Jolein d'Hoore

BLS interview world tour rider, World champion and Olympic Medalist from Belgium, Jolien D’hoore

Where is your favourite place to train?  And what is you favourite part of training?
I like riding my bike in Mallorca.  But I’ve been 2 times in New-Zealand and I love this country.  Good weather, goods roads, and friendly people.  The life there is easy going and very relaxed.  The feeling you get after you have finished your scheduled training is satisfying and my favourite part of training.

 

What are your interests outside of cycling?
My interests outside of cycling are sports in general and food.  I love to spend time in the kitchen.

 

What is something we wouldn’t know about you?
I have a bachelor’s degree in physiotherapy.
I was the junior World Champion in Cape Town on the road (2008).
I’m an ambassador for the Special Olympics.
I have 1 younger sister who is becoming a police officer.
I have 1 crazy cat (Fonzie).
I speak 4 languages (Flemish, French, German and English).
 

BLS interview world tour rider, World champion and Olympic Medalist from Belgium, Jolien D’hoore

What are your plans and goals for 2019?  And what are you biggest goals for the future?
Goals for 2019:

  • World Track Championships in Poland for the madison
  • The spring classics (especially the classics in Belgium)
  • Belgian national championships (road)

Goals for the future:

  • Olympic medal in the madison in Tokyo 2020

 

Do you have any advice for young riders?
Do what you like and not what you’re being told to do.

BLS interview world tour rider, World champion and Olympic Medalist from Belgium, Jolien D’hoore

Would you mind sharing some stats?
Max power: 1395W
Max HR: 229bpm
Best time 3km IP: 3’30’’202

 

Be sure to follow Jolien’s journey via her social media channels:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jolien_D%27Hoore
http://www.joliendhoore.eu/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jolien.dhoore
Twitter: https://twitter.com/joliendhoore
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/joliendhoore

 

Interview by: Matthew de Freitas
(co-founder of BLS)

BLS interview with French track cyclist Mathilde Gros. Photo: Drew Kaplan

Interview: French star, Mathilde GROS

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We interview young French sensation and Junior world champion, Mathilde GROS, about her career, goals for the future, and life outside of cycling.

 

When and how did you start cycling, and especially track sprinting?
I began cycling in September 2014, but I couldn’t really train until March 2015 because I had lots of little crashes when I began, and I was really scared after that to go on the track again.  Before I played basketball and I wanted to become a professional basketball player.  I was in gym for basketball, and the BMX riders of France were at the same time as me at the centre, so for fun my coach of basketball said that I should go on the WattBike, and I did a sprint and I had really good results!

 

What do you enjoy most about cycling?
I love share moments with my family.  In sprinting I really like the speed, but also the duel against someone, and also the duel against oneself!  I like the respect and values of this sport.

 

You were junior World champion last year, how was that experience?
It was an incredible experience, the better experience as a junior in my life.

BLS interview with French track cyclist Mathilde Gros. Photo: Drew Kaplan

You are the new sensation of track cycling and already winning medals in the elite ranks, how are you finding the experience?
It was an experience really rich for learning.  I learnt a lot.  I met lots of the best riders in cycling.  It was a really good for me!

 

You and many other young sprinters are a part of the French cycling academy for Tokyo 2020 to take on the British, how do you feel about the French chances?
I don’t know the chance of it.  I just know that I want to be one of the best riders (like a lots of other riders) and I will give the best I can to take medals at the Olympics games.

BLS interview with French track cyclist Mathilde Gros. Photo: Drew Kaplan

You come from the birth place of cycling, France, has that inspired you at all?
Yes I was really inspired by this country.  When I started cycling I met lots of famous riders like Florian ROUSSEAU and also Felicia BALLANGER.  They gave me lots of tips on lots of things!

 

You also went to race in the Japanese professional keirin, how was that?
I am so lucky to went to Japan last year.  It was so incredible for me.  I couldn’t believe that the JKA took me for this year, I was young at just 18 years old! It was the best experience of my life!  I met lots of people, and I made lots of friends.  I didn’t know so much the elite riders because I was a junior one year ago, so this experience was really great for me to meet riders like Stephanie MORTON, Natasha HANSEN, Laurine VANRIESSEN, Nicky DEGRENDELE and the boys …. It was so cool!!!!!!  I loved the experience, it was unbelievable!!

BLS interview with French track cyclist Mathilde Gros.

BLS interview with French track cyclist Mathilde Gros.

BLS interview with French track cyclist Mathilde Gros.

Tell us something that we wouldn’t know about you?
I love to share moments of happiness with my loved ones, and I am someone who smiles all the time!

 

What are your interests outside of cycling?
I like go out shopping with friends or my sister and my mum.  I like visit monuments and travel the world.  I also continued my school so later I can teach teenagers in high school.

BLS interview with French track cyclist Mathilde Gros.

BLS interview with French track cyclist Mathilde Gros.

What is a typical training day for you?
I wake up at 7h50, have breakfast at 8h and after that gym at 9h30 and finish at 11h.  After lunch at 12h, a little nap (really important for me, ha ha, only 25 minutes!).  Training on the track is from 15h00 to 18h30, and after that dinner at 19h.  After that I work my courses of my school because i have big exams twice a year.  And to finish my day, I sleep at 22h30!

 

Are you excited for the Olympics to come to Paris in 2024?
Yes I am very excited for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris!  We are so lucky to have the Olympic in our country!  Already, not many athletes have the chance to go to the Olympics, but even less to do them in their own country!  Just imagine!  In front of your family, your friends…  I hope it will be so cool!

 

What are you goals for the future?
In the future I will give the best I can to become the best rider, and become Olympic champion, it’s my dream and my goal!

BLS interview with French track cyclist Mathilde Gros.

BLS interview with French track cyclist Mathilde Gros.

BLS interview with French track cyclist Mathilde Gros.

BLS interview with French track cyclist Mathilde Gros.

What advice do you have for junior riders looking up to you?
Believe in yourself, and work, work, work…  Always remembering why you do this, to stay focused if it’s hard, and to continue.

I want just say thank you to my coach for all, and because he believes in me.
Thank you of my family who support me and come almost everywhere to support me during a big race.
Thank you of the best mechanic also 😉

I want say to Kristina Vogel that she is a beautiful person and really strong girl!  Thanks a lot for your beautiful video for me!

Cycling has allowed me to meet with lots of athletes!  And I can live a life with beautiful moments!

Thank you a lot for your support BLS 😉

 

Interview by: Matthew de Freitas
Co-founder of BLS

Keirin world champion Nicky Degrendele

Interview: Keirin World Champion – Nicky Degrendele

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We interview young star of the keirin, current World Champion Nicky Degrendele from Belgium.

As Six Days kicks off in Ghent, Belgium this week – it makes perfect sense!

You are so young, yet already so successful; when and how did you start?
I started on track at the end of 2011.  I had done 2 races on the road earlier that year.  In my first race girls crashed in front of me and so I crashed as well, breaking my elbow; resulting in me never doing road racing again!  Track on the other hand, I did like.  In October I started training with some kind of “learning how to ride the track” group and only 3 months later I became u/17 Belgian champion in the sprint -> that was the start of my career.  Then I got invited to train with the national junior team and started doing European sprint and keirin races.  It all went very fast!

 

You broke through straight into the elite ranks, what has been your secret to success?
There’s not really a secret to success, I just did my own thing.  My first year as an elite was really hard and there was a brief moment I thought of stopping because I wasn’t winning.  In December of 2015, the Belgian federation and I made the decision to work towards a bigger and better goal, and they sent me off to the WCC in Switzerland for me to grow as a rider again.

Keirin world champion Nicky Degrendele, by Drew Kaplan

How does it feel to be world champion?
I had a very hard time believing that I was actually the world champion.  It is something you work towards but what do you do when you become a world champion?  I took me a while but I do know that I want to be on that top step again and I want to wear the jersey longer!  For now, I’m enjoying it, and not pressuring myself in to anything yet.

 

You come from the mecca of cycling and home to some of the greatest cyclist of all time, Belgium, What is track sprinting like there?
Track sprinting is completely the opposite end to road cycling based on popularity.  We had a few good sprinters a long time ago, and it may have been a bit more popular then, but sadly the attention hasn’t been as big for track as it is for the road.  The current track group, myself included, are doing a great job trying to get more attention to track.  For example: Jolien D’hoore’s Olympic bronze medal, and last year’s world title in Madison with Lotte Kopecky,  Kenny Deketele and Robbe Ghys with their European Madison title, and me with the Keirin world title all have helped.

Keirin world champion Nicky Degrendele, by Drew Kaplan

Keirin world champion Nicky Degrendele, by Drew Kaplan

Are there any young sprinters coming through the ranks who could join you for the team sprint in 2020?
I think that for the 2020 Olympics it’s best for me to focus just on sprint and Keirin as I am the only woman on track in my country.  If there is a potential rider then there is a possibility we can work towards 2024 Paris Olympics.

 

Your favourite event is the keirin, why do you like it so much?
Keirin requires speed, skill, tactics and guts.  I love everything about it.  There’s not really a specific reason, I just love it!

Keirin world champion Nicky Degrendele, by Drew Kaplan

You also spent some time racing the Japanese professional keirin, how was that?
Japan was a great experience.  Looking back I had a fantastic time.  I met a lot of great people, got to know a whole different culture and got to race keirins.  The country was amazing and beautiful, a lot different to Belgium.  It wasn’t only good as an athlete, but also as a person.  Being away from home for that long was a challenge because it’s not just a 10 hour drive with the car to go home if you miss your family, it’s the other side of the planet so you can’t just go back and forth for a little visit. Looking back now I wish I enjoyed it even more with less distraction!  If I’d have the opportunity to go back, I definitely would!

 

Tell us something that we wouldn’t know about you?
I’m very much of a family person, I love to be around people and to get to know new people yet I can also be by myself for a while, and I love to discover new places.  I’m currently in Gstaad, Switzerland having a coffee & answering this email!  You can definitely find me at the ocean, a pool or a lake in summer.  If I could I’d go snowboarding every winter.  I’m an animal lover, that awkward person that will always pet the dogs first before introducing myself to someone.  When I’m struggling with something I prefer to go walking by the ocean with the dogs or I call my mum, my sister or my bestfriends.

 

Where do you get your motivation from:
My motivation comes from what I have achieved in the past few years of racing.  To me it means there is so much more for me to accomplish and that I want to do it.  I love racing, I love the focus of it and the feeling it gives me.  That moment on the start line of “now is the moment to bring what  you have been training for!”

 

What is a typical training day for you?
It may vary to what training is on schedule that day.  I usually have my first alarm at about 7am to eventually get out of bed at 7:30am or 7:45am, I’m a snoozer & I can’t help it!  I have breakfast in my room or at the WCC at 8am.  Gym training starts at 9:30am to 11am or 11:30am, and lunch at 12. Then there’s time for a little sit down after lunch, mainly movie time or catch up with family.  Roller warm up and track session starts from 2pm to 5pm, dinner at 6pm and then I’m off after that.

Keirin world champion Nicky Degrendele, by Drew Kaplan

Keirin world champion Nicky Degrendele, by Drew Kaplan

What are your goals for the future?
It’s obvious that I want to be ready by worlds to defend my rainbow stripes “stripey” jersey.  That’s the main goal for this season!  Then it’s to Tokyo 2020.

 

What are your plans leading up to your defence of your title next year, and towards Tokyo 2020?
The next 4 World cups are on my program.  Basically it will be training, training and training!!

 

Do you have any advice for other sprinters out there?
I would say to enjoy it!  If it makes you happy and you enjoy it, keep doing it as long as you’re able to.

 

Interview by Matthew de Freitas
Co-founder and director at BLS

 

 

BLS interview six day track cyclist Nate Koch

Interview: The “Greatest Showman” of track cycling – Nate Koch

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Known as the “showman” of track cycling, a Six Day legend, social media phenomenon, and all round great guy; we caught up with Nate Koch – TEAM NATER following his retirement from track cycling, and new venture into the media of Six Days.

Six Days is an historic series of track cycling events taking place across Europe which run for 6 nights straight, focusing on the madison and sprint events.  It’s a party atmosphere with insane racing, and a bucket list item for rider and fan alike!

You started cycling relatively late compared to most, how did you get into it?
Yes, I started cycling late compared to most.  I was 24 in 2010 when I started.  After too many injuries in track and field I got a hold of my friend Travis Smith who was on the Canadian national team and asked him if he could get me started.  The rest is history!

 

Your progression to the top was also relatively quick, what made you know you were good and ready to take it on full time?
I had just come off a track and field career as a division 1 decathlete.  I did some knee rehab on the bike and knew that I enjoyed it and decided to give it a go.  Fortunately for me I live 15 minutes from the velodrome (Velo Sports Centre) and the US national team was training there at the time.  It was a pretty seamless transition.

 

You’ve also had some set-backs on your journey, how did you overcome these?
Set backs are just a part of being an athlete, alongside injuries, funding, political opinions and much more.  Being an athlete is a choice, so regardless of the setback you just have to think of how much you want it.

BLS interview six day track cyclist Nate Koch

BLS interview six day track cyclist Nate Koch

What did you do before taking on cycling?
I ran track and field or athletics for 15 years.  I was a division 1 decathlete with a full ride scholarship to Cal State, Long Beach.  I ended up getting my degree in psychology.  Growing up I Played other sports like soccer and baseball, and was always on a bike to get around.

 

How did you get into Six Days?
I got lucky!  To put it simple, I messaged Max Levy on Facebook asking him if there were any spots available.  He actually got back saying that all the positions were full.  A few months later approximately two weeks before the start of Six Day Berlin Max messaged me back saying that Robert (Forstemann) had injured his back and that they were looking for one more rider.  I booked my plane ticket and haven’t looked back since!

 

What do you enjoy most about Six Days?
The crowd and atmosphere are incredible!  I knew from night one at Six Day Berlin 2015 I had found the type of cycling that fits me best.

BLS interview six day track cyclist Nate Koch

BLS interview six day track cyclist Nate Koch

How does it feel to be the “showman” and “entertainer” of track cycling?
I’ll take whatever titles the people would like to give me!  I think it’s great that I am just being myself and enjoying what I am doing, and that the fans are enjoying the show that I get to put on.  And yes, it feels incredible that I would be dubbed The Showman!

 

You’ve really changed the game of Six Days, and become somewhat of a revolutionary on the circuit, what do you think enabled you to do that?
I think the fact that I started so late and didn’t really have any knowledge or understanding of the “correct way” to do things, I did it my own way.  Fortunately for me I came around at a time where lots of changes were starting to be made and my way of doing things fit in to that nicely.

 

How do you keep the energy so high all the time?
I am on when I need to be on, and I turn it off when it is time to be off.  It’s definitely a high-energy week, but the more energy the fans and event put out the more energy I get!

BLS interview six day track cyclist Nate Koch

BLS interview six day track cyclist Nate Koch

You’re not only a Six Day rider, what other success have you had on the bike?
I was man one in the team sprint for team USA.  I currently hold the USA national record with Kevin Mansker and Matt Baronouski in the team Sprint.  I also placed 2nd in the Keirin at the US national championships in 2016.

 

You’ve got some slack from certain groups of cyclists about the credibility of the level of racing at the Six Days, what would your response be to them?
I can’t please everyone and I’m certainly not going to try!   I focus on the people that enjoy the type of person and racer that I am and how I fit into a Six Day event.  Six Day racing is unlike any other.  There are no extra titles or money to be won, but the objective is to put on a great show and entertain the fans.  The racing is full gas and obviously world class, but I rather put on a show and get last place then be boring and win.

 

What do you feel is missing from track cycling, and especially sprinting, in the USA that’s preventing the riders from breaking through at the international competitions?
To put it very simply, I would say athlete support and accountability.  There has been times when athletes have gotten great support, but due to lack of accountability and structure the results never came.  Things are changing in the right direction especially with the 2028 Olympics in LA.  There’s obviously plenty of athletic talent in USA, we just need to find out how to get them on the bike.

BLS interview six day track cyclist Nate Koch

What do you feel is missing, or needs to be changed in track cycling?
I think the direction that Six Day Cycling is heading in is perfect!  It brings world class high end racing into an exciting event where fun and entertainment is the goal.  There’s definitely a place for serious and focused racing, but sometimes having a good time is most important to grow the sport.

 

You’re one of the most popular track cyclists on social media, how do you do it?
It’s pretty simple I guess, I just have fun and be myself.  Focusing on those who support me and the fans of the sport is always my main objective.

 

Do you feel other cyclists or even sportsman could better market themselves?
Of course, but it is definitely a tough balance.  It doesn’t come natural for many either.  I tried to market myself as best as I could out of necessity.  I couldn’t afford all the nice things and to travel around the world, so if I included others it was not only good for them but lucrative for me as well.

BLS interview six day track cyclist Nate Koch

BLS interview six day track cyclist Nate Koch

Other than cycling, what else are you interested in?
Five years ago I began my bike fit business, Long Beach Bike Fit.  I have about 300 appointments a year now and definitely stay busy with it.  I’ve definitely found a passion in woodworking and building things around my house.  It’s a great way to be in the moment and exercise some creativity.  And most importantly is my family!  My amazing wife Ayla and my beautiful new daughter Lucy are so much fun and bring me huge amounts of joy.  I am excited to see what adventures we get into as a family.

 

What’s next for Nate Koch?  What are your plans and goals for the future?
Six Day London 2018 is my debut as the Six Day Cycling Social Ambassador.  I’m excited to embrace the new role as a retired cyclist, and put 100% of my effort and energy into the fans, sponsors and events to make Six Day Cycling a household name worldwide.

I would also love to entertain the idea of commentating at all sorts of track cycling events.  Commentating at the 2028 Olympics in LA would be a dream!

BLS interview six day track cyclist Nate Koch

BLS interview six day track cyclist Nate Koch

Conclusion: an inspiration to the young riders getting into the sport, and someone helping to grow track cycling worldwide; love him or hate him – he’s here to stay!

Be sure to tune into Six Day action starting tomorrow in London, and follow TEAM NATER for the latest action and behind the scenes footage!

Instagram
Facebook

 

Interview by: Matthew de Freitas

Nicholas Paul Interview: the 2nd fastest man ever over 200m

Interview: 2nd fastest man ever over 200m – Nicholas Paul

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As the World Cup season approaches, we interview the man who recently rode the 2nd fastest 200m time in history (9.378 seconds at the Pan-American Games in Aguascalientes, Mexico), and a rising star from Trinindad and Tabago on his way to Tokyo 2020 glory.

 

Let’s get straight to it, how does it feel to have ridden the 2nd fastest 200m time in history?
It feels really great to have accomplished this.  This really motivates me to continue working harder and I am always glad to bring positive attention to Trinidad and Tobago.

 

Did you expect to go so fast?  And what are your thoughts of the track in Mexico?
I never really know beforehand how fast I will go, I just train to the best of my ability and execute on race day.   The track in Mexico is an extremely fast track – it’s mind blowing how fast a cyclist can move at that altitude!

 

Do you have any stats on the ride?
I don’t have any power data, but the average speed was 76.775km/h

Nicholas Paul Interview: the 2nd fastest man ever over 200m

Nicholas Paul Interview: the 2nd fastest man ever over 200m

So taking it back, how and when did you start track cycling?
I started cycling as a rehabilitating process for a football injury – this was in 2013.

 

You broke through the ranks very quickly, what has been your secret to success?
My secret to success is trust first in GOD, self-discipline, consistency, dedication and family support.

 

The recently opened brand new velodrome in T&T is surely a great boost to track cycling in the region, where do you see it going from here?
The velodrome is really a world class asset to Trinidad and Tobago and the region.  Its contribution can be phenomenal for cycling.  However, its full potential can only be realized by proper management.

 

T&T has also just appointed a new coach, how are you finding that?
My experience with the new coach (Erin Hartwell) has been great thus far – I am learning a lot and this has aided my development as a cyclist.

Nicholas Paul Interview: the 2nd fastest man ever over 200m

Nicholas Paul Interview: the 2nd fastest man ever over 200m

You train with experienced riders like Njisane Philip, what have you learnt from him?
It is great for cycling in Trinidad and Tobago to have a strong team of Elite Sprinters.  As a young cyclist, I value every learning opportunity.

 

Tell us something that we wouldn’t know about you?
I wanted to be a professional football player!

 

What are your interests outside of cycling?
Spending time with family, watching football and sleeping.

Nicholas Paul Interview: the 2nd fastest man ever over 200m

Nicholas Paul Interview: the 2nd fastest man ever over 200m

What is a typical training day for you?
A typical training day starts with a gym session in the morning and ends with a track session in the afternoon.

 

What are your goals for the future?
My primary goal is to win a medal for Trinidad and Tobago at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games!

 

Interview by: Matthew de Freitas

Shane Perkins racing for Russia

Interview: The latest BLS ambassador, Shane Perkins

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We recently sat down with the latest decorated track sprinter and all round track cycling legend to join BLS, Shane Perkins.

He’s a former world champion, Olympic medalist and rider on the Japanese professional keirin circuit.  From Australia to Russia, and now to Tokyo – we hear it all from the man himself.

How did you get into cycling, and specifically track cycling? Did you have a go at any other sports growing up?
I grew up around cycling with my father being a custom frame builder and coach.  We were always at track events which I enjoyed watching and we always had riders coming around to our house to see my dad.  I played basketball at a descent level for a while, cricket and AFL footy as well, but turned to track cycling when I was around 12-13.

You were Junior World champion, how do you think that laid the foundation for your future career?
Getting to represent Australia at the Junior World Championships was a great experience and very fun period in my career.  Although I had some success as a junior at the world champs, it’s still a very big step to go from juniors into seniors and I think sometimes that can provide a very difficult challenge for riders going from being junior world champion into the elite ranks, but they just need to be patient and hopefully the results will come.

You’re quite the family man and come from a rich cycling heritage from your father and in-laws, how do you think that has helped your career? And would you like to see your kids follow in your footsteps?
I have been very lucky to have someone like my father supporting me in the sport and having had access to all his experiences from his career.  I have done him and my family very proud over the years!  Also having a brother-in-law that has had so much success in the sport is great and Ryan (Ryan Bayley is a former Olympic champion himself) has/is to this day been a big supporter of mine, and we often speak about racing.  It’s pretty cool to have his support and also that our kids hang out together.  My father is doing well after his battle in Germany, he is a very lucky man, and he and our whole family are very grateful for all the support that was shown to us to support his condition.

Interview with track cyclist and BLS ambassador Shane Perkins

Interview with track cyclist and BLS ambassador Shane Perkins

You’ve had numerous stints racing the Japan professional keirin circuit. Could you tell us more about that and if you’d like to go back some day and race again?
Japan is and always will be a fantastic part of my life, I am very grateful to JKA for having me in Japanese keirin for 8 seasons.  I have certainly grown as a person form having that experience overseas.  In 2018 I wanted to have a slower year in terms of travel and spend more time with my family, but I am certainly hopeful that I can go back again to the Japanese keirin in 2019/2020!

What would you say have been your biggest achievements, and how would you rate them in order?
It’s honestly hard to put them in order.  The pinnacle of our sport is the Olympics and I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to come away with a bronze medal from London 2012!  Being world champion is a great honour!

Interview with track cyclist and BLS ambassador Shane Perkins. Photo: Tim de Waele

Interview with track cyclist and BLS ambassador Shane Perkins.
Photo: Tim de Waele

What have been some of the lows you’ve had to overcome en-route to success?
Look, I have had some tough times but so has everyone in life!  Upon those tough times I have been lucky to have great people around me and the fortitude to continue doing what I love!  When we realise that the challenges don’t stop we find a new level, and it’s important to realise we have the choice daily to give us the best opportunity to achieve our goals!

What would you say is your biggest strength, or characteristic that has helped you be so successful?
Perseverance!

Do you ever make use of sport psychology, and if so, what techniques or approaches?
Yes I certainly make use of sports psychology, it has become more natural for me now, but early on in my career I did have trouble focusing.  Writing down your goals makes them real, then laying down how you are going to achieve them gives what you are doing daily purpose.  Certainly in the lead up a race I clear my head, give my focus to what I am doing and working through the things I can control, and letting go of the negatives that pop up!  Focus on the process, and let the results follow!

Interview with track cyclist and BLS ambassador Shane Perkins.

Interview with track cyclist and BLS ambassador Shane Perkins.

You’ve gone against the grain with your recent move to race for Russia, could you tell us what made you make that bold decision and how it’s unfolding for you?
Actually, I was going to retire at the end of 2016 as I didn’t see a way to continue racing my bike without the necessary support.  Having been friends with Denis (Denis Dmitriev is a member of the Russian national team) for some time through Japan keirin racing together, he knew some of the challenges I had faced in the lead up to Rio, and tongue in cheek said a few times you should ride for Russia as they need a keirin and team sprint rider.

At the end of 2016 after Rio Olympics, Denis and I got chatting over a couple beers and I mentioned that i am interested to continue riding if we could do it towards Tokyo.  So we started the process and thanks to Denis I am now a Russian citizen and getting the necessary support to continue racing my bike!

It wasn’t an easy decision having raced for Australia for so many years, but an opportunity to continue to Tokyo was something I just couldn’t pass up, after all I wasn’t being supported by Australia.  It’s important to know this decision wasn’t in anger with the Australian team as they knew of my communication with Russia and were more than happy for me to continue along that path.  I am extremely grateful for the support I have received over the years from the Australian team and we had some great success.  Life goes on and different opportunities present themselves!  Racing for Russia certainly has its own set of challenges and it isn’t easy!

Interview with track cyclist and BLS ambassador Shane Perkins.

Interview with track cyclist and BLS ambassador Shane Perkins.

You’re still living and occasionally racing in Australia, how does that feel when racing under the Russian flag?
Honestly it feels natural to me; Russia has welcomed me with open arms and so has the team!  They realise it isn’t just me, and I have my wife and two kids in my life also.  So they understand greatly that they need stability, and we get that currently in Brisbane, Australia. It’s challenging with training as I don’t have all the access required to the velodrome, but we are working on that!

What would you say has been the biggest change or evolution in track cycling since you started racing up until now?
Gearing!!!

What would you, as a seasoned professional, like to see change in track cycling? And where do you see the sport going?
It would be great to allow a bit more contact and movement back in the sprint and keirin events to boost the visual for the fans!

What are your goals for future, and life after professional cycling?
When that time comes we will face it, I do have a passion for helping others though, so coaching may be something I could naturally fall into!

Shane has recently joined the Track Cycling Academy.

Do you have any advice for younger riders, and anyone chasing their goals in track cycling?
Be patient, work hard, and train smart!


To conclude, could share some of your stats?

Peak Power: 2485
Peak Rpm on rollers: 245

Squat x 3 reps: 225kg

Interview with track cyclist and BLS ambassador Shane Perkins.

Interview with track cyclist and BLS ambassador Shane Perkins.

 

What products does Shane use:

The BLS Velcro Toe Straps – Cable Tie

The BLS Exclusive Track Gear Bag

Check out the full range of BLS Track Cycling Products here.

 

Follow Shane here:

Instagram

Facebook

Twitter

Website

 

For more info on Shane’s work with the Track Cycling Academy, check them out here.

 

Interview by: Matthew de Freitas

 

Mariske Struass by Robert Ward

Interview: Mariske Strauss

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We sat down in Cape Town with our SA champion ambassador, rider on the Silverback | OMX pro MTB team, and all round legend Mariske Strauss.

We asked her about her past, travels, future goals and how she keeps the energy so high!

We get some insight into what it takes to be a champion, and how it’s really like living the pro-life.

How would you introduce yourself to the readers in one sentence?

M: Wow, well I am Mariske Strauss, born & bread South African MTB’er racing for SILVERBACK | OMX Mountain bike team aiming to concour the world!

How and when did you get into cycling?

M: I got into cycling thanks to my dad and older brother. Seeing as I was always at the events I was like “I can do that…”, well the bug bit and I’ve loved it ever since.  I jumped right into National racing at around age 10.

What is it like to be a professional female cyclist – glamorous or not?

M: Well… a lot of hard work and quite lonely at times, but very rewarding.  To answer truthfully there is a lot of blood sweat and tears that goes on behind the scenes to get to that podium, so in short not always as glamorous as those post-race pictures.

What would you say it takes to be a successful professional cyclist?

M: I’d say this counts for anything you want to be successful in actually. Dedication, hard work and the will to succeed no matter what (this even more so in sport), with sport being so physical and demanding physically mentally and spiritually it is quite important, well for me anyway, to have a good support structure and my faith has been a major factor over the years.

Mariske Strauss by OMX pro MTB team

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

M: Mmm there has been a couple but last year’s 1st place in the ABSA cape epic penultimate day was really special.

You have represented South Africa numerous times internationally, which has been the best trip for you and why?

M: This is a hard one, I have had a couple of hard knocks and a lot of them happened while in SA kit unfortunately.  If I’d have to pick it would probably be at least years World Champs in Australia, this was the first time in a very long time that I was capable of pushing myself and racing hard again, even though it was not the best result it sparked the fire that I thought was gone.

What is it like to travel the world through cycling?  

M: Firstly, it is a massive privilege to see the world through my sport, and it has sort of become my normal.  Europe & my team that side has become like my 2nd home so it feels strange when I don’t go.  That said, as rewarding it is, it’s just as hard to live out of a suitcase for the majority of the season but I love my sport and it makes me very appreciative of my country and home when I get to stay here for off season.

Mariske Strauss by Max Fuchs

Mariske Strauss by Max Fuchs

What would you like to see change in cycling, in South Africa and Internationally?

M: I think we are on a great path so far, but I would like to see south Africa become even more cycling continues and have more dedicated cycling routes (more on the road to connect the awesome MTB trails 😉 )

Other than cycling, what other hobbies or interests do you have? We know you have a BSc in the bag!

M: Yes I do indeed.  I am a BSc Sport Scientist, Sport Massage therapist and love playing piano and drawing.  Hey I actually sound like a quite well rounded individual!

Do you make use of any sport psychology techniques?

M: Yes, definitely.  At an elite level the mental side of things play such a major role, visualization and meditating forms part of my daily rituals.

How do you stay motivated and hungry to be the best you can?

M: I think the love of the game and then just my general nature.  I am very motivated and once I set goals for myself I always see it through, and I think this plays a major role in my dedication and will to succeed.

You are known as somewhat of a personality in the MTB circuit in South Africa, how do you keep the continuous “high” going?

M: Well we are all human and to tell you the truth we all have dips. I have had my fair share of them and to say that I am ALWAYS high and happy would be a bit far fetch. The trick is to not let your past dips demoralize and obscure your vision and will to fight.

Mariske Strauss by Robert Ward

What has been the biggest hurdle you’ve had to overcome to achieve your goals?

M: This would be my injuries… and all the mental and physical challenges that this accompanied for years after the pain subsided.

Do you have any pre-race rituals or things that help you prepare?

M: Of course, as I believe any athlete does.  I think as an elite athlete you need to find your own routines and after a while these become rituals to get you mentally in the right headspace and to ensure you are physically ready to push yourself to the max.  Mine usually start off with some stretching and foam rolling to wake the body up and tend to past battle scars that still remain ;).

What do you feel is your best characteristic that has enabled you to be successful?

M: My ability to keep pushing on, to keep fighting when the odds are not looking so geared towards my favour.  That combined with being able to see the positive/good in almost any situation and doing it with a thankful heart.  God is good and believe He works with a plan.

How do you cope with pre-race stress/pressure?

M: This has been a bit of a challenge for me, especially the last couple of years where I have had to deal with a lot of mishaps and injuries.  What I have found lately, besides my groove again, is my ”WHY”. Why I do what I do, and a main factor is joy.  I’ve made my “why” list and if I have that in mind the rest seems to fall into place.

What are your goals for the future?

M: Olympics and Worlds Cup podium!

What are your plans for life after cycling?

M: Well, I have my BSc Sport Science degree and I am currently working for Science2Sport and a coach and do some lab work for them as well.  I would like to take that further and I will possibly still to my Honours (and maybe even PhD!) in Exercise Physiology ;).  Who knows where the road will lead me after my cycling career, hopefully with by the grace of the Man upstairs I still have many years ahead cranking my pedals.

Mariske Strauss by Zoon Cronje

Mariske Strauss by Zoon Cronje

Is there anyone you’d like to thank who has helped you achieve your success?

M: Oh wow, this is a massive list… definitely my family, who have played such an instrumental part of my athletic career (veral Mamma & Pappa, ek kan regtig nie genoeg dankie sê nie!).  My coach Jeroen, we have been through quite a lot of storms, thanks for helping me keep the boat afloat!  The guys at SSISA for pushing me on and off the bike; my friends, Eugene for helping me iron out my mind the last couple of months and lastly my amazing sponsors, without whom I literally would not be able to race my bike.

If you could leave the readers with one thought, what would it be?

M: If there’s one thing I have learned over the years it’s that you are capable of literally anything if you truly believe it in your heart.  What you say to yourself and believe at your core is usually true, so decide to be the superhero you are destined to be!

 

Interview by Matthew de Freitas

 

 

Interview: Josiah Ng

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As the 2018 Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast of Australia approaches, we chatted with the 2010 CWG keirin gold medallist; Josiah Ng.

Josiah Ng is a retired Malaysian track sprinter, a keirin legend who raced the Japanese keirin circuit, and a serial entrepreneur.

We caught up with him to get some insightful info on his racing career and life story.

 

How did get into track cycling, and specifically sprinting?

JN: I started off racing criteriums when I was 14. I found that I excelled in the shorter courses and lagged behind my peers in hillier courses and road races. When I was around 16 or 17, a good friend of mine, US Olympic sprinter Johnny Barrios, took me to my first track session at the LA 1984 Olympic velodrome (Now torn down and replaced with the ADT Event Centre Velodrome). I was hooked on the first try and kept coming back every week.

 

It must’ve been tough coming from Malaysia and trying to penetrate the international circuit dominated by GB, Australia and the Europeans?

JN: It was very tough! Back in 1999, I was 19. I flew back to Malaysia to try out for the National Team. Back then they had nothing even resembling a high performance program. I had to build it from scratch.

 

You had a stint at the WCC in Aigle, how was that and would you recommend it to young cyclists?

JN: It was an incredible opportunity to close the gap to the world class sprinters and I was very fortunate to be given the opportunity to train under the direction of one of my childhood sprinting hero’s. I received a full scholarship by the Olympic Solidarity program to train there for two years. I really thrived under that program and owe a lot of my success to it.

You made the move early on in your career to Australia, how did that impact your career? And do you think you’d have ended up on the same level if you had stayed in Malaysia?

JN: After departing from the WCC in 2004, I decided to go back to the States where I grew up and work with my former coach Mark Whitehead. Unfortunately things didn’t work out and I found an opportunity to work with former Australian National Team Sprint coach, John Beasley. I called him and after one conversation, he agreed to take me under his direction. I booked my plane tickets and within two weeks left my life in California and never looked back. I left Malaysia at the tender age of 6 as my family migrated to the States for my parents to pursue their education. My youth was spent in the states and is where I started competitive cycling. I doubt I would have gone down the pathway I did had I been raised in Malaysia.

 

Malaysian cyclists like yourself and Awang have had great success, what does the future look like for the young up and coming riders from Malaysia and South East Asia?

JN: We have developed a strong talent ID program and have some really strong up and coming riders. The future for Malaysian cycling looks very promising and I really can’t wait to see what the next few years has in store for us.

 

You were known as one of the best keirin riders out there, a tactical genius, how did you learn the craft of keirin racing?

JN: I was never the strongest rider from early on which made me focus on my race craft. If I wanted to win, I had to learn how to be the smartest racer on the start line.

 

You are a gutsy keirin rider, how did you learn to leave fear of falling behind and take on the big guns?

JN: There were a lot of situations where I found myself in the final of a big keirin such as the World Cup or Olympics where I was the only rider on the start line who hadn’t won a World Championship jersey. That always gave me extra incentive to prove myself. I loved being the underdog!

You also spent some time racing the Japanese keirin circuit, how was that and what did you learn while there?

JN: Racing in Japan was the best experience of my career, hands down! For me, it even topped racing at the Olympics. At the big games, there was always big pressure from my country, family and friends; but in Japan I raced for me! Even if I got last, I still made a lot of money. And if I won, I made a ton of money! I loved the Japanese culture and even the sub-culture in keirin. I made a lot of friends and got to race keirin the way it’s supposed to be raced (not in a straight line LOL). One of my favourite memories was my first time racing in the rain. I remember not being able to see as it was raining that hard. I ended up winning and celebrated not only the win but to have stayed up right!

 

Being part of the commonwealth, how big of a deal is the CWG to you?

JN: The CWG was a very big deal for me. It took me 3 tries until I finally won a medal (in 2010 in Delhi). I felt I was the luckiest guy on the planet that week as I wasn’t the favourite going into it. Two of the favourites (in the keirin where I won gold) were disqualified (Shane Perkins and my teammate Azizul Awang) and I was the best of the rest. It’s a perfect example of resilience – keep trying until you get lucky as they say. To top things off, I won a bronze in the TS and the prize money from my work that week was enough to pay for 2 containers full of Ford Mustangs which I acquired for one of my businesses!

 

Do you think athletes still take the CWG as seriously considering the shift to a more serious 4 year Olympic campaign?

JN: I believe that a majority of athletes that participate value the Commonwealth Games judging from recent FB and Instagram posts. A lot of them have been recently named to their squads and post photos of that accomplishment. It’s a very prestigious event and only happens every 4 years. It is also highly competitive. I’m willing to bet that every event will have multiple former and/or current world champions on the start list.

How have things like training, gearing, tactics, etc. changed since you started to how they are now?

JN: I’m glad I raced during the years I raced and not now. The speeds that the current generation hold are insane. It is mostly due to the gigantic gears everyone pushes. When I first started racing on the international circuit back in 2000, I was pushing a 93-95 inch gear! It would be closer to a warm up gear these days! Tactics have had to evolve due to the larger gears. It’s more of a drag race now and small mistakes are amplified.

 

What was your most successful approach to training?

JN: I treated every effort as if it was a race. It made training a lot of fun and benefited our whole training group.

 

You also had a great relationship with your coach, how important was that?

JN: An athlete/coach relationship is comparable to a family. Trust and alignment are paramount to success. I had 3 coaches in my professional career. I worked with American Mark Whitehead at the beginning of my career. He taught me most of my race craft and made training fun. Frenchman Frederic Magne coached me towards the middle of my career (at the WCC). He helped refine my discipline and professionalism. Australian John Beasley coached me for over half of my career. He took a more laidback approach which really helped me step up my game towards the last 3rd of my career. Why would I step up with a laid back approach? Because I got too caught up in all the hype of getting to the top which caused my passion for the sport to diminish. John is a very well rounded coach who prioritised a balanced life. The Malaysian team are very fortunate to have him lead them.

How did you get into entrepreneurship and business?

JN: I have been entrepreneurial since a very young age. My parents did me the favour of not spoiling me with an allowance. If I wanted something, I had to find a way of acquiring it on my own. What that did was equip me with a set of skills to hustle; teaching the violin, tuning pianos, teaching spin classes, buying and selling on ebay, etc. is what I did to survive during my teenage years. I bought my first bike at the age of 14. I remember enlisting my grandmother to help me bake 250 chocolate chip cookies which I sold door to door for $1 a piece. I saved the $250 USD to buy my first 2nd hand racing bicycle in less than a month.

 

You started off doing business while still pursuing your Olympic hopes, how did you manage/balance that?

JN: Athletes have a lot of free time. We train +/- 20 hours per week. That leaves a lot of time to be able to pursue education, work or business. I know a lot of athletes who fritter their time away with video games and social media. I chose to hustle instead.

 

How did you manage the transition from a pro athlete to businessman?

JN: When I made the decision to retire, I had 6 months left of competition. In between my training sessions, I job shadowed several people. I got started by approaching a few experts in fields I was interested in and asked them to lunch. I got to learn about network marketing from a top tier salesman, another guy acquired gyms going into bankruptcy. He turned the businesses around to sell for tidy profit. What really drew me was technology start-ups and venture capital. I met a very switched on gentleman by chance, who is extremely knowledgeable in hospitality, private equity, commercial operations, corporate structure, and business trends. He made even the dullest subjects seem interesting. We connected and co-founded a platform for private dining: www.intertain.com.au Together we built a strategy, business processes, raised investor capital, and built a great team.

I’ve recently transitioned back to cycling as I felt a calling back to my number 1 passion in life. You could say I’m still transitioning. It’s a process that takes years. It’s been a very challenging journey but one that makes me appreciate my former career even more.

 

Did you always want to be an entrepreneur?

JN: I always had an affinity for building things and making money.

 

Tell us more about some of your business ventures?

JN: 5bling gloves was started at the 2004 Olympics out of a conversation with my good friends Theo Bos and Teun Mulder. From that convo, I developed a specific aero glove for track cycling which is widely used in our sport.

Automobile Import/Export: I imported rare cars to Australia to be sold for sizable profit when I found out how much more sports cars cost down under. It worked well when the Aussie and US dollar hit parity. I purchased a few rare Mustangs with money made from winning Comm games. With money made in Japan keirin I went to car auctions in Japan to do the same.

Private Finance: I started a company that helps businesses with short term financing. It was very lucrative and one of my favourite businesses.

Intertain.com.au: Sending world class chefs to your home to cook for you and your guests in the comfort and convenience of your own home. I was the CEO (Chief Eating Officer LOL) and co-founded with 2 experienced businessmen. We expanded the businesses to all of Australia’s largest cities and attracted Michelin Star chefs on our platform.

 

Some would call you a serial entrepreneur, what would you say?

JN: The hustle never ends. LOL

 

Other than coaching and business, what else keeps you occupied?

JN: Exploring cafes and restaurants. Spending quality time with my partner. Watching Netflix. Fast cars! And of course collecting bicycles.

 

Do you still race?

JN: I still pin a number on for the odd race. I did a hilly 4 day stage race a few months ago which was a big shocker. I managed one podium result which was fun.

Where to now for Josiah Ng? Are you still as goal driven as always?

JN: I’m coaching the Thailand National Sprint team and helping them develop their high performance program. It’s a challenge as I feel like I’m starting from scratch but the goal is to repeat what we did with Malaysia; to go from nothing to a world class producing country in less than a decade. I’ve got a 5 year strategic plan. It’s aggressive but I’m optimistic.

 

Tell us something interesting or lesser known about yourself?

JN: I am a concert violinist and come from a family of talented string musicians. Everyone from my grandmother, father, aunties, to brother and sister all play multiple instruments at a high level.

 

If you could leave the audience with one piece of information about yourself, what would it be?

JN: I’m working on a book which is part of a series of books targeting elementary and Jr. high school kids called “Make it Happen”. Each book in the series presents a personal up close look into the lives of extraordinary people who have overcome great challenges and learned the skills necessary to realise their goals. Instead of publishing an auto biography, I preferred to use my unique story and perspective to inspire youth and young adults. It should be published in September/October later this year. Stay tuned!

I love to share about my experiences in life. Feel free to connect with me on my social media networks:

www.facebook.com/josiahcyclist

Instagram: @josiahcyclist

Linkedin: https://au.linkedin.com/in/josiahng

 

What advise do you have for young riders and entrepreneurs a like?

  1. Have a vision.
  2. Surround yourself with a team.
  3. Align that team to work towards your vision.
  4. Execute!

 

Thanks to Josiah Ng for taking the time to share these insights into his life with our readers.

By: Matthew de Freitas

Interview: Matt Rotherham

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Matt Rotherham is a GB track cycling sprinter, para-tandem word champion pilot, 6 day rider, and all round nice guy!

I remember when I first met Matt in T-town, PA back in 2015, one Saturday afternoon after a Saturday afternoon GP had finished he bought me a hot dog and chips, and we had a great chat.

He was one of the first riders to test BLS straps, and his initial feedback helped develop the products we have available today.

We asked him about his path to track cycling, his big gear antics, sport psychology and the rainbow stripes.

 
How did you get into cycling, and more specifically track cycling?
Matt: I never really got into sport until I was nine years old. I enjoyed bits of cross country running and (badly) attempted football, but when I was nine my dad took me to watch some track league racing at the Manchester Velodrome. He was hoping that I would ask if I could have a go so that he would have an excuse to have a go himself. I said I wanted a go so I started at my current club, Eastlands and Sportcity Velo on the Monday night beginner’s session, and it went from there.

Did you do any other sports before taking on the track?
Like I said before, I enjoyed cross country running, maybe got top 100 in the town but that was about it really!

You made the GB team fairly young, and then got booted before coming back, tell us about that journey?
It was a fairly easy journey to start off with to be honest. I got into the GB development system at 14 and progressed from there. I was lucky that there was only really myself and one other track sprinter my age at that time and we made it through the U/16 team up to the junior team pretty easily. Once on the junior team, I had some good success. In my first year I made the Junior World Championship Keirin final and the semi-finals of the Junior European Sprint Champs. I also won both Junior and Senior 1km TT national titles in the same year.
After junior, I made it on to the GB U/23 academy squad and went onto full-time training. During this period, there were various factors which affected my performances. Thus, my performances were never that great as a U/23.
It got to the point where I had hit a massive plateau and stopped progressing, so had to leave the U/23 squad.
I had a tough 6 months following this. However, my parents, thankfully, encouraged me to continue my cycling – so I did. I hit the gym and did a bit of track training, but not much else.

In the summer of 2015, I ventured out to T-town in the USA for some training and racing. I struggled in the UCI races as I was nowhere near my fastest, but afterwards I started picking up a few results and getting a little prize money; and really found the love for cycling again. I had such a great time out there and really came home with the best form I had ever really had!
I started to become a little more successful after that trip, picking up national medals in sprint, keirin and team sprint and had some success abroad.

In late 2016 I was speaking with my ex-coach, Jon Norfolk, who at the time was head coach for the GB Para-cycling Team. I suggested that I would make a great sprint tandem pilot and he agreed to give me a go at it. Luckily for me, a World Championships was announced in early 2017 and I got selected with James Ball to go to Los Angeles, USA to race. We came away with two World Championships and that meant I had gone full circle and was given a place back on the GB team, but now as a tandem pilot.

Matt Rotherham by Robyn Stewart

You’re famous for your big gear antics, like 64/12 (check out Matt’s website www.60×12.com), how did you get to putting on and being so successful with such big gears?
I’ve found in my recent career, that strength is one of my, well, strengths! When I tried using a 60+ chainrings I found I could hit more peak speed.
When I was towards the end of my time on the academy, I was using gears like 53×12, the biggest gear I could make at the time. I started to go pretty well on gears like that (although that was clearly too little too late!) but when I started racing again I thought I’d give the bigger gears a go. I’d seen the mighty Ed Dawkins from New Zealand using gears like 60×12 so I thought it could also be for me.
Besides going faster on those gears, I also think the combo with a big ring looks great!

Tell us some of your stats?
Squat: 215kg
Trap bar deadlift: 260kg (working towards a new PB at the moment 😉 )
Peak power: 2200W
Flying 200m: 9.99
Tandem Flying 200m (with Neil Fachie): 9.85
1km TT: 1:01.9
Tandem 1km TT (with James Ball): 1:00.7

Matt Rotherham by Drew Kaplan

Do you think tandems need to race more on the track like the old days?
I love tandem racing! I’ve won the National Tandem Sprint Championship a couple of times and hold the track record for the flying lap at T-town. However, for these races, I have always been the stoker (the guy at the back) – and I love it!
It’s a whole new ball game being a pilot but I love doing it too.
I think tandem racing would be an awesome event to bring back, but there’s no denying how unsafe it became when it was raced at World Champ and Olympic level.
On the para-cycling side, we mostly compete in time trials and we have a bit of unwritten law to keep the sprint racing safe, because we can’t go back to how it used to be!

Do you think para sport gets the recognition it deserves?
I think in the UK it does. As a rider on the para-cycling team, I feel equal to any other rider on the squad, and sports in the UK have worked hard to make sure that culture is developed. If you win a Paralympic gold medal, you definitely get good recognition!

How does it feel to have every cyclists dream, the coveted world champion stripes?
It was special to pull on the stripes! Albeit in a different field, it felt just as special and I will treasure those moments forever.

You also race 6 days quite often, how do you find that?
I love the side of cycling that the 6 days showcases. It’s different to world cup or world championship type cycling and people can clearly see that us sprinters try to put on a bit of a show and entertain people, and I hope I do that well! I sometimes don’t go my fastest at the 6 days but for sure I have fun!

Are you racing CWG, and how big of an event is that to you?
I am hoping to be selected to ride as a pilot for Neil Fachie (since this article, Matt’s selection has been confirmed) at the Commonwealth Games, so therefore I would end up representing Scotland. As an Englishman it will be an interesting event in that respect, but I really cannot wait to go there. We probably would fly straight from the Para-cycling World Champs in Rio, Brazil to Brisbane, Australia for the games. We expect to go to to the Worlds in our best form and would hope to carry that form to the games so we would expect some solid performances!

What would you like to see change or happen in track cycling?
I would love to see a resurgence in 6 day racing. Recently, some of the six days have had to end because people stopped supporting them. The pro men’s racing is amazing and the six day riders are some of the best athletes in the world. I think it’s an exciting form of cycling that, if advertised well, could be also exciting to the masses. I would love to see a six day back at Madison Square Gardens in the USA – that would be the dream!

Matt Rotherham by Drew Kaplan

Do you use any sport psychology techniques?
I sometimes use a “thought stopping” technique in high pressure situations.
If I start thinking about the outcome of the event too much or overthinking the tactics for a race I have a set routine which stops me thinking too much about it, and gets me back on track with the race.

What makes you “tick”? What motivates you to be the best; and keep you going in tough times?
I love racing! I always try and make sure that there is a race on the horizon. Then I’ve always got something to look forward to which helps to keep me motivated when the going gets a little tough.

How do you handle race day pressure?
I feel like I have a “need-to-achieve” mentality. So when I get to a race, I don’t tend to get fearful of losing. Instead, I look forward to potentially winning!

What would you say is your best mental strength/characteristic?
I love my sport and I love competing in it!
I’ve learnt to try and enjoy every aspect of training and racing. I even enjoy the 1km TT and the pain that comes with it as well as the process of building up to the race.
As long as I keep that mentality then I feel pretty mentally strong on race day!

What are your goals for the future?
My focus at the moment is directed towards the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games where I would love to take gold there in the tandem 1km TT. I would love to see where my career takes me after that. I would hope to be in the form of my life and who knows, I could start picking up results on my own again…

Matt Rotherham by Drew Kaplan

What are your interests outside of cycling?
I love coffee, maybe too much! Manchester has a great speciality coffee scene so I can often be found in a coffee shop, but I also love making it at home. I enjoy the process and methodology of producing a cup of coffee. I would like to get in to roasting coffee a bit as well.

What advice do you have to young riders?
Everybody says it. Just enjoy cycling. I know how my performances suffered when I stopped enjoying the sport and I can see throughout my career that when I performed the best was when I was enjoying it the most.
Even if that means entering small races that no one else is turning up to, having that chance to put your hands in the air is special. Enjoy every victory, whether that be in the first round of a sprint tournament or after winning the Olympics, I think it’s important to celebrate.

If you could leave us with one though, what would it be?
I was speaking to my dad about this the other day; we were talking about how I celebrate my results quite often and quite outwardly. I think that it’s a really important thing to me. I don’t win every sprint tournament I enter, so that’s why I think at whatever stage of a tournament I’m in, or if I’m in a small race somewhere, I show that I’m happy to win. I dread going through a tournament and not celebrating only to be knocked out, or loose in the final, and have never celebrated. I might look silly at times, but I’m just showing that I’m loving what I’m doing!

By: Matthew de Freitas

 

Interview: Paralympic star Wiliam “Billy” Lister

By | All articles, Interviews, Sport Psychology | No Comments

While he was out in South Africa during the para-cycling world champs, we spent some time with William “Billy” Lister and heard insight into his inspirational story of how he dramatically turned is life around over the course of 12 years after a stroke in his teens, to a professional cyclist and Olympian.

We hear about hard work, overcoming, sacrifice, and the daily motivation of a singular goal of the top step in Tokyo. We find out about the differences and similarities between elite and para cycling, as well as what it takes to be on the top level.

We also find out about his use of sport psychology, what it’s like to be a full-time professional athlete, and his future aspirations inside and outside of para-cycling.

Tell us more about you background and how you got into Paralympic cycling?

My background starts out when I was 17 years old and suffered a slow and regressive stroke, as a complication from invasive Brain surgery I had to save my life from a fatal brain abnormality. My life was devoid of any activity or ambition for the better part of 12 years as I navigated through a state of self-preservation purgatory. It wasn’t until 2011 when I met the Challenged Athletes Foundation; in San Diego, CA that I got on a bike for the first momentous time since my 17th birthday. It spanned the next few years, but I taught myself how to ride all over again; and in 2014 I entered my first ever Paralympic Cycling bike race – an Individual Time Trial on the Road. I did pretty well, and ever since then have been racing bikes.

What have been some of the highlights of your career so far?

The greatest highlight in my career has to be Paralympic Trials last summer in Charlotte, NC – where I finished 1st overall among 2 wheel male cyclists and qualified for the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. In 2017, have had a crucial build-up year securing 2 World Championship podium positions (Both on the Track & the Road World Championships), as well adding a Road World Cup medal.

What are your goals leading up to the future?

The short term goal is currently all sights set on the Paralympic Games in Tokyo 2020. I have personal aspirations to compete through Paris 2024; as well as on home soil in Los Angeles 2028 – becoming a 4X Paralympian.

What motivates you in your daily training?

The singular motivation I have is to achieve my ultimate goal of a Gold medal at the Paralympic Games. Every day is an effort and progression towards obtaining that objective.

Paralympic cyclist William “Billy” Lister

What frustrates you about Paralympic sport?

I do wish that the Paralympic movement gained the notoriety it deserves as Elite athleticism, on the same level as our Olympic counterparts. However, the exposure and acceptance in the United States lags behind the rest of the World. It’s a slow process acquiring awareness; but over the past few quadrennials, Paralympic sport has gained dramatic momentum across the globe.

I think in comparison to other Paralympic sports, Cycling gets a fair amount of recognition; being one of the top-tiered sports. Over the years the UCI (International Cycling Union) has increased its awareness into Para cycling; however the sport is dwarfed in contrast to the coverage, interest & recognition of Professional and Olympic Cycling.

What makes Paralympic sport so great?

To me, the greatness of Paralympic sport is its humbling unfettered athletic prowess. Paralympic sport is very much the lesser distinguished platform compared to its Olympic sport counterpart. However, what is little understood about Paralympic sport lies in the comprehension that Paralympic athletes are just as elite, strong, fast and powerful as their fellow Olympic competitors. Paralympic athletes dedicate themselves, and sacrifice as much – if not more – than any other elite & professional athlete on the planet; with a fraction of the recognition. That self-effacing quality is something that can only be found in athletes who compete for the love of sport – and the love of life!

Do you feel you get the support you require?

I am tremendously fortunate to receive support from the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) and the U.S. Paralympic Cycling Team; in terms of financial assistance and resource disposal. I have the opportunity to live and train at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO – which affords me the greatest athletic care available. The USOC does an extraordinary job in delivering the support and resources directly to its athletes, and their athletic benefit.

Paralympic cyclist William “Billy” Lister by Bill Whitehead

What do you enjoy most about being a full time athlete?

I no longer despise Mondays like I used to when I was a part of the corporate world! Every day has the freedom to get better, in any possible way – in every possibly way!

What do you think gives you a competitive advantage?

I like to think my athletic upbringing mixed chemically with sport being torn away from me at the age of 17; and for the better part of a decade living a sedentary life – my mindset is transformed into a willingness to sacrifice everything I have for the chance to win Gold.

Do you make use of sport psychology, and if so, what techniques?

Yes! I use Sport Psychology on a regular basis, and have been for the past 2 1/2 years. Leading into the Paralympic Games and currently, I’ve been doing a lot of Mindfulness technique work. I have found it clears my mind, and focuses on the process – which so far has been translating into an increase in results. I’m very excited for future progression in this aspect of sport performance.

Do you have any pre-race rituals or superstitions?

I am a very obsessive superstitious individual – so my pre-race rituals are all based on routine. Leading into any big race, I like to establish a routine leading into race day – And then rise & repeat each day and on race day!

What would you say are the essential mental characteristics required for elite level cycling?

I would say a twisted ability for self-suffering agony & determination; along with a mindset to outlast the rider next to you. I’ve found in elite level cycling where many within a field are on similar levels; the mental battle of attrition often will be the decider of success.

What makes, in your opinion, a champion?

That’s a tough question – Because I think champions are made from within. I think what’s necessary to become a champion is the belief that your mind is stronger than your heart; but that your heart is the strongest part of your body.

 

“I think what’s necessary to become a champion is the belief that your mind is stronger than your heart; but that your heart is the strongest part of your body” – William Lister.

 

What is your daily routine (on and off the bike) like?

My training regimen is 7 days a week – Not all of those are hard days of course. Day-to-day looks similar to on my bike – anywhere from 90 minutes active recovery to 4 hours hard – followed by some light stretching and rolling a lot of sore and fatigued muscles. Depending on the day, I’ll do Strength & Conditioning 3 days a week for roughly 2 – 3 hours. And the rest of my time is perfectly filled with Recovery – Sports Medicine, Cold Plunge, Normatecs, Massage – and juggling meetings with Sports Psych & Nutrition – it’s a full time gig!

Other than cycling, what hobbies/interests do you have?

I gotta admit at the current moment, I don’t explore many hobbies – simply for a lack of time and commitment. While I do take some time off each year, a lot of that time is spent relaxing with friends and family. Although I have started to get an itch to learn how to Scuba dive!

Paralympic cyclist William “Billy” Lister

What are your plans post your cycling career?

There’s no better feeling than riding and racing my bike – so I have a sense that after my career is over, I’ll still be out there pushing the limits – just maybe not every day. I’d like to start my own business one day, centralized in the Adaptive Sports world.

If you could give the readers one insight into what it takes to be an elite level cyclist, and especially a Paralympic one, what would it be?

Treat every day as an opportunity to better yourself – the little things add up at the end of each hour, day, year, and decade.

What motivation or advice would you give to young athletes, especially Paralympic athletes?

My biggest piece of advice to aspiring young Paralympic (And Olympic) athletes is develop a mindset that positively allows you to always say Yes. Put yourself in a position for opportunity, and when it comes, say YES and take the ride on the journey.

If you could have the readers remember only one thing about you after reading this, what would it be?

I would tell the readers to ignite their Never:

Never Believe

Never Learn

Never Known

Never Past

Never Now

Never Future

Never Give in

Never Stop

Always Never

Always always!

Be sure to follow his journey onto and beyond Tokyo 2020!

 

Matthew de Freitas

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