Once again this update is a little bit late. To be honest I won’t point it out again- just expect when you’re reading it that it’s probably late!
The middle to end of May saw me finish of year 3 of my Law and French Law degrees at the University of Exeter. Only one more year to do- this time in Rennes, Brittany- and I will at last have graduated and be done with education. Well, for a time. I still have a sneaking desire to do a Masters of Intellectual Property if I can find the right course.
The exam period was fairly uneventful and not too stressed. Dr Hill, my coach, was (probably wisely) insistent upon binning nearly all form of structured training for 3 weeks so the only obligations upon my time were revision and the exams themselves. We worked out a cool system of fixed sessions from which I could choose if I had the time/inclination to manage it. It worked quite well. Despite only managing about 40-60 miles a week for that period I was surprised by how little (if anything) I’d lost when I got back into things.
My last exam was May 26th. I walked out of the exam hall and into my car (packed the night before) and drove to my Parent’s house. Switched my kit into Dad’s car and we then drove to Henley-on-Thames for the Jaguar Academy of Sport presentation day. I was extremely lucky to have been put forward for this select group of athletes by British Cycling, and even more lucky to have been picked by Jaguar. The JAS is basically a group of the 50 top young athletes in the country today- from all sports. We are each given some funding to help with performance expenses- but far more importantly the JAS is the only sports bursary award around which also provides ongoing education, mentoring and workshops to the young athletes on their roll.
It was a great day and extremely interesting- with workshops on Media Skills and Anti-Doping, and presentations by the Academy’s ambassadors Dame Kelly Holmes, Sir Steve Redgrave and a host of other luminaries. I felt very proud and privileged to have ‘got in’ as it were, and am looking forward to future events. Huge thanks must go out to Jaguar for having the foresight and genuine interest to properly support British talent. Many companies talk the talk but I can say that Jaguar really do seem to back it up. For more details on this fantastic scheme have a peek at www.jaguaracademyofsport.co.uk and also ‘my’ profile at http://www.jaguaracademyofsport.co.uk/the-academy/rising-stars/2011/thomas-staniford.aspx
After getting back from there, I had 3 days to get my affairs in order before driving up to Sheffield to see my girlfriend Alice. 10 days there getting some cracking rides done in the Peaks whilst she finished her exams, then onto London to see the Cyclefit UK boys. I spent the day at their secret Covent Garden Lair sorting out some epically bling Lake CX401 custom shoes with Speedplay Zero pedals, before driving on to Portsmouth to see my coach Dr Chester Hill. One night there, plus a ride the next day, and then the final drive back to Exeter. 3 days there, then back to London- which is where I am now!
I’m currently working the 9-5 with the great guys at Rapha , whilst fitting in an absolutely horrifically intense track camp around it. Training is basically 3 solo track sessions a week at Herne Hill Velodrome , plus an 18-mile commute every day, with the odd evening sweetspot session around Richmond Park and longer rides into Herts at the weekend!
That is basically everything for now. Working hard at the office, on the road and on the track. This Saturday is the National Para Crit Champs at Hog Hill and I’m hoping to put in a solid performance to see where I stand at the minute.
That’s all for now!
Huge apologies if there have been any of you lingering out there in cyberspace hoping for a more steady stream of updates. As per usual I had hoped to maintain a constant feeding of information onto this site- but essays, exams, revision, racing and the like gradually wore down my motivation.
Anyhow, I’ll try to keep this brief as I have exams looming in May and I already feel as though I’m behind on revising for them.
The last few months have been a whirlwind of activity for me. One of the real wonders of cycling (and I imagine any sport, really) is the fact that year on year you continue to learn so much more- about the sport, about your body, about training, about yourself. This year has been no different for me in that respect, but things are really starting to come together and I feel that both mentally and physically I’m moving up another level. The thing I am most pleased about, however, is the fact I’m still enjoying everything so much.
I’ve been privileged to work with some truly fantastic people for the past few months. It can be hard struggling physically, financially or mentally when there is just you. Every elite athlete has been there at some point or other, but I truly believe that these moments of crisis define you as an athlete, and also as a person. Similarly, if you have been blessed to receive some help (whether with money, equipment, expertise, or just moral support) it is appreciated all the more, and the circumstances in which the provision is made tell you a great deal about the people who are providing that support to you.
There are basically 3 people/organisations in my life at the minute who I am eternally grateful to. Not because of the support they provide, but for the fact that they never ask for anything back. As sponsors/supporters one would expect the arrangement to be fairly balanced- I use their expertise/equipment, and they expect something in return. So far nothing could be further from the truth. I have felt absolutely no pressure to perform (outside of the presures I put on myself) and for that I am truly grateful, as it means I can concentrate just on my performances and improving them- not on fulfilling sponsors obligations.
Cyclefit are the first on my hitlist of thanks. This is a company who are the most qualified bike-fitters in Europe. A company so well-qualified that they train other bike-fitters- whether they’re from Specialized, Trek, or any other of the variety of bike-fitting companies in existence. Two guys so bereft of arrogance, ego or fawning complacency that they’ll take in a struggling rider (a paracyclist, no less) give him a decent cup of coffee (monmouth, no less), fit him up on the rig, sort out bike fits, stash him a load of kit and bike (2 at last count, no less) and do so with a candour and humour that I feel very touched to share with them. What have they asked for in return? Well,.. nothing. I don’t think they’ve even asked to be on the sponsors page on this website. They simply couldn’t care less. Is this poor business practice, a missed opportunity for some potential media coverage? Or is it just the fact they’re so damn good that they just don’t need the additional advertising? I’m leaning pretty heavily towards the latter. If you ride a bike, and want to ride further, faster, in more comfort… don’t even think about going to see anyone else. They’re your first port of call at www.cyclefit.co.uk
2nd on the hitlist is Jonathan, Mick, Frances and all the crew at Balance. A slick multi-disciplinary outfit based in Clapham, they work very closely with Cyclefit on a great many of the bike-fits they do (although their bike expertise is a tiny area of all the things they do)- providing additional biomechanical, orthotic and physio support as the case may require. Mick made the footbeds to go in my shoes- no mean feat for someone with pretty badly messed-up feet 2 sizes different from the other with no fat on the soles. Not only did they offer that service free, no-charge, without me even asking- I then get a call from Jonathan, one fo the Directors (who I’d never met or even spoken to) who asked if he could come on board and help. He then came down from London to Exeter for the day (!) bringing with him a bag full of expertise, ideas and Trigger Point Therapy products- all of which he gave to me. And what did he ask for in return? Erm, well… nothing. And how useful are the techniques he showed me? They’re pretty essential to me now. Basically if www.balancephysio.com don’t know it about the human body and how it works, it’s probably not worth knowing.
Last but no means least- a particularly special thanks must go to a man; a Big Name on Campus at Exeter. Alan “Beef” Pope. Head Strength & Conditioning Coach at the University of Exeter. Despite taking an active and engaged role in the development of the majority of athletes in the High Performance Unit he found time (quite a lot of time… about 3.5 years now) to help out a struggling cyclist with no real results or performances to his name, prior to actually realising he was a paracylist and contacting British Cycling. For over 3 years now Beef has been the calm voice of reason for me, and in all that time I don’t think he’s ever asked me to do anything for him in return. Except perhaps shut up about Rapha. And Coffee. And bike porn. Or any other variety of topics I witter on about. Thanks Beefster. His sporadic twitter feed can be followed at www.twitter.com/itsbeef
Yeah, so “keeping this brief” didn’t really work out…