I worked hard getting to grips with the skills involved with track cycling and in October 2007 was selected on to the British Cycling Talent Team. It was at my first Junior & Youth National Championships when I first met Lee and he gave me some advice, I found this advice both encouraging as well as constructive.
I was quite successful at the 2008 Junior & Youth National Championships as a first year U16 where I reached the semi finals of the sprint but unfortunately was placed 4th however, I got a Bronze medal in the 500m TT, so that made up for the disappointment of missing out on a medal in the sprint.
It was in April of 2009 when there was a restructuring of the BC Olympic Talent Programme, I found myself without a coach and approached Lee to coach me for the remainder of the year, and prepare me for the National Championships in August concentrating purely on the sprint events. Lee kept me motivated through the next few months of tough training both in the gym and on the track. I started feeling fitter and stronger than before. The training programme Lee set was specific and methodical and he explained to me the purpose of each session and how it would affect and improve my performance on the whole. Lee’s sound tactical knowledge, added to invaluable video feedback and regular phone calls propelled me from being quite good at sprinting to being very good at sprinting.
In April, five months before the National champs were due, I sat down with Lee and we set four very tough targets for myself:-
Win the youth sprint and achieve a time of 11.20 to set a new National 200m qualifying record (the old record stood at 11.31)
Win the youth 500m TT and achieve a time of 34.00 to set a new National record (the old record stood at 34.24)
To do this would take a huge performance on my part and a belief from Lee that I was capable of doing it. However, not only did I meet those targets but I went a bit further by clocking 11.08 for the 200m qualifier and 33.80 for the 500m TT, setting two new National records and winning two National titles into the bargain.
I had also entered the Junior men’s sprint and won the Silver medal which was a fantastic achievement given I rode the entire competition on my youth restricted gearing of 88” and was up against much bigger riders nearly 2 years my elder and on much bigger gear ratios.
I have no doubt that I would never have achieved these great times, setting two national records and almost winning the Junior men’s sprint without Lee’s constant support, guidance and encouragement throughout the year.
One week after the National championships I competed in the Scottish championships in Edinburgh where I won 4 Gold medals, the U16 Sprint and 500TT (setting a new Scottish 200m qualifying record) and won the U19 Junior men’s Sprint and Keirin, I followed this up a week later with 3 Gold medals at the UK School Games Youth Olympics in Sprint, 500m TT and the Keirin.
Shortly after the UK School Games I was selected onto the BC sprint Olympic Development Program (ODP).
I have no doubt that my recent successes as a sprinter has been massively increased due to my coaching relationship with Lee, all because of his coaching philosophies, tactical knowledge and techniques and of course because he spotted the potential in me to become a sprinter of international standard.
Lee is still one of my friends and a team mate. I talk to him frequently and train occasionally with him. Lee has always shown me great support when I’ve raced and I will always be grateful to him and know that I can rely on his continued support as a friend and mentor in the future.
Update since this was written John has gone on to win two European Junior sprint titles and was World Junior sprint champion in 2011. He is now a full time professional cyclist on the Great Britain squad.