Two of Australia’s tandem pairings celebrated riding into the Australian Long Team for the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, while three Australian records were broken on day one of the 2018 Para-cycling Track Nationals in Sydney on Friday 8 December.
Hosted by Cycling NSW at Sydney 2000’s Dunc Gray Velodrome, the first day of the annual championships featured individual time trials for all Para categories including men’s and women’s tandems.
The tandem titles, and by virtue of their qualifying times, 2018 Commonwealth Games Long Squad selection, went to South Australian rider Brad Henderson and his pilot Thomas Clarke, who covered the 1000 metres (four laps of the 250 metre velodrome) in 1.02.433.
Henderson and Clarke had a smooth and powerful start out of the gate and were on schedule and well on their way to their gold medal by the halfway mark. They beat silver medallists Kieran Murphy and his pilot Lachlan Glasspool by two seconds, with bronze medallists John Wood and pilot David Edwards taking bronze in 1.09.522.
Having only had five months’ practice as a team, the winning pair were ecstatic with their result.
It was a first national title for Henderson and his first year trying for national team selection.
“We needed a 1.03 and we broke that, so we are happy,” he said.
“I guess now we will sit down with the coach and work out the pathway from here. We are doing the sprint tomorrow, but not the individual pursuit on Sunday.”
Clarke, who previously piloted Paul Kennedy, said he believed being “in sync on and off the bike” was a big part of their success, while Henderson said for him, it was “having full faith in my pilot and giving it everything on race day.”
In the women’s, Victoria’s Jessica Gallagher and pilot Lara Tucker (QLD) clocked 1.8.924, under the Long Team qualification time and also good for the gold medal. The gold and qualification was a delight for Gallagher, especially as she had only been training with her new pilot, junior worlds medallist and daughter of renowned rider Kendrick Tucker, Lara Tucker, for a few weeks.
The first Australian to win a medal at the Summer (in Para-cycling) and Winter (Para-alpine skiing) Paralympic or Olympic Games, Gallagher sought a new pilot via media release and selected 18-year-old Tucker. Tucker then relocated from Queensland to Melbourne to train with Gallagher, with the Commonwealth Games in mind.
“The upcoming Winter Paralympics will be the first I have missed, because I have chosen to concentrate on the Commonwealth Games and the bike,” Gallagher said.
“So today’s time and getting inside the required 1.10 flat was a big goal to hit.”
Her personal best for the kilo (1000 metres) is 1.07.57 but with a different pilot, Maddison Janssen, with whom she took bronze at the 2016 World Championships. For Tucker, riding a tandem has been a whole new experience, one she describes as “different, but really good. You have to use your upper body more, as the tandem bike isn’t as flexible as your solo track bike and is longer,” she said.
In other Para events, three Australian records were broken, by Amanda Reid in the C2 women’s 500 metre individual time trial, Bronwyn Dolman in the C5 women’s 500 metre individual time trial and Gordon Allan in the C2 men’s 1000 metres time trial.
Reid, 21, from Sydney, smashed her own previous national record on 42.147 in a dazzling 40.702, just 0.8 of a second outside the world record of 39.959.
The Rio Paralympics and Italian World Championships silver medallist said her race had gone according to plan.
“I think my starts have improved, probably from all the time I have spent in the gym and the training with Tom Dawson and Brad McGee,” she said.
“I am doing two days a week in the gym, three days at the velodrome and two ergo sessions each week.”
Her next goal is Sunday’s individual pursuit – “to make it to the end”. Interestingly, of all the gold medallists on the day, she was the only one who said the time trial was her focus.
From Nationals, she is hoping for selection for the World Championships on a track she knows well, Rio, in March.
Dolman, 35, from Adelaide, snagged her gold medal in 39.321, blowing apart the previous Australian Record of 42.62.
The former tennis player took up Para-cycling three years ago after the accident which led her to Para-sport.
“I am really happy, and I think it came from lots of work on my starts and a lot of mental toughness, but I am aiming for the individual pursuit on Sunday,” she said.
“I don’t think it has sunk in yet.”
She will contest the Road Nationals in January.
For the third record breaker, Gordon Allan, 18, of Sydney, his 1.14.932 kilo was a personal best as well as a new Australian record, by 0.5 seconds.
He attributed his success to the coaching of Tom Dawson and training six days a week on track, road and in the gym.
“I really enjoy the road as well as track,” he said.
“I cannot choose between them.”
As the current road champion for his division, his goal is selection for the Road Nationals in January, along with selection for the Tokyo Paralympics in 2020.
“It would be my first Paralympics,” he said.
“That would be awesome.”
C3 gold medallist and experienced Paralympian Simone Kennedy, 23, from Ryde in NSW, took the gold medal in 43.586, just beating Paige Greco from Victoria by 0.31. Kennedy said she was happy with her start, having worked on it with her coach, McGee.
“I am getting closer to my personal best which was 43.34 in 2013,” she said.
“But I am looking forward to my favoured event, the individual pursuit, on Sunday.”
C4 gold medallist Meg Lemon, 28, from South Australia, was pleased with her win in 42.740, but said she had seen the event as a hit-out for the individual pursuit on Sunday.
“I have been injured coming into it, so haven’t been able to ride big gears or high intensity,” she said.
“I have had a knee injury for about three months after a crash, but hopefully I can do well in the individual pursuit.”
The bronze medallist in the Worlds in the time trial, the former C3 classified rider took bronze in the individual pursuit and time trial in LA after being reclassified prior to the Los Angeles Worlds this year.
“I really want to thank my coach Loza Shaw from the South Australian Sports Institute and Cameron Jennings, his assistant, as they are the reason we are on the bike and doing so well,” she said.
C1 men’s individual time trial kilo gold medallist Darcy Thompson from South Australia completed his run in 1.21.098.
“I feel really good,” he said.
It was one second quicker than I did last year at the Worlds, when I got a silver. But it wasn’t my personal best. I did a 1.19.5 in training the other week. I have had a cold this week.”
Thompson said the individual pursuit was more his thing and that he was aiming for selection for the Paralympics.
“I do road, but I am not great,” he said.
C3 men’s individual time trial kilo gold medallist from Queensland, David Nicholas, 26, just edged out NSW rider Benjamin Swain with 1.12.617 (1.13.296) to take the gold, but it was a couple of seconds off his personal best.
“I am actually better at the pursuit so am looking to the individual pursuit on Sunday,” he said.
His goal is to do well enough for selection for the Australian Team to the World Championships in Rio, where he won individual pursuit gold at the Paralympics, following a previous gold medal on the road at the London Paralympics.
C4 men’s individual time trial 1000 metre winner, Kyle Bridgwood of Queensland, finished just 0.7 seconds outside the Australian record in 1.09.753, but the 28-year-old from the Sunshine Coast was happy with his result.
“I feel really good as I hadn’t been doing all that much,” he said.
“Knowing I was that close is surely a good sign. I am more an individual pursuit-er, but what I really enjoyed was getting scratch race gold at the 2015 Track Worlds.”
He also took two silver medals in Rio in the individual pursuit and road time trial. His goal is to make the team for a second Paralympics.
C5 men’s 1000 metre time trial gold medallist Daniel Van Der Laan of NSW, said his ride in 1.10.126 was a step in the right direction, personally.
The Australian road time trial champion rode a textbook perfect 21, 15, 16, 18 race, but says he will be happiest when he can get back to his personal best of 1.08, achieved prior to the accident which led him to racing as a Para-cyclist.
“I was hit by a car and have had a few operations, hip replacement, and so on,” he said.
“My goal is to get to world level and see how I go. Long term, Tokyo.”
Meanwhile, he keeps busy with his own training and coaching some of the road guys on the Nero Racing Team.
By Cycling NSW