Out of the blue....
Driving home from work one Thursday afternoon and I had a phone call come in on my phone, being responsible I let it ring out, the next thing a message come through. When I finally got round to reading it I see it was a message from Julian Winn the coach from British cycling saying he's got a racing proposal for me. My first thoughts were a mate is trying to wind me up, but I could not risk not calling the number back. As the phone answered I recognised Julian voice straight away. After a brisk chat he asked if I, yes me, Phil pearce would be interested in racing the Olympic test event in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for British cycling. ARE YOU WINDING ME UP. I couldn't get the words out quick enough to say YES. I was there already. Just tell me what I need to do and where I need to be and I'll be there. Once I put the phone down it started to sink in. Oh my in 4 weeks time I'll be racing for my country... Doing what I love most for Great Britain.
And than it sprang on me.. Ah work, what are work going to say about me needing 4 days off. The next day (Friday) I drove to work, thinking this is it. If they tell me I can't take the time off I've got no choice but to hand my notice in. I got to the office a bit sheepish knowing what is about to go down. I asked the manager for the dates off and without an argue (to my disappointment) he agreed the time off. What an anti climax. I had this big speech in my head and I was ready to lay it on the table but nothing.
Of course this meant that now nothing was in my way. That's it I'm going to RIO.
The time soon passed by and how grateful I was when my brother was dropping me off at Heathrow airport. All I had been worried about was getting injured or getting ill. I done everything possible to keep myself fit and healthy. Nothing was going to get in my way of this chance of a life time.
Super keen like I am, I got to the airport at 8am even though my flight wasn't until 12:20pm not even the traffic was going to get in my way. I met up with Julian around 10:30, a superman change in to some casual British Cycling team kit then on to meet up with Grant Ferguson and Alice Barnes just before boarding the plane. My bike and my suitcase was in the hands of British airways now (the worrying starts again) will I see my bike the other side. After the 12 hour flight I was reunited with my baby. We've both arrived in Brazil and heading for Rio. Time was knocking on now and we arrived at our hotel just shy of 12am it was a case of bed and sleep. Friday was here and it was the first time we got to see the 2016 Olympic course. The heat was immense, sitting around 30 / 35 degrees. Alan (our mechanic had our bikes built up and ready to roll.
The women were out on course first for 2 hours so off Alice went. She come back with some great feed back. Then it was mixed groups out on the course so me and grant geared up and got out on the track. Pulling on the Great Britain cycling team kit for the first time was such a proud moment in my life. How, why, what, when has this happened to me. I'm over excited and need to ride my enjoyment out. As soon as we where on the course there was no stopping me. The course was the hard packed bmx track type surface. The stuff I love, fast rolling good grip but can so easily catch you out if you're not fully focused. I was tearing around over rocks, dropping in down logs drops flying, hopping and trials riding up a rock garden before dropping back down over big boulders and as I approach the first major rock garden other riders were pulling over to check it out, not me I'm way to excited I just roll on in taking what ever comes at me bouncing down like I was inside a ping-pong table. I got passed safe and on the next challenge its was a short but very steep off camber hill climb. Not having enough speed, it was a dab to get me over the hill. And then pressing on up a little switch back climb, few little dirt drops and into the next downhill rock garden in a little wood. Again no looking just drop in and hold your line. Over a man-made wooden bridge and rock feature and then on to the next drag of a climb. This lasted a good 4/5 minutes with a little rock garden and a good amount of switch back turns. Once that was over it was on the sweet single track flowy downhill. Over a few massive rocks and then we was treated to a rock drop off to which i could style it up crossing the handlebars. The course carried on down twisting around a few turns them into 4 purpose made rock jumps, over a wooden bridge passed the pits under a bridge over the bridge and then start heading back towards the start finish arena. We was faced with a little punch of a climb to the finish line. My first lap of the 2016 Olympic course was complete and WOW what a course. I loved every second of it. The climbs were tough and there was a lot of them but the technical rock garden and other features was some fun and challenging so it made the climbs worth the pain.
After a few more laps it was time to get out of the heat and call it a day.
Back to the hotel to reflect on what I would say was an epic day.
Saturday arrived and we headed back to the course this time we had an allowance of 4 hours on the course females for the first two hours then mixed for two hours and finally men only of two hours.
I put the coach number board on my bike so I could go around with Alice and give he some advice on a few technical sections she wasn't to keen on. By the end of a couple of laps we had her confidently dropping in the logs drops bouncing through the rock gardens and gapping one of the big rock drops. In all honesty it helped me as much as it helped Alice as I actually took the time to look at these sections and figure out the best route because I didn't want to give her the wrong line choice. Normally I tend not to think and just plough through. Which seems to work for me but having a good look at the pointy rocks that could slice your tyres and ways of avoiding rocks it's probably a good idea.
After a few more laps by myself and a final race pace lap I felt I had done all the practice I was going to need and finished up, I got myself out of the blistering heat. It was a case of back to the hotel and rest up. A few minutes stretching the muscles in the gym and a good nights sleep ahead of race day tomorrow.
Race day has arrived
Alice was out on the course first, as her race was a bit earlier then mine and grants she headed to the course before us. We stayed at the hotel had a late breakfast and chilled. When we arrived at the track I managed to get to the track side to cheer and support Alice on for her final two laps. She done a fantastic job pushing on the whole time and in such heat. She was attacking the technical sections with confidence and showing them who in charge.
Next up was the male race at 2pm. We had 6 laps which was about right for the heat we was just about to race in.
I done my warm up around the start loop to try to get used to the heat (plus the fact I forgot to get the rubber band for my rollers out of my suitcase In the hotel)
I was gridded 46th but with a few rides missing move up to around 43rd.
The count down begins 30 seconds to go..... 15 seconds.... Within the next 10 seconds the whistle will sound to start the race..... My hearts pounding legs a shaking, adrenalin pumping the whistle goes the sound of pedals clipping in and gears clonking away I move up to around the 35th mark and just held on, grant got a great start heading up to around 11th place. The first switch back hill climb was tough, handle bars a banging, my heart rate is racing the sweat is pouring and I'm hanging. The bottle neck comes at the first downhill rock garden, riders jumping off and running I managed to stay on the bike and ride it out. Then it's a full on attack to complete lap one. Heading in to lap two I starting to feel the mix of the heat and the explosive start and I'm just about ready to quit mountain biking altogether, but fighting on I pushed myself past the point of no return. I could see grant up in front as I was beginning to start the final climb. He wasn't looking his normal self. As I passed him he supported me on by. He had not been well all weekend and I can only imagine the heat and race pace took what energy he had out of him. By the start of the third lap I was starting to settle in and could begin to focus on my ride. Things started to fall in to place I was picking riders off one by one. The race was staring to become enjoyable again. I was starting to feel good, the rock gardens was flowing the drops was getting a tweak of my handlebars and the spectators was cheering. I was in my element in the zone and remembering why I loved racing. Laps 4 / 5 flew by and as I come towards the finish I got passed the 80% rule I made it I was starting my last lap of a world-class event. I threw my fist in the air as I began my final lap smiling like a Cheshire Cat.
There was a group of 4 riders I front of me and I was closing in. I got one near the first quarter of the final lap and then picked of another on the final hill climb the third was about 20 seconds in front. I pushed on but could quite catch him. Here it was my moment to shine the moment I wanted at a World Cup round but never quite managed the famous one-handed wheelie across the line. I popped the front wheel up and took it over the finish line coming in 23rd and as happy and a pig in shit. I done it I had completed the full race. I'm over the moon and buzzing. What a race what a course and what an amazing experience.
I will start with saying a massive thank you to the Great British Cycling team for inviting me on the Olympic test event. The support they gave me out here was second to none. They made me feel like a pro cyclist. Making sure I stayed fresh and worry free. All I had to do was what I enjoy the most and that was to ride my bike, I didn't have to worry about anything. It was an experience I will alway talk about.
But there is one thing I won't do and that is to forget to thank every single person that has believe in me and my riding ability. Fighting my corner and never giving up on me. Telling British cycling your thoughts and standing strong beside me, without you lot I'm not sure I'd be here. You've all backed me 110% and made this achievement come true. I hope this isn't the last you've seen of me in Great Britain team kit. I feel so proud and lucky to have been accepted in to the sport in such a small space of time. My plan is to work hard and attack next year faster and harder than ever before, but still making sure I fully enjoy myself and help others to enjoy themselves and their riding too. I can tell you now I only finished the Olympic test event because I remember to enjoy myself whilst racing. Take the fun out and it dead to me.
So keep smiling and enjoy.
Hope you enjoyed my blabbering on
Until next time keep riding happy
All the best