She told me that I could race on a tandem bicycle for Great Britain and become a full time athlete and go to cool places. It took a couple of years to follow that up as once I had my confidence back I returned to hanging off rock faces around the world. In the back of my mind I never really thought that being a full time athlete was a realistic option, at 35 my body was pretty trashed. I was fit but gave no thought to recovery or injury prevention and often just kept pushing on through injury’s thinking as we all do, “it will just go away!”
Today I sit in a hotel room only a few weeks away from the Rio Paralympics. I’m rooming with my tandem pilot and mate Adam Duggleby. Adam and I started riding together in January 2013 and now here we are on our way to Rio to represent Great Britain. I’m glad I did follow that advice from my friend and went to a talent I.D day with British Cycling and well I guess the rest is history. One thing that has been a surprise is how well my body feels today, I’ll be 39 when I get to the games and the oldest member of our cycling team. I’ve spent 13 years as a carpenter, 8 years working in the outdoor industry as an instructor. I’ve gone through a mad phase of running 10k’s, half’s and a full marathon then moved to fell running which lead me to a Tranters Round in the Scottish Highlands. A 20 hour run around 18 of Scotland’s highest munros with thousands of metres in height gain and loss. It’s fair to say with 15 years of rock climbing stacked on top of all that my body has had its fair share of outdoor abuse.
The reason my body feels so good today is the amount of time I now spend looking after it stretching and getting regular massage. One of the great things about being involved with British Cycling is the support package that is available to you as an athlete and massage is one that I have found works wonders. I don’t recall the first time I met Sally Barker from SB Massage, maybe we had past each other in the long hallways of British Cycling, smiled and said hi, but I do remember the first treatment I had from Sally. The recommendation came from Jon Gildea, a C5 World Champion silver medallist team mate who had spent an hour with Sally and kept going on about it! For those of us athletes that have found massage works, news soon travels fast about where you can find a good one.
Sally’s face is well known to all of us athletes in the Para Cycling Team and I’ve been lucky enough to spend hours flat on my back while Sally goes about repairing my tired and destroyed body. Sally has proven to be highly skilled in her field and has travelled with us to Spain, Italy and South Africa on either training camps or races from World Cups to World Championships and I was pleased to hear Sally would be with us at the Paralympic Games.
Sir Chris Hoy gave the Para Team a talk a couple of months back about what it takes to win at Olympic level and who you need around you. He described how you work through all the support you get in British Cycling and then work out the people you need around you for you to get the best out of yourself. I see Sally as an important member of that small team of people I have around me to get the very best performance out when I get on the bike. Not only for her healing hands but Sally is a lovely person to spend time with when you’re just chilling and in recovery mode. I very much look forward to working with Sally during Rio and beyond.
Written by Steve Stanley Bate, BV/I Tandem, ParalympicsGB