One year out from the Tokyo Paralympics, Ben Watson says that while nowhere near the ‘finished article’ as a rider, the opportunity to unlock and reach his true potential over the next 12 months is an exciting one.
Watson is a product of the Great Britain Cycling Team foundation programme, and after establishing himself in the para-cycling squad and enjoying success at World Cup level, the prospect of selection for a first Paralympic Games is an exciting one.
“The focus has always been on Tokyo,” he says. “It’s been my goal for the last three years – to go there and win gold medals – and the time has come around a lot quicker than I ever expected it to.
“I want to be the best that I can be in order to gain selection. I’m focused and I’m driven, both on the bike and off it, so I’m looking forward to giving all that I can give to try to achieve that.”
The next 12 months will include a UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships (January) and two UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships, the first of which takes place this month in Emmen, the Netherlands. A medallist at Road World Cups this season, Watson has set his sights on success at the world championships as a further step towards Tokyo.
“I tend to compartmentalise things quite a lot, so the next step is Road Worlds. Tokyo is in the background at the moment, but I know that medaling at Road Worlds will help in my bid to be selected for the Paralympics, so everything is a stepping stone towards Tokyo.”
Watson was recruited to the Great Britain Cycling Team programme in early 2017, and since then has continually featured at the top end of races in the C3 category in his favoured time trial discipline.
Far from being content to rest on his laurels though, Watson believes that the progress he’s already made only hints at bigger things to come.
“In my view I’m still nowhere near the finished article, so there are still more gains to come,” he says. “There’s a lot of hard training and racing to come over the next 12 months, when everything will become more focused and will switch up to another level.
“Everything is evolving. I’m getting fitter and stronger every day - and a lot of the thanks for that has to go to the performance team at British Cycling. My coach and the support team are always pushing me to be better. There is as also a lot of competition within the squad; which again pushes everybody on.
“I’m really excited to see where I could get to. I’ve made some big strides in the last 12 months, so it will be interesting to see what the next 12 months bring.”
The UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships get under way on September 12. Watson will compete in the C3 time trial on the opening day, before contesting the road race on September 14.