Queally Pursues Spot at London

Queally Pursues Spot at London

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Jason Queally Reinvents Himself with Team Pursuit

Story posted March 12, by Larry Hickmott
| 2010 GB Team for Track Worlds

Olympic Gold medallist in 2000 (Sydney), Jason Queally, has been named in the GB team for the World Track Championships in Copenhagen starting on March 24. The rider, who will be 40 this year, has been working with the endurance coaches in the GB Cycling Team since 2008 and in a trial this week, proved he had what it takes to handle the pace of a modern day Team Pursuit.

Jason Queally training with the GB Team Pursuit riders in the Pre-Worlds camp. In this line up pictured are Jason Queally, Ben Swift, Ed Clancy and Andy Tennant.

Jason won the Kilometre Time Trial in Sydney and for all of his GB Cycling Team career, has been part of the Sprint squad within Team GB. After failing to make the GB team for Beijing by a tenth of a second, Jason decided that his Elite career was over and he volunteered to move over to the Paracycling team to ride as the pilot for one of the tandems.

Quite by accident, this led to Jason working with the Endurance coach Matt Parker and the possibility of him riding the Team Pursuit started to become a reality. Recently, the hard miles were put in by Jason in Majorca under the guidance of the current Endurance coach Dan Hunt who was helping the former Olympic champion to increase his endurance level.

Then, on Tuesday, March 9, Jason rocked up to the track for the trial that was going to have a major influence on his life.

I was in the office of Shane Sutton at the time and there was a buzz in the air as the start time of 2.30pm approached. Clearly excited by the event, an impatient Sutton got up from his chair and waved us on out of his office and down to the track centre. There, Sutton explained “this trial has a massive bearing on how his career path goes over the next couple of years -- if you can talk about a career for a rider who is 40.”

Using a sprint rider in the Team Pursuit is nothing new. Sydney Bronze medallist Jonny Clay explained how he'd known one of the sprinters do this back in the late 90's. I've also heard coaches talk of it in recent years as they watched the times in the Team Pursuit tumble. Then, the Aussies used a Kilo rider in a Team Pursuit squad at their national championships this year but what Team GB are doing is quite different to what the Australians did as Shane explained.

“The Aussies put in a kilo rider to the Team Pursuit to do a kilo but we don’t work like that. We’re not going to put Jason in to do a kilo and pack. We’re going out there to be the best we can be and no-one is better at R & D than us. We have done our research and development work behind the scenes and we know what it is going to take to win.”

Ben Swift leads the six Team Pursuit riders into a drill under the guidance of coach Dan Hunt.

For Jason's trial, there were six riders on the boards and Jason was part of the ‘four’. In these sorts of drills, there are four riders who will race the Team Pursuit effort and another two who will hang off the back and avoid getting in the way of the changes. With Jason in the ‘four’ were Steven Burke (Olympic bronze medallist), Ed Clancy (Olympic Gold medallist) and Andy Tennant whilst Ben Swift (Team Sky and Andy Fenn (Olympic Academy) were ‘off the back.’

The pursuit began at race pace and the quartet held the very fast speed well as the ‘trace’ from the analysts later showed. Afterwards, as the riders rolled round getting their breath back, Shane was clearly impressed as he yelled out “real good job” to the riders.

Sutton then explained “the management have to make the call of ‘do we believe he has the ability to make the podium in London’ and on the evidence of what I just saw, I ‘d say yes. He can be an abled bodied athlete if he wants to be. It is his choice. The management will now sit down on Thursday and see where we go with this guy because although you don’t want to be rocking up with a 40 year old (42 in London), it is lovely headache to have.”

“Let’s all remember who started this” Sutton added. “Jason Queally was the kudos for this programme taking off in Sydney. In the field of battle, when it really matters, the lads will be able to look across to him and say to themselves, we have someone here who is a real warrior, who knows the trenches like nobody else. And I think they will see that as a strength.” 

Jason has been working with the Paracycling squad since he didn’t make the team for Beijing and had all but given up being in London as part of the abled bodied squad. He had asked to train with the Team Pursuit team as preparation for the tandem work he was doing with paralympian Anthony Kappes. That training though gave him the confidence that perhaps his Elite career wasn’t over.

“I ended up training with them in 2008 thanks to Matt Parker" Jason explains. "The initial idea was that I’d be doing some pursuit riding with Anthony (Kappes) in the Paralympics. I wasn’t keen on doing the Match Sprint but did want to do the Kilo. I was though being told I had to do two events."

"I asked Matt if I could join in with the Team Pursuit group where I used to sit off the back of the ‘TP’ group during their efforts. Matt then approached me and said he could see me riding the Team Pursuit. That was a bit of a shock!” Jason said with a smile.

“So that is where I guess the idea started.  I never really gave it a lot of thought though as I was riding the tandem (above at the Paracycling World Cup) and quite happy doing that.”

“Then, later, I spoke to Shane and said I was potentially interested in the Team Pursuit. He said ‘have a play but don’t commit yet as you’ve got the tandem which is successful’. So I was weighing it up at that point and it was a difficult decision to make. I was really enjoying riding with Anthony and it was rewarding.”

“The Paralympics side of it gave me the opportunity to ride my bike which I still enjoy and I was doing what I could do to help the Paralympic side of things. I was settled with my wife and a little boy, a nice place with the Paralympic team but then the TP thing started to niggle away at me."

"I told my wife what I was feeling and she said go for it. At 40, I was never going to get an opportunity like this again. For me, my Elite career was all over so to be given a potential second go at it, I decided to give it 100 per cent. Even if I don’t make it to London, I know I have had the opportunity to go for it. If I’m successful, fantastic, if not, I have given it my best shot.”

“It is a massive commitment for him” says Shane Sutton before the team for Copenhagen had been selected. “He is such a gifted athlete that he was able to easily step into the Paralympic team but this, vying for a TP spot, is a team commitment and a lot more is being asked of him. There are the training camps in Majorca, soaking up the atmosphere with the lads and leading by example as a rider the team look up to. Regardless of whether he makes these Worlds, he wants to carry on with the process towards London 2010 and try and make it.”

The vastly experienced former Olympic champion is not under estimating the hard work that lies ahead. To prepare for the challenge of making the Team Pursuit squad, Jason went to Majorca this winter because he needed the endurance for the Team Pursuit.  “I had the speed but the event is about both speed and endurance so it was about improving my endurance without denting my speed. I have done a few camps with the boys in Majorca now which were hard work as I’m not a great road rider. We were doing 4 or 5 hours at a time and that has been very productive and helped me with my endurance.”

Talking about acquiring the skills needed for the Team Pursuit, Jason says “It has been tough learning the ropes in the Team Pursuit. I had done a bit of Team Pursuit training in August/September 2009 and was going quite well there. That was a bit shocking in all honesty. I had never been that good on the technical side of things, even in the Team Sprint but it’s getting better all the time."

"I have just done a 3k Team Pursuit (his trial) and technically it wasn’t too bad. Not as good as the other three boys in the squad but regarding pacing, which is one of my problems, it wasn’t too bad. So it is progressing all the time and sure, there is room for more improvement.”

Making the team for Copenhagen is one step on the ladder. He may or may not get a ride during the Worlds but then back in 2005 when Jason Queally was in the form of his life and winning a medal in Los Angeles in the Kilometre, a fresh faced Ed Clancy travelled with the Team Pursuit squad to America.

While Ed didn’t ride the final, that experience helped him prepare for the success that was to come his way. Will we see Jason in London 2010? Only time will tell but he knows what the competition for places is like because he has had to deal with that for many years as part of the Team Sprint squad. No-one knows himself better than Jason does and if anyone can make it happen, it is the warrior who started off GB’s long running winning streak in 2000.

Good luck to Jason Queally

Related Link
2010 GB Team for Track Cycling  World Championships