Interview with Gavin Lancaster: Cycling & Company Fitness Challenge
We chat to Gavin Lancaster, Operations Director at MiX (Europe), about his cycling career, his recent epic race, as well as his thoughts on participating in the Virgin Pulse company fitness challenge.
When did you start cycling?
"When I was around 13 or 14 years old, I saw Bernard Hinault winning the 1985 Tour de France and that inspired me to get my first bike."
How did you get into cycling as a sport?
"At the time I started cycling, it was not a very popular sport so there weren't as many races available. However, I tried to participate in as many as I could to get going."
When did you start participating in competitive cycling and why?
"Around the time I started cycling, the triathlon became popular in the UK and it caught my attention. In 1990, I tried out and qualified for the Great Britain triathlon team. In 2001, I became a European triathlon champion and in 2002 I won a silver medal. Overall, I was involved with triathlons until the mid-2000s. From about 2003 to 2006 I participated in the Half Ironman (otherwise known as the Ironman 70.3). I represented Great Britain at the first official Half Ironman competition in Florida. During that event I was in the lead when it came to the cycling race, was almost in front during the swimming portion but, unfortunately, I didn't have a good run and ended up in 9th place overall. Due to an injury I eventually had to stop running and therefore also discontinue participating in triathlons. About 10 years ago I switched back to cycling full-time and have never looked back."
What do you like the most about cycling and what do you like the least?
"I enjoy setting a goal at the beginning of the year, going through the training process and seeing improvements week after week. It's especially helpful that my coach in America makes this process very enjoyable. On the flipside, I do not like the doping and drug abuse stigma that surrounds cycling because not everyone who cycles participates in these practices and it ends up giving cyclists a bad name."
What was involved in the selection process to become a part of team GB?
"About 2 years ago UCI introduced an amateur championship called the Gran Fondo. Participants compete within their age group (mine is 45 to 49 years old) and, in order to qualify, have to finish within the top 20 of their age group. This year it was held in Cambridge and I finished 9th in my age group which afforded me an invitation to participate in the world championship."
What was your reaction when you knew that you would be part of this amazing experience?
"I was quite emotional when I crossed the finish line. I may never be able to achieve that same level again so I felt very proud of my achievement."
What part of winning the race is most important to you?
"It would be an honour for me to win the famous rainbow jersey, something every UCI world champion gets to wear for a year after winning."
How do you manage your busy schedule?
"I train about 9 to 10 hours a week. Depending on the week, I train either early morning before work or in the evening after work. I have a coach that keeps me accountable and helps me to keep a regular schedule by telling me ahead of time what my workout will look like. However, all of this I would not be able to do without the support of my partner."
Performance is important in your sport; it is also a MiX value. How do you apply that to your work life?
"My work at MiX Telematics and cycling go hand-in-hand. I already possess a good work ethic which helps me to achieve very well in my sport because I approach it as I would a project at work. In turn, cycling keeps me fit and provides me with a lot of energy to spur me on at work. Participating in Virgin Pulse company fitness challenge along with my MiX colleagues has also helped me to stay motivated."
What was the day of the competition like?
"The race was about 157km with about 2,000m of it consisting of climbing. So the route was quite hilly overall. Race day itself was very hot. By the end of the race the temperature had risen to 37 degrees Celsius."
How did the race go?
"I felt really good for the first 100km and was at the front of the peloton during that time. When the first big climb came around, I did beyond my expectations staying with the lead group. However, the second climb is where problems started to arise. The race organisers had completely underestimated how much water and electrolytes would be required by competitors and subsequently two of the aid stations ran out of water. Because of this I started to dehydrate and lost sight of the lead group now being led by an attacking Italian team. Most of the group I was in were also suffering and the race turned into survival mode and not so much race mode. Eventually I managed to get to a water station and immediately felt better again. However, by that time it was too late to gain back the ground I had lost. Overall, I raced for a total of 4 hours and 20 minutes at an average speed of 35km/h. I finished 130th out of 278 finishers in my age group and 328th out of the entire group of 3,000 participants."
Are you satisfied by the result?
"I was very proud to be a part of this experience especially since I got to be so competitive from the get-go. The scenery I got to experience during the race was spectacular. The best part of the whole race for me was the last 20km. During that time, the older age group caught up with us. I helped to motivate a fellow English athlete to keep his pace high and eventually led him all the way to the finish line."
What is your next step now that you have completed this competition?
"I am not quite sure if I will compete again next year. It will all depend on my performance leading up to the next competition. This year has been all about qualifying and eventually going to the race. So, it has been a learning experience for me. When it comes to my participation in the UK scene, I am currently in the 2nd category and my goal is to move up to the 1st category. I am currently racing against a lot of younger people so that's quite a motivation for me to get to the next level."
Quote from hero
"It never gets easier, you just go faster" - Greg LeMond, three-time Tour de France winner.
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