Jon Gildea has been riding bikes all of his life but after a terrible mountain bike accident back in 2012 many might have thought this was the end of his time riding his bike, but in reality it was just the beginning and since 2013 Jon has been riding for British Cycling at not only at many road world cups in 2015 but also at the 2016 Track world championships in Montichari.
With less than a month to go until the 2017 Track World Championships in LA, California we wanted to get to know our new addition to Para-t and find out what this year has in store.
Q1) So the accident in 2012, what happened and how did you feel?
I was on an uplift day in Wales on my Downhill Mountain bike. We were getting dropped off at the top of the hill by a guy in a landrover then riding down negotiating various jumps, drops and technical sections. I rode into a section that had a double jump (with a take off and landing) and got the landing wrong. I cased the landing , jumped over my handlebars and landed on my feet. Unfortunately my heel dug into the ground and I badly dislocated my knee. My wife likes to say I flamingo’d my leg which gives a better visual idea of what it was like. It was nasty, I was stuck near the top of the hill in a mess, not sure if I had severed the artery in my leg or not. I was in shock and fainted when I tried to stand up. My friends looked after me keeping me covered up with their coats while one of them went to get help. They eventually got me down the hill and airlifted to hospital. It wasn’t for nearly a week before I got to find out that I had severed my perennial nerve and I would be left permanently affected by the accident.
Q2) So the selection process at British Cycling, how did that all come about?
I called up Paul West at the National Cycling Centre to register my interest. He invited me to a classification day at the velodrome then I went to a talent day in Guildford. I was tested on a wattbike for 3 mins. In hindsight the power that I put out on the day was rubbish, but enough for British Cycling to keep an eye on me and follow my progression. As I got better and started to win races I worked my way through the programme. I won my first national road championships almost exactly a year after my accident and then built from there. I was accepted onto the GB podium programme in 2015.
Q3) What one bit of advice would you give to anyone suffering from a bad injury that would like to learn to cycle or get back on a bike?
You can do it! Don’t let injury or disability stop you doing something you want to do. I got told that I wouldn’t be able to ride again, so when I did get back on my bike I felt really empowered . For me, breaking my goals down into smaller chunks makes it more realistic and achievable. I started off by riding my bike around the block, it sounds like nothing now but at the time, this was huge.
Q4) What’s an average week in the life of Jon Gildea?
Pretty hectic. I usually plan my week in advance trying to cut out any unnecessary distractions. My week tends to include plenty of time in my office at home. At least one day in the office in Manchester and usually 5 or 6 days of training on my bike with as much rest around my training as possible. Most of my spare time off the bike and away from work is spent with my wife and kids. I do stay in touch with a few friends on a regular basis, but my social network has diminished a fair bit since I started on the GB programme. I figure there’s plenty of time for the pub and holidays when I have finished my cycling career.
Q5) How do you balance work, life and time with family and friends with such a busy and active lifestyle?
I prioritise work, training and family above everything else. I also have lots of support from my wife who basically runs around after me full time helping me get everything done. I’ve managed to juggle a fairly manic full time job/ business and a full time cycling career at the same time for a few years now and be very successful at both. This is what I am most proud of, because on the face of it to do both would look unrealistic.
Q6) So it’s been a few years now with British Cycling and your first year with us here at Para-T, what does this year have in store for you?
My first major focus is the Track World Championships. After that, I’m going to focus on Time Trials and road racing. I’ve got a much better TT position this year after working on becoming more aero, so I’m hoping for some great results.
Q7) Are there any bits of kit that when you are heading out on the bike for a long ride that you just wouldn’t go without?
My phone, a rain jacket and some food, preferably protein balls made by Kelly!
Q8) To date, what is your proudest moment on the bike?
Winning a silver at the track world championships in 2016. A world medal was a long time coming after all of the hype. It was particularly poignant because my parents flew over to watch and my Dad wasn’t very well.
Q9) Who inspires you?
My Dad is my biggest inspiration. He has been very ill for around 18 months now and has battled like a hero through some of the most dreadful treatment. He was told a few weeks back that he only has a fairly short time left to live. His attitude is amazing as always and a reminder of how important strength of character is.
I also have a number of team mates who inspire me. The likes of Jody, Dave Smith and Steve Bate among others. Work ethic, attitude and character.
Q10) Cycling is hugely completive and athletes are going to have ups and downs in their careers. What has been your toughest moment as a professional Paracyclist?
Probably not being selected for Rio. I could see towards the end of 2015 that the options for me were looking slim because we had qualified so few places. I also knew that I had a great performance in me that I hadn’t put out yet, so it was incredibly frustrating watching the Paralympics at home. The last few years have been a series of knockbacks, sole searching and obstacles to overcome. The results usually come in the end, but not as easily as it might seem from a distance.
Q11) What would be your ultimate bike ride, where would you go, who would you go with and why?
Probably something daft like The Mega Avalanche on a tandem with Steve Bate. That would be a good laugh if we managed to survive it! The banter would be great and the adrenaline would be amazing. I’m always torn between different types of biking but I prefer riding off-road either on a Cyclocross or mountain bike.
Q12) How do you feel about joining Para-T this year and what does it mean to you?
I’m very excited about riding for Para T this year. For me Para T is about showing people what is possible. I know that when we turn up to Para or able bodied events we will be the ones to watch. It’s a great way of changing people’s perception of disability. It’s also great to have the comradery of riding with some of my good pals. Looking forward to teaming up with Jody and Jaco in some able bodied races to shock a few people. Thanks again for having me!