Scottish Cyclist: Chris Pritchard

In the March 11 issue of Cycling Weekly, an article by Chris Sidwells was published about a sprinter called Chris Pritchard. Pritchard is Scottish on his mother’s side, and although he was born in Sheffield, he is aiming for the Scotland Commonwealth squad for Dehli 2010. Despite only being two or three tenths of a second shy of the British track squad, is battling along with his training and racing, entirely self-funded.

Sidwells writes: Meeting Chris lifted the lid for me on what it is like to be a track racer just outside the incredible British Cycling system. His 10.5 200 metre best is world class, especially considering that he has only specialised in the event for a year, but in a country where the Olympic gold and silver medallists, Sir Chris Hoy and Jason Kenny, rule the roost, Chris Pritchard doesn’t get a penny of support. He’ll improve this year, hopefully getting the 10.3 he needs to get into Scotland’s Commonwealth Games squad, but he’s doing it on a shoestring, and his dedication is astounding. “I don’t go out, I don’t do anything but train and my whole life is about do I have enough money for petrol to get from Sheffield to Manchester track an back,”. (from www.chrissidwells.com)

In the Cycling Weekly article, I realised how close the fight for places at the top level of track racing is. There aren’t pro teams like in road racing- it’s the national team or nothing.

I mentioned the Braveheart Fund to Chris Sidwells and asked him to pass it on to Pritchard. Braveheart is run by former Scottish pro Brian Smith, and supports young talent and elite cyclists from Scotland. It raises money from donations and fundraising events. The Wallace Warriors, the junior section of my own club, Stirling Bike Club, is one of the largest youth cycling clubs in Scotland. They have benefited from the Braveheart fund and used the money to buy high-powered floodlights so the kids can ride and train through the winter.

Pritchard was knocked back by British Cycling, but it wasn’t really explained why in Cycling Weekly. The system is based solidly around science and ‘the numbers’, but Brailsford also places lots of importance on personalities too, as evidenced by his chimps and ants theories.

I haven’t heard Chris Pritchard’s name before and thought a rider with his ability should be a bit better known. It’s hard when Scotland has had so many world-class track riders in recent times. Good luck to Chris, The Drum-Up is rooting for you for Dehli 2010 and beyond.

As the tweeter known as 39teeth wrote recently on his inner ring blog, there can be more to turning pro than just performance. I don’t mean to cast aspersion’s on Chris Pritchard’s character by linking to that post- I just found it interesting that languages, the ability to adapt to different training regimes and diets, a willingness to work for other riders (admittedly not a big concern on the track), and simply who you know, are also important.

I found this info on the website of cycling author and journalist Chris Sidwells- http://www.chrissidwells.com/ and in the March 11 issue of Cycling Weekly.