637 Days To Go is my blog, which was originally started with exactly 637 days until the start of the London 2012 Paralympic Games. And now it's been re-started with 637 days until the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Passion Play

Last week in the midst of my post-World's break and promotional tour of sorts, I was fortunate enough to spend a few days as the guest of one of my sponsors, Fisher Outdoors, ts their annual Expo – essentially a bike show where they show their products to all the suppliers and the media. It's not open to the general public as most bike shows would be so has a different feel than a large show.

Fisher is the UK distributor for many great bike brands, including names such as LOOK, Zipp and Sram. Fisher's was instrumental in getting me my Look 596 track bike that I won the World Championships with. And as it's the only one of it's kind in the UK, they asked me to bring it along to put on display.

The Expo was held at a very nice hotel/spa resort in St. Albans – not too far from London. I drove down on Sunday morning in order to participate in their annual charity bike ride being held in the afternoon. This year, they were riding on behalf of an organisation called World Bicycle Relief ( WBR is the brainchild of FK Day – one of the founders of Sram. In essence their goals is to provide strong, sturdy bikes to individuals in Africa. It started in the aftermath of a tsunami in the Indian Ocean in 2005 when local communities were wiped out and the need for cheap, reliable transportation quickly became apparent.

WBR have done lots of research into the impact of bikes in these poor communities – whether on local 'business' people who are able to get their goods to market easier and in greater volume, to schoolchildren who can make the journey to school (often up to 10 miles away) with increased regularity, greatly improving their attendance and grades. It's amazing to see how a bike costing so little can have such a huge impact. If you have any interest in finding out more, or to make a donation of any amount, I strongly urge to click on their site to find out more.

The following day the Expo opened and was immediately flooded by crowds of people in the bike business – most of which run shops selling these products. I had the opportunity to browse the various displays and talk with the Fisher's staff about the great brands they represent. As a self-confessed bike geek, it's always a genuine thrill to be able to see loads of the products i normally only see in magazines up close and personal. And to have the chance to speak with the people that know the most about the products and get insight into how to best use them is a real treat for me.

Fisher, as the UK distributor for LOOK bikes and pedals, had a number of their bikes on display. As mentioned, they also put my track bike on show. Whenever I was in the general vicinity of the LOOK stand, it was gratifying to see how much attention the bike garnered. Lots of people coming over to check it out, most not realising that it had won a World Championship and wasn't just another demo model on show! Whenever I was able to though, I gladly spoke to people about my experiences in using and riding the bike.

In the evening at the conclusion of the show for the day, Fisher's hosted a gala dinner for all the guests. Close to 200 people packed the ballroom for the dinner. Once again, I had the chance to speak with many of the guests – from passionate bike shop owners and staff, to other riders and cycling team staff. I had the privilege of being sat next to (on one side) one of the senior board members of Fishers and on the other – the head of sales worldwide for LOOK.

Pascal, the gentleman from LOOK has been in the job for 25 years. He spends a great deal of his time travelling all of the globe, dealing with sales staff and distributors and making sure the LOOK brand is well represented. He has a wife and 5 kids at home, and (if you can believe this) in his 'spare' time competes in full length Ironman triathlons. For those unfamiliar, that's a whopping 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and a FULL 26.2 mile marathon run. All with no break. That is hard core. Somehow, he manages to fit training for these events in and around his work and travels. I know I sometimes struggle to get my training done when I have nothing else to do, let alone a full day's work!

Pascal and I touched many times on the subject of passion – and how it is important to have in life – in whatever you do. If you want to be successful and happy in your life and work, you need to be passionate about the things that you chose to do. It was obvious that he had this passion and consequently he had made a great career and life for himself, and I am certain that he could tell I had a great passion for what I do and my drive to win medals in London. It is because of people like him that I am proud to be associated with the LOOK brand and have their support in the next year.

The whole evening reminded me again how lucky I am to be able to do what I do (ride a bike on a daily basis for my country). It drove home the point that not only is it a joy and privilege to be able to do this, but it is in large part made possible by companies such as LOOK and Fisher's who provide me in some part with the equipment that make my performances possible. And in watching the presentation on World Bicycle Relief, and seeing how some of these people struggle just for the basic necessities in life (and what a difference having a simple bicycle can make to those lives), I was reminded that my life is blessed in so many ways – despite missing limbs and various other physical problems.

It was a pleasure to meet the staff from Fisher's – who, like Pascal and myself, clearly have a passion for all things bicycle and cycling in general. Obviously they are, to some degree, salesmen, but it goes beyond that. There is an underlying desire by many of them to go above and beyond, and that is always clear to me in my dealings with them and in their show of support for my and my goals. In particular, I have been helped regularly by TIm Bayley who reps Sram, LOOK and Zipp – a true gent. Probably doesn't hurt that he is a fellow time trialist! 

And so – the whole point of this post is that… in whatever you do in life… the key to success is passion. In work, life or play! So get out there and enjoy whatever it is you are doing and make the most of it. You never know when you'll get another opportunity to do the things that you love.