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Jonny Wale – “It’s time for us to shine”

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Jonny WaleYes, Scotland has two Olympic champions on the Commonwealth Games squad for The Gold Coast; Katie Archibald and Callum Skinner. We also have double European U23 champion, Mark Stewart and World Cup gold medallist, Neah Evans.

But there’s another name which isn’t so obvious, that of 26 year-old Jonny Wale – born and raised in Scotland, British team pursuit champion and author of a 1:01.1 kilometre.

We caught up with Jonny recently to get his story.

He’s recovering from a training crash which resulted in a broken collarbone but hasn’t kept him out of the gym or off the turbo – the man wants to get to the Gold Coast, real bad!

How did you break your collarbone, Jonny?

“It was the first session back on the velodrome after the World Cups in Poland and Manchester, I was doing rolling 250m accelerations and coming into the exit of corner 2 my left cleat simply disengaged catapulting me over the top of the bike – lesson learned that I need to start using straps!

“I broke it on the Wednesday, was in the gym on Thursday then had the operation on Friday.

“Today is exactly a week since the operation and I’ve already done three gym and three turbo sessions, the mobility is coming back extremely quickly so it’s encouraging signs going forward – we’d planned a big gym block for this period anyway, so it’s not too much of a problem, we’re just going to have to get creative in how we achieve the same training stimulus!

“It’s only 56 days until our next World Cup in Minsk, Belarus and I have to be ready for it.”

Jonny Wale
Jonny sits 2nd man in the team lineup. Photo©Ed Hood

Tell us how you qualify to ride for Scotland.

“My mum and dad moved to Edinburgh with his job; I was born there and lived the first 13 years of my life in Edinburgh before we moved back down south with my dad’s work…

“While I don’t have the accent, I’ve always viewed myself as being a Scot.”

How did you get into the bike?

“Growing up my dad used to ride mountain bikes – he had a wicked GT jersey which I was always pinching to go out riding on – then I got a road bike but never really raced much, I just enjoyed the sensations associated with riding a bike.

“The bike has been a constant in my life for so long now, no matter if I’m up or down it’s always there and always brings me happiness.”

How did you end up on the track?

“I worked as a chef in a fine dining restaurant for four years, then went to Loughborough University to study psychology where I got the opportunity to race on the track at Manchester, in a team sprint – it all just snowballed from there.

“This is the first year I’ve trained properly, riding for results rather than just riding the bike for the sake of it and my performances have flourished as a result.”

Jonny Vale
Jonny checks the latest VeloVeritas article while his colleagues warm up, maybe. Photo©Ed Hood

And you KGF guys all live in the team house in Derby?

“Yeah, we’re all here!

“It’s a pretty intense being in such close proximity all day long, add in that Dan Bigham and I work together with WattShop and you can see that there is obviously going to be moments where it can get a bit too much, but it seems to be working well for us!

“Ultimately, we’re all just a bunch of friends with a shared passion and goal.

“There are no egos, we’re a real team.”

You’re a team pursuit and kilometre rider – those two disciplines aren’t usually bedfellows.

“I wouldn’t classify myself as a team pursuit rider, I’ve only ever finished one full four kilometre effort!

“Dan Bigham gets us off the line; I’m man two, do 5-5½ laps before making a sharp exit!

“The key is not letting my speed drop at the end of my spell, the speed when I swing off is crucial as it’s carried through the rest of the ride.

“I don’t have the endurance but I can give my speed for 90 seconds – it’s unconventional but works for us.

“That’s one of the beauties of how we operate, we can think ‘outside the box’ and try something a bit unorthodox.”

Jonny Wale
Jonny’s position is pretty extreme – and effective. Photo©British Cycling

Remind us of your best times.

“I have a 1:01:1 for the kilometre, it was frustrating to miss a ‘0’ by so little.

“Our fastest team pursuit ride was a 3:58.184.”

You all ride pretty radical positions, do those come from a wind tunnel?

“I’ve never been in a wind tunnel, our positions all down to the aero testing we do on the velodrome in Derby as part of our work at WattShop.

“We do so much work on optimising clients positions and we use that knowledge to our own advantage.

“My own position has changed massively since we started doing this work – and you’ll notice that all four of us have slightly different positions.

“It’s all down to body shape, leg length and being able to hold the power for the duration of the ride.

“We’ve been doing a lot of work in the gym, Laura Wake the Derbyshire Institute of Sport S&C coach has been massively influential in allowing me to hold my form and ride the final laps so strongly.”

The team’s World Cup ride in Poland where you lost a man but Dan and Charlie Tanfield rode to 3:57 must have been a disappointment?

“I did my bit and the guys had nine laps to ride, it was heart-breaking when we lost our third man – I felt I’d executed my ride perfectly and if we’d held it together then we have been onto something so much quicker than 3:57.

“We went into the ride fully committed to riding fast, there’s no point in playing it safe, we came there to get to a final and I’m glad we went fully gas trying to win rather than just cautiously riding around.

“But it was our first time on the world stage with all that pressure and we learned so much – we came away with 53 bullet points for improvement!

“After every ride we sit down and analyse the ride – we’re always looking for ways to improve. So while it was a disappointment, it showed that we can really compete at this level.”

Manchester was much better for you with a fourth place finish.

“On the one hand, if someone had said to us four or five months ago we’d be fourth in a World Cup we’d have snapped their hand off.

“But given how we were going in Poland we know we can go faster.”

Jonny Wale
Jonny and his teammates are in touch with the national selectors. Photo©British Cycling

British Cycling have been in touch, I believe?

“Yes, I piggybacked along to meetings with Dan Bigham and Charlie Tanfield.

“At the moment I’m not at the standard required, but if I can keep improving at the rate I am then I don’t know where my career will take me.

“I see myself as a kilometre rider but there’s potential in the team sprint and the team pursuit is getting faster all the time making it more suited to kilo riders rather than endurance.

“We reckon that it will take a 3:48 to win in Tokyo, that’s 13.8/13.9 laps so my skill set should suit the way the event is going.”

And Scottish Cycling too?

“I’ve had good dialogue with the Scottish coaches too, yes.

“Nations are allowed three riders per discipline do there’s no conflict between Callum Skinner and I; we can both ride and I think it’s a realistic goal to have us both on the podium.”

The $64,000 question, can KGF get to the low 3:50’s?

“We’re really looking forward to Belarus in January; our goal there is a 3:55, we’ve learned so much, but it’s time for us to shine.

“We all know it’s possible, so it’s simply a case of as a team executing a perfect performance on the big stage when it counts.”

Keep your eyes on those results from Belarus in January.

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

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