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Neil Fachie – “When you’re involved in Paralympic Sport, it’s hard not to be inspired”

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No appraisal of Scotland’s cycling medal hopes for the 2018 Commonwealth Games would be complete without speaking to multiple Commonwealth, Worlds and Olympic visually impaired tandem champion, Neil Fachie.

Here’s what the man had to say to VeloVeritas, recently:

Basics first please Neil, how old are you, where are you from and how did you get into the bike?

“I’m 33 years-old, originally from Aberdeen, but now living in the Manchester area.

“I loved riding my mountain bike as a kid, but athletics was my original sport.

“After losing my funding from British Athletics, following the Beijing Paralympics Games in 2008, I made it my mission to make it to London 2012.

“Cycling was the first sport I tried.”

Neil Fachie
Neil (left) with pilot Craig MacLean at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Photo©Martin Williamson

How did you get into the tandem?

“As a visually impaired rider, my only option is to ride on the back of a tandem.

“This is of course ideal, as my eyesight isn’t sufficient to make it safely around the velodrome at speed.”

Can you explain the various categories, the one you are in and how it’s assessed?

“In paracycling there are a number of different categories.

“There are classes who ride hand cycles, trikes, standard bikes, and then tandems for the visually impaired.

“In order to be deemed eligible to compete as a visually impaired rider your sight must be less than 10% of that of a fully-sighted person after correction.”

Tell us about communication with your steersman on the bike

“When racing on the track, the communication between pilot and stoker is minimal.

“The reason for this being, that the last thing we want is for our rivals to hear our tactics.

“Therefore it is up to the stoker (me in the back), to feel what the pilot is doing through the pedals and react.

“This becomes instinctive the more time you spend riding with a pilot.”

Neil Fachie
Neil takes his cue from Craig’s movements on the tandem. Photo©Martin Williamson

Which riders inspire you?

“I was always inspired by Sir Chris Hoy for sure, and I have learned a great deal from seeing him train.

“I also take a lot of inspiration from what my rivals have done.

“In Glasgow 2014 we were able to defeat a bike with Kieran Modra from Australia on it. He is probably the greatest stoker of all time, an absolute legend in the sport. That was really special.

“Truth be told, when you’re involved in Paralympic Sport, it’s pretty hard not to be inspired.”

Neil Fachie
Neil celebrates while Craig recovers. Photo©Martin Williamson

Remind us of your palmares, please.

“2009 – World Champs – 1km TT – Gold; Sprint – Gold
2011 – World Champs – 1km TT – Gold; Sprint – Gold
2012 – World Champs – 1km TT – Silver
2012 – Paralympics – 1km TT – Gold; Sprint – Silver
2014 – World Champs – 1km TT – Gold; Sprint – Gold
2014 – Commonwealth Games – 1km TT – Gold; Sprint – Gold
2015 – World Champs – 1km TT – Gold; Sprint – Gold
2016 – World Champs – 1km TT – Gold; Sprint – Gold
2016 – Paralympics – 1km TT – Silver
2017 – World Champs – 1km TT – Silver; Sprint – Silver

“Also double world record holder.”

Neil Fachie
Proud boys. Photo©Martin Williamson

Your career hi-lite please?

“Two highlights stand out.

“Winning the gold medal at the London Paralympics was incredible.

“That and winning double gold in Glasgow in front of another home crowd.”

Do you remember your first ride on the tandem?

“Yes, I loved it.

“The feeling of speed and swinging up and down the track was incredible.

“Not being in control and flying round a wooden track isn’t for everyone I appreciate, but I was hooked.”

What’s been your hairiest moment on the tandem?

“I’ve had a couple of minor falls, but the most bizarre was during a start.

“There is an incredible amount of force passing through a tandem, especially at the start of the race.

“On a start in training our bike sheared down the middle, it completely split in two. Pretty scary!”

Aren’t 250 metre tracks a tad tight for those big bikes?

“It definitely takes a good pilot to get a bike round the velodrome.

“But it can definitely be done.

“I think there’s no better spectacle than two tandems slugging it out side-by-side in a sprint race.”

Neil Fachie
Craig and Neil throw to victory in the Para Tandem Final. Photo©Martin Williamson

Is training a 365 days commitment?

“Training is a lifestyle.

“We do get a rest day once a week, but even during your rest time, you are thinking about how to prepare best for the next session.

“Every decision you make will affect your performance, so it’s pretty extreme. “

What does a typical week in training look like?

“Currently I am in the gym three times each week, on top of that I have a couple of track sessions and a number of turbo sessions, both interval based and endurance based.

“The weekly focus changes a lot dependant on the time of year.”

What are your personal bests for 200 and 1000 metres?

“Flying 200m – 9.711; flying 1km TT – 59.460.”

Will we see you on the Gold Coast?

“Selection is still to be made, but I’m confident of going.

“I would absolutely love to be able to defend my two titles for Team Scotland.”

Neil Fachie
Craig and Neil face the media after their Gold medal ride in Glasgow. Photo©Martin Williamson

What’s still ‘to do’ for Neil Fachie?

“Well I want to win back my world titles, as well as my Paralympic title.

“So I certainly intend to carry on to Tokyo 2020.

“I have also recently created a business with my wife, aimed at helping people achieve their full potential in life, by maximising their lifestyle, nutrition and belief systems.”

As with all our Scottish Gold Coast hopes, VeloVeritas wishes Neil every success in Australia come the spring.

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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