Joining CASS & Friends late 2016, possibly the turn in my 'career'.
I had always cycled from a young age, partly down to the influence of my Dad. I remember every Sunday watching him go out with a group of mates, I wouldn't see him until late afternoon, at which point I would often help him clean his bike. I remember going to Mountain Mayhem with Dad, a race at the famous Eastnor Castle, I would help clean the bike through the 24hour race. The atmosphere was amazing, the way all the team worked well together, and of course the expensive bikes, I'd stare at in jealousy. For my 12th birthday after taking Dad's road bike up and down the road I finally got my own. This was the beginning of my cycling passion.
I remember at the age 10 I did a 58mile ride with Dad and some others doing Lands End to Jon O'Groats, the furthest I had ever ridden and the satisfaction was amazing. I followed up by doing the British Heart Foundation Cotswold sportive, raising money for the charity which is close to the heart after my open heart surgery at only 2 weeks old. (TGA - transportation of the great arteries). This ride got me into the paper, Gloucester Echo, I still have that paper. Due to my heart operation I always wanted to prove many people wrong with the fact that I was capable, and due to my huge competitiveness this wasn't hard!
In 2014 Dad and I were in the Brecon Beacons riding mountain bikes, when Dad had a crash breaking his neck and back; Dad in hospital I had no-one to ride with. I don’t think I touched a bike for over two weeks! Then Dad organised me to do a ride with one of his friends, after this I felt relatively good being back on the bike. Dad then organised someone to take me to a local CX (cyclocross) race, this would be the first proper race I had ever done - I came last! I then set about researching how to train for cyclocross and race. I did 2 weeks all HIIT on the turbo, to then go back and to another CX race to place 3rd. I was ecstatic. I did a few more of the winter CX before they finished, by this point Dad was out of hospital. I went back to the old ways of just riding with Dad, but that racing instinct was always there. Smashing myself often going around Bredon Hill a local loop, which is highly competitive on Strava, 18miles of a bit of everything. I managed to do 51 minutes solo.
At this point I started feeling like I could race more, but this time on the road. In early 2016 I headed into Echelon (Pershore) and asked about local events, they said to try Cheltenham CC, they ran Club TT's on Thursdays. 10 miles as fast as possible, sounded easy to me. Well how little did I know! 28 minutes for my first attempt, I was knackered. I would go back most weeks, meeting new people and learning lots. I eventually got down to 25 minutes by the end of the 2016 season.
I then started the 2017 season with lots of focus and high aspirations. Me and Jack going into our first ever full season of racing were motivated to the max, we trained lots together and really had a great 2017 season. I set up a website which has really helped with me getting support from companies. I have my race results on there and many photos, plus a monthly Blog which covers my training and racing. If your interested take a look - www.thomasbarlow233.weebly.com I had a couple of crashes last season one of which was a slight set back but nothing long term other than the scars 😊.
In the 2018 season I'll be racing/training as much as possible around my A-Levels and work. This should equate to 12+ hours per week. I have learnt lots and have been fairly capable with lots of research and people's guidance to make my own training plan which seems to be going well so far. This works for me as I can fit it around school and work. Competitive or not, cycling is a very expensive sport, consumable equipment like chains, cassettes etc are something that needs to be replaced regularly. Lots of money can go quickly on race entries and travel. Thanks to the support from CASS & Friends I have been able to enter more races and afford equipment needed to race and train. If it wasn't for CASS & Friends, I wouldn't quite be in the fortunate position to be noticed by teams that have an interest in me for their team in the future. Racing and cycling is everything to me, so I am very grateful for the support from CASS & Friends.