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Athlete Profile: Shifting Gears with Gordon Singleton
I first met Gordon back in 1978 after becoming a new member of the St. Catharines Cycling Club in Ontario, Canada. Out of this club came World Champions, National Champions and wearers of the yellow jersey at the Tour deFrance, riders such as Steve Bauer, Karen Strong and Gordon Singleton. The Saturday morning rides from the fish and chip store were some of the best training sessions a rider could ask for.
Gord began his amateur cycling career in 1975. In 1978 he participated in the Commonwealth games in Edmonton, Alberta and returned home with a gold and bronze medal. In the years to come, Gord rose to international stardom, becoming the first cyclist ever to break and hold simultaneously world records in the 200 metres, 500 metres and 1000 metres. He also became the first Canadian cyclist to win a world championship .
Although Gord has ridden fixed gears for decades, he has shifted gears with a healthy perspective and remained a champion when dealing with these changes over the years. Enjoy your time with Gord in the following interview and on his website, www.gordonsingleton.com.
Retiring from Elite Racing
What made you decide to retire?
Felt that it was time to establish something in "real life", to begin a lifelong career.
What was good about retiring, what was hard about it?
Positive side of retirement was beginning a business career and family, happy now that I did. Negative side: I found it extremely difficult to deal with "regular " people in a retail environment as I had become quite accustomed to travel and life first class. It was also very difficult to give up the "superhuman" feeling of being ultra fit and strong. It took approx 7 years to make the transition.
Do you compete now and how does that compare to your elite racing?
Competition is the same and most competitors thrive on it. Elite racing is life or death though. Masters racing is on a level playing field i.e. we all have mortgages, kids, age restrictions.
What wisdom would you like to share with Masters racers that are newer to cycling?
Focus on the enjoyment and camaraderie. You will meet some amazing people. Going after and winning a Masters World Title can be fulfilling but it will not make up for something you might have missed in your youth.
Aging and Cycling
What changes have you noticed in your ability to train and/or race over the years?
I can still do almost everything , but it's all a little slower. I'm good with that - recovery is slower, and my reaction time is definitely slower. Interestingly, my mind continues to think at high speed. I'm just unable to make my body react that quick.
Are there any particular ages you noticed significant changes?
I noticed some changes at 30, probably because we had our first son and I was working 50 hours week. Today at 55, I'm healthy, fit, not over weight, but when I watch the big boys I wonder how I ever did that. I have also lost some nerve racing in packs on the track particularly if the field has inexperienced racers. Worried about crashing and getting hurt.
How have you adapted your training and your equipment?
I have the best equipment. I don't think that I can make it do what it's supposed to do though. As far as training, I take the good with the bad and don't try to stay on a schedule or cycle. If I'm having a good day I push and if it's a so-so day I just ride. It doesn't eat me up like it used to do.
What wisdom would you like to share with others Masters racers about aging and continuing cycling?
Cycling and life are one in the same. When it's all over all you have left are your memories, make them good ones.
Coping with Health Problems
What illnesses, diseases, or injuries have you encountered?
In 2002 I got a nerve virus that killed some nerves in the brachial plexus area. It also partially affects the lung capacity on my left side at times. I've learned to cope with it. In the end I can still do everything that I want. I have really worked at overcoming the problem; it will never be what it was.
How does your cycling background help you to cope with the problem?
Somewhere back in the day, you teach yourself mental toughness and though elite competition stops, it continues to move forward with you throughout your life. When I see people worse off than me, I feel blessed, it can always be worse.
How have you adapted your cycling to accommodate changes?
Ride and train when I can without sacrificing family and responsibilities.
What wisdom would you like to share with fellow cyclists who may face similar challenges?
Never give up hope, your body can heal itself from many things,