From Mark Palliser...
I was sat at home one Sunday evening watching Country file, it was toward the end of 2016 and a story popped up that struck a chord with me. It was a sponsored cycle ride called Ride to the Somme that was due to take place the following September. I was desperately ill at the time, still undergoing some nasty treatment, I was very overweight and didn’t own a bike but decided there and then to book up to go.
Some month’s later treatment was finished and a mountain bike purchased, I hated every minute of riding it, I couldn’t imagine how people could do this for fun. The family went on holiday to Centre Parcs where we hired bikes and I tried out the gym, this felt like the start May14th 2017, I started living a healthy lifestyle and began losing weight when I heard a local club did time trials just a few miles from where I lived so I popped along one Thursday evening and got chatting, the outcome of this was the race organiser offered to lend me a bike to have a go the following week, it nearly killed me riding as fast as I could for 10 miles but I absolutely loved it, I was hooked. I bought the bike I had been loaned and raced the remaining of the 2017 season so when I got to France riding 70 miles a day was quite normal.
Over the winter before the 2018 season I trained hard with the goal of riding a 10 in under 30 minutes, I lost a total of five stone in weight by the beginning of that season and down a time of 27.30 first time out, I still remember the feelings I had that day, nothing else in life had come close, I PBd every meeting that season until a crash and a broken wrist finished the season early.
More training and big plans for 2019 were made and a big investment in a new bike, no idea why but not a good season, none of the success of the previous. A holiday to Majorca at the end of season was time to rethink, one of the group told me the local blind college were starting a tandem club, they put a story out in the local papers asking for volunteers to pilot the tandems. This sounded like great fun to me so as soon as we returned home I made enquires, I ended up going along and riding with a lad who had never been on a bike in his life before, it was a very humbling experience for me.
After a while I was introduced to Chris Wilkins who had been a keen cyclist before losing his sight, we instantly bonded and have been great mates since. We made plans to race his tandem for 2020 and trained together with that in mind, unfortunately the world had other ideas for the year so we only had one outing. We were the fastest tandem on the day, we try not to mention we were the only tandem entered lol but that was to be our only race for the year, we continued to train remotely as the college closed and Chris went home to Milton Keynes.
Developments have been made, a new race bike ordered and some very promising conversations with British cycling, I’ll leave Chris to tell that part of the story. We will be competing in the Para cycling national series this year and as many open TTS as we can fit in with our new team of FTP. I have scaled my plans down to trying to beat some of my 10 and 25 mile tt records that were all set in 2018, I’m three years older but I have a back wheel that cost more than the bike I set all of those PBS on, skin suit and every other speed aid none to mankind so let’s see if I can beat at least some of them.
So the goals for this year, a 22 minute 10 and trying to get closer to that sub 50 minute 25. I hope I haven’t rambled on for too long, that is pretty much my entire cycling history from start to finish.
I raced from the age of 11 up until the age of 18 when I lost my eyesight. From there I went to a couple of events run by British cycling, where I showed a bit of talent, so the GB team tested me. Up until now I’ve continued to work hard on the training and I am with the squad for a weekend next month. The main aims for me this season are to get onto the world-class program hopefully in time for January 2022.
We are super proud to have both Mark and Chris riding with FTP racing and supporting them going forward and seeing how far both can take their cycling journey.