The Flying Scotsman Heads to Velothon
28 June 2017
Riding in glorious sunshine, around the spectacular Sunshine Coast hinterland on magnificent and equally challenging roads, makes Velothon Sunshine Coast (13-16 July) the ultimate winter cycling escape.
One of many riders who have been lured north to experience Velothon Sunshine Coast is elite rider, administrator and cycling advocate Jon Leighton, the man that former Prime Minister Tony Abbott dubbed the “The Flying Scotsman”.
Jon has raced at the elite level, having qualified for the last five World Amateur Championships and he will be using Velothon as part of his preparation for the world amateur road race and time trial championships in August.
A team owner and cycling coach, riding and racing are Jon’s passions but they are equalled by his work with Bicycle NSW, the UCI and Cycling Australia, advocating for improvements to the environment for riding across Australia and the growth of the sport and participation in cycling across the globe.
As Velothon Sunshine Coast Ambassador, Jon is excited by the opportunity that this mass participation “Gran Fondo” style event brings to cyclists in Australia and the Oceania region.
“Gran Fondo events have been around in Europe and amateurs, semi pros and pros have been mixing together at events for decades. It is the model used in triathlon, the model used in running and the model used in Gran Fondos and Australia is just catching on.”
“The standard in racing events in Australia has actually increased but participation numbers have reduced in an era where cycling has been the biggest growth participation sport of any sport in any country. That tells you that there is a space for events like Velothon Sunshine Coast and people want to do them. Triathlon and IRONMAN and MTB have been combining fun events with a real challenge for years, so to have this format moving into road riding is long overdue.”
“Not only is it enjoyable but it is far more enjoyable than pure racing. Don’t get me wrong there is really tough elite racing, but for the amateur rider who wants to have events where they can compete and have an enjoyable experience, the elite events have completely missed the boat. Gran Fondos like Velothon Sunshine Coast absolutely get it. That is what it is about. It is about a challenge but a challenge with a bit of spice.”
Jon is looking forward to having a genuine crack over three days on the Velothon course but equally he is attracted the social side of the event, meeting and mixing with fellow riders who share his passion for riding.
“I have had a look at the course profile and it looks tough, some of the climbs are really tough, so it should be good preparation for me for the World Championship. But for the participants who are coming to do it, to have a timed event in Australia over multiple days is really exciting. And having it in warm weather in winter is even more exciting. I have ridden a bit in the Sunshine Coast hinterland but I don’t know the routes so that will be new for me and that hill on day three will be brand new. I am not sure if I have the gearing for that but we will see. You might find me walking.”
Jon said the attraction of Velothon Sunshine Coast is that it gives riders the opportunity to experience the highs, lows and the exhilaration of a genuine tour.
“Velothon is a scaled down version of life on the tour. You have the high energy at the start and you really feel good at the end but you also have that hump in the middle where you are tired and thinking too far ahead and how hard it is. It is a real time taste of what the tour riders will be going through at the Tour de France.”
“The way the ride is that there are timed sections and the riding in between. In those in between stages I will be at the back end of the peloton helping people getting through, helping them recover and maybe even sneaking a hand on someone back to help them over a hill. But in the race stages – the sprints and hill climbs I will have a crack, get myself in the right group and follow the right wheels and hopefully have the strength to come over the top or get the best times.”
“I will look at each day beforehand and work out mentally where the sprints are or the hill climbs and prepare for it just like a race. They are the times I will need to be in the right position, have a drink and a gel and get my head on for that part of the event. Then look for the people you want to ride with and chat to. In a stage race you need to make friends and even fierce rivals will team up around a common goal and be quite collegiate.”
“The great thing about Velothon is that is not just riding from A-B with no-one really caring. You are going to come across the line having ridden for five hours, you are not first, you are not last, there is going to be atmosphere, there is going to be cheering. There will acknowledgement of the riders who have trained up for the event and might win an age prize or whatever but there is also a celebration of participation and to me that is a really important element,” Leighton said.