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Stepping up with Jon Gillies

Jon Gillies has been cycling for over 13 years, and in that time he’s tried his hand at pretty much every discipline going; mountain biking, road races, criteriums, time-trials. You name it, he’s raced it. Like many of us, his love for cycling was interspersed with lengthy gaps where life inevitably got in the way. “2016 was going to be different though,” Jon explains. “I would get an FTP test with a coach and stick to a structured training plan.”

“A friend of mine had recently visited former Scottish Champion and Commonwealth Games silver medallist, Charline Joiner, for some coaching. I booked a session with Charline that would be carried out on a Wattbike. Despite its reputation for dishing out the pain, I looked forward to trying one out.”

After being put through his paces, Jon’s numbers were totted up. “My FTP figure came out as 289 watts. Not too bad at all if I was built like a champion jockey, but my 86kg weight was not going to help the final outcome.”

Charline suggested that while he was there, Jon should test his peak power – a short 6-second test on the Wattbike, designed to identify the world’s most powerful athletes. “This was an all-out effort with a big resistance setting. My first attempt produced 1865 watts.” says Jon. “Charline looked surprised, tapped the monitor to just make sure something wasn’t wrong and then asked me to have another go. This time, thanks to some encouragement, I managed 1935 watts.”

This was the highest figure Charline had ever seen on her Wattbike. “Have you ever considered track sprinting?” she asked. Jon hadn’t before, but during the drive home he began to ponder what the future lay in store. “Luckily, I had an indoor track close by – the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome in Glasgow. I had already completed the four-stage accreditation process a few years earlier, but had not been on the boards that often since. It was time to reacquaint myself with track cycling.”

Before he knew it, Jon was part of a newly formed track team and competing at the Scottish Track Championships. “Stepping up onto the top step on the podium to collect my medal I reflected on my cycling journey. If someone had told me at the start of the previous year that I could be a Scottish champion at the age of 53, I would have laughed. There was nothing to suggest that I would ever reach those heights – well, not until I stepped onto a Wattbike and did that first 6-second test.”

We asked Jon what makes him one of the #Wattbikers.

What drives you to perform?

Coming into track sprinting quite late in life, I feel as though I’m playing catch up on my rivals. I’m focused on getting as fast as physically possible for my age . I am determined to compete at the British and World Masters Track Championships in 2019 and I centre my training around these goals.

What sets you apart from the crowd?

I’m not afraid to set new and consistently tougher challenges. When I set myself a goal I have to commit to it, and I know I have the stamina and mental strength to see it through. 

What is your proudest achievement, in or out of sport?

It has to be winning the team sprint at the Scottish Track Championships last year. Qualifying second fastest to reach the final was a fantastic result, but to go one better in the gold medal ride was amazing. Standing with my teammates on the top step of my first ever podium was an incredible feeling and a great memory to drive me on for the future.

What makes you keep coming back to training?

I enjoy training, which helps! I like having a plan to follow, executing it and seeing the results - however small. Tracking my power numbers on the Wattbike help keep me focused on the end goal and highlights the improvements made. These small increases add up over time and the feedback they provide is invaluable in keeping me motivated.     

What goes through your mind during the toughest sessions?

Having a goal or an upcoming race is perfect encouragement to not give in. I try to keep focused and remember why I am doing them. I use mental time splits to break up longer intervals. I remind myself of successful training sessions in the past. I’ll do deals with my legs if they won’t let me down – anything that will get the effort completed. Today’s pain is tomorrow’s gain and I don’t want to fall behind.

How would you describe the Wattbike to someone with no knowledge of it?

The Wattbike is an effective and efficient use of your training time. It’s a versatile indoor trainer with a road-like feel, but with the benefit of lab feedback and results. Power output, FTP and pedalling efficiency are just a few of the many accurate and repeatable test parameters recorded. It can also connect to popular third party training platforms such as Zwift and TrainerRoad.

Think you’ve got what it takes to be a Wattbiker? Send us your story.