PEDAL POWER: National track champion from down the road

Lee Suthard in action wearing his national champions' jersey.

Lee Suthard shows off his medal.

First published in News Northwich Guardian: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Reporter

THE Pedal Power campaign is about promoting cycling in all its forms.

Since it was launched in November 2012 it has regularly featured articles about mid Cheshire’s own inspiring cyclists, of which there are many.

The story of a national champion would surely prove a great inspiration, especially if they were from down the road.

Well look no further and let us introduce Lee Suthard, from Davenham.

WHEN you drag your bike out of the shed for a journey around the country lanes of mid Cheshire, or perhaps venture out on your first club run, you just never know who you could be riding the roads with.

Chances are that you encounter Davenham man Lee Suthard, a member of Weaver Valley Cycling Club and newly minted National 3km Master Pursuit champion in his age group.

But you will need to be quick to spot the 40-year-old as, after winning the national title, he is now in training for the World Masters Track Championships in October.

“This year I had two main goals,” said the dad-of-three.

“One was the British National Championships and the other is the World Masters Championships in October, which luckily is in Manchester so it means my family and friends don’t have to travel the world.”

Despite his focus on the national title this summer, achieving the goal was something of a surprise for Lee, who had been fighting a bad chest infection to the run up to the event, which was held in Newport.

“The day before I thought ‘I’m not well enough to race here’, I couldn’t breathe, my throat was closing up and I was coughing,” he said.

“But by the evening my throat was a little bit easier so I thought right, you pay a lot of money for your entry and this is going to be before the World Championships.

“It’s an opportunity to ride against a really good field of riders.

“I thought I’d give it my best shot and that it would be good for experience – if I got a top 10 placing that would be fantastic.”

He decided to forego his usual warm up on the track to save himself for the 3km race, but knew he did not start off as fast as he would have liked, and also started coughing and struggling with his breathing on the last two laps.

“I was just in complete shock to have won it,” he said.

“I was completely over the moon.

“For someone who doesn’t ride they probably think that it’s only a for three minutes, but try sprinting flat out and you’d stop after 30 seconds if you’re not feeling well.”

Lee’s achievement is even more remarkable as he only returned to track racing in January after a 14-year gap.

Although it should be added that14 years ago, in the run-up to the millennium, Lee had been in training with the likes of Chris Hoy and Bradley Wiggins.

“In 1996 I tried to get to the Sydney Olympics,” he said.

“I used to work at ICI and they gave me a secondment to train semi-professionally.

“I would go off in the day and train with Chris Hoy and Bradley Wiggins and I was really really close to getting to Sydney.

“I was just unfortunate not to be selected.

“I always got in the top 10 or top five but fourth or fifth, it has been really frustrating as you put your life into it.

“But you’re up against riders who are completely professional, whereas I’ve always held down a job and other commitments too, so now to win the national championship is fantastic.”

He praised his wife Beata and their family, including a 10-year-old son and daughters aged four and 20 months.

“The support I’ve had from my family, my wife and my parents has been incredible, in terms of motivation and their sacrifice as well,” he said.

The World Masters Track Championships celebrate their 20th anniversary this year.

They will be held at Manchester from October 4 to 11 and Lee rides on October 5.

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