Cyclist Carl Donaldson has revealed how the birth of his daughter fuelled his quest for a healthier life.
The 34-year-old, who was recently named the Northumberland and District Cycling Association 2014 Individual Championship Trophy Best All-Rounder, has spoke of how he lost a third of his bodyweight to go from weighing 100kg to around 67kg thanks to cycling.
Donaldson, from Amble in Northumberland, said: “A few years ago, I mainly just rode mountain bikes but decided to get a road bike to help commute to the local train station after my daughter was born.
“After a few weeks of doing short journeys I started pushing it a bit further. At the time I was about 16stone/100kg and my target was to be a healthier father.
“I always thought of myself as fit but obviously wasn’t looking back at pictures of myself. I ended up getting thinner and losing quite a bit of weight relatively quickly.
“I joined a local Cycling Club in Amble and began doing the slow group chain gang and club rides, but I was kicked out of that into the fast group which was daunting but I found I was actually one of the fastest riders in there. So naturally I must have had some ability on a road bike.”
Miraculously, Donaldson only started competing in 2012 – when seeming he was pretty good at it from the start.
“This all started in January 2011, where I just rode casually. In 2012 I did my first road race in the February which I came 2nd in, a real surprise. I started doing a few road races during 2012 and did ok doing 4th cat races. I finished the season a 3rd category rider though, which was my target.
“During 2013, I again had a great start, winning my first road race of the year at Croft circuit in March. I had good form during the early part of the season but crashed and broke my collarbone in a local race at Morpeth area just as I was starting to get into Time Trialling. This finished most of my mid-season unfortunately. However, I came back stronger and leaner though over the summer and started to race Cyclocross in the back end of the year. Securing a few results in top 5.”
He continued: “Over the winter last year, 2013/2014, I pushed my training on lots more. I was using specialist power measuring equipment and training at a local WattBike studio during the dark nights and had some great help advice from my club mate. I also lost a further 5kg, now down to about 67kg – two thirds of my original bodyweight. I won my first race of the year at Belsay and went on from strength to strength through the season.”
“Over 2014 I actually think I won 22 Open races – mostly Time Trials but also a few road races. This moved me up to a 2nd Category rider. I had some disappointment in the national 25M TT due to a puncture when I was in really good form which was my only real disappointment of the year. I learnt a valuable lesson about preparation from this though.”
Donaldson trains about 8-12 hrs a week depending on the time of the season which is tough considering he has two young children and has to fit it in around work and family life.
On plans for 2015, this year’s all-round champion said: “I’m still working on some targets for next season but I’m training hard again now since we have moved into December. I had an easier autumn period to give myself a bit of a rest.
“I’m getting on towards 35 this coming season so my days of road racing at a decent level are dwindling, so I think I’ll try and do a few more bigger races before I have to hang up the RR bike and concentrate purely on Time Trialling.
“The N&DCA is a great competition and the numbers have rocketed in the last few years with lots more competition coming into the league. I hope to still have a go at it again this season but it will be tough as ever.”
So what words of advice does Donaldson have for people thinking of getting into bike racing?
”It’s harder than you think, I know a few guys who come into the sport recently who think it looks easier than running etc, but racing is a different league to social riding or chasing the odd Strava KOM,” he explained.
“You need to be fairly committed to do well, maintaining your diet is important and long hours on the bike when most are wrapped up indoors. That said, there’s still plenty of fun to be had without competing for the overall win. Most Time Trials have category prizes so you can compete against people of your own standard.
He added: “If anyone is interested then being a member of an established club is really helpful. You will get advice on training and equipment, not to mention how to safely ride on the road in a group. Road skills are an important asset to training safely over those winter months.”