Talkingshop: Gary Dighton, Time Trialist, Olympian

Eamonn Deane talks to Gary Dighton about Winter Training, the Olympics & setting a competition record…

As the new season begins to pick up pace, I spoke to time trialling legend, Gary Dighton.

Dighton was a prolific winner over all distances back in the nineties, winning the BBAR in 1990 and the National 100 title in 1991. That same year, he broke competition record for 25 miles with 48.07 while riding for Manchester Wheelers.

In 1992 Dighton, along with Matt Illingworth, Stephen Farrell and the late Pete Longbottom, rode the Team Time Trial for Great Britain at the Barcelona Olympics. The quartet finished in 14th place with a time of 2:12:14 for the 63.9 mile course.

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Gary Dighton leads Terry Icke in a ‘two up’.

The former Olympian now rides for Poole Wheelers and had just won a local club event looking lean & fit. I asked him how his winter training had gone?

“The Winter training has gone well. I had a few weeks off in October and got back on the bike mid- November. Normally I would have had a longer rest, however considering I have only recently returned to the sport, I wanted to build on my fitness. From December through January I averaged 306 miles a week including a few miles on the turbo though not many!”

“That reduced considerably in February when the cold weather arrived. During this time I trained on the turbo more and did shorter higher intensity rides on the road. I then had a week off with a cold in mid- February which has taken a while to recover from. Now I am doing less mileage as the intensity of the rides I am doing is higher.”

“I mainly train on my own during the week, as I do this to and from work. I live near Wareham and travel to and from Poole. It’s half an hour each way direct, although I do more – up to 2 hour rides. Mostly averaging about 21 to 22 mph on rides to and from work. On Sundays, when we do our longer rides, I train with a good group of lads. We covered the same route every Sunday throughout the winter, which gave all of us about 80ish miles. The route we did also meant that none of us did not have to retrace over roads we had come along”.

“It was mostly flat along the Piddle Valley to Sherborne and then back to Dorchester with just one climb over Lyons Gate. The roads over there were quiet too without being too narrow, icy or muddy. We were fortunate in that we never missed any Sunday rides due to the weather. We averaged from between 18.5 to 20.5 on these rides.”

ED: Do you use a heart rate monitor or power meter or do you just go on feel?
GD: I have just got a power metre which I need to get fixed up. It will be interesting to use. I do use a heart rate monitor though. My maximum heart rate is 167 which is quite low. I race a 25 at about 156 beats. On a 2 hour ride, I would average about 140 – 145 beats and on a 4 hour ride at the weekend approximately 130. Average about 20 mph on the 4 hour rides and 22 mph on the 2 hour rides.

ED: What are your race plans for this season, target races, ambitions?
GD: I would like to improve on my results from last year. No idea how I will go though! I think I am making steady progress and my fitness is improving year on year. We’ll see. With a young family, the weekends are precious so I don’t tend to travel far. No particular target races at the moment. It’s great being in Poole Wheelers, everyone is very friendly and supportive, and there are some excellent youngsters in the club who have great potential.

The Shorter frame, how much more hardcore TT can you get! Classic name for Gary’s bike.

ED: Tell me about your 25 comp record ride in 1991.
GD: The 25 mile record I got was a surprise. I had good form up to that 25 (The Polytechnic CC 25 on the H25/13B) as I had finished 2nd in the National 50 a few days before just behind Chris Boardman. I was not off until 8.15 in the evening so there was not much traffic about. I did not have any thoughts about that record before the race.

I thought it was a good evening and just rode it like any other event. I only thought ‘it was on’ when I looked down at my computer and it had an average speed of 31 mph in the final quarter of the race. I did not know until the finish that John Pritchard had broken the record earlier. Martin Pyne had entered the race but had a road traffic accident on the way. Ian Cammish I think also wanted to ride it but as he was a professional, was not able to enter. Things might have been different if either of them had ridden. I had a good year that year as I won the National 100 and the team time trial with Manchester Wheelers.”

ED: And what about the Olympics?
GD: In 1991 I rode the World Championship Team Time Trial in Stuttgart. We finished 11th and that placing qualified us for the Olympic Games. In 1992 we rode lots of Team Time Trial’s domestically, and had several weekends where we were training together, prior to these events. We all had full time jobs and the Olympics were at that time only open to amateurs.

In preparation for the Olympics, we did a three week training camp. The first week was up in Yorkshire and then we had two weeks warm weather training in Majorca prior to the Games. We arrived in Barcelona on the Tuesday before our event on the Sunday. We finished 14th. It is great to now see cycling receive so much more coverage in the media and more avenues into the sport for youngsters.”

ED: What’s the biggest difference in “testing” now to when you won the BBAR in 1990?
GD: There are some big mileages being done in the 12’s! When I won the BBAR, I only did 264 miles for the 12. I think there were very few 12’s above 270 miles that year from what I remember. As well as doing super rides over 12 hours, they still have the speed to knock out 100’s at or under 3.30 and 50’s at or under 1.40.Time Trialling is a lot more expensive than what I remember it. The aero handlebars cost two hundred pounds or more, the frames and wheels are expensive. Technology has brought a lot of science into the sport.

ED: What are your favourite distances and your least favourite?
GD: Years ago I used to enjoy 25’s 50’s and 100’s. Now my favourite distance is 25 miles – you have to travel quite a bit from Dorset to do 50’s regularly or a 100. 10’s are a bit too short for me, though it’s the distance I do most often over the year.

We are lucky in that there are lots of club events in the area, and as well as riding all the local open events I ride those too. Least favourite event was the 12. I used to be ill after about 4 or 5 hours and never got my nutritional strategy right. I never had the same difficulty in a 100 though.”

ED: Will you ride 100s or 12 hours again?
GD: I‘m not planning to at the moment. I suppose you can never say never though. I made that mistake before and said I would never return to racing after having a break and now I am riding again I am really enjoying it.

ED: Have you got any other interests
GD: We have two children – Luke aged 10 who is into cycling and Emily who is 8 and loves gymnastics. Believe me; I have no time for any other interests

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