Today is our privilege to bring you an interview with Double Paralympic Gold Medallist, Adventurer and Para-Cyclist, Steve Bate. We discuss Steve’s personal standout moments from his career so far, his advice for anyone trying to transform a passion into a business/career, his goals for the future plus much more…
Can you tell us about your journey from starting at Para-cycling as a beginner to competing at the highest level of the sport?
I think it’s fair to say it happened quicker than anyone, including me, could have predicted. In July 2013 I attended a talent ID day run by British Cycling. A couple of months later I joined them for a week as a guest on a training camp, which was the first time I’d ridden a tandem. That went pretty well, and the following the January I joined the British Cycling Development Program full time. My wife Caroline and I moved from the North of Scotland, to live just outside Manchester to give me the best chance of success with the full support of British Cycling.
It was in the January I was paired with Adam Duggleby my sight pilot, who I still ride with today. Over the next two years our partnership on the tandem grew stronger. Looking back, it was an incredible two and a half years trying to get to the Rio Games. We worked incredibly hard on and off the bike to be the very best we could, and I guess as you know, hard work always pays off at some point, and that was no different for us. It was an amazing period of learning and growing for me as a person and an athlete. Without the people around me at the time I couldn’t have achieved it, for which I’m very grateful.
What are your personal stand-out moments from your career as an athlete so far?
One of the biggest moments was early on which came out of the blue on a training ride with Jason Queally. Jas was my sight pilot early on, and to ride with an Olympic Champion when you are brand new to a sport is pretty inspiring, as you can imagine. I was staying with Jason and we had been out in horrid weather riding in the Trough of Bowland. I was absolutely goosed after chasing Jas around the hills for 3 hours when he stopped to ask me what I fancied next. Head back to the car or do another climb that extended the ride for another hour or so. I wanted to carry on so bad to prove to Jason I was strong, but it was the first day of a long week of riding, so wisely I chose to head back to the car, in an attempt to save my legs for the following day. Before we left the junction, Jason turned to me and said, “no matter what BC tell you, you’re good enough to be a champion!” He then turned and rode off into the driving rain. That moment really made me believe, even though I was useless at that point, if I worked as hard as I could, I could be the best one day. I still got dropped every climb that week, but it wasn’t for the lack of trying. When someone like Jason says something like that to you, you certainly don’t want to let them down. We are still friends now and still manage to ride together from time to time, and at least these days I can keep up.
I also think being paired with Adam was a key moment as like Jas, he was a class bike rider and set the standard extremely high for me, but also supported me really well. I think when we won our first World Cup race in South Africa, we knew we could compete and win at that level. It’s interesting how people can tell you can win this race, but for me it took winning to believe it. That race in South Africa was the first time in those two years people started to take us seriously and was probably the first time our names were considered as Rio 2016 possibilities.
What does your training schedule typically look like when preparing for a competition?
Things are normally getting easier training wise the closer you get to competition. All the hard work is done at that point and we are looking at the details, like executing the race plan and sharping up the top end fitness. So basically we spend a long time building fitness, and as we get closer to the race the big hours of training drop, the gym is stripped out, but the hard work is still in there in terms of the intensity of the training i.e. the efforts are shorter but harder, with much more recovery. This allows your body to freshen up but still keep the sharpness for racing in.
What advice would you give to someone who is demotivated or doesn’t know where to start with getting into sport and fitness?
Get your friends involved or get a coach. If someone is holding you accountable, you are more likely to do the training. If you’re having a bad day, you have someone to help get you through. It’s always more motivating when you have friend involved, and if they start to get flaky, find people who aren’t.
Training with people who are more experienced is always a great move, as most people are happy to share their knowledge, and if you can find a mentor, like Jason was for me, that will keep you inspired to carry on through the tougher days. (They don’t have to be an Olympian, just someone you respect who has knowledge in what it is you’re trying to achieve.)
Remember everyone is human, I have good days and bad days just like the next person. I guess the most important thing is give yourself time to achieve your goal. It’s never a straight line going from where you are, to what you want to achieve. Adam and I have lost far more races than we have won, and unfortunately, that’s not going to change, it’s just the nature of our sport. So, go easy on yourself, make it fun, make it social and don’t think it’s all a waste of time after a one bad day. Hard work always pays off. Maybe not when you want it too, but if you keep working, it will deliver!
Can you tell us about your climb of El Capitan in California?
I was a climber before I became a cyclist. However, the skillset I had for climbing in the UK is a bit different to climbing El Cap solo, for starters there aren’t thousand metre vertical walls in the UK. It took me a year to prepare, and I still found it extremely challenging. In saying that it’s still probably my greatest personal achievement. I spent 6 days alone climbing that vertical rock face, navigation my way up crack lines and features on the wall. After 6 days alone, I climbed over the top a different person. I’d gone far beyond what I thought I was ever capable of as a human being. At the start looking up it was so overwhelming, but by going slowly, taking my time and being 100% present in the climb it went really well. I don’t think it would have been possible to become a Paralympic Champion without having gone through this experience first.
What advice would you give to someone who is trying to take their passion and turn it into a successful business/ career?
Be fully prepared for setbacks and have a mindset that this is how business/careers work, because it is. It’s never as easy as you think to go from now to success. It’ll likely to take you longer than you think and present more challenges. You’ll likely to be told by most people you know at some point it’s a crazy idea and probably not worth it…… At some point you will question if it is all worth it!
But the main thing through all of this is, if you are passionate and want to make it work, you will find a way. It may not be the way you think or in the time you planned, but passionate people find a way to achieve their dreams. They simply never give up on their dream.
What are your goals and plans for the future?
Hopefully we’ll get a chance to race in Tokyo this year after the set back of last year. So that is my full focus at the moment. I have a plan for after the Games which is a world record project, however that is yet to be announced, so you’ll have to wait a bit longer to see what that is. I’m not sure where I am with racing after the Games, I’m just waiting to see how I feel and if I’ve had enough at elite level. But I’m not putting any pressure on myself either way. I’d like to start working with people in a coaching role, helping others achieve their el Cap’s or gold medals, as I’m really interested in the mental side of performance. So that’s the direction I’ll probably go once turning the pedals for a living becomes too much. I feel incredibly fortunate for the experiences I’ve had in sport and the people I’ve met, which makes it hard to leave behind. Time will tell, I guess.
Interviewer: @tudge_ (Instagram)