William Bjerg felt is a 40-year-old para-cyclist from Great Britain, who has been competing in the Men’s C5 category since May 2016. In that short time Bjergfelt’s recorded some stellar results, the highlight being his time trial victory at the 2018 Canadian UCI Para-cycling Road World Cup round. He also finished third in the road race. Most recently, Bjergfelt finished fourth and fifth, respectively, in the road race and time trial at the Belgian round of the 2019 UCI World Cup. We caught up with one of C5’s fastest para-cyclists to talk training, mountain biking and overcoming adversity…
What are your reflections on the recent World Cup in Ostend?
The time trial went well but I’d hoped for more than fourth in the road race [won by the Ukraine’s Yehor Dementiev]. I messed up tactically by attacking too early and then not having the legs to go with the counter attack. I was strong, though, and am pleased with my form, especially as I’m not looking to peak until the UCI World Championships in Emmen in September. From there, I’m looking at the next UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships in Canada and, hopefully after, the Tokyo Olympics.
You’ve only raced C5 since 2016. What’s your background?
I’m classified as a C5 due to my lower right leg impairment that happened as the result of a serious road traffic accident in September 2015. I was hit head on by a car while descending a fast hill near my Mendips home [in Somerset, Great Britain]. Surgeons saved my lower right leg, which took a lot of the impact, by reconstruction with titanium as well as relocation of muscle to patch up the hole. I was told I wouldn’t be able to race again at any serious level due to the extent of my injuries. But I love to prove people wrong.
So, you raced before the accident?
Eventually! I was an overweight teenager who did everything I could to avoid exercise, but I always had a soft spot for messing about on my mountain bike (MTB). One day a mate talked me into doing an MTB race and the bug bit. I went from an overweight teen to an Elite mountain biker racing the UCI XCO World Cup series for several years before turning my attention to the road scene. I’d hoped to race the Tour of Britain one day… until the accident.
You’re now working your way up the C5 rankings, though we hear you race semi-professionally for an able-bodied team, too?
Yes, I also compete for SwiftCarbon Pro Cycling [UCI Continental team]. After the accident, one of my goals was to prove that just because you have an impairment doesn’t mean you should give up on your dreams. I’ve quickly learnt that in the C5 category the level is very high; in fact, three other C5 riders compete for UCI Continental Teams. I also have a full-time job with GKN Aerospace in Bristol where I hold a management position.
You’ve a lot going on. How do you balance training and racing with the rest of your life?
My training’s mostly set by my coach at British Cycling, Dan Henchy. He’s managed my work-life balance for a few years and knows me well. I normally train for around 15hrs per week, which rises to around 25hrs-plus at training camp. I love training from home in the Mendips as it’s got everything you could wish for as a cyclist – great views, hills and smooth roads – although I also like to escape the British weather to Majorca in the winter. Mind you, in the winter, with track events in mind, I spend as much as 50% of my training time in the velodrome.
Do you pay special attention to your diet?
I don’t have a specific strategy, but I avoid foods that won’t benefit me as an athlete. As an athlete on the British Cycling Paralympic team, we’re incredibly lucky to be backed by SIS for our training and race nutrition. We’ve also been taught by our nutritionist that being properly hydrated is key to being able to perform, so this is always a big priority.
What gear do you use?
Having joined SwiftCarbon this year, I’m racing the SwiftCarbon Hypervox for road races and Neurogen for TTs. For track events I will still be racing on Cervélo, who are a key partner for British Cycling.
Finally, any advice to offer para-cyclists and cyclists alike?
When you’re racing it doesn’t matter who you are – Geraint Thomas, Peter Sagan, Dame Sarah Storey or a regular cyclist – if you want to win or do well, it’s going to hurt. Always be prepared mentally to get through this, push your body to its limits and you’ll come out stronger the other side.
👉🏻 William Bjergfelt's twitter account : https://twitter.com/wbjergfelt