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Glasgow appeal to train new tandem pilots for the blind

If you can turn a pedal for five to 10 minutes you could be suitable....

A public appeal has begun in Glasgow to find new cyclists willing to train as tandem pilots for blind and visually impaired athletes.

Gordon Watson, who trains as a pilot at the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome, has offered a six week programme to enable more people to take on the role, and give visually impaired cyclists the wind in their hair and a break from stationary cycling.

The new initiative by Glasgow Life with support from Scottish Cycling aims to recruit sighted tandem pilots at both elite and recreational level.

Gordon told the Evening Times: "As long as you can turn a pedal for five or 10 minutes that is a decent starting point.

"At present, we have five or six pilots who regularly come along to sessions. Ideally we would be looking to build that to between 10 and 30.

"There is a number of visually impaired riders who would like to ride the track but can't currently due to a lack of pilots."

A new weekly Wednesday afternoon para-cycling session was added to the velodrome timetable in April, joining the existing fortnightly Thursday evening slot.

Fraser Kane is one of those cyclists, having been inspired byTeam Scotland at Glasgow 2014.

Last autumn, he won a place on Scottish Cycling's performance development programme, and is supported by a pilot, as he is visually impaired.

He said: ”I didn't know much about tandem cycling before then. It made me want to give it a try.

"I started going to drop-in sessions at the velodrome and quickly caught the bug for cycling."

"It happened quite suddenly over a lunchtime at primary school," he says. "That was when I had the first big drop in my sight.

"At the time it was quite comical and I thought: 'Oh, I'll probably need to get glasses'.

"But it turned out to be a bit more sinister than that.

"I have no central vision. I have some peripheral vision but with lots of blind spots.

"It means I can't see detail, only rough shapes and objects.

"My pilot Andy and I have built a great relationship on the tandem, but unfortunately he can't always be at every training session due to work commitments," he says.

"It would be fantastic to get more people trained as pilots and I'd encourage them to get involved.

"There have been occasions when I've had to share the tandem with other riders which means I'm only getting half a session or hardly any time on the track at all."

Dave Daniell, Scottish Cycling's sprint and para coach, said: "Fraser and Andy are on the performance development programme and we are looking to fast-track them to a level where they will be good enough to go to Gold Coast 2018.

"Alongside that we will be working closely with Glasgow Life.

"The aim is to get more people involved at grassroots and then hopefully over time be able to bring more para-athletes into the sport at performance level.

"Jumping on a tandem for the first time can be a daunting prospect, but the six-week programme being run by Glasgow Life will give people confidence to ride on the track and build-up to racing.”

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cocomo | 7 years ago

You realise Neil Fachie has won for a number of years with a variety of pilots? Not only that but while being piloted by Storey has actually beaten another rider piloted by McLean. By your reckoning Storey must have been a much better rider. 

sanderville | 7 years ago

So are they really looking for people to train as tandem pilots, then train up for competition, and then compete?  Not just someone who can cycle for ten minutes to help give the blind cyclists some track time?

Jacobi | 7 years ago

Anyone interested should contact: gordon.watson [at]

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