Bolton cyclist Chris Latham is preparing to compete in his second Commonwealth Games, just in a very different capacity from when he last represented Team England.
Four years ago, the 28-year-old won a bronze medal in the men’s scratch race at Gold Coast 2018, his biggest achievement on the track as an individual rider.
This time, however, Latham will be the pilot for two-time Paralympic champion Steve Bate when the duo ride together at London’s Lee Valley VeloPark for what will be their first championship in tandem.
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Latham only took up piloting duties last year after nearly quitting the sport following a period of disillusionment and his new role has given him a new lease of life.
“When you don’t enjoy it, you don’t perform well, so I was semi-thinking about packing it in and Jon [Gildea] told to me they were after a new pilot.” said Latham, who is one of more than 1,100 elite athletes on UK Sport’s National Lottery-funded World Class Programme, allowing them to train full time, have access to the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering technology, science and medical support.
“I thought about it and then thought that sounded quite good, so I went to a couple of trials and enjoyed the environment as well as enjoying doing it.
“I decided to give it a go and then Steve was keen to have me on the front, so I was like ‘yeah, let’s do it.’”
This summer, Team England, supported by funding raised by National Lottery players, will comprise of over 400 athletes, and having secured his place on the squad, Latham is looking for medal success.
Having quickly got to grips with the skills involved in riding a tandem, Latham is now preparing to compete in sprint events for the first time at the Commonwealth Games, having previously been an endurance specialist.
As the duo are so inexperienced in shorter races, they head to London with the pressure off them, but the pair still believe they can be competitive.
It’s still a very different skill set Latham that, who has competed in the Tour of Britain and Volta a Portugal during his career, is having to put into practice.
He said: “The handling is so much different – you’re getting on with a guy on the saddle at the back as well and you’ve got to be, to the millisecond, in time.
“If there’s that slight difference in sway, there’s a bit of resistance and you feel like you’re going to fall off, and you try and compensate, so it is different.
“It’s just getting used to it, doing it more and learning how to handle it.”
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