The prospect of representing Great Britain at cycling or any other sport seems illusory for the vast majority of people, especially once one’s teenage years or early twenties are over.
However, Tina Cockhill has shown that not only is it possible to represent Great Britain in sport as physically demanding, competitive and skillful as cycling but it can be done in an extraordinarily short space of time.
“It all started with a new year’s resolution,” said Tina, who runs her own business as a physiotherapist in Hertfordshire. It was a mere three years ago that Tina started cycling. “I just set a goal. I have a need for speed and you are never too old to do things like this but you do have to realise your limitations.”
It turned out that Tina’s limitations were, for a time, extremely serious and debilitating not only to her ability to cycle but to her life. “Two years ago I had a heart condition so serious that I couldn’t climb a flight of stairs.”
That significant issue passed and she was back on the bike although there was at no point a master plan to represent Britain. “My friends thought I was crazy but life is not a rehearsal. You have to grab it or it will pass you by.
She began to train again. “I was surprised to manage a 60 mile ride then I managed 100.”
Then, last summer she entered into her first ever official race which comprised of 3000 racers in her 45 to 50 age group from all over the world. The race took place in the 38 degree heat of Italy and she barely prepared for the heat or the racing element.
“I was racing alongside a friend so I actually slowed down for a time in the race to ride alongside her,” she said. “But I ended up finishing 55th and that was enough to qualify for Great Britain in my age group.”
Having been one of the oldest competitors in the 45-50 category she now moves up to the 50-55 age group. “My next goal is to finish in the top 30 in the world in my age group.” This summer will give her the chance to do so.
Tina’s rapid rise is inspiring and is a wholly tangible goal for anyone regardless of their age and circumstances. “I started slowly, nothing crazy just once a week fitting it around work. Anybody can train with a bit of dedication. I’m not obsessed.”
“The UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) introduced a category for one man aged over 100,” said Tina. “A man at my club is 83 and he qualified for Britain in his age group.
“More and more women around my age are getting out on their bikes and you can reach a higher level than you could ever imagine. Just set a goal at the beginning of the year and see where you get to.”