Glasgow 2014: ‘Tandemness’ key to Velodrome gold

TANDEMNESS. You won’t find the word in any dictionary, but it does exist. And it has a precise definition too: the quality that will propel Laura Cluxton and Fiona Duncan to gold in the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome.

Fiona Duncan, left and Laura Cluxton are a strong pairing. Picture: SNS

Cluxton, who is visually impaired and has been cycling at a serious competitive level for under a year, has gone from strength to strength since being paired with pilot Duncan. 
Together they will compete in the B Tandem 1,000-metre time trial and the sprint, and togetherness – or tandemness – will be the key to their success.

“For me, the tandem is all about the relationship that we have together on the tandem as a pair,” Duncan said after one of the team’s last training sessions in the Commonwealth Games venue. “I call it tandemness: probably the only way for me to describe it.

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“It’s about just getting in tandem, getting to know one another. Laura has to learn to trust me but I also have to learn to trust her, just to synch in together.

“The tandem is complicated: it’s not the case of one plus one equals two. There’s a little bit more to it than that. You can put two really strong athletes together on a tandem and it wouldn’t necessarily be a good combination. It’s just working together, figuring out what works best for us, and I think we’ve achieved that. For me, my tandem relationship with Laura is that if we get to the point if we spend lots of time together we almost get to the point where we are finishing one another’s sentences.

“We know that we are ready and have brought it together and that’s how the tandem works for us as a pair. It’s not necessarily the same for everyone else, but that seems to work for us.”

Cluxton, who like Duncan lives in Aberdeen, was advised a few years ago to go into athletics. But she had always preferred cycling, and while her refusal to enter track and field may have delayed the start of her serious sporting career, she is now more than making up for lost time.

“It was a talent ID programme, back in 2009, for London 2012,” she explained. “They matched me up with athletics, but I didn’t go because I wasn’t interested. I left it for a few years and then when this place was built I thought I would have a go at it again.

“It has just been a pure whirlwind. I only started with the team in November, and qualified in March, and now I’m here, it’s just went flying by. Qualification was a pipe dream, because the standards were so high. I wasn’t really sure what I was capable of at that point because I was so new to it all.

“I can’t believe it. I’m just absolutely overwhelmed. Fiona has taught me loads – she’s got loads of experience it has been great to work with her.”

At 37, Duncan is the elder of the two by four years, and has considerably more experience in competitive cycling. But it would be wrong to regard the partnership as basically an old hand helping a rookie, because the speed with which Cluxton has graduated to elite level has shown she is richly talented in her own right.

And, as Duncan said, the partnership is in any case much more than the sum of its parts. It’s about . . . . well, tandemness, of course.

Watch them in action and see if you can think of a better word to describe it.