NJINGA

Tony Sherwood

From an overweight ex-rugby player to a cycling hero - Tony’s story is an inspiration to all.

NOTABLE PERFORMANCES WITH NJINGA

Mallorca 312: 232km in 9 hours 17 minutes

Cape Rouleur (four day stage race): Qualified for Group 1 in the Rouleur

Qualified for the 2018 UCI Gran Fondo World Championships 3 times

Weight: Started his journey at Njinga at 108kg and has now lost over 31kg

WHERE MY JOURNEY BEGAN:

At some point towards the end of 2013 I realised I weighed 108 kilos (approx. 17+ stone). Having been a regular rugby player for years I’d kept the rugby lifestyle of drinking but without the exercise to counter it. I realised for health reasons I needed to start exercising again.

In 2014 I decided to buy myself a road bike and a turbo trainer. I started off doing gentle exercise indoors on my bike on the turbo booster. I soon began cycling with friends and I took on my first ever sportive in 2014, The 16 Bridges. It took me approx. 4hrs to complete 35 miles.

Following several other local Sportives. Louise suggested I join her and a group in Mallorca for the 312. Discovering Mallorca is a hilly place it was going to be a big challenge for me, weighing at the time approx. 95 kilos (15 stone). This really kickstarted my training so I’d be ready for this event. I joined David Lloyd club and started to exercise much more regularly - 3 times a week.

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I WAS THEN INTRODUCED TO NJINGA

I signed up as they were specifically focused on cycling development, training and performance. I also joined the Njinga Collective, their outdoor cycling club, where I gained a lot of early inspiration, riding with fantastic riders who were much quicker than me but wanting to catch them and be as strong as them.

In April 2016 I took on the Mallorca 312 and completed the 232km route in 9 hours 17 mins a major turnaround from first sportive 2 years ago.

I rode regularly through summer 2016 doing 2 classes a week and riding in the Njinga collective each weekend. I took on 10 other major Sportives in that year including Ride London, Tour of Cambridge, Wales Velo and Rise Above sportive to name a few. By the end of 2016, my weight had dropped to approx. 89 kilos (14 stone) and I was feeling much fitter and healthier and in turn more comfortable on the bike. Even though I always found myself at the back of the peloton on the climbs, I pushed hard and kept going and never gave up.

CAPE ROULEUR

I suffered a bad knee injury in October 2016 but was determined this wasn’t going to stop my cycling. I rested it for 3 months on advice from the physio which was hard to do but I kept my head down as I was due to take part in the Cape Rouleur in March 2017 in South Africa and more than anything I wanted to achieve that goal.

I was back on the bike starting my training at the start of 2017 - even though some fellow cyclists doubted I would be fit enough. However, with the help of Togo, Josh and Njinga I worked hard at my Pedal Technique, focused on the mountain goat classes and in March flew to South Africa to participate in the Cape Rouleur with high hopes of being able to get seeded into group 2. With grit and determination and riding the wheels off my bike, I achieved a seeding into group 1 which was above and beyond my expectations. This allowed me to compete alongside one of my fellow Njinga riders, a good friend and someone I aspired to - Tim Richards. By this time my weight had dropped to 86 kilos.

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Conclusion of 2017

I was delighted to be asked to be a Njinga Ride Captain in the summer 2017; it was a great way to give back to Njinga and help other cyclists in the same way others had helped, supported and encouraged me.

I ramped up my goals that same year by entering the UCI Gran Fondo World Championship qualifier at the Tour of Cambridge. This was a huge learning curve for me personally as I underestimated the pace and power of the riders and I narrowly missed qualifying by 50 seconds. I was utterly disappointed and it really shook my confidence and belief as I tried to analyse where I’d gone wrong. Togo provided great support at this time, chatting through what had happened and where I could improve. He helped me put a plan together that enabled me to TrainSmart, focusing on the quality of my training as opposed to the quantity of training. My weight was approx. 82 kilos.

Then began my dedication to the Njinga Philosophy of TrainSmart, FuelSmart, ThinkSmart and RideSmart. Watching my diet, ensuring I did strength and conditioning classes as well as a variety of Njinga Lab classes, supplemented of course with the longer Collective rides on weekends. My weight has continued to drop and is now 77 kilos.

The close of 2017 brought with it the Njinga Rider of the Year award a rewarding finish to a year that had really driven my hunger to compete.

UCI WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

My 2018 goal, no surprise here, was qualifying for the UCI Gran Fondo World Series in Italy in September. I mapped out my cycling plan for 2018 which included several overseas training trips including Tenerife, Portugal, and an Njinga training camp in Mallorca to ensure I could be ready...

A last-minute decision to go to Dubai in December 2017 for a UCI qualifying event, where the racing was quick, flat and hot, I clocked up an impressive 27.24 mph average over 100km that led to an early qualification. However, all the announcements were delayed until March 2018.

Not knowing the results, I therefore focused on UCI qualification in Cyprus. Regardless of the results in Dubai I wanted to know I could achieve qualification on a hilly course and demonstrate my all-round ability as a rider to myself.

On March 24th 2018 I did just that, finishing 12th in my age category for that day and 11th overall in age category over 3 days which has given me the qualification I’ve been striving for. This September I headed to Varese for the UCI World Series final.

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Why do I keep going to Njinga?

Their philosophy of TrainSmart, FuelSmart and ThinkSmart to RideSmart is spot on - you get out what you put in and the Njinga crew are always there to help push you. Not forgetting the great crowd who encourage each rider no matter what level or ability of cyclist they are.

I’d recommend Njinga to any rider - for general training to improve fitness, as a cyclist of any ability they can improve your cycling and pedal techniques or if you’re specifically wanting to train for an event they have dedicated training programmes. Plus, it’s a great way to meet like-minded people, have fun and socialise.

It’s really important for me to put back into Njinga after all they’ve given me over the last few years and I’m incredibly proud to have been asked to be a Njinga Ambassador this year.

START YOUR OWN JOURNEY

Tony's journey with Njinga has included:

  • Regular wattbike classes
  • FTP Testing to TrainSmart
  • Ride Captaining for the Njinga Collective
  • Attending Njinga Training Camps and Njinga Trips

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