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Commons to Commonwealth: Ghanaian cyclist Symonds builds his own legacy | Commonwealth Games 2022 | Pro Club Bd

Ahen the greatest cyclists of the Commonwealth Games flew through Wolverhampton on their £10,000 superbikes, the scent of glory in their nostrils, a 48-year-old doorkeeper at the Houses of Parliament did his best to keep up – in his own little way to create your own legacy.

While Australia’s Rohan Dennis won gold in the men’s time trial in 46 minutes, 21.24 seconds – while England’s Fred Wright and Wales’ Geraint Thomas took silver and

Not just because Symonds, who turns 50 next year, was trailing men more than half his age when he turned 47th of 54. But also for keeping in shape by driving from his home in Edmonton to the Palace of Westminster, where he works as a doorkeeper and is responsible for both security and the ceremony.

“The commute to work is about 12 miles on a hybrid commuter bike,” he explained afterwards, flanked by his Slovakian wife Lucia and children Jakub and Lukas. “You’re trying to make steam, but that’s not easy with all the traffic lights.” However, his bike is not in the House of Commons. “It’s safer in the House of Lords, to be honest!” he said.

When asked about his work, Symonds replied, eyes shining: “I’ve been a bouncer for 20 years, since Gordon Brown and David Cameron were Prime Ministers. We’re holding the doors to the chamber to make sure people like you can’t get inside. But I’ve refused entry to a few famous people, but I better not say who.”

Cyclist Rohan Dennis.
Rohan Dennis finished the men’s individual time trial 16 minutes ahead of Chris Symonds. Photo: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

Symonds is able to compete in the Commonwealth Games because cycling is an open event with no qualifying time. Not everyone is happy to have Eric the Eels in Birmingham. But Symonds, who was born in London to an English father and Ghanaian mother, believes he and others are inspiring the next generation of riders from Africa and elsewhere who don’t necessarily believe cycling is for them.

“The Commonwealths have a full spectrum of athletes and if countries want to develop and compete with Australia and Britain they need to learn this type of racing,” said Symonds, the oldest road cyclist at those games. “How to line up a bike. What wheels to use. All that kind of stuff. training programs.

“You have to do these events to keep getting better and better. Maybe in 10 or 20 years the smaller nations will be able to compete with the larger nations.” Ahead of him was another historian, 46-year-old Jim Horton, who became the first cyclist to compete for the Falkland Islands. His average speed was 35 km/h – far slower than Dennis, who sped around the track at 48 km/h. But as Horton later pointed out, his 2,700-pound bike was the heaviest in the field, while the position of his shifter meant he had to adjust his riding position to change it.

Cyclist Jim Horton from the Falkland Islands.
“I’m sure I’m living the dream”… Jim Horton of the Falkland Islands. Photo: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters

“I’m sure I’m living the dream,” he said. “I think there’s a place for the Commonwealth Games, I think there’s a place for amateurs who train hard and get to the top of their game. I think this is the right place for it. I think there are other places for professionals, the Grand Tours, the World Championships, this is a home for both, I think it works.” Horton also revealed he went to his idol Geraint Thomas yesterday to wish him well to wish. It wasn’t the best day for the Welshman, however, as he fell in the first two minutes of the race after skidding on the road paint and going into a barrier.

“I did the reconnaissance in traffic, so there are no barriers or anything,” he said. “So I thought it was a sweeping left, but all of a sudden there’s obstacles in the way and her legs are sticking out and it’s like, ‘Oh shit.’ It’s never easy, is it? However, Thomas’ spirits brightened when asked about the likes of Symonds and Horton competing against each other. “They say they’re friendlies, don’t they?” he said.

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“It was good to kind of mix with all sorts of nations. No disrespect, but some nations I’ve never heard of, you know, so it was nice. It’s kind of weird when people come into the pen and ask for photos to compete against. But it’s such a great atmosphere and event and I’m really happy to be here and to represent Wales.” Meanwhile, Symonds is already thinking about his next Commonwealth adventure.

When asked if he will be back for Victoria in 2026 when he will be 52, he looked at his coach. “Coach, will I be back?” he asked. “Four years? Australia?” “Absolutely,” came the reply as Symonds broke into a wonderful smile.

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