Hells Bells he’s a gold medalist!
We’d seen this guy hanging around the Business Park where the HebTroCo unit is situated. He was usually riding round on a bicycle like a kid, always in shorts. After asking around it turned out that he’s a Para Olympic cyclist. On Twitter his name is @stevebatembe but we didn’t think he was African and neither could we tell why he qualified as ‘para’.
His name is actually Steve Bate MBE, not Steve Batembe and we’re still laughing about our daft mistake. He won a gold medal at the Rio Olympic Games and is now a Para Cycling World Champion. He is visually impaired. We invited him in for a chat and became his trouser sponsor.
This is what he has to say for himself….
“It’s a bit surreal standing in front of cycling guru, now turned trouser king Ed Oxley, as he shakes my hand and congratulates me. I’d bumped into brant, the other HebTroCo mastermind, after returning from a bicycle race in Finland a couple of weeks back, and he had invited me up to have a chat at their global headquarters board room.
We chatted about the Rovaniemi 150, a fat bike race held on snow in the Arctic Circle in the north of Finland. Both Ed and Brant have previously raced in Rovaniemi, and were interested to hear how I’d managed to win the race this year. I put it down to total stupidity. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Snow conditions were bad and I was the only one not stupid enough to pack in the racing and head to the pub! After chatting about Rovaniemi and trouser world domination, I told them I was off to another race and that I would catch up with them on my return. Not thinking, even though they are both cycling legends, that they would be interested in where I was going and what I was about to do.”
We like Steve here at HebTroCo. He’s a funny guy who is very modest. He makes out that his incredible athletic achievements are no big deal. He also brushes aside his visual impairment as just having “bad eyes”. Well we know how hard that 150km snow bike race is, because we did it ourselves and we could see where we were going. brant had to retire from the race, because his saddle sore bottom became so raw that it had to be eventually treated like a severe burn. It didn’t look pretty! Ed limped into third place and won a trophy, largely because he hallucinated another racer who he thought was trying to catch him.
Back to Steve.
“I arrive in Rio wearing my HebTroCo Governor trousers as promised, and instantly regret saying I’d do this! It’s 36°C and having a quality pair of heavy weight trousers on is about as clever as a chocolate tea pot in Yorkshire.”
Oh bugger! We would have sent him off with a pair of Works 177s, which are made in a lighter weight cotton. We didn’t have any in stock at the time though. Sorry Steve.
“I’m back in Brazil to race in the UCI ParaCycling Track World Championships. With sight pilot Adam Duggleby we’re on the same track I broke the four kilometre pursuit world record and won Paralympic gold, during the 2016 Games. I’ve not had a great run into this event with injury and illness, but as I’m here now I plan to turn myself inside out to see if I can win my first world title. The build up goes well and Adam and I are flying on the velodrome, that brings back some surreal memories from less than two year earlier.
Race day finally comes around and we are in good shape. We ride a qualifier in the morning, the first race which is against the clock. From these times the medal rides are decided. The fastest two ride off for the gold medal, the loser getting a silver, and the third and fourth places race for the bronze. You start on opposite sides of the track and the object in the final is to either, catch the other riders or, cross the line first after sixteen laps (four kilometres) of the two hundred and fifty metre wooden banked oval. We qualify second fastest, missing out on the top spot by three hundreds of a second, making it into the gold medal ride off later that evening.
Sat in the start chair before the final, I’ve been in this same position before, experience should be a comforting thing, but it’s not. As they say, knowledge is power, but all I can muster inside my aero helmet is self doubt and negative thoughts. It’s par for the course in these situations. During races I don’t really remember much, only wishing I can stop so the pain that overcomes you, which is horrific. I hate it and love it, all at the same time.
I’ve listened to AC/DC’s Hells Bells before the race, saying to myself if people are going to beat us, they are going to have to ring Hells Bells louder than we do. Today, like in 2016, no one is up to the task. We ring them the loudest, taking the win by over two seconds in a time of 4 minutes and twelve seconds. It’s 4 seconds off our world record, but good enough on the day to win my first world title, hence the fact I’m again, standing in the HebTroCo global HQ, having my hand shaken by the tattooed knuckles of Ed.
We sit and shoot the shit about YouTube, trousers, knives, travels and motorbikes. brant returns on one of their electric cargo bikes, a smile from ear to ear saying “you never said you were going to the World Champs, just off to another bike race” with a shake of the head.
Today isn’t all about me, it’s a big day for the HebTroCo boys too, as they are sending out a large shipment of boots, jackets, trousers and belts all over the world. I recount heroic stories of racing and tales of bullshit about winning another gold in Rio. Next to me a customer tries on trousers and boots, oblivious to the rainbow jersey and gold medal that lies new and shiny on the old battered wooden work bench. Life is tough as a Paralympic hero, when no one cares! It’s great to see the global domination of trousers continuing here on home soil though.
I’d like to say a huge thanks to brant and Ed for the time and the trousers.”
Cheers to you champ too.
Thanks for bringing in the bling for us to touch and for clearing up why you’re always riding around on that funny bike with the massive tyres. Next time we’ll be sure not to send you off in the wrong trousers.