By Sam Watson
BEAU Vernon has added to his trophy cabinet with two gold medals at the AusCycle National Championships.
The 32-year-old won gold in the time trial and the road race in the hand-cycling H1 category.
First up was the time trial on Thursday, February 4 at Federation University in Ballarat.
With a time of 53:46.5 after 13kms, Vernon did enough to take home the gold.
He had one day to re-energise before the road race on Saturday, February 6 at Buninyong.
Once again, he finished in first place with a time of 38:37 and an average pace of 15.8km/h.
Vernon said getting the opportunity to finally compete after so much training was the most enjoyable part of the experience.
He first started hand-cycling back in 2014, but he decided to begin training for competitions just over a year ago.
Vernon has been training five to six times a week, usually starting at about 6am.
He said when he crossed the finish line “it was an awesome feeling”.
“It was just satisfaction in training hard, going out there and performing the way I did.”
But Vernon said he couldn’t have done it without the help of some special people, including his wife Lucy.
The Vernons have three kids, and with his footy coaching and other work, it’s hard to find time to train for a national event.
“It probably wouldn’t be unfair if Lucy said she didn’t want me doing the amount of training I’ve been doing for it,” Vernon said.
“But she’s been extremely supportive, and she loves me going after my goals.
“I’m very lucky to have a partner that’s allowed me to chase some dreams.”
Chris Dallinger has also been a massive help to Vernon in his most recent challenge.
He’s acted as a support worker, helping Vernon get on and off the bike and he’s been by his side almost every step of the way.
“He comes riding with me every time I go, so he’s been a massive support.”
“It’s been really good working as a team (with Chris) and trying to come up with ideas to improve things,” Vernon said.
Former international coaches, Helen and Bob Kelly have also assisted with Vernon’s training over the last couple of months.
The semi-retired couple live just a couple of hundred metres away from Vernon and they’ve provided much help with his training program.
“They’ve been great, they’re lovely people and it’s been great to have some structure behind my training.”
And fellow South Gippsland hand-cyclist Alex Welsh has also been helping Vernon in his journey to national gold.
Welsh won gold in the H3 category at the National Championships and Vernon said it was Welsh who helped him get into the sport.
He also sold Vernon a new bike and he went “above and beyond” to support Vernon and make sure the bike was running smoothly.
“He’s a great person,” Vernon said.
“He’s raced for a while now and he’s going really well.”
In December, Vernon hand-cycled 100kms straight in Newhaven and raised $13,000 for the Robert Rose Foundation and their Team 22 initiative.
Vernon said his huge ride in December certainly helped with big hills at the Ballarat, but it also stunted his training with the toll it took on his body.
Although Vernon was pleased with the gold medal, he looked at the event as a mere stepping stone to the international level.
“It’s just about the experience and getting my times to a level where I can potentially compete overseas, Vernon said.
“I’d love to aim for the Paralympics in France in three years’ time and maybe the world championships before that.”
Vernon will have his hands full this footy season when he tries to coach Phillip Island to their third flag in as many seasons, but he’ll still find time to pursue his international dream.