Friday 18 February 2011

Para Team Look Forward to the Worlds

As the countdown continues to the UCI Para-Cycling Track world Championships in Italy next month, the GB squad decamped to the Newport Velodrome for eight days of intensive track work. With the emphasis on speed, all the squad was hoping to capitalize on the long, hard road miles put in the legs in Majorca back in January. The 16 rider team was announced on Monday 14th Feb and looks a formidable line up, world and Paralympic champions looking to bring home medals and perhaps more importantly score qualification points for London 2012. Alongside the experienced competitors are a few "first timers" to the Worlds. Tel Byrne & Jon - Allan Butterworth, both ex-servicemen, part of the Battle Back programme, Tandem pilots Fiona Duncan & Helen Scott, are all making their first appearance at a major championship. As you would expect, Byrne and Butterworth are very calm under pressure, but both will feel a "few nerves when the time comes" The "big race atmosphere" will provide invaluable experience as inevitably thoughts turn towards London next year.
Helen Scott, tandem pilot for world and Paralympic champion Aileen McGlynn, is pleased with the way her training has been going, “I just don’t want to let Aileen down, after all, she has been there and done it before, so I am a little nervous”. For an experienced competitor, McGlynn, perhaps, surprisingly suffers from a little “stage fright” “I wake up and go Oh my gosh, it’s the morning of my race and the heart rate starts going, I try to take my mind off it. Once I start my warm up I am ok.” Two gold medals is the target for this tandem duo in the Kilo and the 3km pursuit. Meanwhile, Fiona Duncan is a relative newcomer to tandems. The commitment and work ethic of the full time police officer is without question and her technique will surely improve “ I am not even thinking about the championships, I still feel I have so much to learn, but I am starting to feel really good” said Duncan. Stoker Lora Turnham was playing down her chances but perhaps Lora was a little over cautious, if the form I witnessed on the track was anything to go by.
As far as the men’s tandems go, it could come down to a battle of the Brits, between, Craig McLean &Neil Fachie and Barney Storey & Anthony Kappes. Both pairings go in the Kilo and the sprint, with Storey and Kappes also riding the 3km pursuit for the first time. “We both know each other’s racing tactics very well, they know what we will do and we know what they will do, so I wouldn’t like to call it” said Storey. McLean is a little more bullish “If they go for a long one it had better be fast one” he warned. McLean and Storey both face challenges of their own, former Olympic Silver medalist, McLean, suffers with Coeliac disease, a gluten intolerance that makes it difficult to “get the carbs in” whilst Storey has to deal with diabetes.
Darren Kenny and Rik Waddon went head to head in a trial for the third place in the team sprint. Everyone trackside stopped to watch the exciting ride off, with Kenny getting the nod, but only just, strength in depth for sure. Waddon and Kenny will also face each other in the 3km pursuit along with fellow Brit Shaun Mckeown.
Channel 4 had a film crew at the Velodrome taking footage for their programme “That Paralympic Show” and stills photographer Richard Booth was also getting shots for a series of coffee table books on the Olympics and Paralympics, out later this year. All this attention did not distract the athletes, as they went about their work, which also included a couple of road rides to keep up endurance.
Lead coach, Chris Furber along with Tom Stanton and Jayne Ellis concentrated on event specialization. Standing starts, holding lines, technique and motor paced work were all on the menu. "Key elements of every event are worked on" said Furber. Performance analyst, Kevin Gill from the English Institute of sport filmed every session and was able to provide immediate feedback to the coaches via their laptops. The figures are looking pretty good and the whole squad seems to be coming into form at the right time.
The next two weeks will see more high end track work coupled with some road miles before the squad enter a nine day taper. Then its out to Italy, the talking stops and the racing starts.
World and Paralympic Champion Jody Cundy, sums up the calm professionalism within the squad when he says “It’s my job, I just love to get on with it”

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