Tuesday 3 July 2012

Sarah Storey's Latest Blog

Sarah Storey has been very busy with winning races, media commitments and Paralympic Games selection ..It may only have been a couple of weeks since my last blog but the racing has been packed in and the team announcement for London 2012 was finally made after what felt like an eternity of keeping it a secret! There was also time to fit in visits to 2 primary schools, a High School awards night as well as a visit to recce the Brands Hatch course being used for the Paralympic Road Races, see the London 2012 medals being handed over to The Tower of London for safe keeping and squeeze in two of my best performances in a road race!
Shortly after the soggy time trials of mid June we were blessed with a window of sunshine and the opportunity to visit the Brands Hatch circuit for a test day of the circuit being used for the Road Racing at the London Paralympics. The 7.8km loop takes in some of the racing circuit and some of the surrounding roads and given the location normally hosts racing cars that reach incredible speeds, the roads are unfamiliarly wide and smooth, with sweeping corners and not a pot hole or gravelly section in sight!

After a few loops rounds the circuit to get to grips with gearing and racing lines, it was straight home for a day and then on up to Yorkshire where Barney and I stopped off on the way to visit Roecliffe Primary School just outside Boroughbridge. The school is very small compared to some we have visited but with the Olympic Torch on the premises, thanks to one of the parents, the school is gripped with Olympic and Paralympic fever and we spent the afternoon seeing all the pupils and taking their questions. Some of the older children had been designed a nutrition plan for athletes and it was fantastic to see the meals they had planned for us!

Heading off we completed our journey to hook up with the Escentual For VioRed girls in the Ryedale district of Yorkshire to spend some time together and ride the course ahead of the National Road Race Championships. It is always good to be able to spend a few days together, although the weather was less than kind to us on the first day and we ended up driving the course before riding the rollers as an alternative to getting freezing cold and soaked! The next day we managed to get a couple of loops done, but never have I been in full winter gear on my bike at the end of June before, it felt like winter!

For the last three years the women’s race has been held at the unsocial hour of 9am, meaning an early alarm so there was time to get as much breakfast in as possible before the 107km race, 7 loops of the undulating circuit that started and finished at the impressive Ampleforth College. Our team plan was to try and make sure we got at least one rider in the expected front group of pro riders and to see how the race panned out after that. We kept the pace high in the first few kilometres and then tried to hit the first climb hard so as to be ready for the expected attack from the AA Drinks girls.

By the top of the climb Emma Pooley had taken Sharon Laws and Lizzie Armistead clear of the rest of the field and Nikki Harris and I were the lone chasers, with Nikki making contact and me spending the remainder of the race trying to make contact! I was always closer to the front four riders than the chasing peloton, which eventually split, so there seemed no point in sitting up, so I pressed on and bagged myself some good Time Trial training at the same time! Finishing in 5th was the best result I have had at National Road Race and after pushing on for around 60 miles on my own, I couldn’t pedal another stroke and could barely speak when I was interviewed!

Heading south from the race there was an easy day planned for Monday and a trip to another primary school just outside Huddersfield. Scottish Widows had asked me to attend to present a framed picture to the young prize winner of a recent Lloyds Banking group competition, where young people from around the country could send in their pictures for inclusion in a message book to be given to the athletes at Games Time. The best pictures were chosen for the book and I was lucky enough to meet one of the budding artists whose picture will be in the final book. The school was also gripped with Olympic and Paralympic fever and I took part in some fun games in the school yard that were themed around the Games.

After what has seemed like the longest build up to the announcement of a sports team for the Paralympic Games, the day for the official announcement from ParalympicsGB of the cyclists that have been selected for the London 2012 Games finally arrived. Being able to say that I have been selected for my 6th Paralympic Games is huge, I never could have imagined this when I was selected for my first Games back in 1992, but a Home Games is what every athlete dreams of and the final build up can now start.

With the announcement complete it was back to business and a visit to Flixton Girls School for their Annual Sports Awards evening, which was a truly impressive display of the talent they have at the school. With performances from the dance, drama and sports departments as well as the presentation of awards to the high sports performers, it was an evening of celebration and again themed with the Olympic and Paralympic Games in mind. It is always fantastic to be asked to speak at events such as these and be able to see first hand the talented young people we have in our schools.

Having been thoroughly inspired by the talented youngsters I had met, it was time to turn my attention back to racing and a trip back up north, this time to Northumbria, for a couple of days on the course of the Curlew Cup. Being held for the first time, and alongside the men’s Premier Calendar race of the Beaumont Trophy, the Curlew Cup was one of the longer events for the women in the National Road Series, covering 55 miles around the undulating circuit that started and finished in the village of Stamfordham. The weather during the week had been horrific in parts of the region and when we arrived there was plenty of debris on the circuit and a rather exciting looking water feature just after the short rise from the start!

The women’s race was to complete four laps of the shorter circuit, whilst the men were taken on a longer circuit to incorporate the Ryles climb. I know there were a few women who would have loved to have seen our race take in the big circuit too!

The race started with another small field and after a rather pedestrian first lap I decided to test my legs and see if I had the speed to take the first of three sprints that were up for grabs on the finish line each lap. To my surprise no one came round me and I took the points so it looked as though the legs were good and I started to work out when a good time for an attack would be. Keeping the pace high after the sprint, I had Cath Williamson, Eileen Roe and Sarah Byrne for company at the front, so I decided to attack as we turned left into the headwind, where the road goes gradually uphill for a couple of kilometres.

The plan worked and I took four other riders with me and managed to build up a 30 second lead by the top of the climb. Cath Williamson, Eileen Roe and Bex Heath were all driving the pace too and by the time I took the points on the line for the end of the second lap, we were 1 minute 30 ahead and could just ride to the pace of the chasers and take a bit of a breather. The break worked well, with Cath, Eileen and Bex all putting in strong turns and as we took the bell, Cath had the final prime sown up and it was all down to the final kilometre to sort out who would take the win.

I found myself on the front as we crossed the 1 kilometre to go mark and so ended up leading it out. I never expected to have enough speed for the win, so put my head down and didn’t dare look round until I could see the line approaching. When I finally sneaked a look, there was a gap and I realised I had won! I couldn’t have been happier and no one was more surprised than me to find I had a better gallop on me than I realised.

So with the washing machine on full tilt to get the kit washed and ready for the next race, I snuck down to London for a lovely evening with Rio Tinto at the Tower of London. As official metal providers to the Games, Rio Tinto have provided the gold, silver and copper that has gone into making 4700 medals for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Made by the Royal Mint, those medals were officially handed over to LOCOG on Monday 2nd July and will be housed with the Crown Jewels in the Tower of London until they are needed for medal presentations. After the official part of the evening, there was an opportunity to view the Crown Jewels which was truly breath-taking, I can’t think of a more appropriate place to store the precious medals we will do battle for at the Games in a few weeks time!

Next on the agenda is a flight to Czech Republic where the Krasna Lipa Tour starts on Thursday. I will be back with an update soon!

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