Paralympic Gold Medallist Sarah Storey blogs for DCMS to mark two years to go to the Paralympics Opening Ceremony:
London 2012 will be my sixth Paralympics. With just two years to go every competition counts, and the Paracycling World Road Championships have been a key date in my calendar this season.
After winning my first Road Time Trial World title around 11 months ago, the title defence seemed to come round quickly and before I knew it I was sat on the start ramp as the final rider off in my classification, C5.
My class is for riders who have a mild disability, usually only one hand to hold onto the bar with, or a mild form of cerebral palsy or a minimal malfunction of one limb which does not affect function too greatly.
The course was going to be a great challenge and as I blasted off into the starting loop through a housing estate I hoped I would start to see some of the riders in front of me, as we were all starting at minute intervals. After about 3 or 4km I was approaching the main climb on the larger circuit, could see my minute rider, but got my first time check from Barney who told me I was 10 seconds down on the very first rider off, the unseeded rider from Poland, Anna Harkowska. I’d not previously raced Anna on the road and I made sure that I didn’t panic and trusted my usually good pace judgement.
The gap had not extended at the top of the climb and I powered over the top hoping my improved descending would keep me in contention. The 70kph descent dropped down to the riverside and then the false flat section slowed the bike up and it was time to pour on the power again. As I finished the big loop Barney was there again telling me I’d made up the time and had crept up to a 10 second lead when I crossed the start/finish line.
Taking the lead
The start of the short loop saw me catch four riders in front virtually all at the same time. First it was my four minute girl, then my three minute, then my two minute and finally my one minute rider. With 10.5km still to ride it was time to dig deep and power through the remaining km’s to try and secure the title again. As I finished the short lap for the second time Barney was telling me I was further ahead, this time by 20 seconds. This gap was maintained by the top of the climb and as I thought I was ready to throw up, I pressed on the pedals to go over the top and lift the speed on the fast descent again.
In this final 5.5km, which was mainly downhill or flat, I took a further 41 seconds out of the main challenger and was greeted by a beaming husband who was stood with my parents just short of the finish line to clap me home!
I crossed the line with a time of 33m 36s, with my Polish rival finishing in 34m 38s and the third placed rider Greta Neiminas from USA 35m 56s. But with barely time to catch my breath, I was escorted straight to dope control which I fortunately completed inside 20 minutes and it was straight back out to the medal ceremony.
It’s so hard to put into words the truly amazing feeling you get when you are announced as the World Champion, or as a Paralympic Champion as I experienced in Beijing. I was so proud stepping forwards to receive my medal and white stripey jersey and as the anthem started I realised I’d completed the job!
There’s still a long way to go to London 2012, but I’m pleased with where I am at the moment and my preparations are going well. It’s been an incredible season, with so many different races alongside my fantastic Horizon Fitness team and against so many fantastic British and European riders.
But there are no guarantees, and I’ll be putting in a lot of hard work over the next two years to try and stay ahead of the rest of the world in my events and be as technically good as I am physically. My team give me those opportunities to keep on pushing the boundaries with my racing.
Next up in terms of big competitions this year will be the Paracycling World Track Championships which will hopefully take place before the end of the year, although the venue is yet to be decided. I’ve got another two world titles to defend there, so if I perform well it would stand me in good stead for selection to the able-bodied pursuit team, one step closer to achieving my ambition of competing in the Olympics and Paralympics in 2012.
To keep following my progress, check out my blogs on www.onthedrops.com