Back to the golden Velodrome! Britain's paracyclists are flying
22:28 GMT, 28 August 2012
For the next few days I will be back in the Olympic Park as a pundit for Channel 4, covering the paracycling, and I can’t wait. Just being back there last week for a few minutes made the memories flood back.
It is going to be great being on the other side, talking about athletes I train with, who are my friends. I’m desperate for them to do well and I have no doubt that they will.
The few people I’ve been in touch with from the team have told me everyone is flying. We won 17 gold medals at the Beijing Paralympics in cycling and will surely come close to that — or even do better. I’m expecting lots of gold medals and hopefully lots of world records. And it will be fun giving the viewers the inside track — excuse the pun — on their success.
Dream team: Joanna Rowsell (right) won gold at the Olympics
The two main things that hit you in the velodrome are the heat and the noise. The heat is easy to prepare for. Like our Olympic team, the Paralympic squad will have had the velodrome at the preparation camp in Newport set to the same temperature as London — between 28 and 29 degrees. So they will be prepared for that.
What hits you though is the noise. Only a couple of hundred people watch training in Newport but the roar when the gun goes during the Games is incredible. It fills you with adrenaline and you have to be careful not to get carried away and start too fast. It’s tempting but you must pace yourself.
As long as our paracyclists do, there will be plenty of gold. It’s a fantastic team. Here’s some of the best to look out for…
Sarah is a good friend of mine and trained with me and the other Olympic team pursuit girls until the end of last year. She is so fast that she was close to selection for the Olympics — her flying lap is no slower than mine.
It’s just that because she has a
partly-formed left hand, she is slower off the start than Dani King and
Laura Trott and me. But she won the World Cup event in Manchester last
year with me. Slower starts are often the reason for the times between
Olympic and Paralympic athletes but there are generally just a few
seconds between us. For example, Chris Hoy’s 1km time trial best is only
six seconds faster than his Paralympian equivalent Jody Cundy and Jody
only has one leg.
Sprint demon: Great Britain's Sarah Storey will be going for gold
Sarah is my hero. She won five Paralympic golds as a swimmer before switching to cycling — the first when she was just 14 — and works so hard.
She drives me on during training, she is super strong and she has a great chance of winning four golds because she’s world champion in all the events she’s entering.
Jon lost his left arm while serving in Iraq in 2007 and only took up cycling two years later through the Battle Back programme.
is an amazing story and he now holds two world records. A few of us
were surprised when he qualified for the team sprint ahead of Jody Cundy
but that shows just how good he is as Jody has two Paralympic golds to
First things first, Darren is not a relation of Olympic champion Jason. But he is the Sir Chris Hoy of Paralympic cycling. Darren is 42, a really nice guy and is going for five golds in London. He holds the world and Paralympic records in all of the events. It is impressive for someone who only took up Paracycling when he was 30.
Going for gold: Darren Kenny wants five medals in London
THE MEN’S TANDEM TEAMS
Barney Storey is Sarah’s husband and the pilot for Neil Fachie, who is visually impaired.
In the tandem, a fully-sighted cyclist sits on the front steering and the visually impaired athlete — called the stoker — sits on the back, generating most of the power. Both riders’ pedals are connected so they are perfectly in sync.
Funnily enough, their main rivals for gold in the 1km time trial and the sprint are Barney’s old partner Anthony Kappes. Anthony’s pilot is Craig MacLean, who won silver at the Olympics with Chris Hoy and Jason Queally in 2000.
The pilot does all the steering and tactical thinking and will often shout to say when making a move in the sprint. Occasionally the stoker will rest their head on the rider in front for extra connection, to feel the muscle tension.
The race between the two British tandems will be one of the closest at the Games.
They were barely separable at the world championships this year, with Craig and Anthony just coming out on top, so prepare for a real battle.
AILEEN MCGLYNN AND HELEN SCOTT
Helen is another very close friend of mine. She just chats and chats forever. She was part of the Olympic sprint academy a few years ago but lost her place, so she moved across to piloting for Paralympians.
She rides on the front of the tandem, guiding Aileen, who is partially-sighted. Aileen won two golds in Beijing with a different partner but she and Helen have a point to prove after missing out on gold at the world championships this year. I’m backing them to win gold.