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BLOG: Barney Storey's Montichiari Memories
Above: Barney Storey (piloting tandem on the outside of the track) and Anthony Kappes go head to head with Craig Maclean and Neil Fachie in the awesome Tandem Sprint.
The UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships, Montichiari, Italy were to be my biggest event for 2011, with crucial qualifying points to be gained by Team GB for London 2012 qualification. I was paired with Anthony Kappes, who I rode to Gold with in Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games. It was a slightly different approach to our usual "plan of attack" for the World Championships, with gaining a large number of points our main priority, as well as picking up good performances along the way. The qualification for the London 2012 Paralympic Games means each category top points scorer, will go forward to the nations overall score, so the more points each top ranking athlete in each male category, the more nation places you get for the Games, clear?? there are a few other factors, but I will keep it simple for now!
For those interested on some further reading, the qualification criteria we have for the London 2012 Paralympic Games is here.
We arrived in Italy on Monday 7th March, a few days before the competition started on Friday 11th March. The first few days would be really about putting the polish on the months of training before the event. The training we had on the track in the practice days was shared with other nations and you can always hear the "beeping" on stop watches by coaches when you are carrying out a training effort. Everyone is curious of each other's performance levels just before the events. The practice sessions can also be a little dangerous too, with so many bikes on the track ranging from high speed tandems going 70kph to solo bikes going half the speed! It can resemble a game of space invaders at times! Myself and Anthony managed to get straight into the swing of training and had an excellent start with some really quick times, always good for the morale! The final track session on Thursday 10th March was a success too, with some good standing start times setting ourselves up for a good championships.
Friday 11th March was the first day of the championships for myself and Anthony, with the tandem kilometre time trial. This event has a mix of concentration/control and speed all condensed into hopefully somewhere near a minute! We warm up on turbo trainers and rollers before the start, hopefully just in perfect time. The coaches and management are always on hand to keep us up to date with timings of the event too, a great help. Myself and Anthony were seeded in heat 15 of 31 and once on the start line we were fired up and ready to go! There was a slight delay with other nations getting re-starts due to mechnicals, subsequently delaying the programme. Trying to stay relaxed in these situations is the key and we were ready for action now! We had a solid ride and a PB for myself and Anthony in the kilo TT, with a time of 62.6 seconds in far from ideal track conditions. We then had to wait until the final heat of our Great Britain Team mates, Craig McLean and Neil Fachie who were off last to try and challenge our time. They started incredibly fast and then this was where the close racing happened! They were nearly 1 second up after lap 1, but faded and hung onto beat us by 0.022seconds, close??...... yes, a matter of centimetres!! A Personal best and 1-2 for GB on the podium, a good day at the office! The standard of the tandems was the highest I've ever witnessed with the 10th placed tandem coming home in a time of 65 seconds.
Saturday 12th March was certainly a day where myself and Anthony headed into the unknown! The 4km Tandem Pursuit....... This was part of our "grand plan" to score nation points, but in an event where we have never ridden at World Championship level it could be very tricky! The aim was to try and get as high as we could inside the top 10 places, which is where the qualification points for the Games in 2012 are scored. The higher the placing the more points we scored, simple really! Neither myself or Anthony really knew the exact time we would do, as our training over the last few months had been about juggling three events and trying to stay competitive. Again the competition was to be the most competitive tandem pursuit ever witnessed in Paracycling, with myself and Anthony placing 7th in a competitive field. This might seem a little poor compared to our usual standards, but when you consider this was our weak event out of the three, we had to be happy to score a load of nation points and certainly surprise a few compettiors with our new found endurance powers!! Our finishing time was 4min 28secs for the 4km (less than a second away from the British record), with the difference between 4th and 7th place only being 1second! My old friend from Australia, multiple Paralympic Champion Kieran Modra blasted round the velodrome to finish with a new world record of 4mins 17secs! to qualify fastest and then win the event. Great to see standards rising in Para-cycling again! The objective was achieved by myself and Anthony, score a load of points.
Sunday 13th March was my birthday.... plus we had some very exciting tandem spriting to do!! This was the final day of racing for the World Championships and its a race day I always look forward to, as tandem sprinting can be exciting/dangerous and fast all within a few seconds. Both myself and Anthony were starting to feel a little jaded after our previous couple of days racing, but as soon as you pin a number on a our backs it really ignites the fire to race inside us both! We qualified 2nd in the qualiying 200m time trial with a time of 10.351 seconds (a PB for myself and Anthony), only bettered by our team mates once again with a new World record in the event of 10.289 seconds! an excellent ride. (For those interested in the science of the conditions, it was only 18degrees celcius when we rode at 10am, plus the pressure was just under 1000Mb.) Once the qualifying was over we went straight into the quarter finals against the Irish Tandem. We managed to beat the Irish 2-0, as each race is best of three matches over 6 laps each time! The semi finals saw us ride against our old rivals the Spanish Tandem, with former Able bodied World Championship medallist Jose Villenueva piloting their tandem. Whenever we seem to ride against this tandem, it always ends with some sort of excitement! After a small collision in the back straight the Spanish were relegated in the first ride, then we managed to beat them in the second ride! The final was against........ you guessed it!! our GB team mates. Myself and Craig have known each other for a while and there isn't much we don't know about each others chosen tactics. A game of chess on a bike you might think.... We managed to beat them in the first ride in the final, but they came back to beat us 2-1 in the final race to close the championships. Some thrilling tandem sprinting throughout the day and also again, a reminder that the rest of the world are catching us up! Even more of an incentive to stay ahead!
In terms of success, if somebody was to ask me was the championships a success??........... I would have to say yes! 3 Personal bests in 3 very different races. As a pair we made sure Anthony is now the top scoring Visually Impaired rider in the World in the Paralympic track rankings, with one more major scoring event to go at the Track World Championships next year in Los Angeles. Is their more to come??........ Yes, I believe we can go faster in several areas. My determination is still extremely high to turn the silver medals from these world championships into gold medals! It will certainly be a huge motivator between now and next February when the next World Track Championships are held.
Now for a short rest before next season starts!