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Blog: Sarah Storey

Posted: 10th May 2011
Finally a Gold Medal in Sydney Olympic Park!

After a smooth and relaxing flight straight after the racing in Bedford, Barney and I landed in Sydney feeling fresh and ready for action. Flying across two nights has the potential for terrible jet lag but we employed some simple rules and were careful about what we ate and drank, not to mention being strict about sleeping. My racing in Sydney was all about the points scoring quest for London Paralympic places and so being able to squeeze the event into my hectic road racing schedule had been an added bonus and so controlling the jet lag and keeping myself healthy whilst whizzing round the world was going to be key.

As soon as the racing in Bedford had finished I'd had my CNP Pro Peptide protein shake and then a snack to tide me over until I could eat dinner in the airport. Although flying for 24 hours is effectively a whole day sat doing nothing, I was aware that if I didn't eat properly after the racing, then I could arrive in Sydney feeling drained. So a healthy small meal in the airport and two litres of water saw me getting on the flight well fuelled and hydrated.

Sleep was going to be crucial to ensure that once we landed in Sydney we didn't need to have a sleep straightaway as this could really cause problems with adjusting to the time change. My first races were scheduled to be 24 and 52 hours after landing so there was no time to get it wrong. Our flight was across two legs, a flight to Bangkok of 10 hours and then almost nine hours to Sydney on the second leg and a landing time of 6:00am. The advice we'd been given was to seek sunlight on arrival too and there is no doubt this helped with the time change. Not only that but following my swimming days and the many trips we did down under prior to the Sydney Paralympics, I also knew how helpful an afternoon training session could be in helping the body stay awake for long enough on the day we landed.

As such we slept for at least half of each flight and made sure we chose the healthier options available on the inflight meals, not to mention avoiding caffeine on board until we were served breakfast in the final descent into Sydney. As a supplement to these meals I also had three servings of CNP's Pro Peptide with me to ensure that I was taking-in enough protein for my muscles to recover after the racing in Bedford.

Our first port of call after checking in and having a second breakfast was to check out the road racing circuit for the following day's event. The circuit was about 30 minutes west of our accommodation in Sydney Olympic Park and was around a motor racing circuit which, after the fun of Bedford, was a welcome sight! The circuit itself was relatively flat compared to Bedford but there was a cheeky wind and a few short drags which meant there were a few places where an attack could be launched to try and split the field or as my preference is, to go off on a solo breakaway.

Having checked out the circuit I headed back to the Olympic Park circuit which would be used for the Time Trial and had a quick look around that circuit to make sure I was aware of what was in store the day after the Road Race in the 16.5km Road Time Trial. It was a short circuit of 5.5km and I was to race three laps. The circuit started by circumnavigating the Olympic Stadium and then went out on a technical loop which took in plenty of twists and turns and indicated the event would be as much about bike handling skills as it would be about pure power and speed. With little gradient change on any part of the circuit, it would be the technical sections rather than the power sections that would separate out the competitors.

My time adjustment was made easier on the first night because I was scheduled to leave the team hotel at 6.30am for my Road Race so this meant when I caved in to tiredness at 8pm, I was still going to get a full 9 hours sleep before a 5am get up. I couldn't believe my luck when I woke up without an alarm at 5 and then felt a million dollars straightaway! That never used to happen for the 5am get ups in swimming!

With the sun warming the circuit as we set off for our 60km race at 8.30am, I was looking forward to testing my legs and seeing if they would perform the race plan I had. We were a small but high quality field and I knew it would be tough to get off the front unnoticed. For three laps or so I checked out the corners and tougher sections to see whether I could see any weaknesses in my opponents and then with two and a half laps to go attacked off the tightest left hander on the circuit and into the headwind and a slight rise. It was a good spot and had the effect I had hoped for and I was soon building up a strong lead. There were several sections on the circuit where I could see the chasing riders going in the opposite direction, so I was able to keep track of the gap and by the finish had managed to take over 3 minutes out of the other girls for victory. It was a great feeling and I sat and enjoyed the sunshine whilst watching my team mate in the Trike race win too!

After heading back to Olympic Park for a quick spin round the Time Trial circuit on my time trial bike I felt all set for the race the following day and forced myself to stay up later so that I would sleep right through to an 8am breakfast. It worked again and I was up and at 'em and ready for a time trial on yet another beautifully sunny day. Since landing in Sydney, I'd added some extra protein to my nutrition plan, to ensure my muscles were very well looked after and I'm pleased to report my muscles were never sore despite what I was asking of them!

The time trial circuit was also a busy circuit as there were riders from all classification groups and both men and women going off with three hours of each other and doing either 2, 3 or 4 laps of the short circuit. Tandems went first, then solo men, higher class hand bikes, solo women, lower class hand bikes and trikes. I was starting just after our World Champion hand biker, Rachel Morris and catching some of the lower class male hand bikers as I got into my final lap. There were also following cars and female solo bikes to chase too and at one point I caught three hand bikers, a solo woman and a car on the narrowest section! It was all good fun and I managed to put 90 seconds into my nearest rival and clock a time that would have seen me in the top five of the men's race. One of the biggest improvements I think I have made since the last Paralympics is my ability to handle the Time Trial bike on the more technical circuits. Back at home there are few "interesting" circuits, most of the races we do for Time Trial events are on out and back courses and dual carriageways, so there is not much time to practice leaning the bike over and carrying speed through the technical sections. When I downloaded my power file after the race, I found there were 24 spikes of power during the 23 minute ride, and each of these spikes was of at least 600 watts each time. Not the usual power trace I am used to seeing back home!

The medal ceremony for the Time Trial took place in front of the Olympic Stadium with the swimming pool away to my right. It was fantastic to stand and listen to the National Anthem, some 10 and a half years after my first attempt at winning gold in this location. Back then I wasn't successful and it was 4 tenths of a second that separated me from the gold medal, so finally winning gold there felt brilliant and the added bonus was to also receive the World Cup Leader's jersey. Obviously the medals and jerseys were great but it was the maximum points score for me that was the main aim and the successful mission means we move one step closer to securing the places we need for the team to head to London next year. The points scoring will continue for me at the Road Worlds in September and then the Track Worlds next March before we find out how many women's places we will have for the Games.

With the racing finished, Barney and I are now having a few extra days on the coast for some training and relaxation. It's a beautiful spot over here and we can see the ocean from our bed and breakfast garden, so we're looking forward to exploring the local National Park and catching up with friends over here. It's one of the perks of the job, so we'll take a few pictures!

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