Newport International Para-cycling Cup
Location: Newport, Wales
Event: 29 November - 1 December 2013
Report and Photos: Guy Swarbrick
The Newport International Para-cycling Cup opened on Friday evening with men’s and women’s tandem kilometre time trial and the team sprint. The first international competition since the phenomenally successful London 2012 Paralympics will provide a much needed opportunity for the squad to assess their form at the start of the next Paralympic cycle.
The evening opened with the team sprint and it was the Great Britain trio of Crystal Lane, Shaun McKeown and Jon-Allan Butterworth which topped the timing sheets as the Para-T squad of Darren Kenny, Rik Waddon and Jody Cundy took to the track. With a time of 52.190 to beat, the trio shaved off a tenth and a half to go above their GB team mates and secure the home straight gate for the final.
The final was even closer, and it was Para-T that had the better start with Lane peeling off 0.4 seconds adrift of Kenny. McKeown clawed all of that back, though, completing lap 2 eight tenths faster than Waddon, which released Butterworth just over four tenths up on Cundy.
As the thrilling race came to a conclusion, Cundy took three tenths out of his opposite number but it wasn’t quite enough – Great Britain taking the win by just over a tenth of a second. The USA squad of Jennifer Schuble, Jason Kimball and Justin Widhalm comfortably overcame the Dutch trio to take the Bronze.
Speaking to British Cycling after the Final, Crystal Lane said: “I didn’t want to be part of the team that was going to come second – because it was so close – there was really nothing in it. And we’re really new – being together – we only practised for the first time this week – we knew that could improve and we did.”
How did the find the extra time between the heats and the final? “The coaches are the people that make the magic happen. We got a lot of advice, because it’s difficult doing the two races with only an hour or two between. You have to spin your legs and the advice we got was that we just each had to work on our own individual things and as a group it would come together – and it did.”
In the men’s tandem kilometre time trial it was Matthew Ellis and Ieuan Williams of Great Britain who took the early lead – setting a 1:03.910 in heat 2. It wasn’t until heat 12 of the 15 that anyone went under 1:06 – Rinne Oost and Patrick Bos of the Netherlands clocking 1:05.258. They were only second for a couple of minutes as their team mates Stephen de Vries and Yorick Bos did a 1:04.665 to take second place with just one tandem to go.
That machine, though, was stoked by multiple world and Paralympic champion Neil Fachie and piloted by world and Paralympic champion Craig Maclean… They were seven tenths up on the opening lap and kept building their lead until the last 20 minutes where they faded slightly – losing a couple of tenths to Ellis and Williams – but the buffer was more than enough and they took the gold with a time of 1:03.199.
Fachie told British Cycling afterwards: “I’m not particularly pleased with the time, but I’m pleased that we got the win – and we got the qualifying time for the Commonwealth Games which was another target. I thought we could have gone a bit quicker, to be honest – there’s a few areas of the race we can work on – but it’s still early on in the cycle, so there’s still plenty of time to make those improvements, so I’m sure we’ll go faster next time.”
“I’ve never finished a kilo and had it not feel tough, but it definitely hurt today. They’ve put on great conditions for us – it’s really warm – but it does take it out of you as well.”
“The Welsh guys did really well – that was a PB for Matt when lots of the other bikes are a way off their times, so that really shows what an absolutely amazing performance that was and next year they’re definitely going to be contenders at the Commie Games, so we’re going to have to watch out.”
Ellis, too, was pleased with his performance – on his 22nd birthday - “It feels very good – I’m very happy. I wasn’t expecting to get such a good time – I’m speechless. I would have been happy with a bronze – I’m just happy to be on the podium. I haven’t been on the development programme for that long but it’s all going the right way.”
In the women’s tandem kilo it was another Great Britain pairing that set the early pace – Rhiannon Henry and Lauryn Theirin clocking 1:13.219 in heat 2. They didn’t last as long as Ellis and Williams – Larissa Klassen and Kim van Dijk of the Netherlands went a second and a half faster two heats later and moved the mark to 1:11.853.
Their lead, too, only lasted a couple of heats before Sophie Thornhill and new pilot Rachel James – sister of double world champion Becky – took to the track. Setting a blistering pace early on it looked for a while as though the world record of 1:08.714 – set by Australians Felicity Johnson and Stephanie Morton in London last summer – might be under threat. That wasn’t to be, but the time was a very impressive 1:09.446.
Lora Turnham and Corrine Hall couldn’t trouble the leaders in the penultimate heat but Aileen McGlynn and Fiona Duncan, riding for Scotland, did - taking the silver with a 1:10.842, with Thornhill and James taking gold.
Thornhill reflected afterwards “That was so hard – really, really awful – but I’m really happy with the time. That was world record pace until about half a lap to go so we were a bit disappointed not to get that – but that time, we’re really, really happy with.”
So, after the opening evening and three events, British riders have taken three Golds and three Silvers. Not a bad start to the weekend.