Preview: World-beating Great Britain squad ready for para-cycling road world championships in Greenville

Preview: World-beating Great Britain squad ready for para-cycling road world championships in Greenville

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Great Britain’s five-strong team of Paralympic and world champions is ready for the 2014 UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships, which takes place in Greenville, South Carolina, USA from 28 August to 1 September.

Time trial world champions Lora Turnham and Corrine Hall will contest the B/VI tandem events, while world and Paralympic champion David Stone will look to retain his title in the T2 class.

Dame Sarah Storey, Great Britain’s most decorated Paralympian, represents the team in the C5 class while Paralympic silver medallist Karen Darke will challenge for honours in the H3 category.

"The team are really happy with how the season has gone so far,” said Great Britain head para-cycling coach Jon Norfolk.

“There have been a few performances which have been at the level that we're after and there have been a couple of performances which have been more of an indication of what their potentially capable of - moving in the right direction.

“So hopefully the worlds will be a good opportunity from them to cash that in and enable them to put a good performance together and show what they can do on the big platform."

The five-day event will bring together over 450 athletes from 45 countries, with both the road race and time trial events in all classes taking place on the private roads of the city’s Millennium Campus.

The time trials will be contested on Friday 29 and Saturday 30 August on an 8.3-kilometre course, while the road race events will take place on Sunday 31 August and Monday 1 September on an 11-kilometre circuit, with varying race distances dependant on disability class.

"They're hard courses,” said Norfolk. “There'll be plenty of chances to separate the men from the boys and the women from the girls and really favour the athletes that have put the training in.

"There have been some courses in the past which have gone too far the other way and it's hard to get those selections without the harder elements of the course.

"It will suit the fit ones so hopefully it will suit us."

Climatic conditions have been a big focus for the Great Britain squad, with summer temperatures in South Carolina averaging over 35 degrees Celsius combined with humidity levels over 80 percent.

Norfolk explained the work that the team had done to acclimatise the riders to the conditions in Greenville.

"We've got a few things in place for training and race days which form part of our support strategy in terms of cooling the athletes and getting them in the best possible place to perform and then exposing them to that over here - recreating the conditions over the road in the lab so it's less of a shock and they can perform more efficiently in high heat and high humidity environments."

The tandem pairing of Lora Turnham and Corrine Hall have been the standout performers of the 2014 road season, taking a clean sweep of gold medals in the road and time trial events in both rounds of the UCI Para-cycling Road World Cup in Castiglione della Pescaia, Italy and Segovia, Spain.

The results left the duo atop the world cup rankings in the women’s B/VI category and Norfolk is confident that Turnham and Hall can once again step up to the bigger occasion.

"Worlds in any area of the sport are a step up from world cup competition,” he said. “It's a fine balance between knowing you can perform and beat the best in the world on a particular occasion; managing that and building up to a bigger event in the future while not getting complacent.”

David Stone approaches the world championships on the back of podium finishes in all four of the world cup events, a brace of bronze medals in Italy followed by silver in the road race and bronze in the time trial in Spain.

Stone has been locked in a thrilling battle with Germany’s Hans-Peter Durst throughout the season, a duel that is set to continue in Greenville.

"He's going to have his work cut out for him,” explained Norfolk. “How he responds to this more competitive category and environment is a really key characteristic of a champion. He's ready for the challenge and he'll give it as good as he's got."

Karen Darke currently lies in third overall in the UCI rankings in the H3 class. Following a 2013 wrecked with injury following a serious road accident, Darke returned to strike gold in the time trial in the first world cup in Italy, only to crash heavily in the road race.

But the London 2012 silver medallist recovered for the second round in Spain, taking bronze both handcycle events.

"There's a real competitive group of four or five athletes in there,” said Norfolk. “Karen is a very motivated individual. On each of their days, any of that four or five could win. So I think the ability to race in the environment that's out there and peak for a big event will be a key part of that. She's working hard and really focussed on performing on the day."

Dame Sarah Storey did not compete in either of the 2014 road world cup events but showed that she was back to her best at the UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships in Aguascalientes, Mexico, winning gold in the scratch and pursuit, along with bronze in the 500-metre time trial.

Storey comes into the event in top form after a successful season on the road riding for the Pearl Izumi Sports Tours International women’s team.

"A number of Sarah's time trial and road race performances have shown that she would be competitive with her current group,” Norfolk said.

“It's important that people in particular categories like Sarah's use domestic and international able-bodied competition to stretch themselves and remain competitive and ahead of the pack.

"With SRM data there are some good comparables in there which would suggest that she's in better form than she has been for a number of years."

Great Britain’s athletes will begin their campaigns on 29 August with the time trial events with daily reports, results and reaction on the British Cycling website.

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