As the curtain fell on the Para-cycling in the London Velodrome, Great Britain’s Para Cycling Performance Manager Gareth Sheppard summed up the ‘rollercoaster’ ride of the last four days of competition, which has seen his squad close its track account with 15 medals; five gold, seven silver and three bronze. Great Britain tops the cycling medal table at this stage ahead of China and Australia, with the road events yet to come and more opportunities to build on an already impressive achievement.
“It's been a real emotional rollercoaster. There have been some absolute highs and some real lows,” admitted Sheppard after he watched Darren Kenny, Rik Waddon and Jon-Allan Butterworth conclude Sunday’s action with a silver medal in the Mixed C1 to C5 Team Sprint. “We returned 15 medals - we've medalled in every event we've entered a rider.”
The lows that Sheppard referred to were the DNF handed out to Jody Cundy in the C4/5 Kilo, after the Wisbech born rider was denied a restart – leading to an emotional outburst from Cundy and a booing, jeering partisan crowd.
The second disappointment was the double mechanical suffered by Anthony Kappes and Craig Maclean on day three in the B Time Trial, a less controversial moment that the Cundy episode, but still a major blow for the pairing and the team. However, on the final day, Kappes and Maclean were able to make amends in the B Sprint, winning a thrilling final against teammates Neil Fachie and Barney Storey. Cundy too was able to put his kilo disappointment behind him, winning bronze in the C4 pursuit, catching his rival with some style.
“Perhaps with the exception of the men's C4/5 kilo we've got the results we wanted in every single classification,” said Sheppard, who continued “We were never going to be able to match that result from Beijing," alluding to the fact that UCI changes in the classification system made it impossible to compare the performance with that of Beijing, where GB won 12 out of 13 of the events they entered.
Sheppard went on to pay tribute to an overall raising of the performance benchmark across the nations at the London Games, making his team’s performance all the more satisfying. “What we have seen is a huge increase in the standard of Paralympic competition and that's just good for the sport," Sheppard added. “It keeps us on our toes. We've got to go back now and raise our game again to make sure we stay on top for Rio.”
The cycling takes a break for a few days before GB’s riders take to the road on Wednesday for four days of action at Brands Hatch, and Sheppard is keen to exploit further opportunities for his squad to build on its track success: “We managed to stay on top of the medal table,” said Sheppard, “We're still the number one track nation and now we've got to go to look to try to build on that on the road.”