The Great Britain Paracycling squad have travelled to Belgium and will take part in their first race on the road since the London 2012 Paralympic Games last summer.
The four-strong squad of female riders will take part in the Tandem Tour of Belgium which will run from 9 May to 13 May and will see experience ride alongside some exciting new prospects, who will be pairing up for the very first time. The two Great Britain teams will compete against another eleven teams from the Netherlands, Germany, Poland and the United States.
Tom Stanton, Great Britain Paracycling Endurance Coach, is travelling with the team and commented, “This is our first road race of the new Paralympic cycle; it’s the tandem tour of Belgium so it’s tandems only and for the first time in a long time we are having two female tandems racing.”
Lora Turnham, who won gold at the UCI Para-Cycling Road World Cup in Segovia, Spain last year, with Fiona Duncan, will be piloted by Corrine Hall. Hall has recently moved up the ranks from the ODP programme and is tipped by Stanton as an exciting prospect.
“We have Lora Turnham who is piloted by Corrine Hall. Corrine is one of our development riders who has been brought into the squad during this Paralympic cycle; she is a really exciting prospect for us. She will be riding with Lora Turnham who is really raring to go since the Games last summer.”
Fiona Duncan will pilot the second Great Britain tandem with stoker Rhiannon Henry. Rhiannon will be a new name to many cycling fans but is certainly no newcomer to competitive sport. She is a talent transfer from swimming, already having two Paralympic medals to her name since competing in Athens, Beijing and London as part of the Great Britain Paralympic swimming squad.
“These are all new pairings really”, explained Stanton, “so, it’s a great opportunity to see what the rest of the world has been doing with their winter and most importantly, it’s an exciting chance for us to get a bit of racing in.”
The tour will be held over four days incorporating six different events starting with a 5Km time trial in the town of Gedinne in the south west of the country. This will be followed by a 75Km closed road race in the afternoon around the surrounding area. The event is made up of a further three road races ranging from 80 to 86 Km but will also involve a 2.5km time trial around the Wielerpiste Hulshout, a 384m outdoor velodrome in the Antwerp province to the north east of the country.
“This is a really interesting event for us as we very rarely do stage races in Paracycling”, explained Stanton.
“This is a four day stage race with six events in it. The girls will start tomorrow with a 5Km time trial, followed by a 75Km road ride, around a fairly technical closed road crit circuit. On day two they will have an 86 Km ride which will be a great test of their levels of endurance back to back.
“The girls have then got a 2.5Km time trial followed by another 80km crit race. I think that will be an interesting one as I think it could be quite twitchy, with the course showcasing plenty of sharp corners. On the last day, we do a further 80km crit race followed by, hopefully a decent finishing position.”
“This is going to be a tough test for the athletes as they have early starts and late finishes here. The first day will set them up for how the rest of the competition will pan out; it should be a really interesting event.”