2014 UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships coverage | Dame Sarah Storey biog | About para-cycling
Written by: Eddie Allen
Video: Simon Powers
Dame Sarah Storey is confident of her form and preparation ahead of the UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships, which take place at the high-altitude Aguascalientes venue in Mexico from 10-13 April.
The multiple Paralympic champion says that her returning form following giving birth to daughter Louisa and her natural pre-disposition to riding at altitude will stand her in good stead when she makes her return to world-championship track competition after an 18-month hiatus.
The last championships were held in Los Angeles in 2012 when Storey won gold in the pursuit and 500 metre time-trial.
“There's obviously been a severe lack of track events in the time since the London Games,” said Storey. “It’s been a really barren time for competition so to have the world champs in Mexico is a fantastic opportunity.”
Sarah Storey began her sporting career as a swimmer, winning two golds, three silvers and a bronze medal at the 1992 Paralympics in Barcelona, at the age of just 14.
Storey’s success in the pool continued, picking up ten more Paralympic swimming medals before making the switch to cycling in 2005.
Her transition from swimming to cycling success was seamless, with two golds in Beijing and four at London 2012, equalling Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson's record of 11 Paralympic golds. Her efforts in the pool and on the bike also earned her an MBE in 1998, and OBE in 2009 and a Damehood in 2013.
Storey was born with a partly-formed left hand and competes in the C5 class, for athletes with mild cerebral palsy, single limb amputations/impairments or minimal neurological dysfunction.
Her last competitive international outing on the track came at the Newport International Para-cycling Cup, her first real test of track form after giving birth to daughter Louisa in June 2013.
There she won gold in the pursuit with a time of 3:45.406, 15 seconds faster than second placed Jennifer Schuble of the USA, a time that would have been good enough for gold in London 2012 and a serious indicator that pregnancy had done little to dent Storey’s ability.
"Newport was really to see where I was at, to see what was possible,” said the 36-year-old. “The fact I was able to produce a time that was still quick enough to have won in London was a huge bonus that I didn't really expect.
"It showed me that I wasn't as fit as I had been. There was still plenty of baby-weight to lose which has come off naturally as I've been continuing to feed Louisa. So it was just a process of putting a marker in the sand really for my own personal aims.”
Thanks to a great family support network, Storey has been able to juggle the competing demands of parenthood and training and make real progress since the Welsh event.
“Obviously [husband] Barney's a huge support to me, bringing Louisa to the track in case she needs me in the middle of a track session and looking after her while I'm out on the road,” said Storey.
“We just juggle our training between us - tag team it if you like - we don't go out training as often together anymore but if we do my parents step in - they just live around the corner at home.”
Storey has had a perfect run-in to the worlds, having completed two really strong blocks of training on the road before switching to track-specific work.
"So far the work on the boards has been really positive,” she said. “I'm looking forward to testing it out. There's no pressure in terms of outcome.
“We need to score some good points obviously towards the Rio qualification but again it's another marker in the sand towards me being back to being a full-time athlete without being a breast-feeding mum at the same time.”
Storey has also been putting in the hours in Manchester Metropolitan University’s environment chamber, preparing her body for the physiological demands of racing at an altitude of over 1800 metres.
“I've got a naturally very high haemoglobin mass, which lends itself to training in an altitude chamber,” said Storey, who has had good experience of racing on the road at altitude.
“I've used that chamber in the run-up to London with some good effects and good results so I'm excited to put it to the test in an actual altitude race.”
"It's an exciting time for the whole world and it will be good to see who's done what since the Games and whether they've allowed it to affect them mentally or not."