The blueprint for Paralympic cycling gold

The blueprint for Paralympic cycling gold

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Time is Chris Furber's currency - and he deals in the smallest fractions imaginable as Great Britain's lead para-cycling coach.

"Our best riders work incredibly hard just to win by a one-hundredth or even one-thousandth of a second," he said.

It's attention to these atomic-sized margins which ensured Great Britain returned from the World Para-Cycling Track Championships in Los Angeles with 17 medals - eight gold, seven silver and two bronze.

The haul was one gold medal short of 2011's return of nine and Furber admitted Britain - who scooped an incredible 17 gold medals in the velodrome at the 2008 Paralympics - are unlikely to experience the same levels of dominance as four years ago.


"There are very small margins between gold, silver and bronze and, if you get your preparations right, there’s no reason why you can move up from bronze to gold when the Games come around"

Chris Furber


"Some of the riders in the past have had a comfortable margin with their gold medals but what they are realising now is the rest of the world is starting to catch up," he said. "That gap they might have had between gold and silver is reducing all the time."

Australia emphasised their threat as Britain's main rivals in London by claiming seven gold and three silver medals, while China's robust performances yet again reinforced their credentials in a Paralympic year.

And Ireland, who have not traditionally been one of Britain's main competitors, have made rapid progress, pipping their neighbours to gold in no fewer than three finals in California.

However, Furber attributed the global progression to a natural plateau in Britain's para-cycling progression, with riders having to work significantly harder for smaller gains.

"In para-cycling, because it’s a newer sport, British riders have traditionally accelerated rapidly," he said. "But we’re now coming towards a sharp end of performance where you need to put in a lot more effort for smaller returns. Other nations are going through that rapid progression phase behind us."

With the focus shifting from the track to the upcoming road cycling season, Furber and his fellow coaches will assess their performances from Los Angeles to calculate Britain's best prospects for gold in six months' time.

British Cycling received funding from UK Sport with the simple brief to deliver as many para-cycling gold medallists as possible in London. The better the return, the higher the funding.

This approach has led to dominant riders like Jody Cundy being entered into multiple events to maximise medal return.

"In Beijing, Jody returned a kilo and team sprint gold," said Furber.

"And since then he has remained unchallenged in the kilo, which gave us the option of looking at another event. So we said 'What can we look at next?' which brought us to the 4km pursuit. He’s worked really hard on that event and returned a silver in last year's world championships and a bronze this year.

"Now what we really need to do is look at the numbers we got from LA and say 'is it in our interests to target three events for Jody?' or focus on one or two events to ensure a return on a gold medal?

"The riders and staff alike would much rather return one gold than three silver."

Although Britain missed out on gold in a number of targeted events in Los Angeles, Furber said he is happy with Britain's overall position six months before the Paralympics.

"There are very small margins between gold, silver and bronze and, if you get your preparations right, there’s no reason why you can move up from bronze to gold when the Games come around," he added.

"Our plans were to be in medal positions for the world tracks in the events we wanted to be competitive in and we hit that on the head across the board."