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Our adventures with Louisa take us to Mexico!

by Sarah Storey
Sarah Storey
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on Apr 25 in Race Blog

The 2014 Para-Cycling Track World Championships were a much anticipated event as this would be the first time the world had reconvened for a major track international in 19 long months since the London Paralympic Games.

The altitude of 1900m in Aguascalientes in Mexico greeted us, along with some very pleasant outside temperatures of up to 33 degrees. The velodrome in Aguascalientes is world famous for being one of the fastest tracks in the world and whilst some of that is due to the altitude, the rest of it is due to the environment inside the velodrome. Originally an outdoor track, a roof was constructed over the top and is held up with air pressure alone. This means there is an air tight entry system of double doors to ensure none of the air keeping the roof up can escape. With no air coming in or going out and no air conditioning of any kind either, the temperature inside the building is dictated by the conditions outside and when the sun is blazing down all day, the temperature inside the track just rises and rises.

With a morning track temperature of around 20 degrees at 9am, the peak would reach 40 or even 45 degrees during the course of the day and this created a whole host of considerations for riders, staff and spectators alike.

Although the 19 months of waiting for a major track event had been something of an inconvenience for the rest of the world, for me it was great to have the extra time to get back into full training after my year out to have Louisa. Turning 9 months old just before we made the trip to Mexico, Louisa is growing fast and developing every day, learning new things and constantly making us laugh. As any parents would be, we were curious to see how she would cope with the demands of the long travel day to get there, but she seemed to take it all in her stride and loved the attention she received along the way.

Our hotel for the duration of the event was well equipped for a young family and the food surprisingly good, despite the warnings we had received prior to departure. Having said that, it was important to avoid the meat due to the chance of contamination with clenbutarol which is present in the food chain in Mexico and it just wasn’t worth risking a positive drugs test. The hotel also had the all important swimming pool, which was probably as warm as anyone would have their bath, and it was great to see Louisa splashing around in the water every afternoon getting ever more confident by the day.

IMG-20140428-WA0002

Down at the track I was pushing out some fast times in training and looking forward to testing my legs against the rest of the world. Louisa and Barney were joined by my Dad for competition and Louisa coped with the heat of the velodrome remarkably well considering it was such an alien environment for her. One thing the extra heat meant was an extra requirement for milk from me, so whilst drinking water to stay hydrated is one thing, for a nursing baby, being able to get milk from Mum is the most thirst quenching option they have, so understandably I was needed to feed her slightly more than I had been at home and as a result I was constantly drinking myself to keep up with the demand!

When competition started I was first up with a medal chance for Great Britain in the 500m Time Trial, an event in which I was defending champion. Two years ago in LA, the world record holder had been competing but was outside of the medals, so everyone was curious to see whether her form had returned. We weren’t disappointed and she clocked a superb time of 36.3 to slice a massive 0.4 off her own world record. Jennifer Schuble of the USA clocked a personal best of 37.0 whilst I was in third with a 37.1. I was really pleased to be so close to the 36.9 I had recorded in London and well over 2 seconds faster than the time I had recorded at my first competition back in December 2013. The form seemed to be coming back nicely and with a rest day on day two I was ready and raring to go in the 3000m Individual Pursuit on day 3.

Mexico start

As defending champion in the 3k event and undefeated in the event since I first competed in Para-Cycling competition in 2005, there was an expectation following me around which I did my best to ignore and focus on the job in hand. Having clocked 3.32.1 for the gold in London I knew I wasn’t far off that kind of form and so in qualification I went out to see what was possible. A slight misunderstanding in pace communication between our GB coach and me meant that I wasn’t aware of just how far inside world record pace I was and the early pace eventually took its toll, so I slipped back a little but still managed to finish as fastest qualifier with a world record of 3.32.0. Some might say the Sergei Bubka approach to world record breaking!

My opponent in the final, Anna Harkowska, was the same as I had been up against in London and by the end of 6 laps I had managed to catch her to claim my 21st world title! It was an amazing feeling and made even better by the sight of Louisa waving to me from the stands!

IMG 3092 IP podium

The final day of competition was a double day for me, with Team Sprint in the morning and Scratch race in the afternoon. Finishing just shy of the top four in the Team Sprint was pretty disappointing but there wasn’t time to dwell too much as I had to get up and ready for the 10km of the scratch race just a short while later. 40 laps in more than 40 degrees centigrade was pretty taxing but after taking 2 laps on the field I was able to sit up and watch the rest of the riders sprint it out for the silver medal knowing I had done more than enough to secure my second world title of the Championships!

Aguas Scratch

IMG 3151 scratchpodium

Boarding the plane home was a great feeling, knowing that I had come back to full international competition just 9 months after having Louisa. Her presence in the stands with Barney and Dad just added to the motivation and seeing her so excited to see me, regardless of how purple and sweaty I was, really topped everything. I certainly couldn’t have produced the results I did without the support of Barney, Mum and Dad, so it was great they were able to witness the fruits of our hard work and organisational skills!

We arrived home with less than 48 hours until the start of the next event, the 3rd round of the National Time Trial series. I was going off second from last and up against my own Pearl Izumi Sports Tours International team mate, Katie Archibald and Wiggle Honda’s Joanna Rowsell. It was a hard fought, hilly 22 miles, but at the end Katie had the win 30 seconds ahead of me and I was in second almost a minute ahead of Joanna in third. With five 2014 world titles between us, it was certainly one of the most decorated Time Trial podiums the national series has ever seen!

Buxton TT GoodFriday 2014

Not satisfied with getting one battering on the Time Trial bike, the very next day the Pearl Izumi Sports Tours International team were back out racing again, this time in the Manchester and District Time Trial Association Championships. Once again I was second to the awesome Katie Archibald, but there is time to try and get my revenge!!!

With an invitation Time Trial and Cheshire Classic coming up this weekend, you could say we are well and truly in the swing of the road season! Of course the training and racing is going to be interspersed with some swimming pool visits for our water baby and as well as that we are starting to master the art of walking! Time is flying but when there is a baby around it is always a great deal of fun!

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