Paralympic Games legend Sarah Storey with Part 1 of her blog on London 2012
Sarah writes … It’s been quite a while since I managed to sit and write a blog and even now I am perched on the edge of a bed in my umpteenth hotel room since the Games ended! The journey has been incredible and so I thought I would wind the clock back a few weeks talk about the last bit of the build up, the Games themselves and then the post Games fun!
After returning from the Tour of Limousin at the end of July, my plan was to be UK based into the Games and with a win at the Rudy Project Time Trial event in early August, I then headed back to the track and was working on a fine balancing act between continued altitude training at Manchester Metropolitan University, the start of my track work and the last few road events.
It was an exciting time during early August, not least because the Olympics were going on and there was so much sporting action to keep up with. Of course, the cycling action was my favourite, but watching Great Britain bring home that impressive haul of 29 Gold medals was truly inspiring and I was of course most delighted to see cycling take such a large slice of that with another impressive 8 Golds. It was the perfect TV viewing in and around my own training and meant I was even more excited to get going myself!
I finished my road racing preparation by riding the Essex Giro, a 3 stage, 2 day event held near Saffron Walden, in not-so-flat Essex! It was a fantastic weekend of sunshine and the race was made tougher by the strong wind and the short sharp climbs we faced throughout the race. With a strong team with me from For VioRed, it was a testament to their support that I won the first and second stages and came 2nd in the final stage to take the win overall and this also meant the series win too!
Winning the Jo Bruton trophy, which is awarded for winning the series, is not something I ever thought I would be good enough to do, so this gave me a huge boost ahead of the Paralympics. Essex Giro also gave me a fantastic chance to try out the specific equipment I would be using during the Road Race at the Games, with one of the most notable changes being the new Air Attack helmet from Giro. Madison had kindly rushed this new helmet to me ahead of the Essex Giro and it proved to be the perfect testing ground for a helmet with fewer air vents, as the weather was so hot!
After a brief return to the Peak District for a final week of training, we headed south again for the all-important closed road Time Trial at Blenheim Palace and without doubt my most favourite race on the British Time Trial calendar.
Held in the beautiful grounds of Blenheim Palace it was fantastic to be able to whizz round the circuit, covering 3 laps of the course to make up a 20km race in total. The event was also the perfect event to do ahead of the Paralympics, as the undulating and slightly twisty nature of the route was not too dissimilar to that we would face at Brands Hatch during the Games.
It was huge success for our For VioRed team with myself and Claire Galloway securing the top two spots on the podium, with my winning time being only 1 second slower than last year in far more blustery conditions.
Leaving Blenheim, I had butterflies in my stomach as we were heading straight to Chepstow and our location for the pre Paralympic Games holding camp. Using the boards of the Newport Velodrome, the altitude chamber at the University of Glamorgan and the Time Trial being run by Pontypool CC on the Tuesday night of our stay, we had a great base for putting the final preparation to our training. The roads of Gloucestershire over the bike path on the M48 bridge and the hills between Chepstow and Usk, provided great options for my road training too and it was great to be able to chill out and focus on the task ahead.
My training was as evenly spread between all elements of road, track, altitude and time trial as was possible, with additional rest thrown in on some days to help me absorb the extra intensity of the pursuit efforts I was doing on the boards. Speed was also a prime consideration, as I knew the 500m Time Trial would prove to be a tough ask given the challenge of the Chinese and also the factor system that was being employed as the C4 and C5 classes were to be combined.
After an enjoyable 8 days of training, we were soon heading across to London and our first look at the Paralympic Village, our apartment for the duration of the Games and the schedule we would have prior to competition starting on August 30th.
I was sharing an apartment with tandem pairing Helen Scott and Aileen McGlynn and with 3 bedrooms, a bathroom and lovely big lounge, not to mention the wrap around balcony, we were spoiled and settled in very well!
My room was looking over the stadium and swimming pool, with the impressive London skyline the ultimate backdrop. I decorated the walls with all the cards and good luck messages I had received, as well as hanging up my union flags, union flag bunting and sticking up all the amazing post cards I had received from the Deloitte people I had been working with as their Ambassador to London 2012.
I also received an amazing book from Scottish Widows, who I had been working with for five years, again as their Ambassador to London 2012. The book was full of messages of support from people I have worked with and they were all telling me how proud they were to have had me as their Ambassador and how they were looking forward to watching me race. Barney had contributed to the book too and there were some great pictures in there.
Another Ambassador role I had been doing for London 2012, was one with Links of London, who had the official jewellery collection to the Games and they had made me an amazing engraved silver plate to wish me all the best. Having these fantastic messages of support was incredibly special and certainly helped us personalise our apartment. Whenever anyone came to visit us they were impressed with the effort we had gone to!
The Olympic Village and 2012 Games
Our first full day in the Village saw us waiting for a late track session, so after a morning with some high rev rollers, it was time to chill out and prepare to head across to the track to see how things were shaping up for the competition. The track centre looked fantastic with all the pits laid out and the flags and branding displayed. The roof lights were blacked out so you couldn’t tell what time of day it was and the temperature was rising nicely, so we knew conditions would be pretty good by the time we were ready to race.
I was only doing two short sharp sessions on the velodrome ahead of competition and on opening ceremony day I was scheduled for a 90 minute road spin as the last training session before the Individual Pursuit started the following morning. Provision for road training at the Games was superb and very well organised, with a bus leaving the transport mall and heading to the closed circuit at Redbridge several times every morning.
From the circuit there was a signed route on open roads, using quiet country lanes and giving a total circuit of 40km including a lap of Redbridge at the start and finish. It was an ideal spot to head out to, and although we had only been in the Village bubble for a couple of days, the freedom of being out on the road in the sunshine was very welcome. I thoroughly enjoyed my short visit out to Essex again and was ready and raring to start competition the following day.
The first thing of course was the Opening Ceremony, but the cycling team had opted not to go to the ceremony as competition started the following morning. We enjoyed a leisurely dinner before settling down to watch the TV. The great thing about the position of our apartment was that it allowed us to step onto the balcony and listen to the music live as well as seeing and hearing it through the television!
After the teams had all been announced it was already very late so we headed to bed before the end, only to be woken up by the fireworks around midnight! Thank goodness for ear plugs! That’s it for this first instalment, needless to say the next one will be action packed and hopefully I will have time to write it during my stay in the next hotel! Thinking back to the start of competition and how excited I was to get going, I could never have imagined how I would feel sat here writing about it!
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