After more than 20 months without access to international road racing, Corrine Hall and Sarah Storey, formed part of a 12 rider squad from Great Britain that attended the UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships in Cascais, Portugal.
Kicking off the medal haul for the team was Sarah, who was starting as defending champion in both events. Riding the Road Time Trial on Thursday morning, Storey was last off in the women’s C5 category, on a race course that was held entirely within the Estorial Motor Racing circuit.
Each lap of the course contained 23 corners, and with wind speed gusts of up to 25 mph, there was an unpredictable nature to each lap meaning full concentration and very little opportunity to get in to a rhythm. Having spent much of the spring focusing on the closed motor circuit time trials in the UK, Storey was well prepared for the World Championships and a recent course record at the Goodwood event, had provided her with a much needed confidence boost after so long away from international racing.
Taking time out of her opponents from the first kilometre, Storey was able to throttle back a little in the 3rd and final lap with the second placed rider in her sights. Completing the course with an average speed of 26mph, Sarah Storey was world champion for the 39th time in her career!
Piloting Lora Fachie in the women’s tandem time trial, Corrine Hall was the final British bike off on the first day of competition but first off in a field that included 14 other tandem bikes.
With a clear course for lap one, Hall and Fachie made the most of this opportunity and rode a very well paced race, with their fastest lap coming in lap four of four. Taking the world title by over 30 seconds, the pair had outperformed the rest of the world by a considerable margin, with the Tokyo Games just over 2 months away.
Day 3 was the next opportunity for medals with the tandems taking to the circuit as the first event of the day with a 100km road race. Riding alongside debutant pair Jenny Holl and Sophie Unwin, Corrine and Lora were understandably the marked pairing having won the time trial. In a tactical and sometimes slow paced race, Hall and Fachie worked hard to break up the field, but the eventual tandem bunch sprint ensued and they fought hard to cross the line for a well deserved bronze medal behind Holl and Unwin who took gold and Irish pair Dunlevy and McCrystal who took their second silver medal of the week.
The final event of day 3 saw Sarah Storey lining up for the defence of her road race world title. Never one to take a result for granted, Storey was understandably nervous that her unbeaten run of 15 years may come to an end and was expecting a tactical race.
The first lap was very cagey, with a lone attacker at the end of the lap taking on the race with a further 7 laps left to go. Building up a lead that topped 2 minutes, it wasn’t until the 3rd lap that the peloton responded, with Kerstin Brachendorf of Germany going clear and making good progress to the breakaway. Sarah sat tight in the bunch, not wanting to show her cards too earlier and waited for other riders to take it on first. A couple of half-hearted attempts were shut down but then British rider Crystal Lane-Wright made a big move and started to look like she was going to get across. The bunch responded to this, with Sarah sitting in and waiting for her opportunity. As the peloton brought back the Lane-Wright move, Sarah took her turn to attack up the short climb at the back of the course. Getting a considerable gap in a short time, there were just two other riders, from Italy and Russia, able to hold on. By the end of lap 4 this chasing trio caught the German rider and were making good headway on the solo leader.
With 2 laps to go, and Brachendorf hitting the little climb hard each lap, the chasing riders had caught the lone leader, pulled out a significant gap on the peloton chasing hard behind and also managed to drop the Italian from the break to bring about a 3up sprint for the medals.
Storey had been doing the lion share of the work to create the gap to the chasing riders, with a fragmented peloton as solo attempts to cross the gap were made. In the end it was Storey who led out the final sprint, taking up a position on the right hand barrier to keep an eye on her rivals and winding up the sprint from around 700m, before hitting the full gas button at 250m to go.
The finish line was hers and she crossed it to take the 40th world title of her career and 24th rainbow jersey!
Heading home from Portugal, the British team had amassed a total of six world titles during the course of the event and Tokyo Paralympic selection will be announced in the coming weeks.