The British Paralympic cycling squad left the velodrome in Beijing after four days of competition with a spectacular haul of medals. With three more days of road events coming up, starting with time trials on Friday, expectations are high for more successes from the in-form team.
Performance manager Helen Mortimer mentioned a target of between six and eight cycling gold medals at the pre-Beijing press conference, but Team GB riders topped the podium in 12 out of the 13 track events entered.
British Cycling disability coach Chris Furber explained how it all came together in the Laoshan velodrome.
?It?s gone horribly wrong, but in the right direction: 12 golds, one silver and 10 world records!
?I think we knew that everyone was in great condition when we went out [to Beijing], but the British guys have taken a step up, the same as the able-bodied guys took a step up for the Olympics. And it seemed like the other nations hadn?t ? they had stayed still since the world championships. Everyone has really upped their game in the preparation and produced some awesome individual performances, and everybody else in the world hadn?t, with the possible exception of the Australians, who were strong as per usual.?
We spoke to Furber as the team returned to the athlete?s village having checked out the time trial course on Thursday. ?We had all the guys up here who are doing the time trial tomorrow, just doing a few laps. The course is amazing ? it?s so beautiful. It is set around the edge of a reservoir, with mountains in the background, and today has been hot and sunny.
?We have got five opportunities tomorrow in the time trials; Darren Kenny, Sarah Storey, Simon Richardson, Rachel Morris and David Stone, and they could all win. Then we go into the road races, where it is a bit more of a lottery. A medal would be good from the road races – gold would be fantastic but unexpected.”
Darren Kenny already has three golds to hang round his neck and, with two more races to ride, threatens to oust Chris Hoy as the King of Bling.
?He is in absolutely fantastic form, no doubt about it. He is looking good on the time trial course,? said Furber.
Kenny comes up against former Tour de France stage winner Javier Otxoa in both time trial and road race. The Spaniard was seriously injured in 2001 in a training accident that killed his brother Ricardo and left Javier in a coma, but returned to competition at the 2004 Paralympics to take gold in the time trial and silver in the pursuit.
Beijing has not started so well for Otxoa, but Furber says the former professional should not be discounted just yet. ?He looked terrible on the track. He didn?t medal in either the kilo or the pursuit, which is very rare. But you can never rule the Spanish out on the road: they are so strong. That is what they focus on and they don?t worry too much about the track.?