2012 Silver Medal winner Karen Darke has opened Scotland's first disabled cycling facility - and knocked off an inaugural time trial for others to beat in the process.
Highland Cycle Ability Centre today at Cantray, near Cawdor, is an open air track that's a dedicated facility for people with physical and learning disabilities.
It cost £250,000, (of which £48,510 was an investment by sportscotland) to build and includes timing technology to allow riders to improve their performances time upon time. Able-bodied riders will be able to use the track by appointment.
The group behind the new track, Highland based charity The Watermill Foundation, hope the new facility will encourage more young disabled people to take up sport in Scotland in the wake of Team GB’s success in the 2012 London Paralympics, and in the run up to the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
Joanna McGregor, Chairwoman of The Watermill Foundation, said: “We are absolutely delighted that Karen Darke, one of the great ambassadors for disabled cycling, joined us for the opening of this new centre, a first for Scotland. Karen has enjoyed huge sporting success as a Paralympic cyclist and we hope that her support will encourage young disabled people across Scotland to take an interest in cycling.
“This is an enormously exciting time for disabled sport in Scotland. The success of Team GB in the 2012 Paralympic Games was a huge inspiration for those of us who work closely with disabled people. We hope this new facility will allow us to build on this success and inspire others to pursue their sporting ambitions, particularly as we approach the Commonwealth Games.”
Sport Minister Shona Robison said: “This is a tremendous facility that will make it much easier for disabled people to get involved in cycling and will raise the profile of para cycling ahead of the events at next year’s Commonwealth Games. Backed by sportscotland funding, this is a first for Scotland and testament to The Watermill Foundation’s vision and hard work.”
After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.