Team bosses also use Manchester event as launch pad for London 2012

Manchester Velodrome’s busy autumn programme continues this weekend with the UCI Para-Cycling Track World Championships taking place there from Friday through to Sunday.

Team GB won 20 medals at last year’s Paralympic Games in Beijing, 17 of them gold, and some of the contry’s World and Paralympic champions will be competing at Manchester. Star names include Sarah Storey, who will participate in the LC1 (upper limb disability affecting one arm) category, and Darren Kenny, who takes part in the CP3 (rider with an acquired or congenital brain injury that affects their motor control) Kilo and 3 Kilometre Pursuit events.

According to GB Para-Cycling Lead Coach Chris Furber, these championships form the first step in the team’s preparation for London 2012. “This year is all about trying out new things in our team, from new pairings to new training methodologies,” he explains. “From 2010 we will be implementing what we have learnt in 2009 to really hone in on our performance ahead of London 2012 Paralympic Games.”

Furber adds that the team is also looking to target events where Great Britain has been less successful in the past, “to see if we can fast- track athletes into medal winning positions ahead of 2012. For us London will be about gold or nothing.”

That statement of intent throws down the gauntlet to other countries hoping for success this weekend and, further ahead, in London in three years’ time, and there will be a strong foreign presence at Manchester this weekend looking to spoil the Team GB party, including the USA’s Karissa Whitsell, Michael Gallagher from Australia, and the Czech Republic’s Jiri Jezek.

It’s the first time that Great Britain has hosted the Para-Cycling World Championships, and Jonny Clay, Cycle Sport and Membership Director at British Cycling, says “we are extremely proud to be bringing the best Para-Cyclists from around the globe to the city in what promises to be another great competition, completing three weeks of world class track action at the Manchester Velodrome.”

A busy programme sees nearly 30 hours of action on the track over the three days of competition, and a full programme can be found at on the UCI website, while tickets can be bought from www.ticketmaster.co.uk.

Meanwhile, following last weekend’s World Cup at the Velodrome, members of Team GB’s Paralympic Cycling team including Storey and Jody Cundy, joined their Olympic counterparts, with Victoria Pendleton, Wendy Houvenaghel and Chris Newton in attendance, among others, in being awarded the Freedom of the City of Manchester.

After the ceremony, which took place at Manchester Town Hall, British Cycling Performance Director Dave Brailsford said: “It's a great honour for the GB Olympic and Paralympic Cycling Team to be granted the Freedom of the City. Both the athletes and the staff are extremely grateful for the support we have received from Manchester City Council over the years and we appreciate this recognition of our achievements.”

British Cycling President, Brian Cookson, added: “Our success would not have been possible without the support of Manchester City Council. We look forward to continuing our close partnership with the city in the run up to London 2012 and beyond.”

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.