Paralympic and World Champion takes to the road, and eyes Team GB place for 2012

Paralympic and World Para-cycling champion Sarah Storey – who is also reigning British Individual Pursuit champion in the event open to all cyclists – has been named the first signing for the Horizon Fitness women’s road cycling team.

The setting up of the new team, whose sponsor manufactures home exercise equipment, was announced earlier this week. Managed by Stefan Wyman, previously Directeur Sportif at Vision 1 Racing, one of its principal aims is to help develop young British cycling talent, and it is managed by Stefan Wyman, previously Directeur Sportif at Vision 1 Racing.

Storey will ride for Horizon Fitness in events in the UK and Continental Europe, and Wyman believes that her experience will benefit more junior members of the squad, saying: “Sarah is a very strong rider with a massive amount of respect in the sport. Her ambition for the future matches her achievements of the past, and that can’t be ignored. She’s someone that gives 100% and I think our younger riders will learn a huge amount from Sarah.

“We had Sarah over for a few days training to our team house in Belgium and she fitted in very well,” Wyman continued. “She’s easy to get along with and she can give the guys a run for their money on the bike. I think everyone involved with the team is looking forward to working with her in 2010.”

He added, “To build a team from scratch isn’t easy and to blend the personalities is never as easy as it would seem, but I think with Sarah we have someone that going fit in well, and if she races and trains with her usual gusto, she’ll raise standards, that’s for sure.”

Storey, for her part, is enthusiastic about signing up with the new team, which will use Kona bikes, as well as the opportunity to race on the road. ‘"I'm excited to join Horizon Fitness Kona and making the step up to racing in a team in bigger races,” she said.

“Road racing is an area I’m keen to improve on as an individual and know that in joining this team I’ll be able to continue to develop both skills and physical strength to complement my paracycling races,” she added.

“I'm excited to be working alongside some of GB's finest young talent and am hoping the 2010 season will see us all mould into a strong team and win races along the way. My personal goals lie with 2010 World Paracycling Champs in Columbia in August and I’d also love to make the team for England at Commonwealth Games."

Despite being born with a deformed left hand, Storey, whose husband Barney is a successful Para-cycling sprint tandem pilot, has amply demonstrated that she merits a place among the sport’s elite able-bodied riders, and she recently told BBC Radio Manchester that she her longer-term aims include competing in both the Olympics and Paralympics at London 2012.

The time she rode while winning the Individual Pursuit in the Paralympic World Championships in Manchester last month would have placed her second in the able-bodied World Cup event at the same track in October, a month in which she successfully defended her British national title in the same event.

Although the Individual Pursuit has been dropped from the Olympic programme for 2012, Storey would be targeting a place in the Team Pursuit event, which has been retained.

The 2012 Paralympics, meanwhile, would represent Storey’s sixth consecutive appearance at those games. Before switching to para-cycling ahead of Beijing last year, where she won two gold medals on the track, Storey accumulated a total of 16 medals in swimming events at Barcelona, Atlanta, Sydney and Athens – five of them gold, eight silver, and three bronze.

Talking about the creation of the new team, Wyman said: “Women’s cycling is moving forward quickly each year both in terms of the teams and the events. However this coming season will see a lot of long established European pro teams ending and new teams looking to start their build up towards London 2012 and beyond.

“I want to help develop young British riders, but that isn’t my only focus for the team long term. I have some ideas of how I feel success can be achieved in women’s cycling, and our sponsors share those ideas. This team will have a major focus on integrating sponsors and supporters with the team to allow them to have the maximum return and enjoyment from the team.”

“This time of year is always really important to ensure you get the right blend of riders and this year is particularly busy as so many riders are looking for new teams,” he continued “It’s also really important that we start to speak to race organisers about entries already. That’s another area of Women’s Cycling that is changing fast. Some older races have disappeared for 2010, like the Women’s Tour de France” – won this year by Britain’s Emma Pooley and in 2006 and 2007 by Nicole Cooke.

“However, new events are coming all the time as part of the globalisation of women’s cycle sport. The 2010 UCI road calendar includes a World Cup in China and also a Tour of India,” Wyman said.

‘We also want to try to help invest in the sport in UK,” he added. “We’re looking at backing some events and getting our sponsors involved, as well as participating in them ourselves. Over the last few years, women’s cycling in the UK has moved so far forward. You only have to look at the rider line up in great teams such as Cervelo to see that. That shows us there is a great pool of talent in the UK and if we can try to work with those riders, we’ll be in a good position to excel in major races in the future.”

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.