Strength of para-cycling continues to grow

NATHAN BURDON
Last updated 05:00 06/09/2013
Laura Fairweather, Phillipa Gray and Gabby Vermunt
JOHN HAWKINS/Fairfax NZ

Southland-based New Zealand paracyling representatives, from left, Laura Fairweather, Phillipa Gray and Gabby Vermunt, at Invercargill Airport

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The depth in international paracycling continues to grow, something which makes New Zealand's medal-winning feats at the road world championships even more special.

The nine-strong New Zealand team returned home yesterday with a silver and bronze medal, both won in the tandem female road trial.

Phillipa Gray, who teamed with pilot and fellow Southland rider Laura Fairweather to win silver in the time trial at Baie-Comeau, Canada last week, said the strength in the sport was developing all the time.

"The competition is just incredible. They have stepped up a lot since London," Gray said.

"There's a lot of professional development in paracycling in general at the moment, especially in the tandem female field. All the countries have brought up their development tandems that they've had in hiding for the past two years. The new [Paralympic] cycle has started so everyone is putting it out there."

Gray said she was content with silver in the time trial and a fourth-placed finish in a demanding road race which featured a 1km on each of seven laps.

"Laura and I gave everything out there on the road, we couldn't have gone any harder. That silver medal is as hard as we could have gone, so we are very proud of that," she said.

"It was incredibly challenging. It was one of the hardest road courses the female tandem circuit has seen before."

Aided by the success of Gray and Fairweather at the London Paralympics, where they won gold, silver and bronze across the road and track, New Zealand fielded a second combination at the world championships, with Invercargill pilot Gabby Vermunt joining Wellington's Emma Foy.

Despite competing at their first world championship, the pairing had immediate success, claiming bronze in the time trial.

Foy and Vermunt also finished fourth in the road race, one place ahead of Gray and Fairweather.

"It was a pretty cool performance to pull that out and see where we are at," Vermunt said.

After a rest, the New Zealand paracycling programme will start the buildup to next year's world track championships.

Tandem cycling will also feature in the Commonwealth Games programme in 2014.

While Gray and Fairweather won gold in the pursuit at the London Paralympics, only the 1000m time trial, which they won bronze at in London, will be contested in Glasgow.

"It's whether we go or not, because it's quite close to the world road champs next year. Road time trial versus the kilo are incredibly different disciplines on the tandem. It depends on what our overall goal is next year."

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