11 December 2018
Thornhill and Scott thrilled to pioneer para-cycling at Track World Cup
Few para-cyclists could have even dreamed about what Sophie Thornhill and Helen Scott have accomplished in the space of two years.
Scooping their first Paralympic gold at the Rio 2016 Games, the pair have never looked back, going on to reign supreme at the World Championships and Commonwealth Games.
But the chance to ride at this week’s UCI Track World Cup in London is unchartered territory for any rider, let alone the world’s fastest female tandem sprinters.
For the first time in the event’s 25-year history, para-cyclists are set to dazzle on the Lee Valley VeloPark track as they gear up for the 2019 World Championships in March.
And Thornhill and pilot Scott are set to play a starring role.
Entering the track where ParalympicsGB scooped an incredible 22 medals – eight of them gold – at the London 2012 Games, Thornhill is thrilled to be regarded as a leading light in British para-sport after a stunning season that’s produced titles from the Gold Coast and Rio.
“We had a brilliant year with the World Championships and the Commonwealth Games falling in the same year. It was really exciting for us coming into the year and we had a great build-up,” Thornhill said.
"To come away with the results we did was amazing, and it was brilliant to see a combination of hard work and commitment come off with some great times."
“Helen and I have worked really hard as a tandem, we have improved a hell of a lot and as individuals we have improved a lot too.
“It just shows that our hard work has really amounted to something and that the training we are doing is paying off.
“Being part of the tandem, I’ve been lucky enough to compete in front of an able-bodied crowd at the Commonwealth Games, but the chance to compete in front of a home crowd is lovely.
“For a lot of para-cyclists it’s a massive first and it’s great for us to be involved in an environment with a massive crowd. It’s going to be brilliant.
“I’ve competed on that track as a junior rider, but I’ve never competed there in a senior capacity. I am really looking forward to it. It should be great to compete on such an iconic velodrome.”
Scott and Thornill clinch gold in Rio
While Scott added: “It’s another opportunity to show everybody what para-cycling’s all about, and if this is successful – which I’m sure it will be – other World Cups might want to put our events there.
“In the future we might have a full season of racing to look forward to, like our able-bodied teammates.
“We’re always stuck in Manchester and watching them on the TV going off racing and we want to be a part of that as well.
“It’s great that the UK and British Cycling are leading the way in that sense. Fingers crossed all goes well, and maybe next year’s circuit will see us appear a few more times.”
While 22-year-old Thornhill will be in new surroundings as a senior on the famous London track, her pilot is certainly no stranger to tasting success in the arena.
Riding to silver and bronze medals at London 2012 alongside partner Aileen McGlynn, the memories of competing in front of a raucous home crowd has stayed with the Birmingham-born rider ever since.
“It’s super exciting. Personally, for me it’s quite special because it’s the first time I’ve raced at the London Velodrome since the Paralympic Games in 2012,” said Scott.
“I was chatting with Neil Fachie about being back in London and I don’t think there’s anything that could compare to that real home crowd and I assume it’ll be pretty much the same, which would be amazing.
“I think Sophie will experience something slightly different to what she did in Glasgow at the Commonwealth Games, but in the best possible way.”
Thornhill and Scott crowned World Champions
If the duo needed any added incentive to add another medal to their collection, the women are set to ride against the likes of Neil Fachie and James Ball in the mixed team sprint.
While it’s not the first time the pair have taken on the boys, it’s another opportunity for the pair to show their mettle at a major competition.
Scott added: “We don’t know all of the guys who are going, but we’re definitely hoping to beat a couple of them.
“We give them all the banter – obviously we’re not going to be able to beat our guys, but we’ll give them a good show!
“We’re slowly getting our heads around it and just do our best; I think no matter what the crowd will be cheering for Sophie and I against all the boys!”
With Tokyo 2020 edging closer by the day, the Poynton-born cyclist knows success at the Track World Cup in London would set a major marker ahead of a jam-packed 2019 schedule that includes Paralympic qualification.
“It’s still a long way away now, so we’ve got some great opportunities coming up over the winter. We’ve got the World Cup, the nationals and the World Championships in Apeldoorn in March,” said Thornhill.
"I think there are some great opportunities to get some racing under our belt and I hope that our hard work is paying off on the long road to Tokyo."
“We enjoy being part of a team, we enjoy riding our bikes at the end of the day, and we want to win and get better as individuals and as a tandem.
“Small targets help us on the way to make sure they are motivated for competitions and that we can go into competitions in our best shape.”
Image credit: SWPix
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