Why the gold medal winning Storey family think we should all take up cycling

PUBLISHED: 10:30 29 December 2014 | UPDATED: 10:31 29 December 2014

Cycling champs, Barney and Sarah Storey and daughter, Louisa (18months) at Goostrey

Cycling champs, Barney and Sarah Storey and daughter, Louisa (18months) at Goostrey


Struggling with New Year fitness plans? Disley’s cycling Olympians Sarah and Barney Storey will inspire you to get on your bike

Sarah taking part in the Weaver Valley Cheshire Classic road race in April last yearSarah taking part in the Weaver Valley Cheshire Classic road race in April last year

Little Louisa Storey loves to sit on her bike. It’s too big for her and will be for some time, but the 18-month-old likes to sit on it as she watches cycling on television. Her passion for bikes is hardly surprising – her parents are multi-medal winning, world record holding Paralympic stars Barney and Sarah Storey.

‘She has found a way of getting Sky Plus on and we have some cycling recorded so she sits on her bike with the stabilisers on and watches and when she sees me she points and says “Mummy”,’ said Sarah.

And Sarah, who ranks alongside Baroness Tanni-Grey Thompson as Britain’s most successful female Paralympian, wants more of us to get on our bikes as well.

‘Cheshire is a great area to cycle in, there’s a great variety of landscapes – rolling hills, country lanes and quiet roads – but it’s much nicer to cycle on roads with no cars,’ she said. ‘The councils are very keen to promote cycling and we are trying to encourage organisers of road events to get involved with local communities. These events are still very secretive – that’s a throwback to when road racing used to be illegal but we want to bring it into the 21st century to give us a legacy in this area.

Barney on his way to a silver medal in the tandem sprint at the London Olympics in 2012Barney on his way to a silver medal in the tandem sprint at the London Olympics in 2012

‘I’d like there to be a proper celebration of cycling, with roads closed to traffic and elite cyclists riding with children and people of all ages. I think it could turn into a mini series going around Cheshire villages. We are at the very early stages with the idea but we are having discussions and starting to get into the nitty gritty.’

While Barney has relocated to Cheshire from Dorset, Sarah was born here and is a former pupil of Disley Primary School and Poynton High. She made her name in the swimming pool, with podium, finishes at Paralympic Games and World Championships from 1992, when she was just 14-years-old, to 2004, before she switching to cycling at the age of 27.

Since then she has collected even more medals – the majority of them gold – in races on the track and the road and has set new British, European and world records along the way.

Barney has ridden as the sighted pilot for a blind or partially sighted cyclists in tandem events at three Paralympic Games and has three gold medals. He was made an MBE in 2009, while Sarah has received an MBE and an OBE and was made a Dame in 2013.

Cycling champs, Barney and Sarah Storey and daughter, Louisa (18months) at GoostreyCycling champs, Barney and Sarah Storey and daughter, Louisa (18months) at Goostrey

They can often be seen training on the county’s rural lanes and arrived mud-spattered for our interview at Goostrey Home and Leisure having made the journey from home in Disley via back roads and country lanes on two wheels, a trip of around 25 miles which she described as ‘an average tootle’. Barney and Louisa travelled by car and the couple were planning to swap for the return trip.

‘We often do that when we go out,’ said Sarah. ‘Cycling is a flexible sport and I have been able to fit my training around Louisa.’

And as if being new parents and competing at the top level weren’t enough, last year the couple launched their own cycling team which in its first season became the most successful domestic women’s team with 27 race victories. ‘That was incredible,’ Sarah said. ‘We have 12 riders, 10 of them full time and we support two women who work full time and can’t devote themselves to cycling full time, so for them cycling is a hobby alongside their work.’

But the team isn’t just about being successful, they want to make a difference too. ‘We decided to support a charity with the team, although it is a relatively unusual thing to do. We donate a proportion of money we raise to the Boot Out Breast Cancer charity to provide equipment to hospitals across the North West.

‘My mum had breast cancer and early detection saved her life but we found that there was a postcode lottery. In some areas they have the equipment to diagnose the disease quickly and in other areas it can take a lot longer.’

Dame Sarah Storey OBE on celebrity

‘People recognise us but they can relate more to us than to a footballer. We’re not flying around in helicopters or anything like that, we’re just the girl and boy next door and people are respectful. We are sometimes asked for pictures or autographs but then people leave us alone to have our lunch. People in this area are quite used to celebrity so it’s not such a big thing.’

Sarah’s favourite eateries

‘We don’t eat out a lot but there are nice Indian and tapas restaurants in Disley and the White Lion is close to our home so we sometimes go there. Puccini’s in Ashton is a lovely Italian restaurant.’

Barney Storey MBE on watching Sarah compete

‘You know what goes into it and can concentrate on what feedback you can give. We are very close to what each other is doing and can see things in each others performance. It’s never about saying “that was rubbish”, it’s a matter of trying to be as logical as possible. If I thought she didn’t ride absolutely perfectly, I would ask what went wrong and she would say the same as I would.’

Barney on the London Olympics

‘I enjoyed every minute of it. I was nervous before it but I remember thinking before getting on a bike that I would just treat it as a normal training session, albeit one with 6,500 people watching. If you can do that, you enjoy it. If you’re aware of the people staring, you start analysing what you’re doing and it’s about managing that.’

Put the boot in

Boot out Breast Cancer is a charity supported by Sarah and Barney’s own cycling team. Boot Out was launched by Debbie Dowie, wife of former footballer Iain. Her breast cancer was detected early and after a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery she was determined to help provide life-saving diagnostic equipment. Sarah and Barney have experience of this illness (see feature). To find out more about the charity and the cycling team, log on to bootoutbreastcancer.org.uk.

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