Dame Sarah Storey wants to see Bury St Edmunds buzzing when the world’s best female cyclists prepare to start the Aviva Women’s Tour.
With less than three weeks to go until the international road race returns to the town on June 17, Great Britian’s most decorated female Paralympian of all time is hoping to be part of a magical experience with her own team, Pearl Izumi Sports Tours International.
Rider selection is yet to be announced, but the 22-time Paralympic Games medal winner, including an incredible four golds in London in 2012, got a look at the route on a visit to the Suffolk Golf and Spa Hotel at Fornham St Genevieve where she presented up-and-coming athletes with grants at the Bury St Edmunds SportsAid Lunch Club on Friday.
“It is very exciting to think the roads around here will be the roads we will be riding against the world’s greatest cyclists,” she said.
“I think the support for women’s cycling is just growing and growing and having that atmosphere makes the event even better than it already is. The Women’s Tour is one of the biggest races in the world and had such great support last year.”
The five-stage Tour will get under way with a 110.2km ride at 11am, passing through Stowmarket and Ipswich before heading up to the coast at Aldeburgh, and Storey believes the British riders will be spurred on by the home crowd.
“The inaugural Tour was so successful and to compete on home soil is an amazing opportunity, so we were keen to get our team on that start line and that is what is going to happen,” she said.
“There has been no team selection made and I have to prove myself as much as anybody.”
The 37-year-old who began her career as a swimmer, winning five Paralympic gold medals in the pool across four Games before switching to cycling in 2005 due to a series of ear infections, is confident there is plenty for her to still achieve with next’s year’s Paralympic Games in Rio de Janiero, Brazil on the horizon.
“There are still markers on the track that I can go faster and still things I can learn on the road and races I can ride.
“If I can defend even half of the titles I won in London, then I will be a very happy girl.”
Storey has just signed up reigning Olympic and European Team Pursuit champion Joanna Rowsell to her team, who will have extra motivation to make the start line on Angel Hill after missing last year’s event through illness.
Storey was in west Suffolk to present SporsAid grants to Bury’s 15-year-old equestrian star Ruth Hole, 17-year-old race walker Callum Wilkinson, who attends King Edwards VI Upper School in Bury along with Denham-based clay pigeon shooter Tom McGregor.
n Log on to www.buryfreepress.co.uk to watch a video interview with Sarah Storey.