Cycling: David Stone's best ride puts Britain on the Rio road in good heart
For David Stone and Britain's paracyclists, all roads now lead to Rio. Stone rode his way to London gold, Britain's last of another successful cycling campaign, around the country roads of Kent on Saturday, a triumph that reaffirmed his desire for a sport that he once tried to divorce.
Stone took a roundabout route to this success a dozen years after he first rode in the Paralympics. After Sydney, he sat out the sport for one Paralympic cycle, instead disappearing off to travel around Pakistan, Nepal and India, where he worked in a kitchen while studying yoga in Bihar province.
It was there that he realised cycling was for him. He went back to Bihar last year, sleeping on a platform in Kolkata station en route, to collect his thoughts ahead of the start of the countdown proper to London. There was a pressure on Britain's paracyclists as much as there was on their Olympic counterparts. They were the team the rest of the world wanted to beat.
Stone's success, the result of a highly professional performance in the T1-2 road race at Brands Hatch, meant Britain completed the cycling programme with eight gold medals, two more than the US and China. It was a tough race for Stone, who had to have three goes before he finally broke the Italian Giorgio Farroni in the last kilometre of the 24km route.
It left the 31-year-old thrilled and relieved. "That was my best race in my whole life," said Stone, winner of two gold medals four years ago. "Compared to Beijing the competition is so much better now. That's good for the sport."
That closing of the gap on Britain – they won more medals than in Beijing but fewer golds – has acted as something of a spark for the team. Now there is fierce competition it is bringing the best out of many of the British riders, suggested Stone. "I am enjoying riding more than I ever have," he said.
China has continued its startling progress in recent years, equalling Britain's tally of five golds on the track and there were signs of the Chinese improving on the road too. They will again be a force in Rio but Britain will still be the team to catch, the probable presence there of the likes of Stone, Sarah Storey – in pursuit of gold medal No 12 – and Mark Colbourne, who enjoyed a debut Games to remember, ensuring that.
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