David Stone, a 31-year-old with a fondness for Sunday roasts, sticky-toffee pudding and yoga, yesterday claimed the final medal of another rewarding Games for Britain's cyclists. The relentless Stone, a tricycle rider, defended the road race title he won in Beijing to earn a third Paralympic gold, keeping his cool on a warm morning to shake off the Italian Giorgio Farroni on the final lap.
Stone had to try three times to rid himself of the troublesome Farroni, and it was not until the final kilometre of the 24km race around Brands Hatch and through the surrounding Kent countryside that he was able to open a lead. He crossed the line seven seconds ahead of Farroni. It was Britain's third gold on the road and eighth in cycling, which finishes with 22 medals, two more than in Beijing and at the upper range of their pre-Games target. The cautionary note for Rio is that they won fewer golds, in part because of the cycling authorities redrawing the schedule and also because other nations, in particular China, are becoming more competitive.
"It wasn't easy," said Stone. "I made a move on the climb on the back straight and he stayed with me, then I attacked again and he stayed with me. Then I went again on the bend. He is so strong, I thought he was going to come back. I wasn't going to slow down until I was over the line. Compared to Beijing the competition is so much better now. That's good for the sport. That was my best race in my whole life."
Stone's sporting life has been a long and eventful one. He rode in the Sydney Games as a 19-year-old but afterwards put his bike away and set off travelling, stopping off in Pakistan and Nepal before arriving in Bihar province in the north of India. There he stayed to study at a renowned yoga school and work in the school's library and kitchen.
By the time Stone, who has cerebral palsy which affects his balance, returned home, his love for cycling – he made his international debut as a 15-year-old at the 1996 World Championships – was restored and, as importantly, the British coaching set-up decided to switch Stone from the track to the road and into the tricycle classification.
In the wake of the Atlanta Games he earned his place back in the British set-up and a procession of medals followed. He became a European champion, a world champion and in Beijing a double Olympic champion. He lives and trains in Yorkshire, from where he writes an enthusiastic blog outlining his search around the county for the perfect sticky-toffee pudding (presumably having first distracted his coaches).
Last year, during a break from training, he travelled back to India, back to the yoga school to collect his thoughts on what lay ahead, the responsibility he and his team-mates had to justify the money spent. Britain's Paralympic cyclists received £4 million towards London preparing them for the once-in-a-lifetime chance of riding in a home Games, a once-in-a-lifetime chance for Para-cycling and disability sport in this country.
When London was awarded the Games, Stone wrote in his blog that one of his first thoughts was disappointment that it was not somewhere "warm and interesting". That did not take long to change, and he revelled in the support he received around the course yesterday. It was the ride of his life and he relished it. Now the only journey he is planning is to Rio in four years' time. "I am enjoying riding more than I ever have," he said.
But there was no happy ending to a frustrating Games for Lora Turnham. The 24-year-old from Liverpool finished eighth with her pilot, Fiona Duncan, in the women's tandem road race. For the fourth time the pair were within reach of a medal. They came into the final couple of kilometres of the 80km race as part of a group of six chasing bronze, but were dropped on the final climb and could not make up the gap down the home straight.
Turnham twice finished fourth in the Velodrome. Worse was to come at Brands Hatch; they led going into the final lap of the time trial earlier in the week only to suffer mechanical problems that cost them not just gold but any medal.