Abergavenny cyclist Rachel James follows in sister's footsteps

CHAMPIONS: Rachel James, left, and Sophie Thornhill

CHAMPIONS: Rachel James, left, and Sophie Thornhill

First published in Sport

BECKY James' big sister Rachel James has come away from her first major competition with two World Championship titles and two world records.

The Abergavenny Road Club cyclist only joined the British Cycling Para-Cycling Podium Programme in November as a tandem pilot in the B class where the other rider, known as the stoker, is either blind or severely visually impaired.

James, aged 25, faced stiff competition to get selected for the small GB team of 11 riders travelling to Mexico for the World Championships, the first event counting towards qualification for the Rio Paralympic Games, as she was up against tandem pilot Helen Scott, who was part of the silver medal winning team from the London Paralympic Games.

Having made rapid progress since her move north to Manchester, however, James was selected together with her 18-year-old partner Sophie Thornhill to ride in the 1km time trial and also the tandem sprint.

The indoor velodrome in Aquascalientes in Mexico is recognised as being one of the world's fastest tracks as it is 1,870m above sea-level.

At this time of the year temperatures in the velodrome during competition were in excess of 45 degrees centigrade and with low pressure this made for exceptionally fast racing.

James and Thornhill's first event was the 1km time trial and they were the penultimate team to set off in front of the Paralympic champions from Australia.

The world record set at London 2012 of 1.08.714mins had already been broken by both of the New Zealand pairings so the pressure was on James and Thornhill to perform.

And perform they did with the finishing time of 1.05.912mins making them over two seconds quicker than the fastest Kiwi pairing.

Exhausted after their effort, both James and Thornhill had to be carried off their bike and with the small GB team all helping no-one actually watched the Australian's ride so they initially didn't realise they had won.

When eventually news got through that they were just over 1.6 seconds quicker than Australia, both James and Thornhill were ecstatic with their effort, despite still not being able to walk!

With no racing the following day, the girls had to make sure they recovered well. The short rest had obviously done them good as on their return to the track they were the only pairing to go under 11 seconds for the 200m time trial qualification, recording a time of 10.854secs - well inside of the previous world record of 11.456secs which was set by the Australians in 2011.

In the quarter-finals of the sprint they defeated the Australian tandem 2-0 and in then won their semi 2-0 against New Zealand.

In the final they were up against the second fastest qualifiers who were the strongest of the Australian pairings. Despite their lack of experience and the searing heat, James and Thornhill won the final 2-0 to be crowned world champions for the second time in three days.

With the Rio Paralympic Games only two years away the pair could not have made a better impression than they did in Mexico. They are now both firmly in the driving seat to represent GB in Rio and they will definitely have high hopes for gold.

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